One of my friends has put facebook status like this, “You get a sudden offer from a company in US saying that you need to join it within one week but you don’t even have a passport. You can however bribe an officer in the passport office and get it done within 1 week. Or, you can file a case against that officer, get him arrested or suspended and at the same time screw your dream job in the US. What will you choose?”You can ask the same question in various other contexts, may be while getting admission to a school at the cost of donation (bribe?), paying an auto rickshaw driver more to take you to a place urgently, paying the coolie in a station more than the government rate to carry your luggage etc. These are some kind of situations through which I am sure almost everyone has passed through in a country like India. In all these situations we preferred to encourage corruption, didn’t we? People take bribes happily no doubt, but sometimes we also pay bribe happily because that’s the only practical way to solve our problems. So, we must see corruption as a different type of crime unlike murder, rape etc in the sense that most of us are involved in it directly or indirectly, in a small-scale or in a large-scale. A strict law can tie the hands of the public servants to some extent, but tying hands of 1.2 billion citizens of a free country is something next to impossible, it’s only us who can clean our hands, not any law.
But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need any strict law to handle corruption. We need strict law as well as individual efforts together to fight corruption. One without the other will be either impractical or too idealistic in some sense. So will this new Jan Lokpal bill proposed by team Anna will be able to bring an end to corruption? I am sure that more than 75% of the citizens of India who are in support of Anna Hazare don’t know much about the Lokpal bill. But few of those who have read it carefully say we should have such a bill and few others raise a couple of doubts. So it is an extremely debatable issue. Like one can not pass a one line comment saying caste based reservation in the educational institute is good or bad, similarly it’s very difficult to say this lokpal bill, if comes into play will end or will not end corruption. The serious doubt comes from the fact that, in the lokayukta system, there will be an autonomous panel in every state which will handle the cases of corruption and this panel will have extreme power in hand (even more than parliament or equivalent to parliament). And, the members of this panel will not be elected by public unlike in the case of parliament. So it’s difficult to say how to handle the corruption inside lokayukta. In the lokpal draft, there is a provision for this which says that people can knock the doors of Supreme Court against corrupted lokayukta panel members. But it’s like we are back in the same system which is present now. The only difference is that there is a loop now called Lokayukta through which we have to pass through, but if the lokayukta members also get corrupted, there are not much benefit to be expected from the new system. But looking at the public support Anna has got, there seem to be very few people who doubt these issues. Those who doubt it often says giving more autonomy to investigation agencies like CBI (which lacks autonomy and influenced by the government most of the time) and introducing some tougher laws and fast track trial systems may be more useful to bring an end to corruption than relying on some unelected lokayukta members having unlimited power.
But, in spite of being such a debatable issue like the issue of reservation, this anti corruption movement is getting lots of attention and support nowadays whereas there were only few protests (mostly by students of premier institutes) against the caste based reservation system. There can be various reasons why so. May be people don’t even consider lokpal bill to be a debatable issue (due to the lack of knowledge about the lokpal bill or too much faith on a new system) or may be due to the fact that corruption featured in the media recently after the 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games scams etc which led to a possible media hype of the anti-corruption movement. It’s not that corruption was not there in this country before and there were no similar protests (fast until death type) against various issues in this country. But perhaps none of those got similar attention like this one, thanks to media. Needless to mention that Irom Sharmila has been fasting (and is being force fed by government) for more than ten years in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. And the issue she has been raising is hardly a debatable issue: bring an end to the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) which gives too much authority to the Indian Army to arrest and kill someone just on the basis of suspicion and has led to some heinous incidents like rape in various places of Assam and Manipur. But her fight for such a cause did not get any media attention in the last ten years. Forget about people from Delhi or Mumbai, even many people from North East India are also probably unaware of her struggle. For a second, let’s believe that news from North East India anyway don’t get much attention and hence media don’t publish them. But that’s not the fact. Recently a swami in Uttarakhand died from fasting for four months. He was fasting against the illegal mining in the heart of the river Ganga by some mafias (who got the license from the Uttarakhand government may be). But his fast which claimed his life did not catch media attention, everyone was busy with the fast by Baba Ramdev at that time which looked more like a drama backed by some political parties. The power of media is so amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately it’s being used only in those cases where newspaper and news channel owners get more benefit from various sources and not in the other less profitable cases no matter how important they are.
There’s nothing wrong in joining team Anna’s movement if someone really believes that Jan Lokpal will bring an end to corruption in this country. But this country needs equal concerns from people for other important issues as well. Just because private media agency highlights one issue for their benefit and not the others, we should not neglect other issues. Just try to ask yourself : whether you would prefer a corrupt government or a government who gives Army the power to kill and rape civilians? I am sure you will reject both, so show your concerns for both. Not just AFSPA in North East, there are many issues like primary education, child labor, farmer suicides, illegal immigration from Bangladesh among others in this country for which we all should fight. And it’s not that, bringing an end to corruption will bring an acceptable and immediate solution to all these other problems. And last but not the least, raising our voice doesn’t mean that we need to fast until death, which is equivalent to an attempt to commit suicide and hence considered as an offense under Indian Penal Code. Nobody can prevent us from peaceful protests in a democracy, but fast until death is a bit extreme I believe. And it raises a fear in the sense that if Anna gains success in his movement by forcing the government to accept the Jan Lokpal bill through his fast to death strike, in future anyone will fast for any issue he or she has in the hope of getting a solution. Neither the government can arrest that person (as it indirectly adds fuel to the protests like it’s happening with Anna’s movement) nor the government can agree to any random conditions the person comes up with. Peaceful protest, candle light protest (without any fast until death strategy) are much better to raise our voice, I believe. I hope the people of this country will raise their voice more sensibly for any issues of their concerns (peacefully but not in a fast until death type fashion) instead of following the contemporary media trends which are often misleading!