Monday, August 22, 2011

Anna's 'monster' Jan Lokpal scares me

Anna Hazare has good intentions but his Jan Lokpal Bill scares me.

I can understand the anger in India today. I can understand why hundreds and thousands have taken to the streets. I can understand why corruption needs to be tackled on an urgent basis. But what I don’t understand is why we need to create a monster to fight a monster. I don’t trust monsters.

When India got democracy 64 years ago, we set out to create a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Started off with good intentions and decades later we are sure that the government is of the people (a separate corrupt class) by the people (who need them for corrupt means) and for the people (who are ready to offer bribes and kickbacks).
Team Anna wants to create another draconian structure because they say that the draconian structures we already have in our society are no longer any good. The premise of Jan Lokpal bill is based on a system of 'respectable non-corrupt' officials with the powers to prosecute anybody in the country, who are demanding life sentences for corruption and the right to dismiss and penalize anybody they deem corrupt.

While this may seem the perfect solution to eradicate corruption from our society, think carefully if it would work in reality? Who are these non-corrupt officials who will run the Lokpal and Lokayukta, who will in a sense hold almost unlimited power in the country?  I know the Jan Lokpal Bill has clearly defined how the process will be done using terms like ‘transparency’ and through various ‘respectable’ committees, but I don’t see it work.

One of my many worries with this bill is that it will end up seeing many of the people on Anna’s stage today running the Lokpal from the centre and the Lokayuktas in their states tomorrow. So who are they really campaigning for- the people or themselves? And my worry is why are we giving so much power to a fraction of people? 
Team Anna argues that corruption in India is systemic and I agree but I’m not sure that the Lokpal will escape this systemic corruption. Power corrupts and there is no guarantee that this system will eventually not succumb to corruption. Then who will police them? Team Anna reply to this in their bill does not convince me. I only see it as a vicious circle which will eventually succumb to a mutual parasitic relationship and infest society further.

If these so called non-corrupt people have managed to garner such a huge fan following among the masses with the Team Anna tag attached to them, then why don’t they stand for elections and see changes happen within the system. Team Anna can form a political party and these non-corrupt supporters, then as elected members, be a part of various governing bodies and monitor the corruption within the system.

It may not seem like a quick fix solution to rid India of corruption overnight but it’s in my opinion a far better solution to eradicate corruption and sustain non corrupt practices in the government departments. Why create a parallel system? And how many parallel systems will we create? Tomorrow we may not like something else in this country (and I’m sure there are many more issues we despise) are we going to hold the government to ransom and create more parallel structures?

We all hate corruption and we want an end to corruption. So why not force the government to become more transparent by holding them accountable. Why not use the same model that Jan Lokpal bill uses for transparency – form a single body to hold inquiries in corruption related cases; publish status reports of corruption cases, keep the cases in public domain, issues penalties for delayed cases etc.

I also agree it would be a good idea to get politicians, bureaucrats to disclose their assets periodically; and to liquidate their assets if they have swindled taxpayers’ money in scams. But why not lobby to include these provisions in our current judiciary system? Give power to the judges and monitor them through a strong Judicial Standards & Accountability Bill which I believe is a step in the right direction.

An independent body can monitor such cases and since the documents will be in public domain, study them and lobby for a speedy trial. The media will only be too happy to campaign for it as we have seen their constant 24x7 coverage to Team Anna.
I respect Anna Hazare, at 74, to believe in a cause and campaign for it. But Anna is no Gandhi and his coterie is not fighting for our freedom against an alien oppression or occupation. Bringing the Gandhi cap back in vogue, celebrity endorsements, crowds chanting freedom slogans, Anna fasting-unto-death, shooting dramatic videos messages inside the jail to reach the masses waiting outside are just gimmicks to liken the movement to the freedom struggle. Tackling corruption is important but the theatrics is ludicrous.

Team Anna has picked up an issue that has mass appeal and timed it perfectly with the many scams we saw early this year to rake up emotions. While I’m happy to see India unite against corruption, I doubt many even understand the finer print of what they are campaigning for.

It’s easy to get swept by the Arab Spring but India is not the Middle East. While the Jan Lokpal model would work beautifully in some Middle East countries who have just began to form democratic structures, India is a mature democracy and already has structures in place. We just need to make them more transparent and productive and the Jan Lokpal bill has some suggestions that are worth implementing and some which will require further analysis, but creating a separate entity like Anna’s Lokpal is not my solution to corruption.
One positive thing from this campaign is that people have found a voice. And I really hope this voice can also be channelized to create awareness on other important and urgent issues.

While Show Anna is on at the Ramlila grounds, there are simultaneously many other issues across the length and breadth of India that require a strong united voice and the media spotlight to lobby for them: Keywords: Irom Sharmila against AFSPA, POSCO protestsKoodankulam nuclear plant protests (and many more).  

Many livelihoods are getting lost; many innocent people are getting shot, villages are getting destroyed and families are burying a loved one every day. They are however going unheard.

Simply because they are not as glamorous as this.


1 comment:

rizwana said...

What a good insight and critical analysis on Lokpal Bill which is worth giving a thought which will channelise government in positive direction and preserve its democracy.