The citizens have taken to the streets again – this time the country is India. Slightly at odds with the ‘go-get-them’ approach that has permeated the middle class in recent years, the people have raised the issue of corruption within the government and the movement has gained momentum with the usual theatrics that Indians have perfected over the years – hunger strikes, civil disobedience, rhetoric, songs, statements and counter-statements.
A bill to counter corruption within government ranks was first tabled in 1968, as India attained the age of majority. Since then it has been brought out, dusted off and discussed at irregular intervals. The latest bout has garnered more support than previous attempts and it would be interesting, sociologically speaking, to analyze the reasons why.The social networks have allowed people to say things they would not otherwise say to the general public, and the overall sense of being a part of a movement, coupled with a bout of nationalism mixed with a soupcon of naivete have contributed to previous apathetic, apolitical people heading out to be a part of various demonstrations.
At the centre of the controversy are the contents of the bill. It seeks to create a Super-Body that will watch over the government and it’s officials and be accountable to the highest ranking bureaucrat in the land. The government is seeking to exempt the Prime Minister and the ministers and the judiciary from the provisions of the law. The popular movement has banded under the chief activist.The Slo-Man, however, is not convinced that such a body would be successful. It will also be a government body, notwithstanding the attempt to make it accountable not to the Prime Minister but to the Cabinet Secretary, the highest ranking civil officer. The thinking is that this reporting structure will allow the Super-Body to function without let or hindrance in its efforts to police the government – comprising the civil service, the judiciary and elected members of parliament. The Slo-Man cannot comprehend how such a body will help. A seven-member body has been proposed and of course there will be further debate about who gets to be on it. But the seven member body will have to respond to complaints.
Anyone who has seen a defect database will appreciate the point the Slo-Man is making. A database of the scale that would be needed boggles the mind. In a country that adopted redtapeism and gave it maturity on a scale unprecedented, the Slo-Man will wait to see what methods are proposed for raising complaints.
Assuming that a citizen is able to log his complaint, the complaint will have to taken up by someone, possibly categorized (there are provisions for penalties for “frivolous complaints”) and then investigation can commence. The Slo-Man assumes that the seven-member body will not actually perform the executive function of complaint analyses, categorization, investigation and ultimate disposal. The Slo-Man can see the impending creation of a “complaints department” and gainful employment for a host of civil servants.
And when that happens, who guarantees that these officers are incorruptible? In a land where baksheesh is normal, a tipoff to the complained-against and a possible categorization of “frivolous” is obtained.
Indeed who polices the Super-Body? The Slo-Man can see a time when the sons and daughters of the members of the Super-Body become super-children, able to move without impunity into bullying, influence peddling and in extreme cases criminal activities.
Or maybe the Slo-Man who lives thousands of miles away on the other side of the world is wrong. He hopes, fervently, that he is indeed mistaken, uninformed and somehow this movement will finally reduce corruption, for removal is impossible.
The Slo-Man waits and wonders – maybe readers can enlighten him.