In my opinion, the approach proposed by NCPRI is a reasoned and nuanced one. It expresses what my own thoughts on this issue developed over many months of the campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill. I am completely in agreement with the NCPRI stand, and I oppose the politicized approach where people who question the “Jan Lokpal Bill” approach are sought to be portrayed as traitors and congress stooges.
Below are my thoughts in consonance with Arun Roy’s email:
Corruption is only one word, but this catch-all word is used to describe a very wide range of behaviours that cheat the system of checks-and-balances. These behaviours are not performed only by “public servants” alone, but by many civil society members in collusion. Builder mafias, water-tanker mafias, road-contractor cartels, industry-lobbyists and go-betweens, adulterators, hoarders, touts, slumlords, encroachers and thugs — these are all civil society elements.
Also, “public servants” is a catch-all term. It consists of a very wide range of persons, whose actions cannot all be dealt with by a single authority. Different authorities and different laws are needed to hold accountable ministers, bureaucrats, judges, clerk, bus conductors and neighbourhood sweepers, even though all of them are public servants. There cannot be one law to cover all of them, because the level of authority and discretion is massively different at each and every level.
Therefore, the way the battle lines are drawn through the Jan Lokpal Bill is not only simplistic, it is misleading and dangerous. There is an attempt to create categories where none exist, and to set the stage for a witch-hunt, similar to USA’s McCarthyism era. The battle against corruption cannot be seen as a battle between Us (clean civil society) versus Them (dirty politicians and bureaucrats). This is a basically incorrect premise; the battle against corruption can only be fought as an effort by ‘We the People’ to build systems of checks and balances that are effective in the modern context, and to use these systems to prevent abuse of the administrative systems. This battle has to be fought together in an inclusive manner.
Also, as the problem of corruption is not a single homogenous problem, we cannot deal with it with a single monolithic authority with vast and overarching powers. The idea of a single magic want to solve all problems is a silly notion. Unfortunately, thoughtless zealousness is currently being dressed in the garb of patriotism. The right to hold a dissenting opinion is being demonized as leniency towards corruption.
Like Aruna Roy and many others, I feel angry and betrayed that the proceedings towards framing a rational and effective Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill (officially known as Public Interest Disclosure Bill) were hijacked to give birth to a pie-in-the-sky Jan Lokpal Bill. The Bill to facilitate whistleblowers and protect their lives was left in the lurch.
The solutions to our nation’s many problems lie not in creating thousands of zealots, but in creating many systems of checks-and-balances that are practical, down-to-earth and workable. The solutions will not be found in divisive Us-versus-Them thinking; they will only be found in cultivating a mindset of activating ‘We the People’ in constructive ways.
Fasting does not automatically mean Satyagraha, if the intent is to provoke social division and anger. Being able to fast for many days does not necessarily confer moral superiority; I fasted for nine days in October 2010 — six of them at the temple in Ralegan Siddhi where Annaji lives. For four days and nights, I literally slept outside Annaji’s bedroom door, until I was picked up by the police one evening, and ordered not to stay there. Fasting is a form of non-violent protest, but it is also a method of arm-twisting.
While I genuinely admire the massive public mobilization that Team Anna — led by Arvind Kejriwal — has done around the issue of corruption, I oppose the oversimplification and propaganda, and the confrontationist stances that are being consistently adopted. Such tactics (which are typically adopted by right-wing political parties like Shiv Sena and BJP) are an obstacle to sensible deliberations on any forum, including the parliament. Such tactics are unbecoming of public awakeners and activists.
The problem of corruption is like an octopus. The rational and feasible approach is to seek to isolate each tentacle of the problem, pin it down with a suitable legislative mechanism, and then kill each tentacle by ensuring that implementation happens.
That is the multi-pronged and methodical approach being proposed by Aruna Roy and NCPRI. I welcome this, and I would be happy to work for its success.