By B. Raman
The anti-corruption movement launched from New Delhi by a hotch-potch of elements and groups under the leadership of Anna Hazare, a social activist of unquestioned integrity and unimpeacheable credentials, has to be taken seriously by the Government of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh.
Any attempt to have it discredited or to underestimate the genuine anger of growing sections of the public against widespread corruption at various levels of the political leadership and bureaucracy would be short-sighted and could lead to poltical instability and a disturbance of law and order. We might be faced with a Jasmine Revolution type situation with the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi from where the movement has been launched becoming India’s Tahrir Square.
Not all those supporting the movement have noble objectives. The movement has been triggered by a mix of motives —some noble and laudable marked by a desire to rid the country of corruption, some politically opportunistic and some politically partisan marked by a desire to take advantage of the immense popularity of Anna Hazare to have the Government further discredited and ride to power.
Despite the undoubted presence of opportunistic and partisan elements in the ranks and the leadership of the movement, one cannot deny that within two days of starting, the movement is threatening to spread far and wide across the country and has started attracting the support of growing sections of the youth, which had till now shown little interest in the campaign against corruption. This is due to a feeling of disgust over this cancer and the evident half-heartedness of the Government and the political class as a whole in dealing with this cancer.
Increasing numbers of non-governmental citizens, many of them the youth, have started feeling “Enough—Thus Far and No Further” and giving unmistakable signs of a growing conviction that unless they take matters in their own hands and come out in the streets, things are not going to change and that it would be futile to expect the political class to take effective action against corruption.
There are two aspects to the scenario confronting the country in the light of the demands being made by Anna Hazare and his supporters for the immediate creation of an institution called Lok Pal with wide powers and with the association of eminent persons of the society to take notice of corruption at all levels—including the Prime Minister—- and initiate action against it.
The first aspect is the feasibility of the creation of the institution in the form and in the manner demanded by them. This demand has been there since 1969 and no Government has so far taken it seriously. Misgivings that an institution of the type demanded by them could encourage frivolous complaints of corruption and frivolus actions paralysing the process of governance are not far-fetched. In the light of these misgivings, it was incumbent on the Government and the political class as a whole to come out with an alternative approach which could effectively reduce corruption without weakening the governmental machinery.
The failure of successive Governments to come out with such an alternative solution has given rise to widespread anger that the Government and the political class are not serious about addressing this cancerous problem. This anger is the second aspect of the scenario.
The Government and the political class do not seem to realise that any further procrastination in dealing with this cancer and attempts to ignore the demands and expectations of the people could damage the very roots of democracy in the country, thereby damaging one of the major assets this country has had since its independence.
It is important for the Government to address immediately the demand for a Lok Pal by coming out with alternative solutions which would be acceptable to the people behind the movement and to take note of the growing public anger over the issue of corruption in general and take action to address the causes of that anger.