Home > Musings > Time for Cautious Celebrations

Time for Cautious Celebrations

April 11, 2011

Two recent events have galvanized the Nation and united us as Indians. While winning the World Cup in cricket is something that calls for celebrations, we need to be cautious about the successful completion of Anna Hazare’s fast. Having been associated with this campaign for bringing in a powerful and meaningful Lok Pal bill from the beginning, I am worried that the initial euphoria will die down and people may lose sight of the larger picture on hand. We first need to understand what the whole issue was about. The Lok Pal Bill has been unsuccessfully introduced in Parliament eight times in the last 42 years. No Political party or Government has had the courage to take the fight against corruption to its logical end. Most of them have offered lip sympathy and done little to show in terms of concrete action. The present UPA Government has been no different from its predecessors and hence the need for a people’s campaign for a Jan Lok Pal bill. How is the people’s bill different and what will it really mean to the common man?

While the Government’s draft Lok Pal bill is nothing more than a crude joke on the citizenry of this country, the Jan Lok Pal bill hopes to bring in a strong legislation keeping both transparency and accountability in mind. It seeks to prosecute the corrupt within one year of the complaint being registered and also provides for confiscation of assets of the corrupt. It also endeavors to give the Lok Pal suo-moto powers and provides for an amendment to the Delhi Special Police Act, thereby creating a separate investigation wing of its own instead of relying on the CBI.  But will having all these ensure Good Governance and bring any change in our everyday lives? Interacting with several people, both young and old leaves one worried. There is a feeling of achievement already. Many have come to see this bill as a panacea to curb corruption. Years of suffering under corrupt governments and the increasing helplessness of the common man has left him looking for a messiah to come and fight his battles. Very few people realize that this is only the beginning of our battles. There is still a long way to go. The committee that has been formed has to now deliberate and agree to a draft bill and this itself sounds challenging. With politicians and ministers wanting to ensure that their interests are protected and the civil society representatives intent on having an Act with teeth, the battle-lines seem already drawn. After this is done, the Cabinet needs to agree and approve the same. Then the entire Parliament, which will suddenly face a collective threat, will need to agree and pass the bill into a law. The rules will then have to be drafted and all this needs to be notified in the Gazette. We should consider ourselves fortunate if we have an Act in place within the next year. Once we have the Act, the institution with all its infrastructure and processes need to be put in place before it can start functioning. Amidst all this, we need to keep in mind that the Act can only cover parliamentarians, ministers, employees of the Central Government and its undertakings. Most of these institutions may not be the ones that the man on the street will interact with.

What needs to be done now?

Apart from keeping the energies and the momentum for demanding a strong Lok Pal bill, we also need to ask for a stronger Lok Ayukta Act in Karnataka. Only 13 states in the country have a Lok Ayukta Act and despite all its inadequacies, the Karnataka Lok Ayukta Act is the strongest. We now need to demand that the Government make the act more meaningful by granting prosecution powers to the Lok Ayukta, along with the suo-moto powers that it recently granted. This will help the fight against corruption see tangible results in terms of changes in the way governance affects our lives. Getting ration cards, licenses and title deeds, property registrations and other regulatory processes can be completed without the need for greasing palms or paying bribes. And if people do demand bribes, we could then use the more powerful Lok Ayukta Act to ensure that such corrupt people are prosecuted and punished according to the law.

We also need to understand that corruption thrives only because we as common people encourage and patronize it. Over the last many years, people have gotten used to the process of using speed money to get what they want done. Giving bribes seems to be an acceptable way of doing business. The system thrives only because the bribe giver and bribe taken constantly collude to keep it alive and growing. The fight against corruption will be won only when we agree to be part of the change that we are all demanding. Like the Mahatma said, “we need to be the change that we want to see”. This needs to be demonstrated by living our values and refusing to be a part of the corrupt system.

The time has come for us as common citizens to go beyond the emotion of the moment and join hands to move it to the next level. We now need to reaffirm that we will neither give nor take bribes. Let us begin small and promise to make Mysore a corruption-free district. Let us start doing our bit, however small, to voice our protest whenever we see mis-governance or mal-administration in anything that concerns our lives. Only when we collectively start dis-incentivising corruption and ostracizing the corrupt will change become noticeable.

The time for action is here and now!

Balu

Categories: Musings
  1. Panchayath Development Officer
    April 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Sir,
    As you have rightly pointed out, the Jan Lokpal Bill will not be a panacea against corruption. By the time the cumbersome process through which this initiative becomes a reality (say like Right to Information) and the common man gets acclimatized to it, its strength may be seriously taken away.

    Added to this, the fake reports of incidence of corruption and subsequent wasteful investigations (I have been through one such experience myself) will be huge challenges to be overcome. Already, many Grama Panchayaths are flooded with RTI queries and made them completely inactive.

    However, with all this, just as RTI is an invaluable tool against corruption, I wish the Jan Lokpal Bill also reaches similar utility.

    Corruption is a coercive two way process chain linked with many nodes from top to bottom. And as PDOs, we are experiencing this linkage daily. If one link in this chain is corruption free, that link is just ignored (as if that link never existed) in the chain and other links keep working the usual way with the give and take act. So, while we are not corrupt, that doesn’t seem to affect the system much. I feel like we should be able to change much more in this process but I am not sure how. I feel that Jan Lokpal Bill is like a client side request to stop corruption. There should be some thing like a server side request as well to voluntarily reciprocate.

  2. Narasing
    April 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Dr. Balu…have been following your blog for a while…it is an interesting read. Please allow me to disagree and hope you will let this comment be posted on your blog.

    Corruption does not exist because people patronize it. It is incorrect to blame the people. It is a problem of the system and not a few bad people paying and receiving bribes. Let’s find out why is there a demand for bribery, coz people are dependent on bureaucrats to get things done. Ask anyone who pays bribes…he or she hates it, but we ordinary people, if we do not pay bribes or choose to complain, we risk getting things delayed, never happening or worse the bureaucrat getting vindictive and coming after you.

    Real question to ask is what causes corruption. Bad people exist everywhere…they are in stores, on the street, in companies and in temples etc. But there is something about corruption in government which is like no other. In all other areas you have a choice you can go to another store, do business with another company or visit another temple, but in the case of government it is a monopoly service provider and we do not have choice.

    Corruption generally exists because there is power…power to make decisions especially on behalf of others. Power to give license, to issue grants and permits, to give out subsidies, to issue orders, to use force and rule using unjust laws. If you give me or anyone power, the chances of corruption are very high. I’m surprised at the naiveties of people who expect the bureaucrats and politicians to be corruption free with all the power they have and the opportunity to make big money with that power. I agree when a bureaucrat or a politician takes bribes, he is in violation of his/her oath. But we should not dependent on oaths, magistrates, policemen to keep people honest.

    If the bureaucrat did not have the power to decide then you would not pay the bribe. Politicians and bureaucrats often disregard the public interest, and go about their usual business of rewarding friends and punishing their enemies. Because they are also people with wants and self interest, they are using the power they have to fulfill their needs.

    You go on and explain to some detail the process of law making and setting up this lokpal bill to action. There is no guarantee things will work once the bill and the necessary infrastructure is in place and I’m sure you know the powers that are will fight this very hard and will come up ways to beat the system, every time. If government control breeds corruption, one thing that’s not going to reduce corruption is more government control even with some involvement of civil society. For any country, the clearest way out of corruption is to reduce the scale and scope of government.

    Hope we all have an open mind and the intellectual capacity and honesty to shift the debate to real issues rather than trying to deal with just symptoms.

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