On Corruption (and not pressing the ‘Like’ button)

by Gautam Pemmaraju

“I dreamed of retribution from the sky. I made plans in the course of my sleepless nights to stop this individual and have him judged by an honest, independent tribunal. I dreamed of a court martial, of justice for the people. I dreamed of a national cleansing; a magic hand would pass over the people, bringing order to this society in which ultimately anything goes. I turned my dreams over in my mind until I was stricken with laughter or a fever”.

– Mourad (in Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Corruption)

Earlier this week a noisy gaggle of Facebook invitations started flying about beseeching people to join the fight of the activist-crusader Anna Hazare (once a soldier in the Indian Army) against corruption. Anna-hazare-facebook Anna Hazare, who went on a fast unto death in New Delhi, wanted the central government to pass a bill in Parliament that constituted an independent watchdog/ombudsman to look into corruption.

Corruption in India is, need one say, widespread. It is endemic. And it is insufficient to say just that because it is much more. There is no section of civil society that remains untouched by corruption.

I did not press the ‘Like’ button on the many Facebook invites.

Around 11 AM yesterday, 9th April 2011, when news channels and online social media triumphantly and raucously declared a ‘victory for India’ and that ‘celebrations will be going on’, ‘people are out on the streets’, it could have been easily mistaken for reruns of the aftermath of India’s recent cricket world cup win. Channels showed clips of people chanting slogans, singing songs, victoriously raising fists and banners as the news poured in that Anna Hazare, the self-styled Gandhian activist and anti-corruption crusader, ended his four day fast after the government acceded to his demand to act expeditiously on the draft Jan Lokpal Bill 1(Citizen’s Ombudsman bill). The proposed legislation calls for an independent body constituted by a collegium of officials and private citizens and which has the power to investigate and prosecute charges of corruption against politicians and public officials, as well as pass remedial judgment against those found guilty. It further seeks to invest this independent body with extraordinary powers.2

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