Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anna Hazare - Corruption Charges, Conditions, Threats

Why is the government doing everything it can to pin Anna Hazare down? Is he asking for something that is not right? Is he asking for something illegal, against public good, against public interest?

On the contrary it would appear that all he is asking for is in public good, for greater transparency, for greater long term good - for stricter corruption laws. Everyone, from the highest office downwards, says that corruption is one of the biggest problems India has. I think we are all agreed upon that.

Then it should seem logical that we encourage and accept what someone with such high integrity is suggesting (even if the Rs. 2.25 lakhs is put down to corruption, I'll still stick with Anna). Stricter measures that will hold people who could be guilty of corruption at the highest offices (more the power, more the likelihood of corruption obviously as has been already proved at both Centre and at State level). All Anna Hazare is saying is that we must have stricter laws, more transparent laws that make people in power accountable. It keeps them on their toes.

The system to check corruption in its present state, has failed as can be seen in the number of scams where people in power have misused their position grossly and caused a massive loss to the government. This is due to laws that allow the top to get away, which is why the crimes are blatant. Walk into any Minister's colony, any beurocrat's colony and you can visually see that they could not have built these structures on salaries. Probe their assets and one can see what real corruption is. It is about percentages for every decision, every signature - from votes, to jobs, to transfers, to filing cases, to awarding contracts! This is a crime, as we trust them to do a fair job in their wisdom, in their power. In trying to protect these people, the government is taking on Anna Hazare who is merely asking them to make everyone accountable. Isn't that ironical?

But the government is at war with him. They have made it a YOU vs US situation. Unfortunately for the government Anna Hazare has become the symbol of people's aspirations for a society that is less corrupt, that is fair, that encourages all sanctions against corruption. We have all suffered the consequences of corruption. Half the economy in India is black they say. How can we ever cover the gap in efficiency is half the work is unaccounted?

By choosing to go after Anna and bringing our ridiculous charges of corruption against him the government is sending a clear message that it is against all transparency, all accountability. We can see through the holes, dear government, see what you are trying to do. How much ever mud you throw on Anna Hazare, fact remains that his 2.2 lakhs might have been spent not on giving him a luxurious life (does someone have the details on what it has been spent on?), it might have gone towards feeding the poor. It is not money coerced out of the tax payers money for private gain as it is with most other corrupt people against whom there is anger, it is money that came into the trust from sources who believed in Anna's cause. Still if there is a corruption charge, it is a charge, and one can file it against Anna as he has asked them to. And it has not been proven! Compare that with all the others who are shamelessly holding on to their posts despite their involvement being proven by auditors, investigating agencies etc! They are all still in positions of power.

There is a difference, one that we are not blind to, as to the corruption charges that will be affect the rich and powerful, the high and mighty, if the Bill comes into force as Anna Hazare wants it, and the corruption charges of Rs. 2.2 lakhs against Anna. The people who will be affected by the Bill have cheated the people of India willfully, have compromised their positions for personal and political gain, and that is a corruption that we cannot accept. If need be, if everyone has to be painted with the same brush, try Anna Hazare also by the same laws! He is open to that. While you are not! And therein lies the difference.

There is a famous line attributed to Nelson Mandela in the movie 'Invictus'. His aide tells him when he makes a particular decision which is in true interests and unity of the nation - "You're risking your political capital, you're risking your future as our leader." And Nelson Mandela replies: "The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead."

It is time our leaders, including Mr. Honest and Mr. Upright, start believing in that. Honesty means not merely watching quietly not taking part in dishonesty, it means that one stands up for all that is dishonest, to not compromise for power. Honesty is dishonesty if one willfully protects the wrong doers, the powerful against the weak. I am sure our learned people don't need me to say that.

True greatness comes from being able to let go of power if it compromises all that you were given the power for, true power comes in shouldering the responsibility with grace, with humility. What have these gentlemen learned from the Freedom fighters, what ideals of Mahatma Gandhi are they following today? What face do they have to say that we are doing the right thing when everyone knows that they are putting all their efforts in hiding things under convoluted laws and protecting their own. Who and what are you hiding? It is unfortunately a case of the Emperor's New clothes. Please do not embarrass yourselves further and do the right thing.

This clinging to power, to laws that protect them, is sounding so hollow now that it is no wonder that our youth, completely disillusioned by the government, choose to go with an old man from Maharashtra who only has his will, his integrity - just as another frail old man had many years ago. Where are the role models in the government, in politics, for the youth to admire? Respect, admiration, following have to be earned - not by wasting public money on posters and newspaper advertisements - that is corruption too. No one on the side of the government, the side that is unfortunately trusted with the job of securing our interest, the peoples interest, the country's interest, has one role model to show who has earned the respect that Anna has. Respect comes with deeds, with courage and with integrity. It cannot be washed away with one mischievous stigma. Earn it first, all of you dear sirs, as Anna Hazare has, through your intent, through your deeds.

And please remember what Mandela said. Remember what Gandhiji said. You have a responsibility towards our nation. If you cannot shoulder it, ask your conscience what to do. You will find some answers.


Vetirmagal said...

Actually, it is not a comment I am posting. I feel very confused, as a common man/woman.

Why the Parliament is not allowed to function properly?. So much time is wasted and money spent on protest and protest.
I understand the Lok pal bill might be a good thing. Let the parliament go through the process, and in case of failure, the amendments can be brought in? Is it not an option?

Another point is that the activists may be encouraged to fight the polls and enter the parliament to better the country?

I am very confused, but have a nagging feeling that too may people are talking and creating more confusion.

Harimohan said...

It is confusing no doubt. It is the biggest conundrum of all. What is happening in the Parliament is best known to the Parliamentarians and a neutral body like Anna
Hazare's has no bearing on what the opposition chooses to do. So this group has no control.

Secondly, the opposition has the duty to put forward its case strongly and not let the party in power get away with anything, so there are many times it will get stalled. Those politics are best left to themselves.

As far as why Anna is getting involved its simple. the government is not doing enough to prevent corruption. If it is rampant in the lower levels, at the higher levels it is mindboggling - the figures are all running into lakhs of crores these days as all known scams show (Bofors was only 65 crores) - the unknown are yet to be brought out.

The tragedy of these politicians (also why the corrupt at the highest level get away), is that any Bill with teeth will never get passed because it will affect many of their own powerful friends and relatives. Most top people will get scrutinised - politicians, beaurocrats, businessmen etc. It will be like passing a Bill against themselves.

Now, the current laws or even the Lokpal Bill in its current state lets everyone get away i.e. if you wish to probe a corrupt officer, you will need the permission of another corrupt officer or a politician etc. Which means you will never be able to prosecute anyone because they will not give permission citing technical difficulties, sometimes blatant favoritism. Which is why they are all so smug and comfortable, all convicted people are still in good positions still.

Politicians have too many obligations. They need funds to win elections, to keep things going, to keep their allies happy. They need to give and take to survive. And in this game the common man, the very purpose of their being in power, is totally compromised.

What Anna is doing is representing the civil society's voice. Deviations to some extent are tolerable, no one is looking at 100% eradication of corruption, but to turn a blind eye and actually protect the big fish is a crime. All because it will upset their apple cart. It is against their first principles. What Anna is suggesting is that the do their job, and do it well. That is all. They should in fact welcome Anna and his ideas if they are looking at tackling corruption hard. It needs political will and that is missing.

India has always had this fine form of protest, of satyagraha, to voice one's protest. To get elected one must choose to be independent or go with a party, and that is a route that everyone knows is fraught with compromises. To do any good for people, in a democracy like ours, we can express, protest and bring the government's attention to the issue.

This is what is intriguing. The government lets itself get twisted by all sorts of blackmailers who threaten to pull out of alliances, people who are charged etc but wants to crackdown on someone who is merely asking it to do its job well.

There are times Vetrimagal, when such measures are required. It is not everyday you see such extraordinary circumstances. But we live in extraordinary days when the fence is eating the helpless crop left, right and centre. Once it is aware, the crop must do something to save itself. It cannot join the fence and hope to save the crop. The fence is too vast, too far gone and too hungry!