Wednesday, February 2, 2011
DEMAND FOR TRANSPARRENCY AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN INDIA
The arrest of India’s former Communication &IT Minister Mr Andimuthu Raja and former Telecom Secretary Sidharth Behuria by Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) on 2nd February, 2011 is a landmark event signifying the power of the movement against corruption and demand for transparency by civil society and citizen through social media. When traditional mass media like Press and TV News Channels got embroiled in the infamous “Neera Radia Tapes” scandal- a shameful episode exposing the close nexus of media with the corporate lobbyists. With the discredited media loosing the public faith, social media like face book, twitter, my space, blogs and other social networking sites have played a significant role in mobilizing growing demand for higher transparency in public life.
Fast expansion of Internet and mobile telecommunications in India has been accompanied by a series of scandals that are a consequence of poor regulatory oversight and deliberate manipulation of policies to favour a select group of companies. The biggest and most brazen of these scandals relate to the blatant irregularities in the allocation of 3 G Spectrum- electromagnetic spectrum or radio frequencies, under Mr A Raja. According to a report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled in Parliament on 16 November,2010, the total “presumptive loss ” to the national exchequer on account of undervaluation of spectrum was in excess of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore or nearly $40 billion at current exchange rates, making it the biggest scandal of its kind in the country. Rules and guidelines were bent in an arbitrary manner in this scam. The enormity of the scandal was acknowledged only after the Supreme Court started asking pointed questions of government agencies and the CAG came out with a scathing indictment of DoT policies and practices. Raja was forced to resign his post and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made to expedite its investigations that had begun in October 2009 with the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR).Social media and networking sites kept close tab on the development and steered the demand for tough action.
One most significant fillip to the social media would be success in its demand for freeing CBI from political control and to target the corrupt politicians. This unprecedented arrest may bring some deterrent effect among political and bureaucratic class and bring down rate of corruption in high places eventually.