Saturday, 14 May 2011

Corruption: "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain"

anna hazare.
you can't get away from the "anti-corruption drive" currently plaguing the nation. so, since 1991, this person is quietly toiling away in the shadows to free his beloved country from the chains of corruption. he threatens "stop all this corruption or else!" he means to sacrifice his life for the good of many. he has worked tirelessly for the betterment of his people. he created an awareness of what his own village needed to become prosperous and progressive then made all that a reality. schools, water conservation, collective marriages for the disadvantaged, abolition of caste and religious segregation. he has achieved all this, even ensuring that villagers have a say in government planning of projects and development in their surrounds. for doing this, he is already great and an epitome of what a true patriot should be. his concept of duty and sincerity, his complete focus on his goals, his determination to set things right, his love for his people. we know all this to be true.
but now, he is in unfamiliar territory. he has entered an arena where the righteous seldom survive: politics!
what began as a one-man crusade against government-aided corruption, has culminated into this convoluted political fracas. how many of us were even aware of anna ji's existence prior to his "fast unto death"? come on, he has been a social activist since 1976! To his credit, he has brought prosperity and progress to over 50 villages just by simple reforms that are easily implemented on a national scale. But the central government is not interested. 42 years in the making and the jan lokpal bill is still mired in red tape.
What does the “new” anti-corruption bill say that the 1969 proposed jan lokpal bill did not. The main differences are:
  • the old jan lokpal bill wanted to merge the anti-corruption unit of CBI with the lokpal committee and the new bill wants them independent of each other.
  • the new bill proposes 6 months to 7 imprisonment and the old bill had set aside a minimum of 5 years to life term as just punishment.
  • Also, the lokpal committee cannot initiate any investigation into corruption at the behest of the general public but the jan lokpal bill gave permission to do so. the lokpal committee will have no police powers and no ability to register an FIR or proceed with criminal investigations.  
  • being independent of government control is the key feature of any such committee but what is being proposed is that only the Speaker of the lok sabha and the chairman of the rajya sabha decide if any charge of corruption is to be investigated!
  • A provision has been made to dismiss tainted lokpal committee members within 2 months if they are found guilty of corruption themselves.
    members to the committee will be appointed by “judges, IAS officers with a clean record”. Recent reports show that more than 4 out of 10 persons in these categories are guilty of giving and receiving bribes!!
What is anna hazare up against?
The Corruptions Perception Index has listed india as being one of the least corrupt in south-east asia. Hardly anything to be proud of since according to the findings in 2008 by Washington post, nearly a fourth of the 540 indian parliament members faced criminal charges “including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder”. in 2002, state assembly elections in UP majority of the seats went to candidates with criminal records!!
data provided by swiss banking association report (2006) shows that india has “more black money than the rest of the world combined, Indian swiss bank account assets are estimated to be worth 13 times the country’s national debt”!!
every sector of the country is riddled with ongoing scams and fraudulent practices, we are talking about land and real estate, armed forces, education, police, judiciary, medicine (“Grieving families are often asked in Government-run offices to pay bribes to obtain the Death Certificate”), income tax, transport, media (where corruption takes on the form of “paid news”), religious institutions (illegal land acquisitions and mysterious funds!!). Maximum under the table earnings are concentrated within the licensing and permits departments.
in 2009, an efficiency survey conducted on asian economies (Singapore, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Hongkong, Indonesia) found indian bureaucracy to be the slowest and dealing with the government’s civil servants a “slow and painful” process! sound familiar?
From 1957, when the first recorded scandal hit the headlines, to 2011 we have already seen 4 major scams; the anti-corruption lobby seems to have been hibernating. In 2010 the nation was rocked by 10 major scandals. 2008 saw the beginnings of the embarrassing crimes of corruption we are ashamed of today.
A  recent survey by a major news channel shows that 50% of Indians do not see giving bribes as a crime, that 35% have accepted bribes without any regrets. truckers bribe their way out of driving offences and pay almost US$ 5bn in bribes across state borders!! makes you look at speeding trucks with new awe and respect!
Anna ji, please return to your world of simple and sincere village politics. It is a case of “too little too late”. corruption is too widespread. Even his intention and vision for a transparent and honest government is under scrutiny and speculation.  there must be a political game plan and political manipulation”.
So many cooks are now stirring the broth – the GoM (group of ministers), the IAC (india against corruption), opposition parties at state level, individuals with their own personal agendas – who knows what the resulting soup will be?
We are a rich country full of poor people! the honest are working hard to rid themselves of the curse of deprivation. And on the other hand are the corrupt who lead lives of unimaginable luxury. Starting in 2010 with the 2G scam, all our scams involve trillions of dollars. The latest report states that between 2005 and 2006, hasan ali khan had transactions worth over US$ 24.86 billion (Rs 1,12,000 crores) – an amount sufficient to pay for drinking water projects in all the 6 lakh villages in india – for the next 10 years!!
The response to the hazare movement has fizzled out, initial fervor has been replaced by an apathy which is all-pervasive and contributes to national inertia. The celebrities who jumped up on the bandwagon via twitter and facebook, press conferences and media interviews have faded into the background once again. new stuff has caught their attention, IPL finale, elections, cannes film festival etc etc..The wheels of the economy grind on, elections bring about a change of guard but not a change in prevailing circumstances. yes, we either have wolves in sheep's clothing or sheep in sheep's clothing!! 
the future of the lokpal movement is not so bright....
here lies lokpal bill 2011,
saw the glare of publicity
but not the light of day”.
A fitting epitaph.


Monday, 2 May 2011

hasta la vista, baby!

hollywood has announced the release of its latest production: "wag the dog - part 2". the producers, who wish to remain anonymous, are confident that the sequel will be as, if not more, successful as the first "wag the dog" (1997). as sequels go, WTD-2 doesn't offer anything original or innovative - the storyline of the original : presidential elections-need for some spectacular government win against terror-war in some remote (anything outside of the US is remote to its natives)-democratic rebels struggling against dictators-brave US news team covering the war-capture of monstrous military general-grateful populace-landslide victory for american prez; has proved to be such a box-office draw that the current offering has repeated it, only difference is the region and the time frame: may 2011.

the studio, We Are in the Race, (WAR), when approached for comments, declared that they were absolutely convinced in the first story session that they had a "money-spinner".
"come on, folks, how can one ignore the potential in the story? the sets were already there, the workforce was well prepared, no expenses spared trip to locations, unlimited access to local talent. i mean, we had a good thing just fall into our lap, for heaven's sake!"
the only thing that could have scuttled the project even before the first frame was shot, was the producers' demand that the feature run for only 40 minutes. there have been previous attempts at keeping the duration of documentary-dramas down to 55 minutes, but a full length movie requires the minimum of 106 minutes to put across the ideas and vision of the director.
"what we decided was to only concentrate on the main events and leave it to the media to fill in the gaps, say, the before and after content. this way we could stick to the 40-minute timeline and still satisfy audience demand for entertainment."
while confident of worldwide release, the film will only be shown to the people of the actual locale at a later date.
"the excitement and surprise element is lost for this particular audience as they were there for the shooting and so had exposure to a lot of behind-the-scenes footage. once the memories fade, they will be able to enjoy the movie and appreciate the work we all put in."
the media frenzy which has greeted this release is nothing compared to the anticipated furore at the academy awards and end of term parties. the producers are already planning a sequel since enough reels landed on the editing floor.