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‘Theme Anna’: SHALL SURVIVE SANS TEAM, By Dharmendra Nath, 3 Oct, 2012 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 3 October 2012

‘Theme Anna’


By Dharmendra Nath


Notwithstanding Team Anna’s disintegration, the burning issue of corruption is very much alive. So far much of it was taken for granted, a dastoor, something sanctioned by custom and tradition. At the most there was some angry protest for a while. Thereafter, we were back to business as usual.

In some quarters the problem was played down as the traditional nazarana (to ensure good faith), shukrana (to give thanks) and jabarana (natural extortion by the mighty) or the almost ubiquitous baksheesh (gratuity). When international rating agencies pointed it out, we just shrugged our shoulders. Not so this time. 

A strong Lokpal is still on every one’s mind. So is the question of CBI’s accountability. Its vulnerability to Government influence is a widespread public suspicion. What is the point in having a toothless Lokayukta, who will fail to induce a sense of fear on being caught? Why should the Government sanction or withhold prosecution? Will it not upset the system of checks and balances, crucial for good governance?

Who planted these ideas? Under whose pressure the Lokpal bill was taken up by Parliament after a lot of prevarication? Who induced a “sense of the House” debate in Parliament?            

Anna basically stands by himself/alone. A team tagged on with him for its own ends and when the ends seemed unlikely to be served they started going their different ways. But that doesn’t reduce his stature. His selfless rural development work around Ralegaon Sidhi, Maharashtra is for all to see. Now he has taken a more basic cause of our under-development.

Corruption is viewed as a basic issue dogging our freedom and development. All these years have seen only a deteriorating drift. Unless this is tackled inclusive growth is impossible. And he has succeeded in raising the issue to a level of national agenda. Democracy is a game of numbers and the tyranny of numbers can always sink a cause, howsoever worthwhile. It is not for him to sit idle. Every stone thrown into a pond creates expanding ripples.

People in power seem so scared today that they would rather avoid action altogether. In fact, they wait for someone else to take it. That is partly the reason why there is so much procrastination and there are so many empowered Groups of Ministers in the Government entrusted with various tasks. Compulsion of coalition politics is only a part explanation.

The main force behind Anna is the youth of the country. As they are going to be around, Anna’s impact cannot be temporary, as some political pundits have predicted. Popular perception holds that the country has been robbed both from above and below. Those on top indulged in big ticket scams without almost anyone being brought to book and their appointees down the line squeezed the life blood of the country through their daily extractions for performance of their normal duties.

It is granted that our society per se is rife with all kinds of wrong doings and manipulations such as short-changing, short-weighing, impersonation for jobs and admissions to institutions, widespread encroachments on public lands and a readiness to pay a bribe to tide over any difficulty etc.  Lord Swaraj Paul had to return to the British House of Lords what he had illegally drawn from it. These tendencies find full reflection in our public life. That, however, does not mean that we should do nothing about it.

Why not begin with reform of the Government? Even otherwise, it is expected to do better and to set the tone for a more enlightened conduct. But today, be it defence contracts, telecom licences, mining concessions, food or fodder, the shadow of corruption falls everywhere. Wrong doers go unpunished. One odd exception seems to be Sukhram of the corruption-ridden Telecom stable who only recently has been sentenced for his misdeeds of 1990s. That shows how sparingly and slow our whole anti-corruption machinery grinds.

Currently one minister stands charge-sheeted and two others are facing the heat in the Adarsh Housing Society scandal. Four serving or ex-Chief Ministers are being investigated for having acquired disproportionate assets. That is quite a score board for public service.

Can there be anything more melodramatic than the Tehelka expose of our military purchases and the State’s response being more against it rather than the wrong-doers. How is it going to inspire confidence? In UP no less than three Chief Medical Officers have been murdered – one inside a jail -  in connection with National Rural Health Mission corruption scam.

Construction of super expensive toilets at public expense in the Planning Commission with not an eyebrow raised by the establishment tells its own sad tale. This is only a shade different from diversion of public funds. Both create scarcity of resources for worthwhile purposes. The questions to ask are: Was it a right choice when there is a mounting budget deficit? Should people responsible for such expenditure be advising the Government on control of its deficit and planning for the poor? Are income tax raids meant to garner money for such use? Worse, there is news of a super expensive dinner fit for a sheikhdom or decadent monarchy.

Moreover, official circles are making a gratuitous mistake of treating Anna as an adversary. We must realize that the Anna phenomenon is another manifestation of that same anger against the State which is exploited by the Maoists. The advantage in dealing with him is that his movement is reformative and law-abiding. Let’s not collude to make Maoists the sole spokesmen of that lobby.

The nitpicking which the Government has done into the affairs of the erstwhile team Anna, i.e. finding all kinds of yet undiscovered faults with them is in bad taste. It only confirms the suspicion of adversarial confrontation rather than of understanding and cooperation for a good cause.  

For much too long, silent patronage of good men has been taken advantage of by the wrong doers. Without that protection the game will never be played. Hence the tremendous import of the independence of CBI. If Government actions or inactions are in the dock, how can we expect fair performance from a subordinate CBI?

The principle of joint responsibility of the Cabinet is well known. So if one of the flocks faces an enquiry is not the position of the rest jeopardized? What has been particularly galling are the loud statements of some of those already caught in the corruption net!

Anna’ innings are therefore far from over. In fact, they have just begun and will unfold themselves on a wider canvas with time. He is not a rabble rouser. His race is not running for any public office. Public demonstration of strength is therefore irrelevant. If agitation does not yield the desired results he will try other democratic means. Team or no team, theme Anna cannot be wished away. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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