Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are we ready to clean, India?

When I was growing up, I didn’t know of anyone who wanted to enter politics in India. None of my friends, peers, or acquaintances. We might not have had official “Career Day” in school, but every time youngsters discussed their career aspirations, politics didn’t appear in the list.

Politics was meant for certain people. People who were not only okay with adorning saris and kurta pajamas 24/7 but also okay with being under-handed and salacious. In a nutshell, if you weren’t corrupt, you couldn’t make it in politics. If you weren’t slimy, you couldn’t survive a day. Maybe these were exaggerated impressions my generation grew up with, but after all, it’s all about perception, isn’t it?

Life went on. Politicians came and went. Corruption increased manifolds. I grew older. My questions became bolder. And hopefully, a lot wiser. My curiosity became unbiased.

A simple thought began to occupy my mind. Sure, corruption has eaten away the foundation of Indian politics and governance like termites in a New York building. However, for corruption to exist and grow, someone has to be encouraging it. All things, be it good or bad, are a two-way street.

It’s so easy to blame politicians. Much easier to call them sick and dishonest. Thieves robbing the morale and hope of the country. But at the end of the day, who is exacerbating the problem? Who is letting them get away with all the filth? Who has given them the power to ruin our lives? It’s the PUBLIC!

Corruption shouldn’t go unpunished. But along with politicians, people are equally to blame. Every one of us has resorted to “unofficial” methods in India to get something done. It could be something as trivial as bribing a traffic cop to avoid a DUI ticket to getting a ration card to a driver’s license to paying a bill to obtaining a passport. If parents refused to bribe the admissions committee at engineering and medical colleges, all kids would stand a fair chance. But when it comes down to survival, the thinking becomes inward. People think only about their individual needs and benefits.

Recently, Anna Hazare, a 73-year-old-man Padma Bhushan winner, decided to bring a change in India. He went on a crusade against corruption: a 97-hour fast until government agreed to almost all of his demands. Film stars like Aamir Khan and Rajnikant endorsed Anna Hazare’s mission. Soon, the common man followed.

It’s in our Indian blood to do “dharna.” To build and burn effigies. To follow the mob, often without understanding the crux of the issue. It’s considered elitist to attend processions and marches. Burn candles for “causes.” Then make others believe you believe in a cause. Doing so is associated with being “liberal.” And being “liberal” makes you appear hip and cool.

How many people really know what the The Jan Lokpal Bill is about? Literally, it means an independent body would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year, and envisage trial in the case getting over in the next one year. How many of them are willing to deal or comprehend the repercussions of it?

When I was in my 10th grade, the Mandal Commission chaos happened right before my board exams. Innumerable youngsters burnt themselves, gave up their lives for justice. I ask: How many of these people really knew what they were doing? What would their sacrifice bring? Who received justice? Not the mourning family members of those deceased.

Reactionary mobs, comprising of a large group of BJP Mahila Morcha activists, attacked writer and activist Arundhati Roy’s house, in New Delhi, in October 2010. About a hundred people vandalized her property. They were protesting Arundhati Roy’s remarks on Kashmir. My question again: How many of these protestors were there because they were truly offended by Ms. Roy’s statement and how many of them became a part of the brouhaha because they had nothing better to do?

An average Indian is angry today. It takes nothing much for a person with low self-esteem to be egged on. It takes very little for someone with no direction in life to follow any path available. It’s no surprise that the Indian youth is using social media to sway and be swayed. I have lost count of the number of Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets urging people to join Anna Hazare in his cause. I choose to not keep track of the number of “cause” requests I received to join Anna Hazare in his crusade.

The same people evade fines when caught speaking on the phone while driving. The same people tell tales when stopped for drunk driving. The same people send “gifts” to obtain a voter card. How many of these people even vote?

Believe me, I am all for Anna Hazare and the other society cleansers. I am an idealist and would like nothing more than India and the world to be corruption and crime-free.

I pose a bigger question: Is the average Indian prepared to live in a transparent system? Let go and get things done the right way, not the easy way? Get off their lazy butt and take responsibility for their actions!

A nation so crippled by corruption can come out clean when the changes start at home.

More until next time,


Copyright © 04.14.2011

“Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks.” ~Doug Larson


rajivx said...

will only recount something a controversial person once said ; it was TN Seshan talking in a UGC program and he said, "Let us first admit that as a nation we are morally corrupt."
If we accept a problem only then can there be a solution. We are already talking of solutions and behaving as we have won the war without first accepting the very basics............

My two cents said...

Thanks for reading and responding, Rajiv! Thought you'd appreciate this interview:

rajivx said...

thanks dear - ya i guess i had read it when i was making a collection of seshan's talks on different occasions. A point where i do agree (to disagree ?) :
its such a vast long topic / issue that there's no "aadi" nor "unt".
Take education -
my small town turns out hundreds of MBAs apart from more than double Engineers every year. Of these , a dozen odd are selected in campus placements for metros, another dozen in gud companies for their local branches.The rest are left to join small local factories at salaries of around 10K per month. Then, when I recall that my daughter was luckier coz she did her MBA from a 'better' place; it does make me feel slightly sad that she pays over 20K per month on house rent alone ............
I mean, I can imagine the frustration of the youth in the tier 2 & 3 cities - I'm not even trying to go even lower - to the majority that makes this country.
The issue is that while we are managing to get education across quite well, we are just creating a tribe of people who will be even more frustrated.
What do we do with this education when people are moving away from agriculture & the forecasts say that within decades there will not be enough food to feed the world ?
Sorry, if I continue to plagued by the eternal pessimism that the optimist's firm belief that we are living in the best of the worlds is sadly true .......

jayashree said...

Sweta, this is not just a problem in India..... its now an international malaise....everyone across the globe wants to be 'there' at any cost. And Indians/Hindus were always ok with bribe....... it was traditional even in ancient Hindu society to take gifts to a officer whose favour one sought to get his job done.The Sanskrit word for this I think is 'updhaukan'..... So no, this is not a new introduction in our society..... we did it always and we do it now. But with democracy and a certain amount of transparency we see it more..... and so the tax payer is shouting.... There is a nice book which talks about this custom in Indian society from the Gupta period to the modern age.... I forget its name but will tell you when I remember. Perhaps if you read it you may understand the phenomenon better.

Anonymous said...

Sweta what you stated about Janlokpal Bill - "an independent body would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year, and envisage trial in the case getting over in the next one year." Well it isn't as simplistic as this. I am sure you can go through the bill to find out what it is all about. In a nutshell it is a body that would need no prior approval to investigate criminal charges against MPs(including PM), MLAs, Bureaucrats, Judges - All these people who are currently protected by constitution of India & cannot be prosecuted without prior approval from government body. That's a huge change & has the potential to significantly change the way government works in India.

Anonymous said...

Now the 2nd point - "It’s in our Indian blood to do “dharna.”

Well Anna Hazare movement has caught the imagination of young India. I was there at Freedom Park in Bangalore where people from all walks of life had gathered to express solidarity with Anna Hazare & angst against rampant corruption. There were Auto Rickshaw Drivers, Young IT professionals, Entrepreneurs, Retired Army Officers, Home Makers with their kids. Energy was infectious. It wasn't a mobilized movement but was completely spontaneous. I was overwhelmed when a group of 300 odd people impromptu broke into "Hum Honge Kamyaab". Experience was surreal. It wasn't a Dharna we are used to in India - as in no blocking traffic, no throwing stones.. nothing. Just a group of conscious citizens trying to make a difference. And difference they did make. At least a beginning :-)

Anonymous said...

And this was condescending - "An average Indian is angry today. "It takes nothing much for a person with low self-esteem to be egged on. It takes very little for someone with no direction in life to follow any path available. It’s no surprise that the Indian youth is using social media to sway and be swayed."

As I stated in my earlier comment, large section of people who had gathered at different places across India to express solidarity with Anna Hazare & team were highly successful people and not a motley crowd comprising of "person with low self-esteem"

As regards "cause" requests, you might want to peep in to Facebook page of India Against Corruption or Janlokpal Tweets :)