The Truth beyond rhetoric
he Anna Phenomenon, as he has come to be known in last few weeks, has taken over our mindscape completely. Let’s face it The unprecedented response and support that Anna Hazare got from across the board had been underestimated by everyone including the UPA govt. As thousands flocked to Ram Lila maidan, mostly well educated middle class Indians, we were both shocked and pleased. Finally someone stood up for ‘Aam Admi”. Finally someone was ready to question “the chalta hai” attitude that had taken over us. Finally someone was standing up against ‘Status Quo”. We under the bandwagon of Anna Hazare were questioning our representatives, demanding answers and asking for heads to be rolled.
UPA has overseen some of the biggest scams of our time. Sonia Gandhi treats India as her personal fiefdom, Manmohan Singh heads the most corrupt govt, and I do not want to buy the same old rhetoric, “the good doctor in wrong place”. Manmohan Singh is the captain of the ship. The buck does stop with him. His conduct in personal life is of little or no consequence whatsoever, in the larger scheme of things. With all this in background, steps in Anna Hazare with his team of well known activists, also known as “Team Anna”. They ask all the right questions and India laps them up. They raise the right slogans and India joins the chorus. They demand answers and India supports the demand.
So far so good. No one can really question that corruption is eating the very vitals of our country. Our politicians, bureaucracy, and private businesses everyone seems to be either giving a bribe or taking a bribe. It is a problem that has assumed gigantic proportions. So Team Anna comes up with a “Janlokpal bill”, as opposed to Govt’s lokpal bill which is a toothless and useless piece of legislation, so we won’t even get into discussing that. Coming back to Janlokpal bill wherein they propose an office of Lokpal who will oversee all our complaints regarding corruption and punish everyone who is found corrupt within a stipulated time. Sounds great on the paper but here is the inherent flaw in the proposed bill. If our problem is government and bureaucracy then the answer should be less bureaucracy, and not more of it. Janlokpal will add another humongous layer of babus to our system which will only lead to more red tape. And where will these Janlokpal babus come from? Not from another planet surely. How can we be so sure that when everyone is corrupt, the office of Janlokpal will stay non- corrupt?
We have enough anti corruption laws in our country, enough to book everyone from Prime minister to the peon. The problem in our country is not less laws but no implementation of the current laws. The problem is lack of political will. So what we need is effective executive, effective legislature and effective judiciary. All three branches of government should work in tandem and yet exercise checks and balances on each other.
Some of you may ask a legitimate question that why hasn’t this happened in last 64 years. Because for the majority of these 64 years we were carrying the burden of Nehruvian Socialism which gave birth to huge babudom, license raj and too much government control on everything. When we finally did open up economically in 1990’s we saw a difference. When I was young, telephone connections for regular people were unheard of. It took years to get regular phone connections and that too after paying huge bribes. Today in Delhi you can get a phone connection in one day. What changed? Opening of telecom sector. Surely we also had 2G scam but the lower corruption did go away to a large extent. As far as higher corruption is concerned we have laws for that. Subramaniam Swamy has done a great service to the nation by taking up 2G scam and we do find the accused in jail right now and mind you with the existing laws and not with some Lokpal. Who would have thought a year ago that Kanimozhi or Raja will be in Tihar for so long without a bail? So the current laws do work. We only have to make them work for us.
The answer is reforms and more reforms and not a Lokpal who will dole out punishments but will do nothing to prevent corruption at the basic level. It is unfortunate that the man credited with opening up our economy as Finance Minister has turned his back towards reforms. Instead we have public welfare schemes like NREGA that only foster more and more corruption. Manmohan Singh at the behest of Sonia Gandhi is fast converting our country into Nanny State hence giving rise to mammoth corruption.
I don’t love the current breed of politicians from all parties barring few, but I can vote them out. My country has given me the biggest weapon as a citizen to veto politicians. And that is my vote. And before the cynic in you raises his head, remember Indira Gandhi was considered invincible after Emergency, yet she lost. Recently DMK lost inspite of giving expensive TV’s and other gifts to the electorate. Our democracy works. We just need to make it work. Our problem is the current government that has no will whatsoever to fight corruption. Had it not been for over active Supreme Court and J Gopalkrishnan of Pioneer, 2G scam would not have seen the light of day.
Anna caught our imagination, because out Government is inefficient and the opposition unwilling to take it to task. This led to a huge void that was successfully taken over and used to their advantage by Team Anna. However the bill they suggest is draconian and will only subvert our democracy. Laws cannot be made in Ram lila maidan. They will have to be made in our parliament and sure we have a bunch of corrupt people who have taken over our parliament but we can get rid of them.
And here is a question for all of you to ponder about. If this debate about Lokpal would have emerged 10 years ago, the first person considered for the post of Lokpal, given his background, would have been Manmohan Singh. Would you say the same thing today?
Lokpal with absolutist power would not only be dangerous but would lead to cracking the edifice of our democracy. The corruption in our country needs to be fought with a multi pronged approach. First of all, we must all vote and wisely use our vote. We must promise ourselves that even though it is convenient to pay a bribe and get a job done, we will resist from doing so. If enough people resolve to do so, trust me, a beginning would have been made. The government must be committed to reforms and opening of all sectors. Sure it will be messy but the right foundation would have been laid.
According to Janlokpal bill the lokpal will be chosen from pool of Magsaysay award winners, Nobel Prize winners of Indian origin and Bharat Ratna awardees with some background in having fought corruption. Please tell me how many such people you can find around you. That automatically narrows down our choice to a small coterie of people. I am sorry, I find that outrageous and exclusivist.
I am shocked that Team Anna is so averse to electoral politics. None of them want to fight an election, get into the parliament and propose the bill from inside. Instead they want to shove the bill down our throats without any consensus. That to me is truly undemocratic. Of course now they have softened the stand but earlier at the beginning of the agitation it was “My way or highway “. ‘We the people” must be represented by people amongst us. Instead, Team Anna is suggesting that politicians are useless bunch, thereby making people lose faith in democracy. If that isn’t dangerous, I don’t know what is. We want to get rid of bad politicians not all politicians. The middle class that thronged to Anna’s carnival must be prepared for the baptism by fire. They must strengthen our democracy by being part of it and not accepting magic potion of Janlokpal which will do nothing.
Let’s not throw the baby with the bathwater. Currently corrupt politicians do outnumber non corrupt ones but with electoral reforms we can bring about a change. Democracy needs its politicians. These politicians must be people like you and me. We cannot do away with politicians but we can get them to do what we want. Team Anna might have you believe that honest politician is an oxymoron, but let me tell you that Lokpal in a democracy is a bigger oxymoron.
“We the people” are represented in the parliament through our representatives and we will get them to do what we want or we won’t vote them in. ‘We the people’ are not represented by ‘Team Anna of four activists”.
*Sunanda Zadoo Vashisht was born in Kashmir, when Kashmir was known for its unparalleled natural beauty and not as a cauldron of fear and terror. She did most of her schooling in Delhi and dabbled with several professions before moving to U.S.A.
She likes to introduce herself as an explorer because she wants to spend all her time in this world exploring unknown. Writing for her is a cathartic experience. She can't remember when she began writing first but she does know that writing has always helped her to be at peace with herself and with the world around her. Presently lives with her family in Sugarland, Texas US
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