Here’s a little story :
I went to the local telephone exchange to get my internet connection fixed. It was highly erratic, it kept getting disconnected if someone used the landline (which still exists), and it was horribly slow.
The guy agreed to come if I gave him some cash. I was faced with a dilemma : should I pay this guy to fix my internet (and to do his fucking job) so that I could just get on with my life, or should I be a moral upstart and say “NO” and walk out dramatically, thereby suffering to a life of no internet?
(This may or may not have happened.)
My point is, I’m sure all of you have been faced with choices like this, that demean our self-respect and put us in terrible confusing situations. We can claim to be morally upright, but are we really? All of us have paid a bribe at one point in our life.
Does that mean we’re as corrupt as the Congress? We’re not just morally corrupt (for paying the bribes to get on with our normal lives) but intellectually corrupt as well – for claiming to be “clean” people and supporting Anna Hazare’s movement while we’re not actually good.
We actually think we’re good, we think we were forced to pay the bribe and given the chance, we wouldn’t have. But did he ask for the bribe at gunpoint? Why pay it? To just get on with it? How good does that make you? Doesn’t that make you selfish? You encourage guys like that, right?
To attempt to absolutely kill this dilemma which all of us go through, Anna Hazare fasted in April. He wanted and wants :
1. Accountability, so that public servants don’t take advantage of people to make a quick buck. Once they know their asses are on the line, they’ll step up and be good.
2. Probity, so that public servants can actually be an example to the people and not an anti-example (“Hey son, after you grow up, don’t be like Digvijay Singh”).
3. Purgatory, so that public servants who do step out of line are punished duly. This will set an example to other public servants.
He doesn’t just want this to include lower level servants, he wants this to include everyone right upto the top – the PM and the Judiciary. Everyone, he says, is responsible for corruption. And all this, he felt, can be solved if a proper Lokpal Bill was introduced and passed.
He then remembered this Bill was not passed 6 times before, most recently being 2008, so he said “If this isn’t introduced in Parliament now, I’ll totally fast”.
That was 4 months ago. Now the Government has tabled a version of the Lokpal which was quickly dubbed “Jokepal” by the creative civil society members. If this Jokepal is passed, to put it bluntly, nothing changes.
If anything, life just becomes worse for us common people. I don’t know the technical details of this “Jokepal” the Government has put forth right now, but I do know it’s fairly toothless.
For instance, they’ve kept out the PM out of its purview. The PM can be investigated AFTER he leaves office, but not until then. Also there’s a seven year waiting period, so no investigations can be done for seven years after the complaint has been made.
They’ve also kept out the judiciary and the lower bureaucracy out of the ambit of the Lokpal. By lower bureaucracy, I mean the government employees – the very people who demand bribes from you on a day-to-day basis. These guys are not going to be accountable to the Lokpal. They will be accountable only to their seniors, like how it is right now.
The Government’s version has also kept out the CBI, who, as you should/may know, is already toothless. For example, no investigation can be initiated by the CBI without the permission of whichever (State/Central) government. And once the CBI is totally out of the purview of the Lokpal, it’s just going to remain as inefficient and incompetent as it is now.
So basically, this means :
1) People with who we have to interact on a day to day basis – cops, idiots in government offices like Passport office or RTO, are out of the ambit of the Lokpal if it is passed in its current state. That means exactly zero percent improvement in my life.
2) CBI, who is accountable only to the Government (as it seems to a 20 year old), will remain accountable only to the Government and will never be able to investigate anything free of interference. Remember that right now, the CBI is investigating the 2G scam on the orders and supervision of the Supreme Court. That is the only reason why A.Raja or Kanimozhi are in jail now, nothing else.
3) The PM, who is the Chief Operating Officer of this country, is out of the Lokpal. Why? If the PM has nothing to hide, if his party has nothing to fear, then why be out of the purview of the Lokpal?
This seems absurd because the Congress were the ones demanding the PM be within the jurisdiction of the Lokpal back when the BJP-led NDA was in power. At that time, the NDA said “OK, PM is totally going to be answerable to the Lokpal”.
Now, the Congress has totally changed their tune.
And does the Congress seriously think they’re going to remain in power forever? What is making them afraid? They’re most certainly not going to comeback to power in 2014. Atleast, I hope so. Then what’s the hiccup?
What the people should understand
Firstly, there is no guarantee that anything will happen even if the Lokpal Bill is passed in its purest and most well-meaning form. Remember that what the Civil society members are asking for is a Lokpal which is answerable to virtually nobody. If it is given all the powers, such as arrest and investigation (via CBI, CAG etc), trial and prosecution (via special courts) – what is the guarantee that it’s going to remain good?
What if it randomly prosecutes someone because of some vendetta? That’s happened and happens in India even now.
So there is no guarantee. If I may, I’ll introduce this adage : Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Right now, however, that seems necessary. ALL these fucking people stonewalling investigations ! ALL those fucking people sitting pretty, not afraid of anything, after making so much money off our heartburn, sweat and pain ! OUR MONEY ! Look at what these imbeciles are making money off : streetlights, sand, education, health, social-welfare, food, fodder, roads.
THOSE PEOPLE MUST BE BROUGHT TO TASK ! They must be punished, you say.
I fully agree. But what about afterwards ? We need to do this with some foresight. If history has taught us anything, it’s that resting the power that can make or break anyones future entirely with someone else, is most likely to end in disaster.
Apart from just that tiny niggle that’s bothering me, I’m totally ok with it.
I mean, if we’re not corrupt, we have nothing to fear. I’m not saying the Judiciary and whoever else will make up the Lokpal panel will be as clean as distilled water – I’m just saying they have a lot more people to go after other than me or you or that guy with the noisy dog.
And if people are caught, prosecuted and imprisoned (by Anna’s version of the Lokpal), it will put the fear of God in their juniors and subordinates, who won’t dare do any of the bullshit they do so fearlessly now.
That’s the dream, anyway.
Let’s see how this turns out. For India, I hope it turns out well.
What the Government and all political bigwigs should understand
Did you know something about this Lokpal (Governments version)? If you file a complaint, and it turns out to be false or there is no conviction because of anything, you’ll be imprisoned for 2 years with no chance of appeal. Yeah, the Congress is becoming desperate here. If the MPs in Parliament pass this, we know we’re fucked.
I’m not sure if anyone even remembers Bhopal. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was a disgrace to India, particularly considering what happened afterwards. Somehow, Warren Andersen, headhoncho of Dow, flew out of India after the crime and is now living in a neighborhood in NYC. The American Government refuses to extradite him here, and if Indian journalists go there, his neighbors refuse to identify his house and become cold and rude.
Why did I mention this? Because of the collective amnesia of the Indian populace. Bhopal is older than me, yet it enrages me. Those people suffered because of no fault of theirs and the courts and the people have just forgotten about them, completely.
How many of you remember the Madhu Koda scam? Ok, how about Adarsh Society Scam? I remember that sometime back this year, Sanjay Manjrekar and Mumbai Mirror kickstarted a campaign across Mumbai where the aim was to remove political hoardings that just made the city even uglier.
A municipal van came and dramatically pulled down a Congress hoarding opposite my college. Not long afterwards, another appeared and it seems all is forgotten now.
The collective Indian memory is so short lived, I wonder how many of us will remember this Lokpal thing 3 years later.
Indians are also thick skinned. When I complained about all this corruption to my parents, they said “It’s a way of life. We have felt what you have felt, but that’s how it is.”
That’s how bad it is ! It’s a way of life? My parents have resigned themselves to the fact that this is going to happen no matter who says what, no matter who tries what. And they felt this the rage I feel now 30 years back. So this shit’s been around for 30 years, yet no one has done anything.
So that’s it – people have just resigned themselves to all this, and therefore corruption still exists in this form. People feel irritated, accept it, and forget about it. Because its more “What can be done about it? Who will go and fight those powerful people?” than anything else.
This brings me to my “thirdly” : Indians also lack a leader. Seriously. Who, in this country full of people who idolize other people, can be called a proper leader?
Gandhiji was gobbled up by the masses, mainly because his philosophy was interesting and successful.
That’s where Anna Hazare comes in. He’s an old man who has actually done good in his life. He leads a simplistic lifestyle that is seemingly free of corruption and all that. So Indians immediately took him up as their leader in the campaign against corruption. No one else will do – Vijay Mallya couldn’t have pulled this off, for example.
And this is where the Government and other powerful people should actually sit up and take notice : Indians are thick-skinned and used to bullshit in their life, Indians are very forgetful of all the nonsense that happens and Indians aren’t very united.
But that’s not going to go on for longer, powerful people.
You can keep pushing a country of 1 billion people however hard you want, but when life becomes tough from all angles, when we have to pay so much for petrol and food and loans, when we have to pay bribes for everything, when our lands are seized without explanation, when you don’t do your fucking job, when you just keep talking and being empty vessels, when you keep crossing your limits and misusing your power, we won’t hesitate to do the same.
So powerful people, please note, you’re just setting yourself up for the big fall. It won’t happen at one go, it won’t be a bloody revolution like the one that toppled Hosni Mubarak, but it will be a continuous process.
You push us, and we push you back. This isn’t the India of even 2000, and most certainly not 1974, when you crushed a similar movement started by another Gandhian (Jaiprakash Narain) by imposing the Emergency. This is the India of 2011, and I’m pissed.
I don’t know how many of you are pissed with all this. Secretly, all of us know nothing will change. Rather than face criticism from the kids I will inevitably have someday, I’m going to atleast try and do something about it.
This is my country. I’ve been wanting to leave my country for a long time now, but not for reasons you think. I don’t want to be rich and I don’t think the grass is very green on the other side. I just want to live a peaceful life, where I am a nobody, and I can do that anywhere else but India without getting pissed every fucking day.
Here I have to pay a bribe to get an LPG connection. There, no such thing exists. It’s not very “clean” there either, but its better than here. And for those of you who say “Dude, racism”, I’d rather be a second class citizen abroad than a second class citizen in my own country.
I think India absolutely rocks – I’m prouder of its history than anything else. In a very corny way, I’m also proud that we were rich enough to attract stupid Europeans, who plundered us and made us the poor country we are today.
I’m not proud or happy about the way it’s being run at all, though : “I hate the system, I love my country.” sums it up nicely.
Example of the “system” : The spokesperson for the Congress asked the media to tone down their “anti-China reports”, because they don’t want relations between us and a “powerful neighbor” to be ruined. THE CONGRESS IS AFRAID OF CHINA !! FUCK YOU, CONGRESS. My ego is bigger than that, I know China won’t do shit to us because it’ll impact their own growth (which they don’t want), so I’ll go all game-theory on them and give them the finger !! FUCK CHINA !
To give you another example of what “system” I’m talking about : They’ve just imposed restrictions on Anna’s fast in Delhi (5000 people only, 3 days). FUCK THIS, THEY’RE KILLING DEMOCRACY AND I FEEL HELPLESS.
Possibly Unrelated Side Note
This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill (though it may not be him), and makes me wonder why he would say such a thing so long ago :
“Power will go to the hands of , rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.”