Forget Anna Hazare. The Jan Lokpal movement can go to hell for all I care. Let us just look at the issues over which the battle between the government and our citizens is being fought. And then let’s decide where we want to stand, each one of us, on the issue of corruption.
The first question is: Do corruption and bribery hurt you? If they do, do you want a solution? If your answer is yes to both, do you think such a solution lies with an independent authority? Or do you think a corrupt government can fight corruption on its own, and within its own ranks? If your answer is no to that, then we need to create an independent institution to fight corruption. Right? Well, that’s precisely what Anna is asking for. He is asking for a Lokpal that the Government cannot influence nor manipulate. This is the first battle.
The second battle is over four things. One: Should the Prime Minister come under the purview of the Lokpal? Almost everyone I know thinks he should. An honest Prime Minister wouldn’t care. A dishonest one must be supervised. Or else, we will have cases like Bofors that will never ever be resolved. Two: Should Members of Parliament come under the Lokpal? I have not met a single person till date who thinks that our MPs are so honest that they need not be supervised. My guess is if a referendum is ever taken, Anna will get a 100% yes to this question, given what people think of our politicians and the standards of probity in public life. The third question is even more obvious: Do all public servants need to come under the Lokpal? My guess is India’s answer will be yes, yes, yes. Every day, in every area of our life and work, we are constantly harassed, intimidated and extorted by corrupt Government officers. The poorer you are, the worse is the torture. So yes, every public servant, every Government officer must come under the Lokpal. Question four: Who should give permission to file an FIR against a corrupt judge? If the Lokpal can look into corruption charges against the PM, the MPs and Government servants, isn’t it only logical to expect it to do the same against judges?
The third and final battle is over an even simpler thing: The Citizen’s Charter. Should every government office have such a Charter which will clearly state which officer will do what work and in how much time? And should an officer who refuses to do his work in time or asks for a bribe to move a file be punished? The Government says a charter a fine but Government servants must not be penalised if they don’t do their work! Anna believes that officers not doing their work in time amounts to corruption and must face the same treatment. Isn’t it rather obvious what India thinks about this?
Do we really need a referendum on these simple, basic issues? I seriously doubt it. Every Indian will endorse the idea of a Lokpal as Anna and his team have envisioned it, with the help of thousands of Indians who have contributed online to the process of drafting the bill.
Yes, there are genuine fears that we should not create yet another monster out there, who will make life more difficult for us than it already is. But even that has been addressed rather adroitly by Anna’s team. It is a complex process, true but it also ensures that the choice is wisely made. And what if there are charges against the Lokpal? Well, there’s a provision there too. You can go straight to the Supreme Court and seek justice out there.
So why are we arguing so much over this Bill? Why is the Government digging its heels in and refusing to listen to us citizens? Why must Anna go on a hunger strike all over again to press home the point that corruption must be fought back? I guess it’s a question of both ego and fear. No one likes to give up the power they have, and certainly not the Government. In fact, it’s always trying to interfere more and more in our lives, grab more and more authority, more and more space. And fear? Well, I guess we all know the answer to that. This is possibly the most corrupt Government we have ever had. It has good reason to be scared.
Satish Gangadharan Pillai