Monday, April 11, 2011

People's notice to crooks: Change or Go

Television has spawned many evils. One of them is the animal called 'party spokesperson', a species that is found only in India. By occupational necessity, they are motor-mouths; just turn the battery on and they go blabbering nonstop. They are also robotic; they see and hear and speak nothing except what their creators have programmed them to see and hear and speak.

Spokespersons come in different shapes, colours and sizes. The only feature that is common to all is pompousness – the air that they know all that is there to know and those who disagree with them are blockheads. Look at the staring eyes of Abhishek Singhvi, the self-assured expression, the tilt of the head, and look at the laboured seriousness of Manish Tiwari, his tone, his style and you'll know at one that if Ravi Varma were to do a portrait of “Arrogance”, these would be his models. They never ever seem to understand the mood of the people before whom they pontificate every day. The most glaring example of this disconnect is the insensitive, overbearing and insolent manner in which Singhvi and company reacted to the Anna Hazare phenomenon.

It's a conspiracy, they said. The Government is being black-mailed, they said. “This is a free country, anyone is free to go on fast”, said the pompous Tiwari in his pompous accent. This poor Gandhian “has been instigated” to go on fast, said the haughty Singhvi. They are misguiding Hazare as they misguided Jayaprakash Narayan... And so on and on.

It was the Government that misguided the nation. JP's movement in the 1970s electrified the people because they were feeling suffocated by the Indira-Sanjay Gandhi autocracy. Hazare's initiative electrified the people because it offered a faint hope of fighting corruption which had broken all conceivable boundaries. Both became spontaneous people's movements because both held out the promise of desperately needed change.

The fact is that people are angry. Not only because gargantuan corruption has devoured the country; they are angry because the corrupt seem to flourish and the Government shows no sign of sincerity in combating the evil. A few officials of the Commonwealth Games have been arrested, but someone is protecting Suresh Kalmadi. Some officials who helped pilots get fake fitness certificates have been arrested, but who is protecting the top guns? Who is keeping former Chief Justice Balakrishnan in the Human Rights Commission? Who forced the CBI to mess up Quattrochi's court cases and to release his London funds?

Above all, why is Sharad Pawar still strutting about like Mephistopheles buying up other people's souls? Despite those land scams in Maharashtra, the duplicate World Cup, the rotting foodgrains and the endosulfan victims, he was one of the ministers handpicked to oversee the anti-corruption bill. No greater proof is needed to establish the Government's dishonourable intentions – and the validity of Anna Hazare's demand that the anti-corruption bill be drawn up by a joint committee that will also include people of integrity from outside the government.

The Government has had the good sense to accept that demand, however belatedly. To that extent, what we have witnessed is a historical triumph of democracy. But this is just a beginning. The Lok Pal Bill may now be expected to get enacted with sufficient teeth in it. The real challenge will come when it begins to get implemented.

Will the evil forces that compromised other instrumentalities like CBI and CVC subvert the new act as well? Will the Lok Pal be able to smoke out every Mephistopheles in the system and hold him to account? A few kings of corruption must go to jail, only then will the world know that we have a system that does not condone the plundering of public money. There is reason to be hopeful because what we have just experienced is an unprecedented awakening of public opinion, especially of youth power which distinguished itself by remaining peaceful throughout. This is a new India, a maturing India.

The message cannot be clearer: Change must come to India, and a political class that cannot handle change wisely must go.