Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of beliefs and of reality - A common man's perspective

The Jan Lokpal Bill has today reached a stage, where every Indian wants to be associated with it, every form of media talks about it (for like days together!) and every individual wants to have a say about it… so much so that people like me are willing to write blogs on it to share our views on one of the most talked about issues in the recent past of Indian politics.
For people who aren’t very familiar with the concept of the bill, it is an anti-corruption bill drafted by civil activists for the appointment of an independent body (to be called the Jan Lokpal or Citizen’s Ombudsman) which would investigate the corruption cases with the aim of finishing the trial within a period of one year so that there is justice for all and that too in a reasonable time frame. And by independent body here, we mean that the government has no influence on them. This independent body is to be made up of people selected by judges, citizens and other authorities and since the politicians have no say in the constitution of the body, the corruption angle within the Lokpal will be minimal and even if such a case of corruption happens within the body, there are ways to remove those people within a period of two months. That’s the summarized yet comprehensive version of the concept of Lokpal bill.
 This bill has time and again been proposed and there have been frequent controversies and oppositions. And my opinion is that these oppositions aren’t really unfounded. I know this statement may not be very well received by a major portion of the population which has shown its keenness in supporting the widespread revolution that started in the capital city but is spreading like a wildfire now. For people who have been victims of corruption and bureaucracy all through their lives (and trust me there are millions in this category) this is like a light at the end of the tunnel for they know that if there is any chance that this thing gets implemented, that would be like a fitting climax, what you see in a Bollywood movie where the good wins the evil and then everyone lives happily ever after. Let me make it clear that I am not being sarcastic about the concept of the bill in general but that being said, there are serious questions on the implementation and the understanding of this bill.
Being an Indian, I can very much empathize with these people who are trying to fight out corruption with all that they have in their hands. We all talk about it at workplace, trains, buses and any other place where we have two people to listen to us but no one takes any step forward and these people (the supporters of the bill) have done that and that’s an achievement and no wonder everyone wants to be a part of this because each one of them believes that they can fight it. They were all waiting for a trigger and they got it in the form of these people. We need to acknowledge their bravery and proactiveness because they are fighting for what they believed in.
But let’s not overlook the bigger picture here. On paper, everything looks perfect but what about the reality? Is it really a viable option to create a ‘larger than life’ body that will have so much power within its hands? Is that how the laws of a country with a billion people are supposed to be made? And when we talk about the power, we don’t even know clearly what all these powers encompass. The bill is not very clear in terms of the judicial authority that the Lokpal will have. There is a reason why the constitution of India separates the powers of executive, legislative and judiciary. Are we sure that we want to create a body that will tread within the borders of all these areas? How can we expect that kind of an organization to work? And who are these people who we think are qualified enough to judge on every other person in the country and be given irrevocable powers for that? Howsoever qualified that person might be, will it be unfair to assume that those ‘impartial people’ are not likely to be affected by the same conflicts of interest that every other person in power does? And above all, are we saying that a small body of a few individuals will have the capacity to handle loads of cases and then provide fair justice in all of them? Not unless these people we are talking about are some super-humans or mutants for the sheer volume makes it look like a gigantic task. All I am saying is that before creating unrest in social life through agitations and protests, for the implementation of a bill (which is likely to become like a parallel constitution) whose clauses are not even clear to the larger public like me who is going to be the beneficiary of the bill in the first place, should we not make sure that what we are fighting for is feasible and not just a concept that looks excellent on paper and is going to be failure when we see the practicality of it?
No doubts that this is a good cause and an excellent act of courage, but let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s not be tempted by the longing dream of seeing a corruption-free country into believing that such a big change is going to happen just with a dream (howsoever strong and noble it may be). The patriotism inside me also cries out to fight for the good cause but let’s not let our emotion overpower the practicality that life is!

1 comment:

  1. Very well written da :) The structure was excellent and the diction was right up there too, with emotional punctuations thrown in for good measure. Enjoyed it as a read!

    I have not been too much in touch with the issue simply because of the fuss but I do realise, with surprise, that I know most of the things I have referred to: I guess when the winds are rife with hyped news, you do learn things unwittingly.

    Anyway, I am with you on your position - and I particularly like your phrase "larger-than-life body." It reminds me of, among other notorious things, the clan headed by an ambitious doctor in The Island, Orwell's "big brother" in 1984 and (closer to reality) FBI's Edgar Hoover.

    I am, however, ALSO against the method - fasting, which, with all due respect to the protesters (and their courage which needs to be lauded!), is a bit like forcing someone's hands. Apparently, the Mahatma's grandson has said something about the difference between Gandhiji's fast and Mr. Hazare's - I have not read it - but as far as I am concerned if democracy needs to be preserved by subverting it, it does leave a sour taste in the mouth.

    Having said all that, I must hasten to add this: we must be cautious. Any movement starts out radically beCAUSE as a rule we have to aim for the skies so that we reach for the tree-tops. I am very sure that amongst the generally emotion-ridden protesters and those in Mr. Hazare's camp, there will be some intelligent people who know this. But the point is if only what is feasible is asked for we will not get ANYthing. So, perhaps - this is my reading of it - they want to ask for all they think is justified in the hope that at LEAST what is feasible is given.

    I am also against the type of to be nominated for Lok Pal if it does come into force. One statement referred to Bharat Ratnas and Indians who have won the Nobel Prize to be adjudicators. With all due respect to the Prize and the recipients thereof, expertise in a field is not a co-efficient for overall integrity - or as you have said, it does not mean these people have the solemn right to look OVER others.

    The idea is noble, even strong, but even if it is implemented, it should be done carefully.