Tag Archives: Corruption

Corruption must be dealt with from all angles but let politicians and bureaucrats be the first ones

The main gripe of people opposing Anna Hazare’s anticorruption movement (see for example, India’s Selective Rage Over Corruption) is that the middle class is extremely hypocritical when it goes for corrupt politicians without exploring its own conscience. The second gripe is that most of the conditions mentioned in his proposal lurk in the realms of draconian, but that is insignificant rhetoric so I’m not going to address it.

Regarding the middle class being hypocritical, to an extent this is true. Remember when people used to say, “Sarkari naukri aur salary to theek hai, par ooper ki kamayi kitni hoti hai?”: It is well and good that you have a government job and you have a particular salary, but how much extra do you make?

This “extra” was of course the bribe you can get as a government employee. You can also have this extra money by evading taxes (but then we all have our different views on the merits of tax laws in our country). It is also true that the Indians have a prodigious talent to flaunt law — not stopping at red lights, jumping the queue, jostling while getting into and getting out of public transport, cheating in exams, taking unfair advantage of the reservation policy, dirtying public places and stealing things when there is no danger of getting caught, etc.

If we really want to solve the problems of the country (as far as corruption goes) we need some sincere introspection and merely going for a particular class (politicians, for instance) is not going to solve anything. Having said that, it is a good beginning. This is why.

Powerful politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons enjoy an immunity that a common person can only dream of. They cannot only indulge in scams worth thousands of crores of rupees they can also stash away their ill-earned money very easily. The entire machinery works for them. The common person deals at the level of chai-paani sort of bribe whereas the people mentioned above swindle away whopping amounts of money. Although you cannot say that my theft is justified and yours is not, but in practical terms there is a big difference.

For the common person, corruption and bribing is a necessary evil and it is not a choice. He or she doesn’t make a living out of being corrupt; it is a matter of survival. Even if he or she doesn’t want to indulge in corruption there is no easy redressal. Try refusing a bribe to an official that has to move your file or sign a document and see what happens. You can totally forget about your work being done. If you complain no action will be taken because even if someone wants to take an action it is very difficult to terminate a government employee’s job. Even filing a case doesn’t help. Here I’m not talking about people who can afford to take on corrupt officials by neglecting their job and family. There are certainly people who stand up to corrupt government employees and bureaucrats and to an extent even politicians, but you normally end up paying a heavy price. It is very easy for politicians, social activists, journalists and intellectuals to preach but they preach because it is their job and livelihood to lecture people. So blaming the common man for corruption is like blaming a woman for being raped.

The large-scale corruption is more harmful to the country compared to small-scale corruption and once you begin to deal with large-scale corruption the small-scale corruption will automatically scale down. Thousands of crores of rupees that are lying waste in foreign banks can be used for the development of the country. Rajiv Gandhi said that for every rupee spent on development work only 10 paise reaches to the actual people. Just imagine the scale of achievements if the complete rupee is spent and even if not the complete rupee, just 50-60 paise.

Corruption is everywhere, it is also there in the most advanced countries, but there, politicians and bureaucrats are accountable. For instance, if a certain area needs water, the water will reach that area. If a road needs to be built, the road will be built. If a school needs to be run, it will be run. There might be a few corrupt officials here and there but it is not a norm. In India it is the opposite – corrupt officials are a norm and honest hard working people are an exception. This is what needs to be changed.

Since the politicians and bureaucrats enjoy the greatest power, they must also be held the most accountable for the sorry state of the country. If our society in general is a thief, then they are the bigger thieves and hence the bigger danger to the country and hence, must be targeted first. Being always in the limelight they set an example for the rest of the country. I’m pretty sure that even if there are 10 politicians (not in the opposition but in the government) who have an impeccable record it will inspire many citizens to shun corrupt practices. Why hasn’t our Prime Minister ever come on television especially to exhort people not to indulge in bribe giving and bribe taking? Why hasn’t any minister worth her or his salt ever tried to reach out to the masses and make them aware of the perils of encouraging corruption in public life? Because our ministers never want our country to be free of corruption because then they won’t be able to loot the country openly the way they do it now.

So yes, a countrywide introspection is needed and we need to deal with corruption at the grassroots level (and various other levels) but there is nothing wrong to start with the political class because one, they always carry this halo around them claiming what great service they are doing to the nation and how honest they are, two, they enjoy power and immunity not available to common persons and three, their corrupt activities are literally destroying the country. So this is a big hole that needs to be plugged first, and later on we can take care of the smaller holes.

Once our politicians and bureaucrats know that it is not worth it to indulge in corruption and might have to pay a heavy price for it, they will start discouraging it at various levels, because if they don’t, at least under their own departments, it will mean that they are abetting corruption even while not directly benefiting from them. So automatically they will be forced to cut corruption under their constituencies.

Making corruption unprofitable will automatically discourage criminal elements from entering politics and this will create space for people who really want to work for the country. With such people at the helm it will have a cascading effect.

So journalists and the intelligentsia should stop hyperventilating about why we should target politicians when there is corruption all over us and let events take their own course. When the corruption stops at the top, it will also begin to erode at the bottom.

When objectivity turns into conspiracy mongering

I normally avoid writing blog posts in response to other blog posts (by other bloggers) but there is a blogger I really respect (I think there are just a couple of bloggers I keep a conscious effort to follow) and when he wrote on Anna Hazare I was compelled to write this short blog post as a response. For what he has written, please read Anna Hazardous.

As such, the blog post by Sandeep has nothing new to say and easily qualifies as one of those “spinner” anti-Anna Hazare articles being published with great zeal, with so much repetition that it has metamorphosed into chain mail activity.

First a quick observation. All these the so-called experts on Indian democracy and the parliamentary system share the following attitudinal traits:

  • They hate candlelight marches
  • They think the Indian maudlin middle class is totally hopeless and even if it comes out once or twice a year it is a total sham
  • A protest is no protest unless you burn buses, people are lathi-charged and there is a general state of destruction and disharmony
  • What-if and why-now are their favourite refrains
  • Intriguingly, maybe this is a whimsicality, they also nurture an inveterate disliking for activists, global warming advocates, NGOs and social workers

So maybe the recent reaction to the Anna Hazare movement is simply a manifestation of the above-mentioned peculiarities. Having said that, since in the beginning I wrote that I am specifically writing this blog post in reaction to what Sandeep has written on his blog and since I eagerly await his blog posts, in this case, and for the sake of writing this blog post, I assume that it is more than a whimsicality.

Now, I’m not saying here that I am completely aware of the situation. I will be sincere here: I didn’t know about Anna Hazare much. The first time I read about him was when he received the Magsaysay award. And to be more sincere, I would also like to mention that people associated with him during this current movement, barring Kiran Bedi, have shady backgrounds especially Swami Agnivesh and Mallika Sarabhai. This out of the way, let me come back to what Sandeep has written and I would like to provide my point of view beneath that.

After quoting Shakespeare for no particular context he says:

–Enter Baba Ramdev whose rally in November 2010 is hugely successful. The English media dutifully relegates it to Column 4, Page 5.

–Enter Anna Hazare who on April 5 2011 begins a fast-unto-death-until-something-is-done-about-corruption “movement.” It picks up steam, is graced by various “civil society” eminences, and is generally declared a blockbuster.

Well too bad if Baba Ramdev couldn’t sell himself (or his idea) the way Anna Hazare could. Of course there was a strategy involved and I found him quite shrewd in the way he handled the entire affair. But how does that make him a villain? We obviously need smart people in the country who can manipulate circumstances for the betterment of the country. Kautilya would have appreciated that.

Regarding the role of media if media were so powerful then Rahul Gandhi would have been the “youth icon” (nothing short of a nuclear disaster) and not Anna Hazare. Media, especially Times Now and IBN7, surely played a constructive role, but they couldn’t have gone beyond a particular point.

–On April 6 2011, newspapers gleefully announce that Anna Hazare “tasted his first victory on Wednesday, the second day of his fast unto death, when Maratha strongman and NCP chief Sharad Pawar quit the group of ministers (GoM) on the anti-corruption bill.” What a slap! The nation is delirious with joy.

I don’t know what newspapers he read because every right minded person knows that in no way it was a victory but a small step towards the envisaged victory. It was a perfunctory action performed by a guileful politician who knew that nothing much was to lose. It would have been a small victory on the other hand if he had resigned altogether.

–On April 8 2011, the Queen graciously bows down to the wishes of this gentle Gandhian and on April 9 2011, the Government of India issues a Gazette of India notification to form a joint committee to draft the Lok Pal Bill.

The Queen was simply trying to be “begani shadi me Abdulla diwana” as more than 99% Congresswalas habitually do. They simply wanted to leverage the entire state of affairs and I personally feel, for the moment, it was sort of a dampener.

–For lack of information to the contrary, I do believe Anna Hazare to be a man of integrity whose commitment is genuine and has done good work in the past. But many things don’t quite add up and unless there are some convincing answers the nag of suspicion will persist.

Well, for lack of information you can doubt everybody. If doubting is the game of the day then first of all let us start doubting the credentials of all those experts who are doubting the intentions of Anna Hazare. I would like to doubt the credentials of all those who kept quiet when scams of thousands of crores emerging right left and center and now they are breast beating about extraconstitutional thingies and the hypocritical middle-class that doesn’t vote. I would like to tell these writers that it is this middle-class that mostly consumes their misplaced opinions, and not those villagers in tattered clothes whose only concern is the next meal.

–Cut back to the Spectacular Socialist Seventies when Mrs. Gandhi had all of India in her iron fist. What that alsomeans is that conditions so horrid that corruption was just one of the grave issues: we were pretty much under an authoritarian regime where inconvenient people simply disappeared, Indira was India, and so on. What’s the record of Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and these grave national issues back then?

It is like saying why did the Indian cricket team win the World Cup this time? What was it doing 4 years ago when it lost? Or maybe something like why didn’t Sandeep share his brilliant ideas back in the days when there was no blogging but there were newspapers and magazines (I don’t know, he could have been writing, but I’m just using the Anna Hazare conjecture that he used — we don’t know much about him so we can easily doubt him)? I think it is a ridiculous argument even if Anna Hazare didn’t do something purposely. Maybe nothing moved him. Maybe he was too bogged down by his own personal problems. Maybe back then he wasn’t motivated enough. Who the hell cares? That time is gone, it is not going to come back, so why worry about that?

–The one thing that I see amiss is not the nature of his fight—it’s noble etc—but the timing. Why now? Why not say, when Madhu Koda looted his state for what it was worth or during the Adarsh scam that happened in Hazare’s own state or against Kalmadi or against Raja as soon these scams erupted? Is there some gold standard of corruption that had to be met before he launched his movement? Now, there was a lull from April 2 to April 8. If you want me to spell that out here goes: April 2 was when India proudly lifted the cricket world cup. April 8 is when the first IPL match for 2011 was held. Now go back to the papers and news channels between April 5 thru April 8. Nonstop drumming about the “movement” on television and relentless front-page assault. Now read #7 again. On which page does Anna Hazare’s news figure in the papers now?

Rhetorical. If we start the “why not this” and “why not that” we can go back to the thousands years of Indian history. No reforms in India can take place simply because these reforms haven’t taken place yet. We can never do anything constructive simply because we have been so destructive.

I think it was an astute move even if it was based on the cricket season. People were already charged up after winning the World Cup and there was a strong sense of nationalism brewing in the country. It was like hitting the iron when it is hot. Good strategy. Even if the movement was abruptly stopped before the IPL matches the organisers knew the fickle-mindedness of the Indian masses, especially the middle class.

And every news, I’m pretty much sure it also happened when we got independence, eventually is relegated to the inner pages

–We wonder what the selfsame media was doing when Baba Ramdev launched his protest. Or is it the fact that Ramdev didn’t go on a huger strike? Or the fact that he didn’t have celebrity societal conscience-keepers like Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, and Jayaprakash Narayan who jumped on board the Anna Hazare ship barely before the anchor was dropped?

Just wondering. Would he have found the movement against corruption legitimate had it’s been Baba Ramdev’s successful campaign?

I totally agree that some opportunists conveniently latched onto the Anna Hazare bandwagon including Agnivesh, Medha Patkar (I don’t dislike her per se because I have never seen her openly expressing her views) and Mallika Sarabhai.

Regarding Baba Ramdev, again, I don’t know much about him but he does seem a bit queer, but then again it is my personal view (my parents respect him). Again, if his movement against corruption didn’t catch on than perhaps he did it in the wrong way. Let’s face it, it’s the reality of our time, everything has to be marketed through proper channels. Our generation sucks, I know, but we have to accept the reality and make the best of it.

–Had Anna Hazare undertaken a Bosesque “movement” instead of the Gandhian garden variety, what’s your bet how the government would’ve reacted? He and his supporters would’ve been arrested, lathi-charges galore would’ve ensued and the rest. The worst? Not one candle-kisser would’ve turned up because the occasion would’ve evinced not kissing candles but getting middle-class-asses kicked and lathi-charged.

What is this fetish about getting lathi-charged and ass-kicked? Cannot we ever rise above such animal behaviour? I am pretty much sure that had the movement been violent most of the people wouldn’t have gone and there is a psychology involved in this. Politics in our country is basically goondagardi. Go to any political rally and you will either come across villagers who have been paid by the organisers or you will see their musclemen. There are rarely “normal” people in these gatherings. And by normal people I mean people who can bring along their kids (even in their prams), their grandparents, their grandkids, their spouses, and girlfriends and boyfriends and go back home without being jostled, groped, molested, shot at or killed. My wife attended the sit-in at Jantar Mantar twice and she amazingly said that not even a single shoulder pressed against her shoulder and everybody was so respectful. What is wrong in that? Why are we always seeking maar-peet and janglipana in anything that can be called a socio-political movement. As our civilisation progresses, whether you believe it or not, more and more protests will be of such form.

–And so we repeat: why did the Queen agree to all his demands, and so soon?

So what if she did? Do you think people in our government have a backbone? They are the greatest cowards we have ever seen ruling the country so far. They must have seen protesters emerging from every part of the country and they were worried about getting things out of control. People had already started saying that they would attack the Parliament if something happened to Anna Hazare during his fast.

And who knows, maybe it was also something related to IPL. They wanted to wrap things up before the matches started so that there was no revenue loss especially to people like Sharad Pawar. Doesn’t matter what was the reason and who did what. The only thing that matters is things turned out to be the way people wanted it. Maybe it was stage-managed, but it was something really positive for the country.

–Developments after the Hazare Fast Circus ended only point to the fact that the Congress party has more than a sinister hand in the whole affair. This news item reports that Anna has asked Kapil Sibal to quit the newly-formed Panel of Pushers. Here’s a rescued-from-obscurity Gandhian who has suddenly “found” widespread fame, now dictating terms to a government elected by the people of India, all nice and Constitutional.

I think it is the way he talks. He doesn’t mince words. Even before starting the hunger strike he was just like that, if people paid attention back then. It is not about having confidence or finding widespread fame. He is just being himself.

We shouldn’t give too much credit to the intelligence of the Congress party and assume that it was stage-managed by these dumbwits. It was apparent by their body language and facial expressions that they were being screwed from behind and they could do nothing about it.

–Alleging that Uttar Pradesh is the most corrupt of all states, the Congress today asked social activist Anna Hazare to start a movement from the state if he wanted to start a state-based campaign.

Just so that it suits our argument we are now going to quote whatever bullshit is said about Anna Hazare and by whoever. Very convenient.

–Draw your own conclusions. I think that Anna Hazare is a well-meaning and committed individual but that he’s just being used. Is there someone who’s feeling threatened by Baba Ramdev’s growing and massive popularity and the fact that he’s promised to reveal ugly secrets of a certain party?

Frankly, I pretty much believe that Anna Hazare is quite prone to being used by all sorts of shady people and political parties and this is a worry. About Baba Ramdev’s “growing and massive popularity” I would say let the time decide if the Baba is sincere and deft. If he plays his cards well nobody can hold him back, especially the Congress party who is in power only due to the bizarre lack of alternatives (the BJP is a sorry excuse of an opposition party).

–Anyway, the circus has pretty much ended and the tents have been packed. The middle class has again deluded itself, which is how it should be because it deserves the illusion of power that the government is letting it have from time to time because it’s still not time for the middle class to realize the brutal truth that candle-kissing and assembling in parks doesn’t hurt the middle class and that lasting change is not achieved without cuts and bruises and broken bones.

Here again, coming back to the violence fetish. Whereas I totally agree that our middle class is quite fickle I absolutely don’t agree with the fact that you need broken bones and dead people to make significant social changes. Remember when people used to die because there were no medicines? Now we have medicines and the average life expectancy rate has risen. Similarly, we have different forms of protests. Things change, the way people behave and react changes. There was a time when decapitating people was normal and now it is considered barbaric.

Finally, I agree to some points and there are definitely some shades of conspiracy if you are hellbent upon finding them, but by choice I’m not an alarmist. I think candle marches and peaceful sit-ins have great potential provided they are used as mass movements, they will never work as isolated occurrences. Our strength is in our numbers are not in the way we express and protest. Even if you just sit together in multiple cities and do nothing it can be an effective protest. Even if we just wear black bands around our arms and then carry on with our day-to-day activities it can be a potent form of protest. We shouldn’t underplay such phenomena just because we cannot comprehend such things.