Anna Hazare is sitting on fast from April 5, 2011 to force the government pass a real Lokpal Bill. Is India finally ready to take on corruption?
India Against Corruption (IAC), a movement of concerned citizens of India, promises a new beginning in an otherwise hopeless struggle against systemic corruption in India. Thanks to the tireless striving of some fearless activists, the nationwide movement by IAC and several other organizations over past couple of months has finally gained momentum.
Never before in the recent history of India, there has been a rally of more than 50,000 people for an apolitical, non-religious purpose. That happened on February 27, 2011 when Baba Ramdev addressed a historic rally at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.
Again, it has rarely happened in the history of the world when a million plus signature campaign has been successfully carried out. In the memorandum submitted to President Pratibha Singh Patil on February 27 itself, 3 million (30 lakh) people voiced their support. Recently, only in 2008 during Beijing Olympics, one million plus signature campaign was achieved against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
How serious corruption is?
In the Corruption Perception Index released by the Transparency International (TI) in 2010, India ranks 87th with a score of 3.3 among 178 countries included in the survey. India’s score in the first TI survey that took place in 1995 was 2.78. The score suggests that we are not very corrupt though far away from being a clean country. Sad that it is, experience suggests that corruption has become more pervasive than ever before.
Many people see corruption as a purely economic problem, which it is not at all. Corruption has serious damaging effects even if it doesn’t involve money. As TI defines, corruption is anything that involves abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
In many parts of the world corruption and bribery are contributing to the rapid depletion of natural resources. According to TI, in Philippines due to very low logging concession fee and taxes during the past twenty years, a few families have amassed US$ 42 billion in profits. On the other hand the livelihood of millions of others has been adversely affected by the loss of forest cover not to mention the public revenue foregone. The impact on the environment has been equally disastrous. Almost 90% of the Philippines’ primary forest has been lost leading to heavy ecological imbalances such as erosion and changes in local climate.
In our own country, the huge decline in forest resources and rare endangered animal and plant species has been due to poaching in connivance with forest officials which is after all a form of corruption.
The failure of law and order, rise of Naxal movement in almost a third of India, and most of the insurgency movements owe their origin to the failure of state mechanism to deliver on its promise of a welfare state. The delivery failure again is largely due to corruption. Even small and peaceful states like Sikkim do not function the way they should.
Records are being created in terms of numbers of people actively participating against the evil of corruption (rightly so also because we have the second largest population). But history yet remains to be created.
With April 5 close by, it won’t be surprising if world’s largest democracy’s tryst with corruption and lack of transparency at the highest level faces a serious encounter with the civil society.
The IAC’s immediate demand and the reason why noted social activist Anna Hazare will be sitting on fast from April 5, 2011 at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi is a strong Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill. The government has refused to include the views of civil society on the legislation.
Government might finally budge on Lokpal Bill but will India become corruption free with a Lokpal Bill? Again not at all.
But, more than this bill, the real hope is the fact that for the first time in the history of independent India the nation is uniting on an issue which has nothing to do with politics or religion, caste or region. When India starts thinking beyond these limiting factors, clarity and transparency can be the only way in which India functions.
Thankfully, the likes of Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare, Swami Agnivesh, Arch Bishop Vincent M Concessao, Devendra Sharma, Maulana Mufti Shamoom Kashmi, Maulana Kalve Rizhvi and Subhash Chandra Aggarwal are not about this Bill alone. Each of these individuals have fought for public accountability for years and together they have the credibility to say that they represent India.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s your turn to take on corruption.
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