That India is one of the most corrupt countries is well known. It perhaps ranks number one in the unaccounted money stashed in Swiss Banks or in tax heavens. After six decades of independence and a phenomenal progress India has made in all spheres [manufacturing, health care, science and technology, education etc], the country still has millions below poverty line and a bad quality infra structure.
The corrupt politicians and the mafias they are hand in glove with have ruined the country. The all pervading corruption in day to day life has reached such proportions that life of an ordinary citizen has become a nightmare. On a sickeningly routine basis every dawn sees a new scandal. Thanks to free media and its hardworking staff many scandals are exposed and publicized. Wily politicians and greedy bureaucracy have all the means available to destroy (and manufacture false ) evidence and are geniuses of sort in giving different spins to the facts and even manage to get off lightly. Democracy is hijacked.
But then came a person, Anna Hazare, who captured his countrymen’s imagination and a new phenomenon occurred. He is 71 and of slight build, not a formidable personality by his looks. He could not afford to complete his school and had to drop out after merely 8 years. He enrolled in the Army as driver, saw action in 1965 and 1971 wars India had with Pakistan and devoted himself to improving the miserable plight of his home village ‘Rale Gaon Sidhi’ thereafter. And he did produce a miracle in converting his drought stricken, poverty ridden village into an oasis with adequate water right round the year, greenery and plenty of food and other crafts. With tremendous force of persuasion he organized villagers, made them abandon lazy and debt ridden lifestyle, built small dams at correct places to trap whatever rainfall it was getting. He never married, gave whatever the savings he had for the village. After 25 years the village is self sufficient and proudly speak of their revered Anna who does not have a house of his own and stays in a temple.
But this was not the only thing he did. He declared war on corruption and organized various campaigns against some of the big names. The pressure he brought upon the government of his home state soon saw as many as six cabinet ministers forced to resign. He has used same weapon Mahatma Gandhi used, that of fasting. He did achieve many a success.
Anna has been aware that it’s a stupendous task to get rid of such well entrenched corruption from public life and often talks of changing the society itself. But he never preached violence and all his campaigns have been peaceful.
India has a robust constitution complete with checks and balances to keep executive and legislature in balance. Its judiciary has been fiercely independent and often takes the government to task on many issues. But in spite of all that, corruption still flourished unabated. Hotly debated reasoning is that bodies like Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, police whose task it is to investigate wrong doings are not autonomous like the Election Commission and are controlled by the government. Also no prosecution can be initiated without many a permissions and approvals etc. All the prosecutions that have been launched so far are because of the public and media outcry, directions by the Supreme Court and writ petitions filed in the courts. The government, on its own, has never initiated anything. Its vested interests are obvious.
There exist ‘Lok Ayuktas’, presided over by distinguished persons at state level but they have been toothless and ineffective since they can make only recommendations and have no powers to initiate prosecutions. Their reports simply gather dust.
Year 2011, saw huge frauds. Anna Hazare then began his fast unto death in Delhi. He demanded that the Government introduce a bill to establish a national level ‘Lok Pal’, who will have powers to take suo moto notice of any scandal, make inquiry, register cases, charge sheet the culprits and even punish them. Its recommendations will be binding and even Prime Minister would not be exempt. Anna’s demand was that the bill to establish ‘Lok Pal’ on his terms must be introduced immediately. As per this draft, He outright rejected draft produced by the Government and declared it as the most useless exercise that would not alter anything. Anna insisted on a joint committee of ten members, half of which would be non government personalities.
While the Government just ignored it initially, the public lent an overwhelming support and thronged in thousands to the site where Anna was fasting. Media upped the ante and after two days many channels were covering the event round the clock. It also sparked huge debates. Personalities from all the walks of life started voicing support. Slowly the Government was spurred into action. It tried to dilute Anna’s demands invoking constitutional difficulties. Anna remained defiant. He was losing weight but his mind remained focused. The Government apparatus at the highest level was shaken up.
On the 5th day of the fast, sensing the public sentiments, the Government gave in completely. A gazette notification to constitute a joint committee, on Anna’s terms, was issued. Anna broke his fast. The nation celebrated the victory as a significant milestone in the national battle against graft.
Everyone is aware that this is just the beginning. First the joint committee will draft the bill and will introduce it in the next session of parliament. It will be a mammoth task to get it passed, since the bill will create a potent authority that can investigate anyone and everyone for graft and punish if found guilty. Such process, without Lok Pal, as is the case today has been found most sterile. The sheer size of the embezzled public money has stunned the nation and the people are in no mood to grant the guilty any constitutional rights and safeguards.
Anna has already told the Government that they should be ready to go home if they can not pass the bill.