Thursday, August 18, 2011

To the suddenly shaken us....

Corruption is a systemic and, in the present context, a systematic mechanism of abuse of power one holds in his or her position. It not only depreciates the moral climate of the political, social, sociological and other manifest aspects of public life but fails the very essence of a democratic setup. To think about completely rooting out this flaw that has become inherent and congenital to the DNA of the public office via a structural framework is therefore an anticipated and a natural response to the subjects under a flawed and corrupt government. Therefore, the UPA going on strategically stupid and politically poor moves to contain the Anna fever by extremely unconstitutional and really illogical steps puts up a very sad state of affairs. However,with due respect to the Anna fever, one needs to identify the key contentions between the twin drafts of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the Lokpal Bill tabled by the members of the civil society and the government respectively, trying responsibly to tap the potential of the mass movement in an informed and involved debate so as to bring in affirmative action to call for accountability in the governance.

First things first. In terms of the credibility and efficacy of bringing in transparent accountability in offices meant to work "for the people", the Jan Lokpal Bill clearly wins over its counterpart. But to hail it as the panacea for all ills is again a case of mass hysteria ruling over rational and logical wisdom. It is necessary to understand that the need for a structure that brings the higher echelons of power under scanner is the immediate and absolute necessity of time today especially when so many scams and open and brazen display of foul play has revealed the dangerous faces of various governments at the state and central levels robbing people of thier rightful share of services, resources and of course the exchequer. Therefore, the fact that PMO, top executives, bureaucrats and the judiciary need to be put up for scrutiny is for all of us to support and extend solidarity to in this combined fight against corruption.

In a parliamentary democracy, to put the PM in the hands of civil society members to be punished if he breaches his code of conduct is fundamentally problematic, especially when technically he enjoys his elected status. In such a case, his office can be deemed an exception. As a model, investigations against him can happen under the vigilant eyes of the Lokpal and after arriving at findings against him, the judiciary can take charge in punishing him within a strictly stipulated time period and under open scrutiny to the public eyes. Also, the Lokpal's office too should be put into scanner and any allegation against his misconduct be punished via independent and open investigations against him where people have full access to proceedings of the investigations under way. Also, the corporate honchos and the politics-economics liasion need to be taken to task too especially when cases like Karnataka have emerged as prime examples of engineered corrupt ways. The selection of the Lokpal is a problem to counter which no workable model emerges from my head.

It is also important for us to understand that despite the fact that BJP and CPI, CPI(M), RJD and almost all national parties have stood up for Anna, most of them categorically deny their support to the Jan Lokpal Bill. The need of the hour is to focus the debate around this Bill rather than hero worship a single individual. In fact the trend generated out of venerance by the mob has been manipulated long enough by the media to hike up TRPs and by political parties to create vote banks. It is but obvious that cries to support democracy and fight against corruption would be backed up by all. At a point in time when BJP or any political party can clearly not and will definitely not leave the mass hysteria for it stands to win so much by backing it up, one needs to make them accept categorically their support for the Bill. These vultures need to be stopped from playing dirty games rather than submitting their genuine support for the movement. Till date the various governments have played on the rhetoric of "either you are with us or against us". The time has come when we take them on the offensive. Either, they submit their written support for the Jan Lokpal Bill with constructive and clear interventions and points of clash or they leave the movement immediately to launching their own rhetorical flourish with a free spirit. Indians have long suffered from their lip service anyway.

Further, the media needs to play a pro-active role in materialising this entire aspect. Instead of focusing on useless questions and showy journalistic fervour, it must adopt an involved and stirring debate. In all the protest meetings i went to, invariably the entire gamut of electronic media was engaged in this emotional and sentimental rendering of the protest venue and atmosphere. This needs to change. As members going out to lend support to the movement instead of appearing as mere props to the TRP boosting coverage, one can take charge of actually utilising the space to shift the perspective of the mob hysteria to an involved and a healthy debate.

Anna's fast is totally in the democratic spirit. Just as one has the right to freely abuse him in a press conference on really shoddily investigated allegations and unchecked verbal diarrhea of totally unparliamentary language, Anna or anyone for that matter has the democratic right to stage protest in any form. More so, because in a historical context when voices of dissent to the governmental structure and policies are met with callous and indifferent ears and at times with rampant , violent and unaccounted force and coercion, one needs to put a stern and inflamed foot forward to assert a position, especially on an issue that has unprecedented support across parties, ideologies etc. etc. Hence, the fact that Anna has emerged as a national crusader for a strong Lokpal needs to be respected and supported by all.

It is necessary to note that in the case of corruption in a country as populous, as large and as diverse as ours, a foolproof mechanism to tackle the same within a structural model is next to impossible. But to leave hope or to rubbish the efforts is indifferent and irresponsible too. Also, the hypocritical optimism behind the whole movement as a sure shot way to eliminate the menace from the roots needs to be clipped for a sane and balanced assessment of the status quo . Let us realise that the Jan Lokpal Bill can at the maximum be a preventive or a curative step to better the existing system and not a constructive one to build a new one. Despite all fair claims of hope, at the end of the day self custody, self restraint, self morality and individually strong moral conscience would decide what kind of an order we wish to be a part of.

On August 17 when i moved out to register my presence at the Chhatrasal Stadium, a seven-year old girl old girl in my locality said to her mom, "Anna baba ko arrest kar liya hai."

I stopped and asked her, "Who is Anna?"

She said, "Gandhi ji".

I pushed further,"Kyun arrest kiya?"

She replied, "Kyunki TV mein keh rahe hain ki woh lad rahe hain?"

I continued," Toh accha hai na, ladna toh galat baat hai. Police ne toh sahi kiya."

She disagreed with emphatic shaking of her head, Nahi nahi didi, woh keh rahe hain ki sab cheezon ki mehngai kam karo. Toh ye toh achha kam hai."

The cynic in me could merely smile at her innocent yet apt grasp of the happenings. I had the courage for the first time to say "Amen" to her last words.