Have we won the war against corruption?

Of course, not. We have just won our first battle, the ‘battle of jantar mantar’ against corruption.

The next and major step would be to get the bill passed in the monsoon session of the parliament in July 2011. That too seems to be well on the way with Mr.Veerappa Moily as well as Mr.Shanti Bhushan expressing that there would not be much trouble in agreeing on a good draft of the Jan Lok Pal Bill, 2011. One certainly should keep fingers crossed still. There is a panel with eminent and very knowledgeable people. The representatives of civil society includes Mr. Prashant Bhushan, a senior Supreme Court Lawyer, Mr.Arvind Kejriwal, who has been a main force in drafting the bill who is a former IAS Officer and an IIT, Kharagpur graduate, Shri Anna Hazare ji himself and Mr.Shanti Bhushan, another serior Supreme Court Lawyer as the co-chairman. The government’s panelists includes senior lawyers too. Hence, the panel certainly has the required expeirence and eminence. The only question would be on the will of the government to allow good strong provisions of the Jan Lok Pal bill to be retained.

We would also have to be clear that the focus of the bill remains on tackling corruption rather than allowing the Lok Pal to dictate policy decision to the government, as Shri Harish Salve, another senior Supreme Court Lawyer pointed out. At the end of the day, it is the politicians and the bereaucrats who have to take policy decisions. We cannot have a Lok Pal which would be breathing down their neck all the time. This would impede even good and necessary decisions. For example, if one starts questioning the need for a Unique Identification Number as has been floated now, citing that it is unnecessary and will not help in development, no decision can be taken. The Lok Pal should get interested and question it only if there appears to be reason to believe that while executing this, some companies or individuals have been unduly favoured and for this, certain politicians or bereaucrats have received bribes. So, it is very essential to keep the focus on tackling corruption. We have to believe that if corruption is stopped, then we would have politicians and officials who can take decisions that would benefit the country, even if they at times err in judgement. As long as the intent is good, certain inefficiencies and wrong decisions would not affect us in the long run since they would be quick to realise and correct themselves as against the current scenario when we have malafide intent which is impeding development.

What role do we have as citizens now?
Firstly, we need to ensure that as many people as possible understand why this bill is being put forward and what effect it would have on their lives. A significant percentage of the educated population, with a large percentage of youth have turned up in this movement and have understood the above points. It still remains that millions more remain who do not know what is happening and why it is so. We need to spread the word. People need to realise that if they are focussed on their today and tomorrow alone and how much tax they pay or they avoid or what grants or exemptions or subsidies they get from government are enough and that the larger picture is not of their interest, then such a perception needs to be changed. This attitude would amount to being ‘paise wise and rupee foolish’. Lets take a concrete example. If we say for example, retrieve all the black money stashed away in foreign banks or get the tax from big time defaulters, which are of the order of thousands and lakhs of crores, it would mean that the govt. would have so much more money and may be able to reduce our tax burden or keeping the same tax burden, be able to deliver much more development like investing in renewable energy sources to meet our present and future energy demands. The government can spend the same on ensuring good infrastructure and teaching quality to the millions of children who are our future. We can improve on the human development index by focusing on health, malnutrition etc.
The education cess of 2% can be waived off. We can pay off our debt to the world and save interest that we keep paying to the world bank and others, which contribute significant percentage of our yearly budget.

The gains do not stop there. When there is little or no corruption, free market would work better. Free market will work better because the regulatory authorities of the government would do their jobs well. When free market works well, we the people, the consumers will stand to gain. No companies would be able  to bribe some officials and get away in avoiding safety norms. We will have pilots who have a true license. Our hotels will follow all necessary sanitation and cleanliness so that we get good food. Fire safety in our offices would be correctly taken care and hence man made disasters can be avoided. Hospitals would become safer for patients since a good Medical Council can then regulate how hospitals charge patients and ensure that no unnecessary treatments are done. We will live better. We will have cleaner roads when all garbage is disposed off well. We will be able to generate biogas from food waste to fuel some of our energy needs. Most importantly, we can confidently step into the police station and register a complaint in case of a problem. We need not henceforth fear the policeman himself. If they are not corrupt, they would be more than helpful. If such is the scenario, then would we not have many many gains from avoiding corruption?

Its time to stop being focussed on our own small world and look at the country at large. If the country grows, we certainly will grow too, in fact at a much faster pace than when we focus on just our good. We will be more peaceful when we dont give bribes to get our false house construction plan approved. We would be happier when we do not have black money in our house. When we are peaceful, we can be happier. We will see happier people around us. The housemaid who comes to sweep our house will be happier since her children would be getting good education in govt. schools and her insurance is taken care by a well functioning govt scheme. Would she not work better then? Happier people work better. So, we would grow not at 8 or 9% but at 15%. Not only on GDP, but our Human development index growth also would skyrocket. We would truly become a great nation, a position we deserve truly.

All this will not come easy. It will not come in one year or even two. It may take a decade more but if we are moving in the right direction, we will reach it. There would still be many many anti-social and corrupt people who will try to derail this system. We have to stand up. We have to refuse to give bribes to take short cuts or avoid taxes. Strength is always internal and strength comes from knowledge. We should learn the law, at least to the extent we need. We should stand up for our rights. We should live up to a stature that we deserve all the good things talked about earlier. Thats when all this would come true.

Jai Hind!!!

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