Pegasus snoopgate: dirty, unethical, dishonest way to cling to power

Since most of the political parties are neck deep in filth, dirt, corruption, immorality, untruth and falsehood, then snooping on others is the least of crimes they are capable of committing on the people of this country, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey


The Pegasus snooping scandal has been rocking both the Houses of Parliament for the past several days. The opposition parties are demanding a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee whereas the government is only amenable to discussing and debating the issue in Parliament but is shying away from any kind of enquiry. The matter has reached the Supreme Court of India and it is likely to be heard any time next week. Meanwhile the government of Israel has already ordered a probe into the issue of snooping by NSO company software sold to  governments  of various  countries, allegedly including India too. On 19th July , this explosive revelation of snooping was brought into the  public domain  by a consortium of news publications which disclosed that several  eminent politicians, journalists, activists, and bureaucrats across many countries were  allegedly  under illegal surveillance  by using Pegasus, a spyware developed by an Israeli firm. Over 300 people in the list were Indian politicians, activists, business persons and journalists. The NSO Group, which created and leases the Pegasus spyware stated that the spyware is only meant for fighting crime and that it is exported only after the approval of Israel’s defense ministry. This Pegasus tool enabled clients to secretly read every message of a target, track their location, operate their microphone and even film them through their camera remotely!

This is not the first time an incident of snooping by the government has come to light in our country. Unfortunately , this culture of snooping on those opposed to the governments, has been allowed to continue for decades ,with no consequences . Our laws permit  tapping of telephone’s only for criminal investigation and not for any other purpose. Despite that, as per media reports appearing regularly, many governments have been indulging in this kind of practice to fulfil their own political interests. This unethical practice not only violates the fundamental right to privacy but is also a punishable offence. Any government, whether in state or Centre, should come out clean if accusations regarding snooping are made against it, by ordering a high-level impartial enquiry into the whole matter. The Government will be harming its own credibility and reputation by keeping quiet on the issue and refusing to allow an enquiry.

The moot question that arises from this snoop gate is why the governments need to indulge in this  unethical and illegal practice. The answer to this question is simple-when people in power, instead of working honestly solely to serve the people and secure their confidence and votes, start indulging in unsavory behavior, start behaving in unethical manner and start using dirty tricks to somehow cling on to power at any cost – they are apprehensive of their opponents. When the ruling class becomes devoid of virtues and lose the distinction between right and wrong, choose criminals and corrupt candidates to contest elections, hires poll strategists for winning polls, the signs become ominous that all is rotten in the political arena. Then the need arises to keep a strict watch and snoop on what others are up to, what are the secret tricks in the armor of the opponents. Undoubtedly, in our country the political class per se is just not bothered about the morality of their actions. For them winning election by hook or by crook is the only objective and to achieve their goal- the political class, barring few exceptions, can stoop to any level. The political class does not hesitate in using criminal elements, black money, caste, religion, regionalism, language to divide the people and win elections at any cost. This has been the dominant political culture of our country for decades and all the political parties, without any exception, are neck deep in this culture of filth, dirt, corruption, immorality, untruth and falsehood. In these circumstances snooping on others is the least of crimes they are capable of committing on the people of this country.

The lessons from our history books convey only one message – when the rulers become dishonest, unethical, untruthful and start using   unscrupulous methods and means to secure their power, the nation as a whole regresses and the people are bound to be besieged by poverty, injustices, inequality of every kind and suffer in innumerable ways. In a democratic system, the political executive has almost all the powers and the final say in all matters related to governance and when they start walking the unethical path, the whole governance system, bureaucracy and general populace loses its way. As the old Sanskrit saying goes “ Mahajanah yen gatah sa pantha “- when the  leading lights of our society become unethical and lose the path of virtue ,the  country loses its moorings and it starts showing in  its  topping  the  list of corrupt nations.  The only way out of this conundrum is an  extensive public campaign and  resolute  action to cleanse our  rotten political system . Unless sincere and  concerted efforts are made to cleanse politics  and purge it  of all its filth, India cannot have  a bright future and  prosper . The time has come to act .

(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary to Government of India)


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