Why I am not with Anna Hazare in HIS battle against corruption?
In the season of scams and corruption scandals, it is ‘cool’ to be seen on the side of an ‘anti-corruption’ crusader. At the cost of sounding un-cool, I would like to express my views on why Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal is a blemished idea to eradicate corruption. Let me tell you from the very beginning that this post is only about the flaws in the Lokpal concept and will not go into other defects in the whole Hazare movement. Method of protest, flaws in the Jan lokpal draft prepared by Team Anna, comparison of Sarkari and Anna’s Lokpal and Team Anna undermining the supremacy of the parliament etc. are all different but related issues which I will avoid in this post to be able to explain the basic idea clearly. The basic idea that: Lokpal is not the solution to finish corruption.
The problem statement we have in our hand is “How to finish/diminish corruption in India?” It is logical to go to the cause of corruption before thinking to eradicate/decrease corruption. Why do corruption happen? Why do we have to pay bribe? After doing corruption, why most of the scams are not exposed? And lastly, if exposed, why most of the culprits manage to escape the punishment? When we say that we are outraged against corruption, we actually mean that we are outraged against these happenings. So think why all these things happen? Isn’t it because of ‘having too many authorities in the country?’
There are numerous government departments, institutions and authorities to look after different aspects of governance. We really need many of these institutions simply because a limited number of organisations can’t govern the huge and varied population we have in our country. But the governments (state and center) have never been able to provide all facilities to these institutions to provide the services effectively to the huge population. So when we (Common public/business organisations) go to all these institutions for accessing the services, we don’t get the perfect service. As we face this in almost all existing institutions (and there are too many of them), we look for shortcuts to get better and speedy service. These shortcuts are known as corruption. If we deserve good service still we have to adopt the corrupt means, then it is okay as ultimately the required job is done. Let’s call it ‘soft corruption’. But thanks to the existence of such corrupt means, some undeserving ones also get the services those are not meant for them. This is the dangerous form of corruption we can call as ‘hard corruption’. The hard corruption is the result of the soft form of corruption which is the result of the too many institutions. This is the root cause of corruption in India. Take some recent examples of hard corruption like CWG Scam and 2G scam etc. and you can understand how the complexity of too many departments led to these scams.
There is one more factor that also lead to graft. Having too may rules and laws which were never clearly defined and implemented meant the numerous institutions could use the loopholes and grey area in these laws to do and then hide corruption.
So, how do you think we can eliminate corruption from public sphere that is caused by having numerous departments, organisations, rules and laws? Obviously not by having a new set of departments, organisations, rules and laws! The idea of having a lokpal is flawed simply because, quoting from Harini Calamur’s blog post, it adds one more layer of bureaucracy.
The lokpal is not just one person. It will be, if implemented, a huge body that will look into every corruption case of all kind in all the states of India. Plus the body is set to be given super powers to check graft. How can we be sure that no one in this new vast system to check corruption will not be corrupt? Without any check, such super cop like institutions are more susceptible to corruption. And who will guarantee that this super man body will not behave with highhandedness?
Another reason why the concept of having a powerful ombudsman is defected is that it doesn’t address the cause but tries to deal with the symptoms. I would like to use the analogy that noted blogger Sanjeev Sabhlok used in his post “Are you serious about removing corruption?”
Imagine a malaria infested area near a stagnant pond. If you keep killing mosquitoes, or using half-open mosquito nets, or have people who want to be bitten by mosquitoes, then you can’t get rid of malaria.
Mosquitoes bite at night. They are invisible. You can’t kill all the mosquitoes individually. Similarly, the corrupt operate in invisible ways. They are blatant, but invisible. And there are lots and lots of them.
The lokpal is a body that will punish the corrupts. But how will it be able to stop the corruption? The only way it can is by sending a strong message to the corrupts by punishing the guilty. But it can be done with the existing laws too. What we need is reforms in the existing structures and proper implementation of the laws. Why build a whole new apparatus without being sure of its effectiveness?
Then what’s the soultion, you will ask. Admittedly, I am not an expert in policy making. But I can suggest a few things that, I think, will work better than the Lokpal.
A. Transparency: Bring more transparency to the different institutions’ working. More transparency means less possibility of corruption. Right To Information is one small way using which even public can keep an eye on the working of any institution. There is more scope for transparency.
B. Electoral reforms: The system should ensure that good people come to politics. Electoral reforms will take care of that. When you have good people in politics, you can expect more transparency and less corruption.
C. Expedite the corruption cases in the court and execute the order swiftly: This is almost the same what Lokpal system wishes to do. Why have a new body when we can do the same with the existing laws and organisations with reforms?
Anna Hazare and his movement may be well-intentioned but (in my opinion) this is not an effective battle against corruption. To his credit, Hazare has created an environment in which the Aam Admi is venting out his suppressed anger against corruption and corrupt politicians. But the anti-corruption medicine he prescribes is not the medicine India needs. All the debate happening concentrates over whose lokpal is better: the government’s or Anna’s. But sadly no one is ready to debate whether we really need a lokpal.