Hunger strike against corruption is over. Time for some introspection?

To be honest I seriously considered going to Jantar Mantar, perhaps even participate in the fast. But I couldn’t. I kept following the event closely but I could not participate. Not because I want more corruption, of course not.

For some strange reason the ‘topi’ sitting on the head of Anna Hazare reminded me of the real Gandhi and the story about the kid who eats too much sugar. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar, the story goes like this: A woman brings her son to Gandhi and asks him to talk to her child to stop eating too much sugar because it is not good for his health. Gandhi asks the lady to return in two weeks. When she comes back he just asks the child to stop eating sugar. Apparently he did not give this advice to the kid earlier because he himself was eating too much sugar.

It seems ‘Gandhigiri’ itself came in the way of my participating in a non-violent protest. I was forced to look inwards and ask some hard questions. Am I corrupt? Have I ever been corrupt? What does it mean to be ‘corrupt? Is the word reserved for the illegal, unethical, and unfair acts of ministers, babus, police and the like? Does accepting part of the salary as cash (and therefore non-taxable) qualify as corruption? Does claiming taxi fare from your company, when you actually took the Metro qualify? Does leasing a car through your company so that the company deducts the amount from your ‘unofficial salary’ and pays the leasing company directly, thereby helping you save substantial tax, qualify? Does exploiting a loophole to label a chemicals-laden product as ‘herbal’ qualify? When your company or RWA employs guards/cleaners through a contractor, of course, who pays less than the legal minimum salary, or makes them work 12-hour shifts, and you say nothing, does that qualify? Does buying products made by children (or even adults) in massively exploitative sweat-shops qualify?

These and many more such questions, all theoretical, of course, kept swirling though my head, and while I was sorting all of this in my mind, the ‘revolution’ was over. And I missed my chance to participate in it.

Now that the dust has settled, the question that is plaguing me is this: Given that corruption (illegal, as well as unethical and unfair acts) is pervasive, and permeates almost every aspect of our private and public life, how long will it be before the massively powerful office of the ‘Lok Pal’ itself is occupied by a corrupt person.

I look around my self the only deduction I am forced to make is that given sufficient inducement, most of us are corruptible. Creating a super-cop, I am sure will help, but will it bring lasting change?

I have no reason to doubt the intent of the leader or the followers and do not have any alternate solutions. I am no constitutional expert but I do know something about the media. Any time all major TV channels, newspapers agree on something, it is likely to be an issue that the media owners expect to resonate with majority of the advertisement-consuming middle-class, and therefore with the advertisers. It is time to examine the issue more carefully… like most complex issues in life, there may not be absolute blacks and whites, but if media defines it as pure as mother’s-milk, odds are very high that the contaminants are lurking just below the surface.

It is unfortunate that “serious” analysis in mainstream media has been limited to tweet-sized self-congratulatory messages along with large photos. And on the other end of the spectrum it has been limited to personal attacks on Anna Hazare and his politics.

A few links that attempt to, perhaps not entirely successfully, objectively analyse the content of the ‘revolution’. I found some of the comments to the post very insightful too.

At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare
‘Anna Hazare’, Democracy and Politics (A response to the previous item)
Of a few, By a few, For the few
Hysteria will not end corruption

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3 comments

  • RAVI KANT April 12, 2011   Reply →

    THE CORRUPTION IS SO PREVALENT IN INDIA THAT IT HAS ENGULFED US ALL. JAN LOKPAL WILL NEVER BE A SOLUTION , THE SYSTEM NEEDS CHECKS AT EACH AND EVERY STEP. WE ARE TODAY ALL VICTIMS OF CORRUPTION.

    LETS TAKE THE ARGUMENT OF THE POLICE. THERE SALARY AND PERKS ARE SO LESS THAT FOR VERY BASIC THINGS THEY HAVE TO INDULGE IN BRIBES. THERE SALARIES ARE KEPT SO LOW BECAUSE IT IS A WELL KNOWN FACT AMONG THE POLICY MAKERS THAT THE POLICE CAN MANAGE ITSELF THROUGH CORRUPTION. I AM IN NO WAY JUSTIFYING BRIBE .
    EVERY SYSTEM TODAY DEMANDS THAT YOU BECOME PART OF IT. THOSE WHO DONT REMAIN IN WILDERNESS .

    WHAT GOOD HAS HAPPENED IS THE PEOPLE OPINION AGAINST CORRUPTION IS NOW VER CLEAR TO THE LAW MAKERS , BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIAN. THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR DO WHAT YOU WANT BUT COMBAT CORRUPTION. SO WE HAVE TO MAKE BEGINNING -THE ROAD AHEAD IS REFORMS IN THE SYSTEM AND STRICTER IMPLEMENTATION OF LAWS. PEOPLE ARE FRUSTRATED NOT ONLY WITH THE ALL PREVASIVE CORRUPTION BUT ALSO WITH HOW EASILY POLITICIANS AND BUREAUCRATS GET AWAY WITH IT.

    THE LAWS AGAINST CORRUPTION ARE VERY WEAK. THEY NEED TO BE STRENGTHENED . IF THIS CAMPAIGN CAN ACHIEVE THIS MUCH WE CAN SAY THAT AT LEAST WE HAVE MADE A BEGINNING.

  • manasij April 13, 2011   Reply →

    Ajay,
    Congratulations for writing a very forthcoming account.
    Your blog opens a frontier which everyone wants to tiptoe by and not talk- the grotesqueness of personal level corruption that we show and then turn to others and call them slut.
    Honestly, I found myself in the exactly same dilemma for I claim higher than actual HRA for tax relief, produce my parent’s medical bills for filling up my quota of medical reimbursements etc – the typical small scale frauds that seems so innocuous.
    Yes, I am surely way more honest than our esteemed politico, but I do not have the moral ground to sit on a hunger strike. So, I could not bring myself up to visit the jamboree point.
    I find the argument ridiculous that if I am not supporting AH, I am with corruption. I surely want the corruption to subside but to expect a magical sublimation is impractical.
    There are some questions on the proposed Lok-Pal Bill which I find a bit troublesome- specifically the fact the it may end up being the Ace of Spades of all regulatory agencies and still may not have any direct democratic leashes and few others in the same line.
    Thanks to a dimly witted media that successfully made this into another tamasha which people like Baba Ramdev nicely exploited, and made the average middle class Indian who is still exulting in the world cup triumph believe that this Jantar Mantar event was the silver bullet of curing the corruption superbug.
    I hope it is indeed the silver bullet, but every time I look at my payslip which tells me my tax free gains for this month, I get a feel that we are still some distance from that “Ram-Rajya” days.

    -Manasij

  • anonymous May 5, 2011   Reply →

    “…India’s new bourgeoisie has a highly ambivalent relationship with democracy, supporting it in principle, but acquiescing to numerous authoritarian lapses, especially when these are seen as leading to greater national prestige or security, a stronger economy, and (ironically) a more cosmopolitan way of life. The sentiment that India would be better off as a dictatorship is not uncommon among India’s upwardly mobile classes, nor among affluent Indians living abroad. Public debate, discussion, democratic procedure, meaningful citizen participation — and genuine real accountability and transparency — are foreseeable casualties of this mindset.”
    From an article by Mitu Sengupta (India’s Easy Villains: Why the Indian Government’s Concessions on Corruption Will Achieve Very Little)

    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/sengupta040511.html

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