Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is this the tipping point for tolerating corruption?

Anna Hazares cause has found a voice in many ordinary Indians - mostly urban. Very much like Baba Ramdevs agitation resonated in the minds of middle India. Between the two of them, they have galvanized the imagination of India like never before. Corruption has always been big in India - it is almost taken for granted at many levels. It is accepted that people in power will misuse it and each time a corruption allegation has been raised against a politician - the politician has taken refuge in conspiracy theories. It would have been the same this time too - with Raja and Kalmadi accused in the 2G and CWG scam respectively (among other people who are getting pulled in) - resorting to time tested and brazen defence of backward class, dementia and what not. Except that this time, the citizenry is frustrated.

On the one hand, rising inflation and an inability to control food prices - by an economist prime minister at the helm whose marked skill seems to be inability to do anything. On the other hand, terror attacks, Maoism seem almost taken for granted. Sedition seems to be a rewarding occupation. On top of this comes corruption - while India struggles for progress, the ministers seem to be busy making retirement nests for themselves and for others. What an irony that both the corrupt and the agitators against corruption were jailed in the same prison - even if for a few days.

In all this come Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev with their clarion call to root out corruption. While one is not sure of their prescription of a super clean body that will sit to cleanse the ills of Indian society - their diagnosis is correct. Corruption as an evil has to be rooted out of Indian society - and one way for that is to ensure that the corrupt are punished. A government like the UPA which has laid bare its penchant and desire to subvert the many independent bodies the constitution provides - like the CVC and others - can very well subvert the Lok Pal with a pal of its own. In a land of puppet Prime Ministers, finding a few pals who want to hold a high office with little spine is not very difficult.

Be that as it may - there are signs of change. Today across the country, there are states which run clean administrations - Gujarat, Bihar and perhaps MP to a certain extent. The recently corrupt government of TN was booted out ignominiously and the incumbent seems well on track to provide a clean administration. The transformation of Bihar from corrupt hellhole to a clean administration makes one believe that the same happen across the country as well.

The question to be asked of these agitators and supporters is - who will they vote for in the next elections? Will they reward Congress with a third term? If they do, this entire agitation is a waste of time. Because there is no incentive for good behaviour - after looting thousands of crores, if a party comes to power again - there is no incentive for it to change. That is the logical conclusion of this endeavour - of voting and booting the corrupt out.

Therefore, perhaps this is a tipping point in the history of India. There have been many tipping points at State levels. Bihar, Gujarat have both gone through tipping points before becoming clean administrations. This agitation could very well us to a path where the corrupt are not tolerated - both by the voting populace and the party in power. Is this that tipping point?

Note to myself: This piece I thought was pretty well written and was quite pleased with it. But two editors thought it to nowhere near worth publishing! So much for my writing skills or getting to the core of the idea.

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