Blogging the NRI Mind

Corruption In India: A Different Take

Serious times in India call for serious blog posts. This corruption craze in India has catapulted into a cathartic carnival of camaraderie since the apparent victory of Anna Hazare. Amidst all this euphoria, quite honestly, I was and am trying to figure out what it exactly means for our country.

It Wasn’t Too Bad

Before Anna chose country over food, I personally think that the state of corruption in India, in comparison to other developing countries, was not terrible.  Out of the 178 countries analyzed by Transperancy International, India is the 87th least corrupt country in the world. Denmark is the #1 least corrupt country, but its population is also 0.005 (1/200th) times that of India. China, a non-democratic, ruled-by-fear country is close by at #78. Greece & Argentina are ranked even higher, whilst Russia wins the crown-of-thorns as one the most corrupt countries in the world, ranked at #154. And Africa? Let’s not even go there. Yes, this study, like all other studies, has its flaws, but it provides for a good comparison. Dial 1298 (now ZHL), the rapidly revolutionizing Indian ambulance service, is a solid example of the power of democracy over corruption. I had the good fortune of grabbing a cup of coffee with one of its co-founders, Sweta Mangal. What genuinely and pleasantly startled me was that this multi-crore, social enterprise, did not pay a single bribe to become the success it is today. “All you need is a good lawyer and the courage to use the constitution,” explained Ms. Mangal. For a 65-year-old country that is the world’s largest democracy, with a population of over a billion, 1/4th of which is illiterate, with a multitude of languages and cultures, I feel that the corruption-level in India was not too bad. To clarify, I am not a proponent of corruption and I also strongly believe that India needs to get rid of its seemingly inherent corrupt nature, but I also believe that we were not too bad before the Hazare movement.

But It’s Better Now

Anna Hazare has made a difference, and for the most part, it’s positive. NDTV does a good job summarizing the 41-page Jan Lokpal bill. To re-summarize, the Jan Lokpal bill gives Indian citizens a legitimate tool to fight corruption. Yay! It creates an independent and transparent committee, elected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities, which ensures that the guilty-party receives deserved punishment within 2 years, compared to the timeless trials currently omnipresent in the Indian Judiciary System. Whoop-di-doo! Also, if you need your passport renewed, you won’t need to bribe an official anymore (hopefully), because you can go to the Lokpal, and they’ll prosecute within a month. Wowzer! But I think the most significant difference this movement has made is the spread of awareness and the ignition of guilt among the people. I am one of those “I-am-against-corruption-but-I-will-pay-Rs200-to-escape-a-driving-ticket” kinds of person, but I genuinely hope that this hypocrisy many of us unknowingly possess, subsides and eventually vanishes. That way, Hazare and gang have definitely fueled an awakening of sorts, especially on a deeper, emotional level. I hope it is sustained.

How Much Better?

On a more technical level, there are some warranted doubters. My most brilliant uncle unraveled an interesting point on his blog:

“What worries me is the fact that lower-level officers have also been included with the ambit of the Lokpal bill. If I were a corrupt politician, the best way of protecting myself against the Lokpal would be to make sure that a large number of cases were filed against lower-level Babus. The Lokpal machinery would then get so swamped with fighting low-level corruption that they would then have no ability to go after high-ranking officials or politicians!”

And then you have the excellent but controversial, Arundhati Roy quite eloquently destroying Anna Hazare and everything he stands for:

“Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralization of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official.” The agency itself would hence become “an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.”

So, like every issue, there are two sides to this. I feel that the true effect of this movement can only be judged with time. Till then, I think we need to gear up, stand up for what is right and step away from this easy-fix “chalta hain” attitude. Democracy slows down progress, but whatever progress it does facilitate, is permanent and solid. We have a lot to be proud of, but a lot more to aspire to. Let’s keep the celebrations brief, and worry more about acting on this mental growth. Let’s actually use every last inch of this bill to drain corruption out of India. Although I am not too sure about the efficacy of this bill, I genuinely hope that it helps reduce corruption in our beautiful country.

Photo Courtesy: The Telegraph/AP

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