Used to be that once upon a time, India had leaders who had a backbone and could shoulder responsibility without buckling. Thus have I heard that one man, Lal Bahadur Shastri, resigned as the railways minister following a train accident in which scores of people died.
He felt morally responsible for the deaths and resigned as an act of contrition. He was not driving the train, nor was he directly in charge of the signalling or switching mechanism of the system. But he recognized correctly that he was responsible for the actions of the people working under him, regardless of how many links separated him from the source of the error in the chain of command.
That’s integrity. That was then, this is now.
We hear of a team of very celebrated people around Anna Hazare fighting corruption vociferously. A noble cause and no doubt the people who are demanding public officials be not corrupt are themselves not corrupt. But wait! What’s this we hear that one member of the team has been fudging the numbers a bit and claiming reimbursement for travel expenses that were not actually incurred?
Ms Bedi, it appears, does not deny that her office inflated the bills but claims that she was doing it for a good cause. She says that the money taken under false pretexts was for some NGO. Sweet. Take from the rich and use it for . . . who knows what. Besides, she can always claim that it wasn’t she who took the money but someone else working below decks in her great big organization. She can’t be held responsible for people working for her, can she?
In any case, people who take money from others by misrepresenting the facts should hardly be talking too loudly about honesty and probity.
The louder she talked of her honor, the faster we counted our spoons.