Friday, April 12, 2013

To Anna, with Love, from Paris

Originally written on: August 15, 2011

There was an "Anna movement" which circulated world wide two years ago. This was the coverage done by me while I was a writer for an international online magazine, of a group of Indians who participated in a peaceful march against corruption in support of Anna Hazare, at Paris, France on August 15th 2011.

_____________________________________________________________


“I want to return to a corruption free India. P.S. I am returning before 31st August 2011” read a banner at “Peaceful Demonstration in Paris against corruption in India”
Paris, the city most people uniquely recognize for Eiffel Tower, fashion or Haute Couture, is also home to a concise number of Indians. Bastille, an area specially known in the European history as the mark to give birth to French Revolution, became the ground zero for 150 odd people of Indian origin, revving up their own revolution, calling the mantras of “Corruption Free” India in the beaming sunlight of August 15th.


Issues regarding corruption in India have become more prominent in recent years. Historically, India was subject to quasi socialist (also called Nehruvian Socialism) economic policies for decades. Intense regulation, protectionism and public ownership led to slower growth, rising inflation and lower per capita income. The system of bureaucratic controls called “License Raj”, introduced by Indira Gandhi in the 70s became the core of corruption. It was only after the Liberalization policies of Dr Manmohan Singh in 1991, that India saw a new light of economic prosperity. But with prosperity also came prosperous corruption.

Corruption became more rampant in the recent years (or the media became more vigil ) and finally the people of the country said enough was enough. Inspired by the revolutions taking place in the middle east, Indians, led by Anna Hazare started their own revolution against corruption. Anna announced a "fast unto death" in April, which attracted a huge mass of protesters and followers leading to the conception of a movement that saw protests being organized in various cities and towns of India. The protests included fasts, candlelight vigils and rallies.

India being the center of the ripple, the protests started spreading worldwide. From the UK, the US, Finland the protests have finally reached France . 
“The participants of this movement are the common masses of world’s largest democracy who are fed-up of suffering from Institutionalized corruption of our respective governments over the last 60 years. This protest is against the whole political system which allows us to elect tainted ministers, thus becoming a root cause of corruption” said Arvind Kamboj, who is working with Nissan Motors in France.

The group that was gathered with the aid of social networking site Facebook, appeared wearing white Anna caps that read strong slogans like “I am Anna”
People came out with flags, Placards and posters with quotes on them and a colorful picture of Anna Hazare that said “We want corruption free India”. The demonstration attracted native crowd and French media, who were eager to know the cause. The energetic youth crowd at the venue was much acquainted with the idea of JanLokpal bill and the fight of Anna Hazare.



When Aditya Jha, a student of M.Sc from Skema Business School, France was asked if the protest was against Indian Government, he firmly replied “Our aim is corruption free India and for that we need to support Anna hazare and his Lokpal bill. Just because it’s not drafted by a member of parliament, doesn't mean it is not beneficial. Democracy should allow us to be a part of decision making.”

In July 2011 the Government of India received a whopping list of some 700 bank accounts in Switzerland from the French government and investigations are already underway to determine whether any of the account holders evaded taxes. Irrespective to this fact, the event also managed to attract French natives and they acquired an active participation in the protest.


In the year 2005, “The Right to Information Act” helped civilians work effectively towards tackling corruption. It permitted any Indian citizen (except for those living in Jammu and Kashmir) to request information from a “public authority” for a fixed fee of only Rs.10. Many activists used this right to uncover the graft cases against various politicians and bureaucrats, one consequence being that some of those activists were attacked and even killed. So the question arises,

Having to risk almost their lives for the fight against corruption, is this struggle worth fighting for? Would a single handed “JanLokpal bill” prevent corruption?
“Existing Indian law has harsh punishment for murderers, is murder not being done in India? Corruption free society is only an Utopian idea, still having very low level of corruption will take decades. It’s a nation building process. The current 'Anna' movement is just the first step in reducing corruption.” Says Rajesh kumar who is a Research Engineer at 'IFP Energies Nouvelles,France, from last two years.
While another protester Aditya Jha positively says, “Honestly, I do not think it will disappear. It can’t. But, this bill will bring accountability which is sorely missing. We need a strong bill to ensure that people resist from corruption and then hopefully it will become a practice.”

Is this protest all around the world, that is shouting loudly about corruption in India, not giving out a negative image of our country?
“It is a legal protest with complete support of local authorities. We obtained written permission from the Police. It’s about accepting our own weakness and then making sure it doesn't persist. French people have always been supportive of a good cause. We are proud of India and what we have achieved, but we all know we have potential to do better and accepting our faults is not a bad beginning. It will give an impression of flourishing democracy in India through which people can express their feelings by peaceful demonstrations. This will be an example for rest of the democracies like France and the UK at the time where people are so becoming violent in expressing their concerns and views. France will look at it in hugely positive manner.” said the organizers.

As an extra effort the organizers distributed the pamphlets that clarified the difference between JanLokpal and the bill that was demonstrated by the Government. A letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic India was signed by the protesters urging him to engage the civil society while drafting an anti-corruption law.

Being a democratic country, India already retain three pillars,  the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Bureaucracy, who were supposed to join hands in preserving India against corruption, however it failed. So will a fourth pillar of Lokpal Bill, which might give rise to a parallel system of governance, be any success?
“Democracy is not perfect yet. It’s still evolving and Lokpal is just going to be a support for the common man who is living among all other three pillars. Lokpal will not act as a fourth pillar of our democracy and it is not meant to do so either. It will be a tool to clean up the prevalent corruption in Judiciary, bureaucracy and ultimately providing a right meaning to our legislature. It won’t give rise to a parallel system of governance as Lokpal doesn't assume its authority on anything else other than corruption. It will just do its job silently sitting in corner of room making sure that everyone is working the way they should be” said the protesters

So are these peace demonstrations and a voice against corruption in foreign countries making any difference?
“Yes, I will say it already has reached India. All those gathered here have a point of discussion in their families here or back in India, with their friends. The word of mouth is spreading and forcing the Government to think over their decisions.” says Sunil Sharma, a Program Manager at GE Healthcare.


Me in the middle with the organizers


Various scandals were discovered in 2010-2011, including the 2G spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society Scam, and the Common wealth Games scam.  All of them looted an enormous amount of public money and now creating system and sub system would result in to spending some more. Who will foot the bill for this LokPal?
“We have already spent more than enough on corrupt people. Personally, I would rather not mind seeing that my hard earned money is going to someone who is making sure that things are working well rather than seeing it go to an unknown Swiss bank account. I will say its like investing in Anti Virus software to ensure your system runs smooth.”  Says Aditya

The Jan Lokpal Bill, also referred to as the citizens' ombudsman bill, is the much demanded right of Anna and his followers.  
Is going on hunger strikes or protesting for every single demand of a citizen justified?
Is the wastage of public money, time and resources a way to achieve our motives?
Why is this sudden eruption of aggression, mass hysteria and defiance talking place?
Is it because of the media or the revolutions going around in the Arab world that is inspiring the people to raise such propaganda?

There are many such questions I wonder, but looking at the brighter side we see a lone gunman entering an island and shooting numerous people in Norway. A fleet of people burns towns and cities in the UK to protest racism. In this era where people cross their boundaries of aggression and violence, a non-violent effort for a mammoth size evil called “corruption” fruitful or not, might also not do much harm.

But where are such activities leading our Indian youth to? Is this the rise of Middle India or is it a swift metamorphosis?
 “I want to see the youth to be working in every field that helps India progress. We can be engineers, doctors, farmers, entrepreneurs or even politicians. I want to see how much better I can serve my Nation in every way I can.” says a young protester at Bastille. 

Every honest youth sees corruption as a hurdle between them and their dreams. Is the next generation composed to challenge the same or like any other vice that is breathing in India, would accept corruption too, as part and parcel of being an Indian?
“Je veux Inde sans corruption” (I want India free of corruption) shouted a child in the crowd at the protest.  India is no less than a valuable jewelry chest, just a little rusted from outside. No Indian would deny the fact that they want to breathe in a corruption-free India.

JanLokpal Bill, Anna Hazare, hunger strikes and protests are just the face of the combat that might start a new revolution for our developing country however we do not know how long it would take to cremate corruption; all we can do is keep the coffins ready!


2 comments:

  1. Very well written Dhara...
    I wish the revolution which has been started among hearts to soul would nt be cool down until we get corrupt free society as well as the Government.
    following u back :)

    Jasmeet
    http://emotestar.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete