Watching the recent events unfold in various parts of the Middle East, where people came to the streets and successfully uprooted decades-old totalitarian regimes in their respective countries, I wondered when the soul of this nation, which is already feeling revulsed and aggrieved due to the spate of high-profile scams exposed recently, would awake and rise in a similar manner to demand action and accountability from the ruling class.
Public angst against corruption is nothing new. People have for long been fed up with the extent and scale of corruption that has pervaded the fabric of this country. But the degree of anger that is being felt now is something that is thoroughly refreshing for every right-minded citizen of this country.
Corruption is undeniably evil. But until recently, the general public did not think of corruption as the core issue affecting their lives and livelihood. Corruption was just thought of as an unofficial “tax” on the people of this country, a “facilitation fee” to be paid to get things done without much hassle.
But people somehow did not make the connection between corruption and the denial of access to basic facilities and rights due to them as citizens. And this is something that has begun to dawn upon us in recent years, and awakened us to the real impact of corruption.
People are asking why, despite paying tens of thousands of Rupees on average year after year in income taxes (and much more by way of indirect taxes), do we not have the basic facilities that are taken for granted in developed countries?
Why do our cities resemble those in other failed states rather than those in developed countries? Why can’t our municipalities manage to provide good roads, usable footpaths, functional street lights, modern public transport systems, etc. like any modern city in the world? Why can’t public procurement and spending be computerised and made transparent?
Why can we not go to our Police stations and be assured of being able to file a FIR? Why does the Police not listen to ordinary citizens unless they have access to influential persons?
Why do we have to face hassles whenever we go to any Government office? Why can the process not be streamlined and transparent? Why do we have to rely on touts for everything from getting a Driving License to getting a property registered?
Why can we do nothing when someone cheats us of our money? What do we do when we are taken for a ride as consumers? Why is the Consumer Protection Forum not given more teeth to take on strong corporates?
Why are we not assured of justice within a reasonable time frame when we approach the courts? Why do we have to run around the courts for the rest of our lives for even simple legal matters? Why can the judiciary not be computerised and procedures fast-tracked.
Why can we not get from place A to place B in a reasonable amount of time? Why do the flyovers come up only after congestion has exceeded all limits, and not before the roads got congested in the first place? Why is Mumbai still running on 50-year old local trains, instead of on ultra-modern metro trains that are so desperately needed for a megapolis like Mumbai? Why is Bangalore still building its metro now when it should have been ready years ago?
The answer is: corruption and only corruption. Because of corruption, so much money goes into private pockets instead of the Government’s coffers. And that money, when spent, again ends up mostly in private pockets, and the actual recipients end up with much less than what they deserved.
This is simply unacceptable. It has been for a long time, but it is only now that a messiah named Anna Hazare has risen up and given all of us a focal point to rally around. The mass movement launched through his fast-unto-death demanding the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill is nothing short of being the second liberation struggle in India’s history. If the first liberation struggle was for freedom from British rule, this one is for freedom from corruption and misrule.
I well and truly hope that this revolution lasts and culminates in the dawn of a resurgent, energetic and corruption-free new India, where all that matters is merit and not money or connections.
P.S. The IPL Season 4 is starting tomorrow. I only hope that this does not end up distracting people from this focused agitation. I would hope that the cricketers too lend their support to this mass movement by wearing black badges on their arms.