On the 63rd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Sunday, more than 1,000 citizens and activists of non-government organisations gathered at Azad Maidan to protest against the corruption, reports the Hindustan Times. It was a part of the nationwide protest against corruption — India against Corruption.
As the Supreme Court hammers the solicitor general for trying to avoid tracing tax evaders with money squirreled away abroad, the head of the Central Vigilance Commission is on the brink of losing his job in connection with an old graft case in his home state, and investigations continue into the alleged Commonwealth Games and 2G spectrum scam, it finally appears that the Indian middle class may be standing up to fight corruption.
But frankly, I'll believe it when I see it. The India Against Corruption campaign doesn't envision the formation of any new party, or the ouster of candidates with disproportionate assets (read: everyone in office). The only thing that's being proposed is single-issue voting: If a party opposes reform of the anti-corruption legislation, we won't vote for your candidates. In one sense, it's a brilliant plan, as it counteracts all the usual things that divide Indian voters (caste, religion) so that theoretically they can work together as a block even though they have opposing interests in many other areas. However, I don't have that much faith that this movement will actually be able to influence the large core of uneducated, destitute voters on whom the political parties depend for power -- after all, nobody has ever succeeded in "single-issue" voting for even more urgent matters, such as the supply of clean water. Moreover, India's politicians (and people) are so good at circumventing rules that I'm not sure I have too much confidence in the anti-corruption law that the India Against Corruption campaign supports.
That said, the preponderance of citizen groups against graft is mounting in the wake of the passage of the Right to Information act in 2005, and it may not be long before the combination of a rising middle class and mushrooming civil society groups actually start to make a real difference.
Here's the gist from the HT:
“We want the Lokpal Bill proposed by the citizens to be passed as it would give more transparency and keep the entire process free from political interference. The one proposed by the government could be misused like other laws,” said Mohammed Afzal, Right to Information activist. The major changes proposed by the people in the Bill are that the Lokayukta should be allowed to investigate the judges without anyone’s permission. Currently, the Chief justice of India’s permission is required to lodge an FIR against any judge.
Also, the CBI and Anti-Corruption Bureau should be merged with the Lokpal and Lokayukta and be allowed to investigate independently against the corrupt officers and politicians. “Now the time has come for people to take action and not just blame the politicians,” said Mayank Gandhi, founder of Jagrut Nagrik Manch.