Corruption was ambling along so well. If there were cops asking for bribes, there were people willing to offer them for either getting away from being punished or for getting a favour that wouldn’t have been there. There was bonhomie all around. One was either giving money with a smile or receiving it with a smile. Some even said that our economy moved faster and higher because of this enigma called corruption. Most of us did not really mind because if one was giving something to someone, there was probably someone offering something as well. Most, I said.

Even the Government was happy pulling up some bureaucrat now and then and patting its back for all to see. The media was content to get juicy bits for a scoop that everyone knew would fizzle away even before the next one was magnanimously offered by a neta or a babu. We were being recognized the world over for our selling skills… yes, didn’t someone sell the nation when Bofors was bought? Entire States were offered to gun-toting gangs because a few people in power were busy with their alchemy of converting ‘chara’ into gold! At another level newspapers started selling space to improve bottom-lines. Their editors scribbled lines on bottoms… and middles… and oh, how happy were those corrupt times!

You need money? Embrace corruption. You need to do something? Get corrupt. You need a ticket to a cricket match? Contact the corrupt. You’re bored? Join the corrupt club. We have all seen corruption strutting around in white khadi, starched khaki, impeccable mufti, designer clothing, and even tatters… such is the wide ambit of this menace.

Now suddenly out of nowhere this Anna Hazare has upset the corruption bandwagon. Corruption was so proudly pacing up and down the social ramp believing that it was immortal. Not that it is cowering in some corner right now… no, it is still somewhere – planning, scheming, strategizing, creating tactical moves, huddling with its cronies – and it is definitely gearing up like some mad dictator determined not to give up without a fight. Yes, fight it will. It has always done it… for years… and managed to successfully crush every uprising that honesty tried. But things are now different. The people have the power of the media, the communication platforms are all set to help them converge to corner corruption. The time for the revolution is NOW.

This isn’t just a media revolution. This isn’t just a celebrity-influenced revolution. This is no longer just about the Jan Lokpal bill. This isn’t about tagging every neta as a chor. This isn’t any more about hiding behind ‘what else can I do’ and ‘I am helpless’ whines. This is all about shedding FEAR. This is all about becoming FEARLESS now.

For those of you who have no idea what the Draft Lokpal 2010 and the Jan Lokpal bill are about, let me first give the differences between the two:

1. The Lokpal will have jurisdiction only over the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs.

2. The Lokpal will not have suo motu power to initiate inquiry or even receive compliments of corruption directly from the public. The complaints will be forwarded to it by the presiding officer of either House of Parliament.

3. It is purely an advisory body and can therefore only give recommendations of the Prime Minister on complaints against ministers and to the presiding officer of either House on complaints against the Prime Minister and MPs.

4. Since it has no police powers, the Lokpal cannot register an FIR on any complaint. It can only conduct a preliminary enquiry.

5. Anybody found to have lodged a false complaint will be punished summarily by the Lokpal with imprisonment ranging from 1 year to 3 years.

6. The Lokpal will consist of three members; all of them will be retired judges.

7. The committee to select Lokpal members will consist entirely of political dignitaries and its composition is loaded in favour of the ruling party.

8. If a complaint against the Prime Minister relates to subjects like security, defence and foreign affairs, the Lokpal is barred from probing those allegations.

9. Though a time limit of six months to one year has been prescribed for the Lokpal to conduct its probe, there is no limit for completion of trial, if any.

10. Nothing has been provided in law to recover ill-gotten wealth. After serving his sentence, a corrupt person can come out of jail and use that money.

As opposed to the above, the Jan Lokpal Bill is the civil society version and this is what Anna Hazare is fighting for:

1. The Lokpal will have jurisdiction over politicians, bureaucrats and judges. The CVC and the entire vigilance machinery of the Centre will be merged into the Lokpal.

2. The Lokpal can not only initiate action on its own but it can also entertain complaints directly from the public. It will not need reference or permission from any authority.

3. After completing its investigation against public servants, the Lokpal can initiate prosecution, order disciplinary proceedings or both.

4. With the corruption branch of the CBI merged into it, the Lokpal will be able to register FIRs, conduct investigations under the Criminal Procedure Code and launch prosecution.

5. The Lokayukta can only impose financial penalties for complaints found to be false.

6. The Lokpal will consist of 10 members and one chairperson, out of which only four are required to have legal background without necessarily having any judicial experience.

7. The selection committee will be broad-based as it includes members from judicial background, Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General, retired Army generals and outgoing members of the Lokpal.

8. There is no such bar on the Lokpal’s powers.

9. The Lokpal will have to complete its investigation within one year & the subsequent trail will have to over in another year.

10. Loss caused to government due to corruption will be recovered from all those proved guilty.

Yes, Anna wants to give power to the people by making the Jan Lokpal bill more powerful. However, I am sure he will also want us all to look within our own selves too and root out corruption that we tend to encourage… like buying pirated books for ourselves or our libraries, trying to avoid paying what is due to others, walking off paying less knowing that a shopkeeper has forgotten to add up properly, employees shirking work, employers shirking from recognizing genuine needs, deliberately breaking traffic rules, bribing our way out of sticky situations, claiming false insurance, taking away office stationery home, protecting friends who have erred… come on now, the list is endless… don’t expect only a reasonable Lokpal or Lokayukt to come and wipe out corruption.

Let me cite a few more examples of the simplest denominations of corruption that have pervaded deep into our civil society and which need to be identified and shot down. Pretending originality on facebook status updates, forwarding stuff in your name to get a bit of applause, not crediting the right source… or as Tanvi Taneja says: “Taking other’s credit – in films involving copyright issues – in offices, for better appraisal, in news channels for gathering TRP or making fool of public…..let’s bring in a lokpal to be free of this system of internalized corruption gradually.”

Edwin Rodrigues defines ‘corruption’ as the longest word in the Indian Dictionary. Indeed it is with all its satanic ramifications probably being longer than even all the arteries and veins of mortals put together! Durgesh Upadhyay, a friend on Facebook, feels that ‘till the time you yourself are seeped in corruption you are happy, but as soon as you see others benefitting from it you object…’ I believe that this is true and is no laughing matter. This is an attitude that needs to be tackled straight on. Catch it by its horns and pull it to the ground!

I know that there are so many more examples of corruption that aren’t big enough to be highlighted by the media but are nevertheless just as dangerous as any. These include people shamelessly breaking queues – in traffic or as even at a doctor’s clinic, protesting against unjust criticism, but readily accepting unearned applause, driving on footpaths and then bribing a cop if caught, cops waking up only when it is time collect bribe money, people disobeying law knowingly (eg. black tint on vehicles), looking forward to being feted and gifted during diwali or other festivals, newspapers selling space to organisations, manufactured news, and even using ‘whistle-blowing’ to simply politicise matters. Lest I forget… how many organisations can really come forward and say with confidence that they don’t use pirated software in their office network? Come on, corporate India, start by buying legal copies of OS, office suites and whatever else that you use. Only then will you be eligible to stand up and say: Yes, I support Anna!

What else is corruption? Sharad Pawar continuing as a minister, Kalmadi still strutting proudly, Raja and Radia still prancing joyously… Lalu and his ‘chara’ still haunt to taunt, Bofors isn’t yet silent… No wonder then that the babus still want a toothless India, a toothless RTI, a toothless Lokpal bill…

This bill actually hits out at the neta-babu nexus… and Anna alone cannot do much, therefore, every right thinking citizen needs to get up and join the movement, contribute to its success… and, importantly, also recognize the ways in which he or she adds to corruption in its smaller avatars and get rid of it.

So let us STOP gloating when a politician is booed and shooed from Jantar Mantar… just peep inside and ask yourself: ‘Have I parked my vehicle legally?’ or any other such insightful question. India gets better when you get better!

The sharks, wolves, hyenas, cobras, vipers, asps, vultures and even the deadly female anopheles in the Indian political and administrative setup need to be rendered toothless, biteless, and spineless… not the Lokpal bill or the RTI bill! In fact, it is the legislation that needs to get stronger by the day. It is the ability to implement strong laws that needs to get strengthened. As Rakes Chadha, another friend on Facebook, remarks: “Corruption has to be fought at various levels. Instil fear of law and at the same time try to revive the collective conscience of people. Anna Hazare has at least made us realize that we cannot ignore the problem forever and we certainly need to take steps to root out the scourge that has plagued our country for so long.” Yes, and this will not come on a platter but would require intense struggle! The fasts, the candles, the slogans, the placards, protests, the resolutions, and the will of the people will need to be sustained for a long time. Such battles aren’t over in a day or a week.

Rajeev Singh Baghel ?wrote: “Arvind sir, first of all, the basic requirements of the citizen have to be made available at low or reasonable prices. Parents have to pay nearly 1 lakh rupees for admitting their ward in a good school, 15-20 lakhs are to be kept aside for college education. With high living cost and low incomes, this is just impossible. In early 90s even ghee and milk were available @ a price of Rs. 40 & 7 per kg and litre respectively which has now escalated to Rs 240 and Rs 30.” I told him that I had an assembled PC at home… and this second PC is more than 4 years old now.  I continued: “Don’t you think I get impressed when I see the latest Apple desktop with its massive monitor, or the iPad, or any of the 50K+ laptops that are available in the market? However, I have learnt to DO MORE with whatever I am able to afford. It is thus THINKING that needs to be changed than bringing down prices. I also believe that when corruption is minimized, the quality of life for all improves!” Moreover, why do we need to even consider paying to get admission? Let us simply say NO to such practices… and they aren’t limited to only nursery admissions!

It is time now that I start talking of the solution. Just look around you…in your own organisation or where you live and you’ll be able to identify people who walk around twisting every conceivable law to their advantage and you along with a lot of suffering others look on helplessly. Why suffer helplessly?

It is these suffering masses who need to become ‘fearless’ enough to raise their voice to overwhelm law-breakers. This is the reason why even  laws must not be toothless… though a healthy respect for law is more important than a mere fear of it. Rakesh Chadha adds: “Yes, law must be respected but the way the law breakers and the manipulators get away and, in fact, are honoured and glorified would make even the most upright feel like idiots. Give stringent punishment to the law breakers so that a vast majority don’t feel tempted to transgress, after all, everyone can’t be expected to be morally strong or incorruptible. Fear is a strong deterrent. True, the peer group pressure too can act as strong deterrent and help us fight different forms of corruption.”

Just browse through the tweets on this Anna revolution or read what your friends have to say on what corruption is and how it can be tackled and you’ll know that most of India is now deeply concerned about this menace and is not going to keep quiet now. Anna, or no Anna.

The legislative solution to making India a corruption free state may not be far now, but the common man everywhere needs to recognise and adopt at least these three rules:
1. STOP idolizing and kowtowing to the corrupt in high places.
2. Get up and blow the whistle when you notice corruption anywhere. This is because rooting out this menace from the TOP down works better as then those in decision-making positions become intolerant to smaller forms of corruption.
3. As an individual you too need to consciously reduce your corruption quotient.

We all know that INDIA is still the richest country even after 200 years of British rule. However, we also know for sure that the largest chunk of this wealth is within the corrupt nexus of neta-babu-industrialist. However wayward it may seem, there is a whisper all around that if we can collect the unlawful wealth from our nation we can even clear American national debt. We did get a whiff of this through the portals of wikileaks.

Even as I am completing this article, there is a flash on almost every website that says that the Government has agreed to go along with whatever demands Anna has made for the Jan Lokpal bill. “Government has accepted all our demands and I will end my fast tomorrow at 10:30AM. This is a victory for the entire nation,” Hazare said. “This is a victory for democracy,” he said adding it was for the government now to issue an appropriate order constituting the committee that will include representatives of civil society and government.

Anna wins.

The real victory though is still away… but we’re on the right path now. Let us move on unstoppable.


Feature image credit: Hrishikesh Panvel