Monday, October 15, 2012

Merely chasing the corrupt won't do any good

( Crossposted from Kaleidoscope )

Salman Khurshid, the latest entrant to the Arvind Kejriwal stage, has raised the tone of the slanging match to a new high. Anti-corruption activists say that more players would be dragged into media conferences, presumably for people to take the final call on redefining political morality in India. Politicians -- willy-nilly declared corrupt, and therefore guilty -- have their backs to the wall, fighting back to retrieve their remaining reputation.

As new acts unfold on the political theatre, we are left with more questions than answers. What is the stake for us, the common people? Are we mere spectators? In what way do we benefit? Will Kejriwal's campaign translate into votes? Or, are we staring at a mirage, where the political slate has been wiped clean of all dirt?

It's quite a long time since the public campaign began with Anna Hazare's exhortations, rallies and fasts. Down the road, the movement lost sight of the end, bickered over the means and now stands divided. Hazare has virtually given up, declaring that the existing political system itself is beyond redemption. Kejriwal has, on the contrary, entered the system in a bid to clean it. How much he will succeed, remains to be seen.

Nothing has changed

We are supposedly better informed about the evil called corruption and the corrosive effect it has on the nation. But, has anything changed on the ground in the past one year? No. Examples are aplenty.

The conductor of BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) bus is reluctant to return the Rs 2 change. After many reminders he relents, but only when it's time for you to get down from the bus. He gives the change but takes the ticket back. When you ask for the ticket, he gestures you to get down and pretends he is busy and moves into the crowd of passengers to give them tickets. Ticket is recycled, and the fare you gave has gone into the conductor's pocket. Or else, why should he take the ticket back?

Another tactic employed by the conductor is a "win-win" one: if the fare is Rs 8, and you give a Rs 10 note, he gives you back a Rs 5 coin, and moves on without giving you the ticket. The conductor has gained Rs 5, and you have gained Rs 3.

Has common man's life become easier? Do files move  faster now? Have public servants become more courteous and helpful? Do we have better transportation facilities in villages, towns and cities? Do we have more electricity for our daily needs? Do we have better and easier access to clean drinking water? Have our elected representatives become more accountable? The list goes on; and you need to have an unrealistic degree of optimism to answer yes.

Need for positiveness

If Kejriwal and IAC members can usher in a new tomorrow, nothing like it. The whole nation will forever be grateful. But there is not even a flicker of hope at the end of the tunnel. Instead, we get an impression that there are now two battles being fought -- one, the common man's struggle with daily tribulations; and two, the war of charges and countercharges. The collateral damages are further erosion of faith in the system and deeper cynicism.

The negativeness is all too pervasive and it's only getting worse. More people are asking: why should we vote? Showcasing the corrupt and pronouncing them guilty in public will do little good; it primarily serves as retribution. If any good has to come out of this campaign, there has to be a huge infusion of positiveness. Instead of stalling everything, the campaign has to look at means to get the system moving in the right direction.

There has to be a parallel, and more powerful, movement at the grassroots to identify the good people in the system and encourage them. It may be a good idea for Kejriwal and IAC to publish a list of clean and efficient public servants, especially at village and ward levels. It is more important to bring them onto the stage and let the world know the enormous amount good they have done to the society.

Or else, Kejriwal risks being branded -- if not already -- as another politician who has his own axe to grind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sorry, you are over 80

India has between 11,000 and 20,000 centenarians, says a UN report. The number will go up, and before long, there will be more older people than children below 15. Not surprising, considering healthier lifestyle habits, easier access to good hospitals and availability of effective medicines.

That is the only good part -- people are living longer. But how well they are living, is the worrying point. The agony and struggle of one of my relatives, who recently turned 80, is depressing. Here's his story.