Friday, August 26, 2011

True anti-corruption comes from within.

The Middle class - the large sector of India that is eternally trying to be upwardly mobile, who feel like Tantalus that a better standard of living is just lying out of their grasp and keeps trying to attain it; people who faithfully take out LIC policies and invest in retirement schemes. The Middle class who , again if the TOI is to be believed, has turned up in lakhs to support Anna Hazare. These are people who generally bear the brunt of having to interact with corrupt individuals on a daily basis - autowallahs who routinely demand 'meter mele 20', the bus conductor who hands out extra change instead of a ticket and says 'Sari hoytu bidi", the officials at several govt offices who demand a certain amount as though it was the official charge for something and then, calmly pocket it before getting your work done. More than 2G scams, CWG scams, mining scams etc; it is this corruption on a regular basis which affects and impedes the lives of these people intimately, daily.

When Shri Anna Hazare started his protests against corruption, the Middle class joined in with gusto, as this seemed to them to be the one way out of this evil that plagued them regularly. In the TOI, there were several reports and quotes by these people who claimed they had to pay bribes so often.

While this uprising of the Common Man is commendable, there is also something disagreeable about the self-righteous air with which people are condemning corruption. Several of these people, at some stage, would have tried to grease the palm of a traffic policeman and get away with parking in a no-parking area. They would have purchased / sold flats where half the amount would be in black. They would have paid for jewelery and saris in cash to avoid the sales tax that would have to be compulsorily levied upon them had they paid by card. They would have claimed that they are paying rent to their own parents, who live in the same house with them, in order to be able to claim HRA. They would have brought broadband schemes with free night downloads to enable access to pirated movies available online - and then, circulate them among friends as well. They would have searched for freely available illegal pdfs of books they want, rather than buy them off the shelves. Would all of this not classify as corruption - a desire to obtain something for which you do not pay the legal price, or to get something more than that which you are due?

Who is to decide the degree or the severity of the act and decide what is OK and what is not? In Kannada there is a saying - Adike kaddaroo kalla; aane kaddaroo kalla - which means you are a thief - whether you steal a beatel nut or an elephant

When it comes to bribery, the slogan should be "Neither a giver nor a taker be". As a person who grew up in Bangalore, I can safely vouch for the fact that about upto about 15 years ago, the autowallahs would not start driving with the familiar "20 Rs extra madam, vapaas khaali barabeku". It is inherent human greed and desire to get more than what we normally do - thoda aur wish karo!! - but, this would become a well established practice only if majority of the passengers did actually cough up the extra amount on a regular basis. The autowallahs are not going to sit around all day if they do not find anybody paying them extra.

We, as a society, have encouraged corruption and participated in it for years on end.While the lokpal bill might hopefully reduce large magnitude scams; at smaller levels, true anti corruption should come from within. In a society where corruption exists in all walks of a life, it is difficult to get by without it but not impossible. One might have to wait longer to get an honest auto driver, make more trips to your unfriendly neighbourhood govt office, shell out more money for the movie cds and actually, pay the sales tax. Life might not be a bed of roses, but atleast then, you would truly be within your rights to call the politicians corrupt and point fingers at them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To be or not to be...

... pro Anna Hazare - no longer seems to a question for the majority of the people in the country , if the TOI is to be believed.

It is true that corruption has become so widespread in India that, at times, it seems impossible that it shall ever be routed out. It is appreciable that Anna, along with other eminent personalities such as Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal , is trying to curb this social evil.

The govt draft of the lokpal bill is truly one that instals a dummy ombudsman whose hands are tied behind his back. This bill can't be surely accepted. Hence, revision is essential; but, holding the govt to ransom by threatening to fast till the bill was passed in its current version is anti-democratic for sure. Gandhiji did it with the oppressive British regime but here we are using the same weapon against our own elected representatives. It is the "My way or the highway" kind of a stand and such an obstinate outlook is not going to be of any use. When Sri Hazare started the fast, it was called indefinite and was clearly told be different from a fast-unto-death. Even Kiran Bedi clarified in the press that he shall fast only as long as his health permits. So, what is it if not a form of blackmail, if today statements are made saying that the Govt is responsible if anything happens to Anna?

The govt did mess up very badly -first with all the scams; second, with denying Anna and his supporters the right for peaceful protests a la the British Raj. The very number of people coming out to support Team Anna shows that the middle class has had enough with bribery and corruption and looks upon Anna as a messiah who'll save them from this hell. My concern here is that how many people know what exactly they are protesting for apart from the key words "Anna hazare, jan Lok Pal and Anti-corruption". Do they know the pluses and the drawbacks of the govt bill and the Jan lok pal bill?? Do they know both sides of the debate or are they merely caught up in the frenzy? Are they under the misconception that the Jan Lok Pal bill will save them from the routine "20 rs extra , madam" that the auto wallah asks? That it will be a magic wand that will instantly erase corruption from all walks of the society? Have they truly thought about the powers that Team Anna wants the Jan lok pal to be given and whether there could be any backlash of creating such a powerful body? Would it end up being like a second CPAB (of SG) that has right to detain a person without trial?

Also, a large crowd of youth, high on adrenaline is a dangerous weapon. The mob literally is elevating Anna to a God status and seems unwilling to think of him as a normal human being who could also have some flaws. There are schools who are sending students - small children - to witness what is being called the second freedom struggle. Today a person also set himself ablaze at Delhi. Most Anna supporters I know follow the "With us or against us" kind of point of view ; expecting the public to have a binary view. Many are not open to thinking that the Team Anna draft of the Lok Pal bill is just one of the several alternatives , including the one drafted by RTI activist Aruna Roy. If one has problems with the methodology being employed by Anna Hazare, the person is promptly dubbed as a Congress supporter, or a un-patriotic person by fanatic Anna supporters.

Finally, Anna
said "agree to our demands or step down" - and, one might be justified in saying so when the govt has failed them on all fronts. Fine, the govt steps down, what next? There are going to be elections at taxpayers cost - where we only get to choose between Worse and Worst. Will anybody from Team Anna contest the elections and promise to give us a better govt? Given the widespread support the movement has gained in India, and, as Kiran Bedi said "India is Anna and Anna is India", they are sure to win the elections and we might truly get better governance. With BJP messing up at the State level, and Congress screwing up big time at the Centre ; it might not even make sense to go vote in the next elections if we don't have better options!!!

I always feel hypocritical when I bitch about existing govts because, I know, that I would not want to touch politics with a ten-foot long pole. So, while all Anna supporters are busy making a villain out of the Govt, is anybody willing to shoulder the responsibility of trying to please the majority in a country with a population of more than a billion?

[P.S. I am not trying to defame Anna Hazare or his supporters. I am against corruption and would want a good anti-corruption squad. I am just not ok with the deadlines being issued, holding the govt to ransom and the effort to enforce a certain version of the bill without considering the alternatives. Just because I do not support Team Anna and their movement in entirety, I am not a corrupt politician or a person who does not love her country. Just clarifying matters before people start gunning me down for my views!]