Monday, April 11, 2011

The war has only just begun and you are at the frontlines…

India Against Corruption“Anna Hazare has won it.” This was what I heard someone say this morning. A naive sense of euphoria spread amongst the anti corruption activists when Anna Hazare finally ended his fast. People are reacting as if the demon of corruption has finally been slayed. However, in reality after almost four days of India wide protests by the masses agitated with the widespread corruption, all that we have achieved is the formation of a ten member government-civil society joint panel to draft the Lokpal bill. Although commendable, it is just the first step in eradicating corruption.

Not a panacea
One must realise that even if the Lokpal bill takes form exactly like how Anna has envisioned it, it will not eradicate the problem of corruption all by itself. There have been innumerable brilliant initiatives which have been rendered ineffective by improper or half hearted implementation. So it remains to be seen if the Lokpal authority will be really be really effective once it officially comes onto the books. If it manages to be effective and goes after corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and judges in the higher echelons, it will still fall short of completely slaying the corruption monster. The ones prosecuted and weeded out will only be replaced by other corrupt ones from the lower levels. The corruption problem in India is not just at the top. It is prevalent at the lower levels as well. While corruption by union cabinet ministers gets more publicity, it is true that corruption also exists at the lower levels of governance like in zilla parishads, gram panchayats and municipal corporations.

You get the government that you deserve
A conversation that I heard -

Person A: Your son is doing his MBA in X business school, isn’t he? How did you manage to get admission there? I heard that they have a strict selection process with interviews.

Person B: Yes, it is ridiculously hard to get admission. I think more than a hundred students had turned up for the interview for 20 seats. Thankfully, I know my local municipal corporator. On my request, he stormed into the principal’s office and demanded that she give admission to my son. So my son got in straight away. No interview, direct admission! The corporator is a good man!

I am pretty sure that such incidents take place all over India. It is unreasonable to expect our elected representatives to help us gain unfairly but stay completely incorruptible at all other times. Every person who is willing to bend the law of the land to help you out will also bend the law to line his own pockets.

The common man is not only willing but in many cases even eager to gain a dishonest and unfair advantage through ‘connections’. More often than not our conscience stays silent when we are the beneficiaries, and it is only when we are forced to pay bribes does our moral righteousness come to the fore.

You cant clap with one hand 
Especially in a democracy like ours, politics is merely the reflection of the society. It is a fallacy to think that corruption begins in the secret deals when ministers allocate mining and telecom licenses after taking bribes from conglomerates. It begins when you slip a hundred rupee note to get a driving license without giving the test. It begins when you forge your caste certificate to avail affirmative action. It begins when you vote for your friend so that he will help you get MBA admission. Corruption starts from us.

The Lokpal at its best can only weed out this generation of corrupt officials but only a change in our own attitudes can ensure that a new generation of corrupt and corruptible officials does not get created to take their place.

What can we do

  1. Refuse to pay bribes
  2. Report offences
    1. Mumbai Anti Corruption Bureau Telphone Nos – 24942618, 24921212 (from website -
    2. Central Vigilance Commission - Toll Free No: 1800-11-0180
  3. Use The Right to Information Act to know status of public projects -

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