Onward to a More Determined Assault on the Citadels of Corruption and Corporate Plunder
The indefinite fast launched by Anna Hazare on April 5 demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) has ended in an initial victory. The fast has been withdrawn after 98 hours following an agreement between the UPA government and some leading JLB campaigners. A 10-member drafting committee has been constituted with as many members from the government side as from the JLB campaign. The draft of the Bill will presumably be ready by June 30 and Anna Hazare says he would like to see the legislation become effective by August 15. This is surely an encouraging moment for the anti-corruption movement in the country.
The idea of a Lok Pal (ombudsman) has been discussed time and again since the 1960s. Every time corruption in high places has hit the headlines, the idea has been mooted and then shelved. Since 1968, there have been ten instances of a Lok Pal bill being introduced and then being allowed to get lapsed. The Lok Pal bill can thus be described as the oldest member of the club of long-awaited legislations like right to work, reservation for women in State Assemblies and Parliament and comprehensive legislation for agricultural labourers.
How could an idea which has been shelved for decades get ‘clinched’ in less than a week? This can be attributed primarily to two factors – the intolerably high levels of corruption and the groundswell of popular support and activism which would have surfaced much more pronouncedly if the fast were to continue any longer and if it were to move on to the subsequent phase of a countrywide ‘jail bharo’ agitation. The Indian ruling classes and the scam-studded UPA government could not possibly risk a protracted stalemate or a direct showdown on the issue, especially in view of the ongoing Assembly elections in five states and the ‘alarming’ examples of contemporary mass upsurges from Nepal to Egypt.
If the rulers have demonstrated such ‘maturity’ and corrupt leaders and corporate honchos all are now itching to wear the anti-corruption mask, activists of the anti-corruption movement and the people at large will also have to demonstrate their resolve to step up the battle and snatch bigger victories.
We must remember that behind the pleasant surprise of this quick initial victory lay the people and their growing anger against corruption. The people are not particularly concerned about the nitty-gritty of a Lok Pal or the composition of the drafting committee, what they want is rooting out of corruption and firm action against the corrupt. The Jan Lok Pal can of course be an important institutional mechanism in this context and pressure must be kept up to make sure that the country indeed gets an effective anti-corruption legislation and a functional and credible institutional mechanism to prosecute and punish the guilty.
India has not yet ratified the UN Convention against corruption and the government is taking no step either to bring back the money that has been drained out of the country or to confiscate the enormous amount of black money and ill-gotten wealth accumulated within the country. We must insist on immediate and decisive action on all these issues.
While fighting for new laws and institutions we must also realize why the existing laws and institutions are not delivering. The answer clearly lies in the growing shadow of corporate power and the obnoxious complicity between the ruling parties/coalitions and dominant corporate interests. The anti-corruption movement must therefore also take on this growing corporate power and the nexus between the governments, the corporations and US imperialism, the military flagship of global capitalism.
The corporate media, especially most 24 hour television channels, are known to treat every major issue or event as a grand spectacle. Even when they have to deal with a people’s movement, they invariably zero in on personalities – be it an Anna Hazare or a Baba Ramdev – and obliterate the people, and subject complex questions and democratic debates to a simplistic hype. But the forces of people’s movement must not get distracted and seize the moment to launch a more determined mass assault on the citadels of corruption and corporate plunder..