Sunday, May 13, 2012

I am against corruption. I am also against Anna and his ways..

I am going to take a stand on the issue of corruption, not many are in favour of. I have had very animated discussion whenever I have expressed my views which are against the common views. I was almost scared during August- September 2011 when the movement against corruption was at its peak as being singled out and almost made to look like someone supporting the corruption. However, its not so. I am totally against corruption and I am in favour of tackling the issue by understanding why it exists and what should be done to curb the menace. Policing, to me, is not an answer. It will only create yet another layer of corruption and nepotism.

Corruption is a of the worst ills of the society. In a country like India, where we take pride in almost any defeat and where the population growth, more as a result of, to use Malthusian phrase, lack of ‘preventive measures’ leads almost 98% of the population to lead in general sense of depravity and always competing for those ‘limited resources’ be it jobs, education, comforts, road space, space in life etc and almost everything, corruption has crept in all walks of life like a shadow. Nothing gets done routinely and timely on its own and one necessarily has to grease the other side who is in a position of authority or decider in order to get things done seems to be the firm belief and almost rightly so. From the smallest of things like getting your child admitted to a school to getting your passport made/renewed, everything revolves around “connections” and “bribe”. And it truly sucks.

I would think that except for those at the top end of the population spectrum constituting less than one percent of the population, everybody is affected with this malaise and has been a victim of it in varying degrees at some point in life. Almost everybody who I have met has an unpleasant personal experience to share.

It is in this regard that Anna’s “India Against Corruption” movement came as a much required relief and brought with it a great hope for all the Indians. It was thus no surprise that there was an instantaneous outpour of emotions and response from a common man when the movement staged its demonstration in August in Delhi. It literally caught the imagination of everybody who has suffered at some point or the other and was ably supported by media-both print and more so by the electronic media by publicising the event 24/7 during its entire duration. The response was unprecedented. Ramlila Maidan, the venue seemed to be a sea of people from all walks of life and it was almost as if anybody who had suffered the wrath the bribery wanted to be present there to show solidarity with the movement against corruption. The response, so huge and unimaginable, caught the organisers (of India Against Corruption) by total surprise.

And this to me was the beginning of the fall of this movement. People’s anger and ire which was instantaneous and which was against corruption, was taken as a symbol of individual grandiose and popularity of those leading the movement. The movement, which was supposed to have been a faceless mass movement – where the sheer force of the masses and the pressure it brings along with could have unshackled any system out of its lethargy and systemic rot, became an exercise of individual glorification of few individuals where they started treating themselves as mass heroes and others with utter contempt. It almost has come to an extent that they have assumed upon themselves the role of being the “sole representatives” on the issue of corruption. Everybody has to necessarily speak their language (basically agree with whatever they say and whichever way they say) and any differing or dissenting voice on the methodology, issues and processes is treated with such hatred that such a voice is almost ostracized and boycotted. Such differing voices are almost made to sound like villains. Its “either Anna way or no other way” or “either Anna way or you are corrupt” philosophy that these individuals manning the “India Against Corruption” have adopted that has taken the steam off the movement. This group is just not willing to listen to any other version of “Lokpal Bill”. Whatever they say is “patthar ki lakeer”! As a result, some of the saner voices , including Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey have distanced themselves from the so called movement. This is not all, some of the core committee members of IAC including Rajendra Singh, the Raman Magsaysay award winner have distanced themselves from the movement. Does that make them corrupt? The problem lies somewhere else.

Key proponents of IAC, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi have made it look as if their version of “Jan Lokpal Bill” (whats the difference between ‘jan’ and ‘lok’ ?) will be the panacea of all corruption and all the ills that come along with. And thats how they have been projecting throughout. The basic issue is whether it will be the panacea of all corruption? The greatest damage, the trio (Anna, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi) have done is that they are exploiting people’s anger and frustration against corruption, by giving them false and unrealistic hope of the Bill being the solution to contain all the corruption. It will not be the case and nobody knows better than the trio. Worst still is the likely blame they are going to attribute on the bureaucracy and the delivery system on the failure rather than addressing the basic issue of corruption. The problem of corruption lies elsewhere and no amount of policing can contain it. We are ingenious enough to devise newer methods to overcome provisions of any legal provisions.
The answer to me lies in (i) having systemic improvements in delivery mechanisms of the services in a manner that minimizes human interface. The online facilitation of services which does not require any human interface can bring in lot of transparency and thereby minimize corruption. Also (ii) a major answer lies within each of us. As they say, it takes two to clap. Corruption exists because there is a giver, however forced or unwilling. Can we go on justifying corruption on the compulsions of our circumstances? If we all decide to follow rules and be mentally ready to pay the fine/penalties if we flout them, half the battle is won. How many of us look for short cuts whenever we jump the traffic signals and happily bribe the traffic constable for over-speeding, or violation of rules? There might be delays or unnecessary delays initially but if all of us decide to be a part of this cleansing drive, things will ultimately fall in place.
It’s very easy to look elsewhere and blame everything on politicians and babus but is it that simple? Is Politics or Babudom the only breeds that are corrupt? Is there no corruption in corporate sector, among NGOs and in formal and informal sector? If we are talking about removing corruption and holding people accountable, why not talk of all such sectors ? Its like this – we don’t want to talk about ourselves and our acts of omission and commission whenever we are a party to corruption when it suit us but we would like to blame politicians and bureaucracy for all our ills. They are the favorite and most easily available targets waiting to be whipped. Is it fair? Is it not closing our eyes to the reality? I remember when somebody asked Anna as to why he doesnt contest an election, his answer was that he will never win because voters can be purchased. Now, my question is, where lies the answer? Are politicians alone to be blamed? It's much more deep rooted and we cant take as easy route out by blaming everything on politicians. Why arent we willing to look into the societal dynamics and the complex Malthusian perspective on deprivation and resulting desire to seek a short cut in everything we do?

Kiran Bedi mocking politicians
The sort of adulation and hero-worship that the troika got, it perhaps has got into their head. A situation came that nobody should question their own credentials. Well, it’s a well established principle of leadership that the best leadership is the one which leads by his/her own example. And here, cases of improprieties and corrupt practices against some of these members of troika and those closely associated are blatantly ignored by them and infact laughed over. Such arrogance against the truth can only bring them down- there’s no other way and its happening. Everytime I saw it on television the way Anna said "inquilab zindabad" or "bharat Mata ki jai", I got scared..there was so much violence and threat in the tone. What was so gandhian about it? Or the way Kiran Bedi mocked politicians on stage in Ramlila Maidan. The entire issue got so trivialized in the process.

What's Gandhian about it?

The IAC movement has always prided itself in advocating a transparent system in whatever we do in public. I really wonder why one of the IAC members, Mufti Shamum Kazmi, was thrown out of the IAC when he was recording the proceedings of the IAC ? where’s the internal transparency gone? I wonder why this issue has not been raised in the press? Somehow, the majority of media has been subdued to subjugation with the self perceived belief that they have taken up the right cause however illogical or autocratic it might be. In any case, media goes by TRP ratings and all said and done, Anna makes news and sells.

The movement, with its new found popularity , has ventured into newer areas of reforms such as electoral practices. It has also taken up, riding on its popularity, some of the most ridiculous issue such as alcoholism etc. This is totally weird and a complete digression from the very purpose for which people had identified themselves with the drive against corruption.

Anna, as also the media, revels in giving the impression that he is a Gandhian. Anna, basically has been, in my opinion, a village simpleton with very simplistic views on life. For him, everything seems to be black and white. I remember having him as chief guest in one of our functions in Vijaywada in early 2000 when I was Municipal Commissioner. He is a man of principles and lives a simple life.

But I feel, exposure to media and instant stardom and publicity has had its debilitating affect on him and he seems to have lost his sense of balance. Notice some of his recent statements – that somebody

who consumes alcohol should be asked to give it up and if he doesn’t, he should be tied to an electric pole and flogged!! Or that Singhavi “should be hanged if found guilty”. There are umpteen examples of his autocratic violent utterances. Wonder whether Anna+Talibanish statements = Gandhi ? or merely, wearing khadi kurta dhoti and a Gandhian cap make anybody Gandhian? The rate at which Anna is going, the day is not far off unfortunately when he will be a totally discredited figure. His comments regarding Ashok Singhavi that he should be hanged if he is indeed the person in a controversial CD, represents yet another instance of Anna letting his tongue loose, with complete disregard for propriety or good sense. Such remarks , as pointed out in Mail Today, betray Anna as a man with a medieval mindset and narrow vision who has through accident or force of circumstances, been catapulted to the national stage. Somebody needs to tell him that leading an austere existence and seeking
change alone is not enough to qualify as a Gandhian. He is surrounded by sycophants who are using him as a ladder to climb on their own personal glories and gains and he needs to realise how he is being used (abused) by those surrounding him. It’s a pity that Anna doesn’t realise that showing his intemperate side will soon leave him with few options or supporters. The movement off late has become media driven and hardly a people’s movement. The movement, in its last few phases, has become a huntin
g ground of lampoon elements and hooligans who, drunk on “people’s power” and alcohol, go around menacingly on bikes, without helmets and flouting all saner rules. Time for authorities to act tough and time for people to realise whether their frustrations are being used by selected few for their very selfish motives.


  1. nice article that puts succinctly the view which is shared by so many of us.

  2. Hi Arvind, congrats on touching a very hot, relevant, sensitive and well debated topic...I agree with you on some but not fully on some points. As regards Anna, your observation that he is a simple person with no attachments is correct. I would say that his statements regarding a drunken man or Sanghvi would have been the same even when he was not as popular as he is today. His utterances then and now are of same texture and 'politically incorrect'. But the media which shot him to fame is the same media which is highlighting these utterances. If he was a politician (or a bureaucrat, he would measure his words, whether in action he means it or requires that political experience to say " i deny" " I am a true Indian..." etc...although he is the root cause for anti-Indian activity). So utterances per se he is not to be 70+ you think he can be a suave sweet talker like the 'polished' politicians or bureaucrats?

    I like the idea of your systemic changes, bringing e-governance everywhere to avoid man interface. But I find one big loop hole in our system is the LAW and the law enforcing agencies. It is the latter Anna addressed. A EC or a RBI are saviours to some extent due to immunity from political interference. A constitutional authority has that independence and our IAS lot have proved to the world that we are top class in conduct of elections and RBI and its policies saved us from many a fall which the West could not stop. Anna's contention that CBI be a totally independent agency is no doubt the answer as on today.

    We can see billions of crores stashed away (some mails floating around of cases since Independence) and no credible action taken on any of the perpetrators. In fact there kin are big guys in the Indian political scenario!!! Why is the law an ass? Does it take 3 years to charge sheet Jagan? Who doesnt know his meteoric rise to level with Warren Buffet is no magic? Look at the apathetic treatment of CAG whenever he pointed out audit objections that run into millions of crores?

    A fast acting force empowered with Law that settles matters fastest (not as fast as Saddam was killed...) are required.

    Arvind, you know very well. money is stashed in Swiss banks for those at higher level. At lower level money is stashed in the name of gold, silver and prime lands. Often these are in benami names. Simple action like making purchase of gold and silver (which are controlled items) only by cheques can ease/stop this route!! Encouraging credit card purchase with 1% IT waiver can bring in salutary effect and bring white money into focus!

    Most often real estate guys indulge in black money usage because they cannot pay cheques to labour for daily wages etc...this can be easily curtailed...I am sure there are bigger economists and police who know smarter methods. Imagine if Govt can distribute benefits to poor through bank and debit cards, is it a problem paying them by cheque transfer?? Every labourer uses mobile phone today...debit card is a child's play!! Look at the bank transactions increase by this !!

    Lot can be done, ARvind. There is no political will!! I will say YES Anna for a simple reason that he is the ONLY person who brought the issue of corruption to the forefront in India...besides so many big talkers, Narayanamurthys, Ratan TATA's and IAS...he may be a village simpleton...He is a Gandhian because he woke us up to a malaise which became systemic in Govt and systemic in our physiology of every Indian...He is a doctor, he is a demi-God he is a Gandhian....



  3. Dear Arvind - am glad you have expressed your thoughts and it required to be so lucid, else it would easily be misunderstood! For me, the discussion is on the means (adopted) and the goals (ought to be achieved). To the best of my knowledge, Gandhi is known to have advocated a lot of deliberation on the choosing of means to achieve goals that would further public interest. It is on this basis that Team Anna and their 'strategies' are to be evaluated. Yes, we cannot be patient forever, especially given the magnitude of the problem of corruption as being unraveled by the day, but then, are there not many other social goals and priorities that are also languishing for as long or even longer? For sure we cannot claim that solving the problem of corruption alone would remedy the other developmental/governance related concerns. Even on the issue of participatory form of making legislations, Team Anna failed us by not keeping the Joint Panel exercise adequately representative of all opinions, present and documented till date on this issue.

    Best, Anil

  4. Completely agree with Rajiv, very well articulated point of view. However I have one concern, Anna and party have positioned themselves against the mainstream and have put forward a flawed alternative of the Jan lokpal bill. You for very good reasons have positioned yourself against Anna but have not provided an alternative. Sorry for using your blog to express my point of view, but we in DIT believe that e-Governance could be a solution to reduction in corruption. Hence would you also like to write up a followup article to this one giving your take on reducing corruption in public life

  5. I agree Anirban that the long term solution to minimize or eliminate corruption lies in e-governance. I did mention in my blog that the only way is to minimize human interface in any kind of transaction...this is what i meant. Maybe, as you say, I should make an attempt to illustrate how e-governance is the answer....

  6. I guess there are two levels of corruption, although it may seem like dividing terrorism into -- good Taliban and bad Taliban -- but even at the expense of such blurring difference, I’ll still argue that in a country such as India there do exists two levels.

    Level one, which is both faced and fuelled by the ‘common man.’ Li-cense, passport, gas connection, ration card, pan card...anything that remotely requires some government permit or scrutiny. The second level of corruption is more cancerous and perhaps malignant too.

    This is where deals are secured such as in defence, large government contracts and forced changes made in government policies which ul-timately percolates into lower level and encourages corruption of some form or another.

    I fully agree that the level one corruption can be eradicated if not fully through means of e-governance but what is required is to punish the offenders at level 2 and bring that to public notice so that it acts as a deterrent.

    Hazare antics are rustic and may have found sympathy with the ‘common man’, whose voice was unheard but to continue a move-ment you need more than hysteria.

  7. Great post
    Anna play main lead roll for this movement against corruption so please support him and make our country free from corruption .
    jai ho... and salute to Anna and his team who participate in this combat with Anna .
    really remarkable post.
    india against corruption

  8. Thought provoking article. The way Anna tries to introduce Jan Lokpal Bill is definitely not the Gandhian path. Anna do not want to come to discussion table and is acting like a dictator. I am of the firm opinion that Lokpal is not the SOLUTION to end the corruption. Corruption can only be finished if every one decides not to give / take bribe. But will it happen in India?
    Yes to a very limited extent the corruption can be minimized by e governance( without any loop holes). Babu's try to find solutions to every thing. I would like to give an example from my own city- Pune. To contest the municipal election; the candidate has to clear the municipal tax dues. One influential candidate did not paid the dues. Instead contacted the engineer of the software provider which was used by Municipal corporation. Manipulated the records in the system, and obtained the no tax dues certificate. Won the elections and now the issue came out. His stand is- He was not aware of any dues. if municipal corporation has asked him about the dues; he would have paid the tax. Matter is in the court. If the decision of lower court goes against him; the decision will be challenged in higher courts and will be kept hanging for 5 years- which is the tenure for the post.
    Coming to Anna- Anna was and is surrounded by wrong people. Few years back Anna made allegations against Mr. Suresh Jain, minister in Maharashtra govt. at that time for not auditing the trusts related to him. You will be surprised to know that even Mr. Jain dig some files and found that the accounts of trusts on which Anna was trustee have also not been audited. Anna has accepted the same in the presence of Justice Sawant commission.
    Anna has no control on what he speaks. Now he has also learned the trick of twisting the statements like our politicians do.
    Atlest by the movement of Anna- Ordinary public has waken up and this is the only positive result of Anna'a movement; which was hipped many folds by media.

  9. Happened to check your profile. There is nothing Indian in your favourite movies, favourite music and favourite books. Hence without reading your write up, I reject it as written by someone who feels apologetic to be an Indian.