Well Begun! Do Not Let It Remain Half done!

We Indians seem to be marching on the road to victory. Close to the heels of winning the World Cup, Anna Hazare lofted a hefty six, (as displayed prominently on a cover page poster picture of Times of India), making the government accede to the demands of civil society.  This could just be the beginning of the call for an effective anti corruption ombudsman for the country, although Parliamentary approval of the people’s will may not be as easy as is being thought of.

All said and done, these are overwhelming times indeed! Suddenly it is cool to fight for civil rights. The past few days have felt like some sort of an electric discharge ripping the air, triggered by the mass anti graft movement, initiated by Anna Hazare and the likes. It was somewhat akin to a lightning awakening, when cloud after cloud of scams had darkened the horizon; a breath of fresh air when bureaucratic and political apathy was suffocating the atmosphere. Not that anything has changed overnight, but the process has begun, or so it seems. The reverberations of the swelling masses at Jantar Mantar in Delhi echoed in other cities across India. The so called genteel society or ‘bhadralok’ came out on the streets, in unprecedentedly large numbers, with candles in their hands and notes of Vande Mataram on their lips. From tiny tots (do they understand even the meaning of corruption?) to octogenarians, from school children to vagabonds, from the rustic to the hep—everyone wanted to join this crusade. There were reportedly 4.4 million tweets across 79 Indian cities in just about 3 days.

So is the battle won? Well, it has hardly begun. It is relatively easy to vent our anger against others who are corrupt, but very tough to de-corrupt our own selves. After taking out candle light marches, switching off lights as a symbolic gesture of uniting against corruption in public life, fasting for a day, or may be an hour, shouting slogans and jostling in the crowd to be captured by the camera lens of some media house, have we done our duty as responsible citizens and called it a day?

On the day Anna Hazare broke his fast, Reverend Father Gerald John Mathais, the Bishop of Lucknow, exhorted the citizens to work for a clean, green and corrupt free city, in a programme ‘My City, My Pride’ organized by the Hindustan Times. He rightly advised the audience (and made them take a pledge) to transform themselves before trying to transform others; to instil in their children to be truthful and honest before trying to root out corruption at the national level; to strive not only to keep the city clean, but also to cleanse their minds. Laudable ideas indeed, but where are the earnest takers?

Yes indeed, corruption in political and bureaucratic spheres has become a plague and is draining our resources and demoralizing our nation. So is the mindless doling of largesse to the winners of the World Cup Series. It is reported that already Rs 10 crores from the Education Budget of different states has been earmarked to pamper the men in blue, (over and above the houses/plots being gifted to them from the taxpayers’ money), although the government does not have money for educating the masses. The latest census data  reveals that 26% people are still illiterate—the figures for females and males being 35% and 18% respectively. Allocation for education in the 2011-2012 Union Budget has been woefully short of the demand.

If the politicians are feeling so magnanimous, then let them empty   their personal coffers for the purpose, but why fritter away the taxpayers’ money in mindless pursuits for their personal gratifications. It is strange that no cricketer recipient has made a public statement denouncing these frivolities, or maybe they see nothing wrong in living off others’ hard earned money.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, as envisaged by civil society, is a wonderful document. But, for a change, let charity begin at home. The unprecedented crowds in different cities who had rallied under the banner of ‘ Root Out Corruption’ and ‘We are with Anna’, made one wonder as to where were the tainted, if the majority professed to be above board(else why were they there shouting anti corruption slogans?). It is one thing to organize/participate in rallies, and another thing to clean the cobwebs of dishonesty and cheating from our own lives. For many of us, a scam involving millions of rupees is horrendous, but taking a bribe of a few thousands is within the limits of morality. Many of us do not mind it a bit when our palms are greased, or when we have to gratify others for out of turn/undeserving gains. But when someone else walks away with the cake, our nationalistic feelings are aroused. The CWG and 2G Scams invite a public outcry, and rightly so. But flouting the laws, stealing electric power, faking academic credentials, paying bribes for undeserving/out of turn promotions, killing in the name of family honour, evading taxes, all seem to have become part of our daily lives and we do not much care about them. These are areas where we can, and should, take action by simply not indulging in such corrupt practices at a personal level. And we do not need a nationwide stir for this, as by now Anna Hazare must have aroused our conscience to an action-level, from the slogan shouting level.

So please continue the war against corruption to ensure that our executive, bureaucracy, and judiciary become accountable to the public for their deeds and/or misdeeds. At the same time, it would work wonders if each one of us discharges her duty with sincerity and truthfulness to make the nation cleaner and greener in all respects.

 Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI).She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)