Anna Hazare, a social activist in India, waited silently for the Cricket World Cup tournament here to get over before he began his fast against corruption in the country. He knew that he won’t get public support during the cricket matches because cricket – not the corruption issue – is the priority for an average Indian.
By Rakesh Raman
And he planned it right. After Saturday’s final cricket match and a post-match mania, Hazare began his hunger strike Tuesday, demanding amendments in the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill) that aims to end corruption in the country.
As his timing was right, the Gandhi-follower Hazare could mobilize significant support in different cities of India – from students, young workers, and even housewives, who were now relativey free from watching cricket matches.
But most of these supporters neither understand cricket nor corruption. They are, in fact, part of every noisy event. Tomorrow, if they get to know that some Bollywood actor is holding a public glamor show, they will run toward that show like a herd, forgetting what Hazare is doing.[ Also Read: Peepli Dead: True Story of Cyber Zombies in India ]
So, the point here is that Hazare should not mistake the crowd around him as his support for the cause. Also, before he moves any further with this issue, he must define the scope of his drive against corruption and get to the root cause of this menace.
At present, Hazare’s protest is focused on the Jan Lokpal Bill, which is penned by Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge; Prashant Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer; and Arvind Kejriwal, a Magsaysay Award winner and social activist.
The Bill seeks whole lot of powers for independent institutions called ‘Lokpal’ in the Centre and ‘Lokayukta’ in each state of India to deal with cases of corruption and punish the corrupt government officers, politicians, and even judges.
That’s good. But how should we define corruption and the corrupt?
In India, corruption begins during our childhood when most of us have to grease the palms of school owners to get admission into schools. Then corruption moves with us like our shadow – for getting good marks in exams, for taking fake certificates, for getting jobs, for crossing traffic lights, for better care in hospitals, for breaking the queues at bill-payment centers, and even better treatment at graveyards. In a way, corruption comes with our entry in this world and leaves us with our exit from here.[ Also Read: Wikileaks: All Leaks are being Plugged ]
Plus, corruption has many forms. Inefficiency and incompetence at the highest positions in the governement projects that consume huge amounts of public money is another form of corruption. Neglect of citizens’ grievances by government officers is also corruption. And squandering public money by the governement as lavish prizes to already rich cricketers is a new form of corruption.
So, at which stage will Lokpal enter our corrupt lifecycle? Hazare should understand that if all the affected people start going to these new centers of justice, there will be far longer queues here than in the traditional courts. Then how will investigation get completed in a year and how will you send corrupt persons to jail in two years, as the Lokpal Bill demands?
If this is possible, why can’t courts do this job, as they are also supposed to be working independently without coming under any external influence? In other words, what’s the difference between a future Lokpal official and an existing court judge? Both are human beings who are susceptible to external pressures and lucrative incentives called bribe.
And what makes Hazare think that corrupt and criminal politicians won’t influence the Lokpal or other related officials? Perhaps, Hazare also knows that at least one-fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members are involved in all sorts of criminal activities, including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rapes, and even murders.
The recent telecom scam, fodder scam, cash-for-votes cases in which top Indian politicians are involved are now known to the entire world. Who will stop these criminal bigwigs from intimidating Lokpal’s team and continuing their corrupt pursuits?
Corruption is the lifeblood of Indian governance including politician, bureaucrats, clerks, and even peons. A 2005 study done by reseracher Transparency International (TI) in India found that over 50% of people had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in public offices, according to Wikipedia data.
And when an international watchdog conducted a study on the illicit flight of money from India, it found that India has been drained of a whopping $462 billion (over Rs. 20 lakh crore) between 1948 and 2008.
The data also reveals that India tops the list for black money holders in the entire world with almost US$1,456 billion in Swiss banks in the form of black money, which is estimated to be more black money than the rest of the world put together.
Can Hazare’s hunger strike reverse this ugly trend and give corruption-free India to common Indians? Unlikely. Either Hazare doesn’t know or he has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the ground realities.
Today, the only answer to this intractable problem is a campaign like “Quit India Movement” that Mahatma Gandhi began in 1942 to drive out British rulers from the Indian soil. People in India need another Gandhi who could begin a mass movement to overthrow all corrupt from the offices of power. That means, a country-wide uprising by the common Indians – like it happened in Egypt.
Hazare’s initiative certainly deserves applause. But don’t expect any positive outcome from his efforts. Corruption is going to persist in India – for some more time, at least. A totally fresh thinking is required to weed out this malice from the society.
And it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Do you agree?