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In search of honesty

R. Sundaram
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In Admiration for Anna and Some Submissions in The Hindu (August 26) , the author narrates instances of her interaction with a cross section of the people out there: “Sohan Lal from Tilak Nagar is in stone trade and does not give receipts to his buyers. Aditya Gaur from Porta Builders in Dwarka agrees that there is a lot of black money in the business”. Her auto driver admits to fleecing his customers.

Another newspaper highlights Monica Bedi, the consort of underworld don Abu Salem, sporting a Gandhi cap and shouting slogans against corruption. The film fraternity too sees no moral dilemma or contradiction in supporting Anna. No doubt, the whole campaign has been orchestrated to an unprecedented crescendo by an unabashed middle-class and celebrities who have been both beneficiaries and victims of corruption. The hypocrisy is hard to miss.We have the Domestic Violence Act, the Anti-Dowry Act, the Prohibition of Child Labour Act and numerous others on the statute books to regulate human behaviour. Has there been any significant improvement? Not much. When important pieces of legislation such as the Right to Information have been passed and the Constitution amended many times, why is it that this Bill could not be passed for 62 years? Were there no sensible people in the 15 Lok Sabhas so far?

Protest is like a tornado

Perhaps, the Anna phenomenon is a text book case of “The Power Of Context” as described by Malcom Gladwell in Tipping Point. It is obvious that the serial scams of 2G, CWG and Adarsh triggered its widespread appeal in 2010-11. Yet, despite this hyperbole, we know that mere laws cannot reconcile human propensities with principles of a corruption-free society. The sincere among Parliamentarians, one can assume, were circumspect about rousing expectations on legislation to such high standards that cannot be achieved in practice. Politicians in a democracy can hardly behave the same way as activist dictators; they have to get elected the next time and have to keep as large a constituency as possible on their side. One-off agitators in a democracy have no obligation at all towards making enduring changes. They just want their wishes to be fulfilled, even if it is at the cost of demolishing the very edifice which brought them together to fight .The protest movement is like a tornado which may have a devastating effect for years to come; for instance, in failing to protect the innocent or permitting risk-taking in public sector with the Damocles' sword of a draconian law dictated literally by a mob.

Cleansing of polity

During the days of Socrates in Greece, Diogenes, an anti-corruption crusader, went searching for a honest man with a candle light in broad daylight. Human nature has not changed much since then. However periodical cleansing of polity has taken place in the form of revolutions, all of them bloody and against dictatorial regimes where the corrupt under the previous regimes are either annihilated or incarcerated.

But, in a democracy, at the aam admi level, experience tells us that perceptions of the youth in terms of equality of opportunity, in terms of free availability of goods and services, determine the level of corruption.

Finally, law or no law, if everyone is against corruption as they all seem to say, why should there be any corruption at all?

(The author is a former Member, Ordnance Factories Board.)

(This article was published on August 29, 2011)
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