We Indians are great fighters. We fight valiantly. Our history is replete with examples of our bravery. Every battle we fought, we fought with valour. It is quite another matter that we lost all of them.
The manly thing to do is to fight. In fact, our women have done pretty much the same thing for it is a womanly thing to fight as well and this is what they have done, valiantly so.
Jhansi ki Rani and Razia Sultana are names that spring to mind immediately. History is witness to our fighting all our invaders, be it the Aryans, Moghuls or Britishers. Amongst our hereditary credentials, it is the ability to fight that stands out with distinction. Well, it is another matter that we lost most times, but that is not the point of this story.
Oh yes! We also fought for our independence and since then our enemy No. 1 has been corruption. We have been fighting this too with characteristic valour. The harder we fought, the bigger and widespread has been the influence and reach of corruption. True to our past history, the enemy continues to win. Indeed, corruption is winning much to the public discomfiture of some and private pleasure of the majority. Things have come to such a pass, that we have run the treasury dry and the country is nearly bankrupt.
Since things could not go on this way, we decided to reform. We have been reforming since the 90s, when we were ostensibly on the verge of bankruptcy. So we gave a solemn undertaking to lenders who bailed us out and looked after our national policy, which would thenceforth only consist of good economic policies and good governance that could lead to a corruption free environment. The international financial architecture bought our promises to the fore and we set about the task of bringing new order to old anarchy.
There was enthusiasm and hope. Many voices were heard, both in favour of and against reforms. Some wanted the public sector disbanded while ultras wanted bureaucracy whittled, trimmed and made accountable. Many joined in to demand accountability of politicians.
We must have Lok Pals and Lok Ayukts, were the loud cries of the custodians of morality. It became fashionable to show that you were against corruption. Committees for reforms of public sector, followed by Committees for reforms of civil services and Committees to destroy the politician – criminal nexus were the order of the day. Remedy it seemed was to have a Committee for every ailment. In due course we also saw that Committees came and Committees went.
A natural outcome of all this Committee work is that we get saddled with their reports and recommendations. All of them say the obvious, namely that corruption has seeped into every strand of our national fabric and we must take urgent steps to combat it. Each government will have its brand of Committees with its brand of loyalists though with foregone results.
I wonder when there has been such determination exhibited by so many to eradicate the scourge, why does corruption still continue to spread its temptations in newer and cleverer ways to an increasing number of people. Is it that we are genetically the kind of fighters who love to lose? Or is the nature of the enemy so omnipotent or would it be a calamity if we implemented all the ideas of actually eradicating corruption.
The danger of winning the combat would mean a responsive polity and an accountable executive. Trojans have to be used to show how the drastic changes to demand accountability in bureaucracy can affect the neutrality of the civil service and inhibit their ability to give free, frank and fair advice to the political executive.
With deadly accuracy it is pointed out as to what is the use of civil service reforms unless you reform the election process and cleanse the politics of the country itself but not without battle lines getting drawn. For, we cannot decide who should reform first.
It goes round and round. Our out-of-the-box thinking gives us another idea. We need ‘agents of change’ to make things happen as they should; for the larger public interest in view.
It is not a laughing matter and it might just work. The only problem is, where will we get these agents of change. So far the system has not taken too kindly to those who overtly described themselves as agents. Of course they are everywhere and it is they who facilitate the delivery of a citizen’s lawful needs from the authorized dispensing counters of government agencies.
May be, we are entering an era of openness, not hitherto witnessed in our recent history, to install agents in their rightful place as legitimate harbingers of public goods. The facts and circumstances, however say that those in authority have a perpetual itch, an itch to legislate and regulate everything about a citizen’s life. What he sees on TV, what he hears on the radio, what he reads in the books, what he watches in theatre, what he wears at home and outside have all to be taken account of.
Make a law, never mind its implementation. No matter if it is ridiculous, it is bound to fan corruption and will directly fan nepotism. Meanwhile the current agents of change will alter the frameworks of the IIMs’and IITs’ as also what we will read, see and listen on public media. Not for a moment must we forget, that this relentless crusade is to eliminate corruption from the face of this earth.
Perhaps we are too naïve to realize that the point of all this illusion of dynamic and hectic athleticism is not to move forward. It is to ensure that we stay in exactly the same place. We are not going to sully our reputation by winning a war against corruption.
Raj Liberhan is the Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org