Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011 - A Year Lost in History

We are at the end of 2011 and in a week from now, this year will be part of history as we turn the page over to a new year.

As I look back on this year, I remember we started out with thick dark clouds on the horizon and in the midst of a crisis that seemed to overwhelm the government and an air of resignation amongst the people about our shared destiny of chaos, mess and failure. 

We saw the rise of a phenomenon called Anna Hazare, a doughty fighter from Maharashtra who raised the battle cry against corruption and the self-serving political class. The outpouring of anger was so real and so massive that it took everyone by surprise and pushed the political class on backfoot.

I had commented in my previous two posts on this fight against corruption.  Corruption - Will Leigislation Help? and Battle Against Corruption - A Tough Crusader that the political class ..."shall try everything in the book or otherwise to impede the Lokpal and weaken the whole institution by appointing "men of straw" to office."

We have seen exactly these things unfold in the six months since my last post.

Corruption is just one issue but if you see the year gone by, it seems some strange paralysis seems to have struck both the Government and the people of India. We have just gone to sleep and have let the year slip by without having done almost anything. Such waste of time is expensive and we may never know the cost. 

Another scourge that has ravaged us has been inflation. With food prices at all-time highs, many more Indians slept through 2011 on a hungry stomach. We had never eliminated hunger from our midst, we only succeeded in increasing the number of hungry people this year.

Our industry has lost its way and suddenly, we are talking of a slowdown and its negative impact. I am surprised how in India, when so much needs to be done, we talk of a slow-down. This is a result of lack of courage, self-confidence and using wisdom that is failing the wrold over to solve our problems. Wrong diagnosis and wrong medicine prescribed.

I hope, in 2012, we as a nation gather some confidence and act in self-interest, initiate a revival and set India on track to healthy growth and this prosperity percolates down to the lowest level. This year then could be a game changer in many respects.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Corruption - Will Leigislation Help?

We have seen the issue of the Lokpal bill capture our attention like nothing before. Tempers have run high on both sides - the civil society and the political class. Most of the political class realise that this is the potential time bomb waiting to blast, and, blast if it did, many so-called leaders will sink in oblivion..forgotten for ever. 

The question that comes to mind is whether this struggle to create an institution will in itself help in the fight against corruption. Lokpal, by itself, would be an authority with powers to investigate and bring the rich and powerful political class and others at deciding levels in governance or other authorities to book  So, in a sense, Lokpal is sought to be a deterrence. So were the police and judiciary, when we started out.

Will deterrence help in curbing corruption? or is it possible that we see a replay of all that has happened to our institutions in the past. Vested interests shall try everything in the book or otherwise to impede the Lokpal and weaken the whole institution by appointing "men of straw" to office.

Deterrence has never helped in curbing crime and it will not help in curbing or eliminating corruption.
How does this go forward? 

Do we wait for the process of evolution to take its own time  - people to reform from within so that the need to be corrupt itself is eliminated..This sounds utopian and almost impossible given current social conditions and especially when the current underlying theme of acquiring money, power, pelf and control runs very strong.

Is there sense in creating such institutions and hope that innate goodness in humans takes over and we start moving to the right track.There is no clear answer and it appears that cynics are having a field day. Sceptics seem to say "I told you so....there is nothing one can do"...

I am more sanguine and perhaps feel that awareness amongst people about such matters is very high. There is an emotional identification with the revolution sought to be started by Anna Hazare. There is anger and disgust amongst the middle classes. It will require the frail and dimunitive figure of Anna saheb to convert this to a mass revolution with a belief that the change we so desperately need can be ushered in.
When I looked at it from all angles, I felt that the Lokpal is a new institution brought into existence with a lot of thought and wide participation. Further, we can be vigilant and prevent its deterioration. More importantly, when every other institution is deeply mired in mess and has lost credibility, we have something that may deliver what is expected of it.

Society can, .meanwhile, make all efforts to voluntarily clean up its act.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Battle Against Corruption - A Tough Crusader

In the last few weeks, headlines have been hogged by a frail man in his seventies, who captured the imagination of our country with his anti-corruption crusade. This man found spontaneous support and the government eventually had to bow down to all his demands. A Government bogged down in so many scams did not want to be seen as unwilling to legislate a law against corruption.

Let us look back a little and understand why Anna saheb has a pathalogic dislike towards corruption and contempt for our political class. This will also tell us a little about this crusader.

Anna Hazare, a retired army soldier, a social reformer and one involved in rural development, has seen how corruption at the lowest level placed untold hurdles in his work at his village Ralegaon Siddhi. He sought redressal at the next level only to be horrified at the extent of corruption and shamelessness and impunity with which officials flouted every rule in the book.

Not to be rebuffed, he sought redressal at the political level. What he saw here truly shocked Anna saheb and probably made him wonder whether his mission of social reformation and selfless service were all in vain.The spread of corruption was like cancer that had spread beyond control and had gripped the vitals of our society. Enough to deter any person.

Anna saheb has been a person with a different DNA make-up. He is often under-estimated because of his diminutive physical stature and an apparent lack of sophistication, strategy and guile. But believe me, looks could'nt be more deceptive. He is a tough fighter and the fact that the Government of Maharashtra has initiated more than thirty cases against him in different courts, does not seem to ruffle him in the least.

Speaks volume of the reservoir of inner strength that he has.

This time he has moved to the national arena, a far more complex structure and perhaps far more vicious opponents. The odds stacked against him are very high as the Govt. of India has come out guns blazing on many fronts, determined to frustrate every effort at cleansing.

I still believe that the Govt. should not under-estimate Anna Hazare and get about the task with more sincerity. Anna saheb has no personal axe to grind and has nothing to lose. This is exactly the reason that makes him very dangerous,