Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can corruption be voted out?

The events during past week have united the nation. Or so we perceive.

During past week, what I have personally observed is that a big divide has emerged out in the society. There are majority of those who support Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Bill, either knowing or without knowing the salient features of the proposed bill. And then there are those who do not support Hazare and the bill, and rather have one of the following beliefs -
1. We have voted for this government, so we have to bear with the corruption.
2. The correct way to eradicate corruption is to cast your vote.
3. Choose the correct candidate while voting.
4. The proposed Jan Lokpal Bill is faulty.
5. Going on indefinite fast is a form of blackmail.
6. If we too, as individual citizens are corrupt, why blame the government?

I'll be honest to say that I am not one of the most well-informed citizens in India. However, I am still aware of what is going on in the nation under the present government. There have been so many scams that have surfaced, and which have actually caused a great loss to the nation, both on the national prestige as well as on an economic front. So when the news of Anna Hazare going on indefinite fast erupted, rather than jumping straight to any conclusions (like several others), I decided to first of all understand the Jan Lokpal bill and its salient features. I was lucky to find a complete copy of the bill in MS Word format (http://indiaagainstcorruption.org/docs/Jan%20lokpal%20bill%202.1.doc), and went through the complete document. Also went through the history of the proposed Lokpal (http://bit.ly/fGXr6b), and only after that did I come out in support of Anna Hazare.

Since we are the biggest democracy in the world, the six questions above seem to be reasonable on first looks. After all, this government was selected by us, the citizens of India. Then why are we complaining? And if we are complaining, then why did we elect this corrupt government? We should let the government decide what bill needs to be proposed rather than individuals from civic society coming up with a bill.

However, if we think with a broad mind, all these questions, which initially may sound reasonable, can be answered. And I'll try to answer these based on what I personally believe.

1. We have voted for this government, so we have to bear with the corruption. 
We vote for a party based on  the agenda it presents, and the promises it makes. No party says that it is going to be involved in acts of corruption, if chosen to form a government. Besides, if the voters by mistake, or due to lack of information choose the wrong party to form the government, does it mean that the government must be allowed to suck the blood of the people and of the nation and national resources for complete 5 years? Shouldn't people be allowed to accept their mistakes, and subsequently make amendments? Why let the nation get punished for 5 years for the inadvertent mistake of voters during election?

2. The correct way to eradicate corruption is to cast your vote.
Voting to elect the rightful people is indeed very important. But can voting really wipe out the corruption that exists in India today? In one of her tweets today, Ms Barkha Dutt suggested that poor voter turnout in 2009 elections is the actual cause of corrupt people being selected to form the government. In argument to this statement, I would like to present some statistics - The voters turnout in India during 2009 Indian General Elections was 59.7%. Whereas, the turnout percentage of voters in United Kingdom was 61% in 2005, and 65% in 2010 General elections. If we compare our figures with those of UK, which also is a multi party democracy, there is not a very significant difference. However, on the Corruption Perception Index, UK stands much above India in rankings (http://bit.ly/hkj009). This only proves that there is no significant relationship between corruption and voters turnout during elections.

3. Choose the correct candidate while voting. 
Again, as I explained in point 1 above, no electoral candidate mentions in his political agenda that he will rob the country. In such a case, where each and every candidate is making promises for betterment of nation, who would a citizen choose to be his leader? For instance, consider the following options -
    I. A man who has history of creating communal disturbances?
   II. A man who supports a communist party?
  III. A lady who likes being presented on her birthday with garlands made up of a million Rupees in cash?
  IV. A man who pioneered the economic reforms in the nation, and who has no history of being corrupt?
The answer is obvious. Anybody would believe that option IV is the best option to choose. But did it prove to be? If the leader of a government is honest, does that mean that everybody in his government would be honest? Consider Mr A. Raja, for instance. Did he have any history of being involved in acts of corruption when he was elected in 2009?
Lokpal Bill first came into light in year 1971, as a means to fight corruption in the nation. Since then, several political parties have formed the government at centre, but still nothing has come out of the bill, except being rejected every time it is proposed in the parliament. If we select another government at centre the next time, what is the surety that any bill to fight against corruption would be passed?

4. The proposed Jan Lokpal Bill is faulty. 
Okay, there might be faults in Jan Lokpal Bill. But shouldn't the bill have been passed long ago in its original form, or after incorporating whatever amendments were suggested in either of the parliamentary sessions in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008? If the bill is being rejected every time in parliament, and levels of corruption are rising with time, wouldn't responsible citizens of nation be forced to create their own version of bill, absolving the politicians from any kind of power? And if there are faults in Jan Lokpal bill, shouldn't the government have had a dialogue with the people who drafted it when asked to in March, and suggested some constructive improvements and amendments into it?

5. Going on indefinite fast is a form of blackmail. 
Anna Hazare didn't go on indefinite fast straight from the day this bill was drafted. A copy of Jan Lokpal Bill was sent to the PM, but still there was no response to this. Representatives of India Against Corruption had been meeting various Ministers seeking their support for the Jan Lokpal Bill, but those ministers too didn't show any seriousness towards the cause (as per Hazare's letter to the PM - http://bit.ly/fprquX). And subsequently, to appease everybody, the government came up with their own version of bill, wherein all the power stayed with the politicians. Anna Hazare went on a fast as long as four months after the draft copy of Jan Lokpal bill was sent to PM and various ministers without getting a subsequent response from them. Besides sending the copy of proposed bill, there were several other letters highlighting the inadequate handling of corruption charges, sent to the PM and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. These can be found here - http://bit.ly/h5KTUT
Yes, going on indefinite fast is a form of blackmail, but in this case, the fight for the bill didn't start straightaway with an indefinite fast. When there was a need for dialogue, it didn't happen, and that left Anna Hazare with no other option.

6. If we too, as individual citizens are corrupt, why blame the government? 
This is the most debatable of the six questions above. And here I would try to establish the reason why I feel majority of people in the nation are corrupt (including you and me). You may say that being Indians, we have an inherent tendency to be corrupt. I would strongly disagree with this. Consider the example of Singapore. People of Chinese and Indian descent form majority of population there. Both China and India stand very low on Corruption Perception index. Yet Singapore is considered to be the least corrupt country in world, as per this index. Majority of Indians who go overseas follow the law of the nation they are in.
There is an adage in Hindi which goes as, "Kharbooza kharbooze ko dekh kar hi rang pakadta hai." This means that if there is a person around you who is involved in some sort of misdeed, chances are that you too are going to take his example and start practising the same sooner or later. For instance, people in India are very impatient, and don't like standing in queues. However, we, the very same Indians, when in a country like UK, can be the most patient people around. We quietly stand in queues, waiting for our turn without being frustrated at all. I have been to UK and I say so based on my own personal experience.

If I see a traffic police cop asking me for a bribe, I say to myself, "If servants of nation are making money, why shouldn't I do it, however unethical it may be". When the traffic policeman sees police commissioner taking bribe, he says "Oh what the heck!!! I too shall take bribes." When Police commissioner sees the local MLA being corrupt, he too stops worrying about what is right or wrong. When an MLA or an MP sees the Chief Ministers or Cabinet Ministers being corrupt, he thinks why should I be left behind. The problem is that corruption percolates down from top to bottom. And sideways as well. And it is almost impossible to imagine that everyone can be corrected based on some kind of motivational talk that would waken up the moral values of individuals. Corruption is so deep embedded in our system that nobody will wake up by his call of conscience. Unless there is a fear of being punished if found to be guilty. And the proposed Lokpal is the means to inculcate that fear. Once the levels of corruption start falling in our society, I personally believe that this fall would be exponential in nature. All we need is just a push.

1 comment:

Shalabh.bits said...

Very well written!! Having been elected does not entitle them to siphon public funds at their own discretion. Time has come for a change! It will happen!