Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
Four days ago when i returned from my laboratory after a futile day spent in pursuit of plasmids in bacteria, i was pleasantly surprised to see the news channels. Not that they offer us with path breaking news stories to take our imaginations by storm, but what i saw was BIGGER than just being a dream come true. Yes, my first reaction to Anna Hazare’s decision to go on hunger strike was euphoria. Finally someone had the guts to stand up to the system and say “You are wrong and i wish to change you”. But alas, i was wrong.
I had no idea about the suggestions made by Anna Hazare and India Against Corruption group for the modification of the Lok Pal Bill until Wednesday morning when i first made myself abreast with the details of the stir. I was taken aback. The fiasco being staged at Jantar Mantar was not a movement for the people but plain and simple blackmailing by an activist group to get their demands accepted. And just like spices make your dish tastier, public sentiment against the large number of scams in India was being roused to get a flawed draft of LokPal bill accepted by the government.
The “popular movement” led by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare that brought government on its knees reiterated the need for a clean authority who can monitor the acts of the executive, judiciary and the bureaucracy, which according to them were the sole contributors to corruption in India. And Indians who are ever ready to shirk responsibility for their mistakes clapped in unison and elevated Mr Hazare to the level of Gandhi in this “freedom struggle” (i wonder what freedom they meant when they chose this captivity of their own free will).
The mob frenzy, the media jingoism, and support from the most unexpected quarters is a different issue but what alarmed me in this “crusade” was the zeal with which the “civil society” was pushing for a bill which was no better than the one they were opposing. Pratap Bhanu Mehta voices these concerns in his article which i choose not to iterate. @Acorn in his blog puts to words, rather fascinatingly, the thoughts doing the rounds in my own naive brain.
Corruption is a part of the Indian life, commented a friend on twitter in reply to one of my rhetorical tweets when i questioned the enthusiasm of Hazare’s supporters in the micro blogging site. Profound would be an understatement if i were to describe his answer. We are shy of facing the mirror. So a renowned author happily screams “Mera Neta Chor Hai” and grabs eyeballs while forgetting We made them our netas in the first place. A veteran actor too joined the bandwagon of the anti corruption drive probably amnesiac of his own nepotistic favours as Censor Board Chief to his wife to get her a National Award. (The wife coincidentally is the General Secretary of a national party). Another ex corporate junkie turned director clad in white served as the PRO of “India Against Corruption” group on news channels aware that India does not remember his support for tainted Lavasa project (we Indians are big hearted, we always forgive even the gravest sinners as long as they satisfy our egos). Political parties were not to be left out. In a bid to corner the Congress, myriad netas proclaimed support for Anna jee, the same man who had been compared to lowliest animals by some of them when they were in power in Maharashtra, or a party which goes deaf, dumb and blind when corruption charges are raised against their party (that essentially is the Indian nature). Even yoga gurus had a free run in the circus at Jantar Mantar to fulfill their political aspirations. How i wish the Baba could “cure” us of corruption like he can cure cancer, AIDS as well as “homosexuality”.
I never hide my fondness for the Indian National Congress, and many of my critics on twitter had essentially made this a strategy to counter my arguments against the proposed Jan Lok Pal bill. For them, I reiterate that the draft bill by the government is toothless and needs serious modifications but accepting the draft prepared by “civil society” will weaken the basic democratic structure of our nation and bring another institution in this heavily institutionalised system doing us no great favour. Instead with innumerable powers at its disposal, i fear the chances of arrogant corruption seeping in to the system will increase with time. While i had been chided for my “cynicism” and been termed morally handicapped for not supporting the freedom struggle by Anna Hazare, i find it satisfying that i am not the only one who were opposed to this “misguided” adventure.
My biggest concerns with the ongoing tamasha at Jantar Mantar are the “voices of people” and the “representatives of civil society” that are incessantly invoked by the people assembled at Jantar Mantar. Being a member of the civil society, i cannot fathom by what virtue the people decided who represents us. Winners of awards conferred by foreign nations has become an yardstick for deciding who is anti corrupt in a nation where a woman despite her service to the nation was not allowed to become the head of state fir her foreign roots. The same people fighting against corruption and nepotism put a father and son in the panel against corruption together, to decide who will judge our executive. While we react with utmost disrespect for leaders “imposed” on us by political parties, people hailed the formation of a panel where not one man on the street got a say. In the country with majority under the age of 40, the average age of the anti graft panel stands at 65. And we expect them to usher in change.
India loves to hate its political class, not without reasons. But India is shy to face the mirror too. While online activists pledged support for Anna’s fast against corruption on their pirated OS, people who would not think twice before trying all tricks in the book of sycophancy for a pay rise, walked streets with candles in hand to ward off the evil of corruption in governance. The corporate honchos maintained silence over the issue, and deserve lauding, because they know where they stand on corruption. The great Indian middle class, needs serious introspection on whether corruption really is a creation of the netas. One Lokpal cannot and will never be able to stop an Ajay not wearing a helmet from bribing a traffic cop, neither will a Lokpal be responsible to look into the amounts amassed by the hawkers on the streets by selling pirated films of all colours.
Probably Tushar Gandhi’s sarcastic tweet today sums up the great Indian hypocrisy on corruption
“I support Anna Hazare’s agitation……………..till i need some out of turn favours”
While the spirit of Anna Hazare deserves reckoning, the path trodden must have been more mature. And while India felt outraged at a MAN’s fast for 4 days, we chose to ignore the decade long crusade of a WOMAN fighting for the dignity of women in the part of India she lives in. Can India stand up and support Irom Sharmila like it did for Hazare? Does not our silence for her crusade amount to moral corruption?
Corruption free India is a dream we always share, over the last few days the dream was sold and marketed profusely. At what cost, only future will answer.