In the last four months, we have heard a lot of shrill noises on which Lokpal Bill being better. There are at least four versions – Jan Lokpal of Team Anna (not civil society anymore, thankfully) and that of Government, which are being shouted about and compared; that of Opposition (on-the-wall version) and that of a few members of so called, ‘National Advisory Council’.
Undoubtedly, Team Anna being the vociferous, pushing Jan Lokpal to the extent of making it the only Agenda in front of the nation today. “We need real independence”, “It is the second war of Independence”, “We have second Gandhi”, “I am Anna”, “Anna is India, India is Anna” are the kind of war cries heard from various quarters, even pushing the real agenda to the background. At times these cries made me wonder whether the personality has become bigger than the cause. Good to have an inspiring crusader, but the cause is paramount. It looks like everything is being lost sight of. Anna too must be wondering about this, at times!!
In the whole Hungama, are we any enlightened on the real issues? I can vouch that most of us are not. This was what I discovered when I happened to go a couple of times, in the last one week, to the Ramlila Maidan, while walking with the surging crowds. Standing in the rains, drenched, at times huddled under the plastic makeshift pandals, listening to the howling voices of various ‘personalities’ with a variety of affiliations on the podium, one after another, crowds singing songs and swinging to the beats, the whole arena has become a mela, in true sense. One gets to see families after families in the mela, with a-few-months-old in arms to turbaned eighty-year-olds in tow, as well as scores of youth – boys and girls – a few canoodling in the rain. I happened to interact with a cross-section to realize that most are ignorant of any version of Lokpal. It seemed that they are there to just ‘have a look’ and be part of the Anna Lila and Jalsa! Anna has been merchandized in every way in and around the arena. Yes, indeed, it is one of its kinds.
What made them come? The media frenzy whipped by television channels, and the screeching voices of their reporters. It has caught the imagination of the nation; especially the youth, already fascinated by the recent Middle-eastern and North African spring movements that have toppled the decades of autocratic rulers. This youth have been fed with every announcement at Rajghat or Tihar or on the podium at Ramlila maidan as the breaking news! The new-age media, that is just a click away, is no less influential, especial among the bourgeois. The television channels have taken the essence out of the very debate of ‘India against corruption’. They have somehow become the ‘winning the noise match’ than ‘winning the debate’. “It has become the TRP game. TV channels have realized that Anna gives the TRP and that has helped us,” as one of the core Team Anna member puts it.
Yes, the courteous and silent Prime minister, the government or the ruling party have not helped their own cause, by their actions as well as inactions; while the opportunistic opposition, sitting on the wall, only uttered and muttered when cornered time and again, conveniently throwing the shrapnel at the government.
In such a scenario, are we losing out a golden opportunity to reform and create a robust system that can weed out corruption?
No doubt corruption exists in every country, but undoubtedly we Indians are perhaps one of the most corrupt. We Indians, honestly speaking, do not think beyond I-me-myself. Every thing is a race that I have to win, at any cost. Not just indifferent, completely callous towards others. We shout hoarse supporting Anna on anti-corruption movement, but are the first ones to violate all civic rules – respecting fellow beings, maintaining public property, adhering to traffic-signals, driving on the roads, parking, garbage disposal etc. The list can go on and on. We do not mind bribing the traffic policeman when we violate a rule, giving a box of sweets to influence a favorable action at another place. We will find very few people who are neither willing to bribe nor willing to take bribes. We will always find an excuse to fault the system or point at others while justifying our own actions.
Who are ‘we’ and ‘they’? We make the community, we make the city, we make the policeman, we make the politician, we make the bureaucrat and we make the government…. We all want every thing for us by whatever means! But we want others to be clean!! We pollute everything. Little drops of water make the mighty ocean. If every drop in the ocean is pure, the ocean naturally will become pure.
We need to take responsibility. We need to take the lead in setting an example. That is the only way to eradicate corruption. I have experienced it time and again. There are numerous instances of I standing my ground not to pay, or raising voice against some unfair action. Yes, in the short run I suffered at times, but eventually made a difference. The message goes down to the perpetrators. We need to keep sending all the time.
From the bigger perspective on eradication of corruption and the Lokpal bill, time has come for all the groups to come together, climbing down from their respective high perches; meeting at a common ground and work in harmony; debate and share insights and understand one another’s viewpoints.
We need to understand that we have made enough laws, enough ordinances, a good constitution has been amended many times, some times in a hurry, to run the country in a noble way. At times these hurried laws and bills have not really helped. A case in point that comes to my mind is, IPC sec 498A – concerning marital discord, that has been misused to put the other party in the dock with falsehood. Statistics show that, in close to 98 per cent of cases the accusations are false and that the complaints were only filed with ulterior motives.
So we have to be very foresighted, not to just get carried away and create a monster of a Lokpal bill that is very counter productive. We need to debate thoroughly first.
This is a great opportunity to take democracy to the next level. Why not we have a debate on each of the contentious clauses, one at a time, exploring all the upsides and downsides. This debate should happen in the parliament with representatives of all stakeholders – the four groups that have raised the issues – Government, Team Anna, Opposition, Larger civil society and also representatives of specific groups – Judiciary, Bureaucracy etc. – based upon the clauses that are being debated. This should happen live on television across all channels, radio to reach far and wide, and also web cast for all those Indians who are abroad. This is a great way to educate the complete nation. Govt should initiate this debate in parliament with all good intentions. Once the debate takes place, all the representatives in the parliament should cast their votes for the amended version of clauses, without any pressure or whips, whatsoever.
I am sure this process will yield a Lokpal that will be the first step towards eradication of corruption, and does not end being a draconian one, that may paralyze governance. We need to focus more on the implementation of it, with severest of punishments built in, so that it proves a deterrent. We, as a nation, have a very poor record on this front. Having lived and traveled in a few other countries, I can definitely vouch for it. We need to really work on this front.
I hope media too understands that the ‘Freedom of Speech’ is a great responsibility, and cannot be a privilege. It has to understand and show how it uses this freedom for the public good, without any external regulation. Hope it comes out of the TRP game soon.
Whatever said and done, it is the character of every child that we build through the school and early ages of life that will actually bring about the change in the nation. It is the duty of every parent, every teacher and every adult to be an example to every child in the environment, to be upright, trustworthy and honest. That is the only way to build a nation devoid of any ills.
Come friends, let us make it happen. Jai Hind.
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Filed under: civic development, Discipline and social responsibility, India, policy making Tagged: | Anna Hazare, Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal, Bill, BJP, Congress, debate, government, internet, Jan Lokpal, Kiran Bedi, Lokpal, Manmohan singh, Mannu, NAC, nation building, NDA, opposition, Parliament, policy, social media, television, UPA