Nancy Choden L.
Much has been said, written and discussed about the Lokpal or Jan Lokpal bill, call it what you may, in the past few months. The movement was relegated to the background in between May and August but the past two weeks have seen ‘Anna mania’ splashed all over the headlines, print media and our daily lives. As a young and budding researcher of the present generation, I do not claim to represent the views of my counterparts, what I am going to discuss hereafter should be digested as an individual opinion and not otherwise
In the August 22nd, 2011 issue of The Hindu, Arundhati Roy’s article on “I’d rather not be Anna” struck a chord with me. As I read the article, I nodded in part agreement and part thinking mode. While I have tremendous respect for the man leading the anti-corruption campaign, here is why I’d rather not be Anna as well.
Our country has been facing various hurdles both in the pre and post-independence era. Corruption, in the wake of the numerous scams that have tainted the UPA government in recent times, takes the top slot for the biggest challenge that the world’s largest democracy faces today. A recent poll (I’m sorry I seem to have lost details of the said poll) showed how the citizens think that elected representatives, followed by bureaucrats lead the pack of corrupt people. Only a mere two per cent accused the corporate sector of the same. While democracy has its own lacunae, we must remember that corruption is but a social evil and, to add to that, no single act of law can be enough to eradicate it. Had that been the case then untouchability, which was abolished in 1950, or child marriage or female infanticide wouldn’t be a matter of concern today. But they still hold an integral position while drawing the country’s socio-economic development programmes.
A social evil doesn’t hold its entity in a separate body or group. We are all part of it as we are the society. So far the whole debate has centered on those taking bribes, but what about those giving it? Morality should come from within us. To me, it seems, our basic argument is “You correct yourself, and then I’ll follow.” Every time we don’t ask for a bill/cash memo, it is a deviation from state norms. Even paying over and above the prescribed rates to the local taxi driver is a form of corruption. The problem manifests itself in our everyday affairs. Why then are we pointing fingers solely at those in power?
Constitution is supreme and the parliament is the machinery through which rights and duties outlined in the former are safeguarded by the custodians. Parliament cannot circumvent, even if it is for a good cause. If allowed to have its way, the current movement might set a negative antecedent for the future. The immediate issue that needs to be addressed is not corruption but of much needed electoral reforms. A wrong representative is more dangerous than no representative at all, and that is precisely what has happened today. It is a known fact that the criminalisation of politics has been going on in the country for a long time. What’s more, those contesting seem to win by huge margins. It is no wonder that discussions in the parliament focus more towards disrupting the peace and order of the house, rather than participating in constructive debates. When we see such theatrics at display, we have only ourselves to blame. The proclivity to elect leaders on the basis of direct or indirect, immediate or long-term gains is omnipresent. Political parties, on their part, try to gain political mileage out of every issue.
And then we have a new genre of hooligans riding high on the Anna wave. While the Gandhian starves to realize his dream of a corruption free India for fellow countrymen, all sorts of fanaticism has replaced the sanctity of the movement. ‘I am Anna’ has become a brand name, girls looking upto the ‘Anna diet’ for weight loss alternatives, Nehru caps are back in fashion etc. These should be a matter of choice, not force. Therefore, I see no wrong in a aside while the latter tried to don a Nehru cap on the star. He had no reason to do so. Another worrying incident involved the suicide of a woman in Maharashtra. While reports suggested that the family was suffering from financial difficulties, the cause for her death, as revealed in the suicide note, suggested she had given up her life in support of Anna Hazare.
Skepticism aside, with the ‘Sense of the house’ resolution on Lokpal being adopted on all the three sticky demands raised by Anna, namely a Citizen’s Charter, Lokayukta in states and including the lower bureaucracy under Lokpal’s ambit, it is time for India’s ombudsman to start a process of reforms in the country’s administrative and educational system. It is a great victory for Anna, for democracy and for the people of India. However, one must remember that this is the means to an end, and not an end in itself.
About the author:
Nancy C. Lhasungpa is a research scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi