In my last post I said that people should fight for every cause of their concerns equally and not just the one which has captured media attention for various reasons. The current issue which has figured in every newspaper headlines is nothing but the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare who is currently fasting at Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi asking the government to pass his version of the lokpal bill. Without repeating few of the loopholes in the lokpal bill and the so-called undemocratic (black-mail) way of protest (fast until death = attempting to commit suicide) like I have mentioned in my previous post, let me say a few words about the extent to which this anti-corruption movement fever has spread all over the country. By extent, I don’t mean the number of people protesting with Anna Hazare, but the thousands of people who have stopped bothering about the other crucial issues which affect their lives much more than corruption does, those who openly acknowledge of being corrupt and still shouting for anti-corruption and those who were involved in mass corruption but don’t acknowledge it and now shouting against corruption just for their political benefit or publicity. In short, the extent here means the extent of hypocrisy I can see all around me which has shaken my faith in the anti-corruption movement more than the loopholes in the lokpal bill.
As far as I have seen, the most hilarious example of hypocrisy has been shown by Maharashtra Builder’s Association. They went on a rally day before yesterday to show their support to the anti-corruption movement. Apparently these builders demand 50% black money when they sell flats to the customers. And when a journalist mentioned this fact in front of one of the builders, he said in reply that taking black money from the customers and supporting anti-corruption movement are two different things. He also tried to justify by explaining why they charge black money and where those are being used (Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the poor people whose land they take for building apartment etc). But nothing can justify corruption, isn’t it? So, these corrupted builders are looting money (black) to fill their Swiss bank accounts on one hand and shouting against corruption on the other hand. Similarly the whole corporate world is backing Anna’s movement, there is news which says that some billionaires in multinational companies are also fasting to show their support to Anna. Needless to mention that, many of these corporates are also piling up black money in Swiss banks which they earn by evading tax. But unfortunately the current anti-corruption movement is more directed against the corrupted politicians we elect but not against these corrupted corporates. Anyway, this is just an example of such hypocrisy spread all over the country, there are probably thousands such people who are practicing it nowadays for various reasons.
But I at least appreciate one thing about those builders: they have acknowledged whatever wrong things they are doing, may be for a noble cause as they say. But there are others in the society who don’t even acknowledge it, the best example are the non-Congress politicians who are shouting for the anti-corruption movement. Had they been honest, they would have declared their assets in Swiss banks, returned them to where they actually belong before coming out on the streets to take part in an anti-corruption rally. By joining anti-corruption rally, these corrupted political leaders can win hearts of a million (mostly illiterate or too much loyal ) Indians , but their actual motive is very clear to educated Indians. But considering the fact that most of our so-called educated youths refrain themselves from voting, it won’t be surprising if these non-Congress politicians (no less corrupted than Congress) come to power in the next elections. In fact these builders probably represent most of the Indian middle class who pay bribe to buy a LPG cylinder, pay bribe to get their children admitted to a school or college, use pirated copies of computer and mobile phone software, download movies, songs illegally etc on one hand and shouting against corruption on the other hand as if, the anti-corruption movement is only against the bribe takers but not those who give bribe. If this is not hypocrisy, then what is it?
Like I have mentioned in my earlier post that we should fight for other problems also, not just one which has grabbed too much media attention. I won’t hit out at Anna on this like Arundhati Roy has done saying why Anna is not fighting for farmer suicides in his home state Maharashtra. After all one person can not fight for all the problems in the society. But I never expected a Gandhian like Anna to come in a reality show of a private television. May be he was not paid for this, but it really creates a bad impression on a person like him who is leading millions of Indians now. Anyway, regarding the equal level fight for other causes, people are silent. People have even stopped fighting for other causes which are of more concern. For example, in Dhemaji district of Assam, flood is creating havoc making around 300 thousand people homeless and killing hundreds of them. There are similar other problems like mega dams in Northern Assam and Arunachal and their threats to the people of Assam etc but everybody has joined the anti-corruption movement. In fact there are some people who never took part in any rally or protests to fight for many problems they are facing, but now have come out to show their (pseudo)support to the cause of making India corruption free. May be they really mean it, but it looks as if the only motive behind this is to get a media coverage. It seems that the number of such anti-corruption rallies in Assam will soon cross the number of rallies shouting for a solution to flood problem, illegal immigrants problem, repeal of armed forces special power act (AFSPA) and many other issues. The youth leader Akhil Gogoi also has joined the anti-corruption movement in New Delhi leaving behind all his fights in Assam for various issues. It’s good to see the whole country getting united for a cause, but getting united for a cause and doing exactly opposite in daily life will not bring any change to the nation. Hypocrites can not change anything in this world, they rather produce too much chaos bringing instability to the system. And this worries me more than the loopholes in the jan lokpal bill and the fast until death type strategies to blackmail an elected government which I talked about in my previous post. I hope one day Indians will stand united to refrain themselves from bribing and will say no to piracy like they are getting united for passing a bill(with serious loopholes) in the parliament which they don’t even understand fully!
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!