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Hazare - The new age Mahatma

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 16:26
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

The month of April seems to be going good for the nation. The beginning of the month saw Team India lifting the World Cup trophy and then the country’s fight against corruption reaching a historic crescendo - courtesy a fierce campaign against corruption led by social worker called Anna Hazare.

After 98 hours of a relentless hunger strike, this septuagenarian and self-professed Gandhian forced the government to set up a joint committee with civil society activists to draft the Lokpal Bill – a tool which is expected to bring more transparency in our system and weed out corruption from our society.

The nation seems to be rejoicing at the moment because the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has wilted in the face of the dogged perseverance and will power of this new age ‘Mahatma’ and agreed to his demand for introducing a more stringent anti-corruption bill in the approaching Monsoon Session.

However, we need to understand that this is just a beginning and still a lot needs to be done. We may be ecstatic over Hazare’s victory, but we must not also forget that by forcing the central government to constitute a panel for redrafting the Lokpal Bill, we have only won a single battle while the war is still open for conquests.

Post-Emergency, this is probably the first time that such a mass movement took place in the country, which was supported by millions of our brethren from every walk of life, who felt that it was time that they should come forward and strengthen Hazare’s crusade against corruption.

No one, including Hazare himself, anticipated that his campaign against corruption would generate such massive nationwide support. But it did, thankfully, and the whole country displayed the same unity, which it did during our struggle for freedom led by Mahatma Gandhi and other great souls of that age.

For sure, a revolution of this sort was needed since the cancer of corruption has made life of a common man miserable. The virus of corruption has slowly spread its roots into our political and bureaucratic system and the sad part is that we, as a nation, have come to live with the fact that corruption is so pervasive that it is now impossible to detach this stigma from our country’s psyche.

However, it would be inappropriate to blame only politicians for corruption, which is increasing at an alarming rate and threatening the roots of our democracy. In one way or another we have all been a part of this chain of corruption, as we have never opposed or shown enough guts to fight this evil.

Nearly 42 years back, the first Lokpal Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1968 and since then it has been languishing in Rajya Sabha. All those who have ruled us since Independence must be ashamed of the fact that they have been virtually sleeping till a 71-year-old frail man came, talking about justice, accountability and transparency in public life.

At a time when corruption is at its peak, Anna Hazare appears to be like the light coming from the end of a long and dark tunnel, signaling hope that things will improve if we move in the right direction. Hazare’s selfless service to the nation, his honesty and charismatic leadership has made us believe that ‘enough is enough’ now and it’s time to take the pledge to make India a corruption free democracy.

It is only due to him and a handful of his soldiers - Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejariwal and the Bhushans, that the entire nation has voiced its disgust and disillusionment with the present system so explicitly.

Our elected representatives have made millions at the cost of the poor and needy. All these years we have been duped by successive governments into resigned silence and lethargy. Instead of working for the welfare of the downtrodden and needy, our political leaders have turned themselves into a bunch of power hungry and greedy netas.

Politics is seen as a short cut to become rich and powerful. No one really cares or bothers about the problems of the ordinary citizens of this country. All this has probably forced Hazare to take up cudgels on behalf of the people of India and get on with the task of cleaning the Augean stables. The Lokpal bill is the first step in this direction.

The watered down version of the bill is unacceptable to the people. The resignation of Sharad Pawar is the second step. After all, how can a person be entrusted with the job of formulating policies to check corruption when he himself faces accusations of amassing huge unaccounted wealth? Unfortunately, thick-skinned politicians here will remain the same whether they belong to the Congress, BJP or any other party.

If we fail to check corruption and punish corrupt officials, the fruits of our economic progress will never reach the most backward, downtrodden and most neglected sections of our society. We need to bring greater financial transparency, strengthen the anti-corruption mechanism and introduce stringent measures aimed at protecting the whistleblowers and those who have waged a war against corruption. However, our fight against corruption will be meaningless unless we take a pledge to arrest the gradual erosion of morality from our day-to-day lives.

All these measures will ensure that as Indian economy grows stronger in the future, the real fruits of development reach all sections of our society, disparity in income levels declines and a society driven by values and strong fundamentals is created.

Anna Hazare’s campaign for the Lokpal Bill reminds us of the JP movement against Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial rule, which eventually led to the fall of Congress government.

The present government of Dr Manmohan Singh must learn a lesson from it and must not underestimate what Hazare can do, given the support he has managed to gather. PM Singh has often reiterated that his government is ‘dead serious’ about eradicating corruption, but has failed to take a credible stance against corruption.

The Prime Minister, who is known for his honesty and visionary leadership, is unfortunately and self admittedly captive of coalition politics.

Anna Hazare has given him an opportunity to set an example by punishing the guilty and corrupt Congressmen. He must grab the opportunity to break the shackles and take the bold step of accepting the proposal for the formation of a joint committee as demanded.

By endorsing the excellent Lokpal bill drafted by several eminent citizens of India, PM Singh will only strengthen the roots of our vibrant democracy. The Lokpal bill, if approved by Parliament, will act as a deterrent against corruption and other social evils and instill the fear of the law in the minds of the corrupt.

It is said that every good initiative comes with an equal mix of evil so conspiracy to kill the Lokpal Bill has started and the integrity of the civil activists involved in the Lokpal panel is being questioned.

We need to rise above such petty politics and lend our unflinching support to the Lokpal bill, which is our opportunity to fight the menace of corruption.

First Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 16:26

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