This is your victory. This is the fruit of your work in the last 13 days … This movement has made it seem possible that we can build a corruption-free India.
Anna Hazare, 28 August 2011
India is the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country. It emerged a major economic power in 1999 and boasts of strong military, influential culture, large skilled workforce, world’s most prolific film industry – Bollywood and a powerful fast growing economy. India is equally a nuclear armed state. It launched its own satellites and in 2008 sent its first spacecraft to the moon (BBC). Despite all these impressive statistics, the vast mass of the rural population remains impoverished and”influenced by the ancient Hindu caste system, which assigns each person a place in the social hierarchy” (BBC), though this practice has now been outlawed.
In recent times the country has been rocked by a string of high-profile corruption scandals including “a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the government $39bn (£23bn), alleged financial malpractice in connection with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and allegations that homes for war widows were diverted to civil servants” (BBC, South Asia). A report following a study by the Global Financial Integrity, a Washington based organisation, states that:
- India lost a total of $462bn in illegal capital flows between 1948, a year after independence, and 2008.
- The flows are more than twice India’s external debt of $230bn.
- Total capital flight out of India represents some 16.6% of its GDP.
- Some 68% of India’s capital loss has happened since the economy opened up in 1991.
- “High net-worth individuals” and private companies were found to be primary drivers of illegal capital flows.
- The share of money Indian companies moved from developed country banks to “offshore financial centres” (OFCs) increased from 36.4% in 1995 to 54.2% in 2009.
According to Dev Kar, former International Monetary Fund economist, almost three quarters of the illegal money that comprises India’s underground economy ends up outside the country (BBC, Asia)
INDIA CORRUPTION SCANDALS
- Telecoms scandal: Allegations that phone licences were mis-sold, costing the country about $40bn (£25.5bn) worth of telecoms
- Cash for votes: Uproar over Wikileaks allegations about “cash for votes” in the 2008 confidence vote in Parliament
- Anti-corruption chief: Key government appointee forced out of office because he himself faces corruption charges
- War widow homes: Scandal over homes for widows of soldiers allegedly diverted to politicians
- Commonwealth Games: Allegations of financial malpractice dogged the Games, which India hosted
Mr Anna Hazare, 74 years old, former army lorry driver, and activist, took on India’s troubled government by demanding the set up of a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman, or Lokpal, with sweeping powers to investigate all arms of the government. He went on hunger strike in April, 2011. “A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not solid food”. A hunger strike cannot be effective if the fact that it is being undertaken is not publicized so as to be known by the people who are to be impressed, concerned or embarrassed by it.(Wikipedia). A very crucial part of Mr Hazare’s hunger strike was to protest the government’s attempt to exempt the prime minister’s office, MPs, and the judiciary from the scrutiny of the new ombudsman. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Anna Hazare’s said:
Corruption has made life difficult for the common man. Our country is being discredited the world over. I hope that this will come to an end in the near future. We all have to work together for this. Laws and regulations are for the people and not above the people. In order to immediately curb corruption, if we have to make new laws and amend existing ones, we shouldn’t hesitate.
I cannot tolerate when a common man struggles because of corruption. To prevent the common man from being a victim of corruption, the Jan Lokpal Bill has three provisions.
- This law should ensure that every state has a Lokayukta
- All government departments should have Citizens Charters to address the people’s problems and any violation should be penalised.
- Every level of central and state government employees should come under the purview of Lokpal.
Can these three points be presented in Parliament? I not only expect but believe that all our parliamentarians, to begin with, will agree to these three points, to give deliverance to the people from the daily ignominy of corruption.
My inner conscience tells me that if there is a consensus on these proposals, then I will break my fast. The other issues in the Jan Lokpal Bill like selection process and others are also very important to contain corruption. I will continue to sit in Ramlila Maidan along with my supporters till Parliament takes decision on the other issues because this is the voice of people.
I invite you and all parliamentarians to take part in this countrywide movement against corruption. This is our country and we all have to together endeavour to make it better”.
His record of activism is remarkable. In his home state of Maharashtra, he turned his village of Ralegan Siddhi into an environmental prototype, by motivating the villagers to build dams and percolation tanks, to conserve water and to plant thousands of trees.
In less than a decade, Ralegan Siddhi had become a sustainable community so successful the state government officially adopted the Ralegan Siddhi model and replicated it in villages across Maharashtra.
Mr Hazare also sought social transformation. He campaigned against alcohol and tobacco and for literacy. He fought against regressive customs, such as dowry and ostentatious weddings and confronted entrenched caste attitudes”.
Kalpana Sharma, BBC, Asia
It is important to note that Anti-Corruption law has been in the making for the last four decades in India – an embarrassing record for the world’s largest democracy. This one man fight for strengthening the anti-corruption legislation proposed by the government received widespread support, with tens of thousands of people attending protests across the country. The Indian media attention to Mr Hazare’s cause played a significant role in encouraging more middle class citizens to fill the streets holding candles, carrying placards, shouting slogans, singing songs and even fasting in sympathy with Mr Hazare. The reason was simple – Mr Hazare appears to be:
everything the prime minister and his ministers are not – courageous, independent-minded, willing to stake his life for a principle”,
Ramachandhra Guha, Indian Historian
His arrest by the Indian government in August 2011 triggered a wave of protests and condemnation by the vocal Indian press. The Hindu newspaper said:
corrupt government devoid of moral authority is ill-equipped to deal rationally with legitimate public anger”.. By ordering the illegitimate detention of Anna Hazare before he began his fast in support of stronger anti-corruption provisions in the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill and the arrest of a large number of peaceful protesters in the national capital, the government revealed its ugly, repressive face… “No representative government in a democracy can deny citizens their fundamental right to dissent and peaceful protest”.