These days, with all the TV News channels competing with each other in promoting the ‘second freedom struggle’ (aka ‘Arnab Spring’ for the role of Media) being led by Mr Anna Hazare, I am forced to do reverse channel surfing. With little news and an over doze of propaganda, it is impossible to stick to one Channel for more than 3 minutes!
Last night while surfing those Channels, I happened to see Justice NS Hegde, the respected Ex Supreme Court Judge and Ex Lokayukta Karnataka, speaking on the issue of corruption. Being known as one of the saner voices of Team Anna and a man who had been in the forefront of fight against corruption, I was keen to listen to his words on the issue of Jan Lokpal.
To my surprise, he conveyed something like this (not the exact words but the true message): ‘Jan Lokpal will eradicate all the corruption in this country. Today, if one receives a Money order the postman will insist on bribing him 10% of that amount and if one refuses to give that, he will return the Money order as ‘addressee not found’. When the Jan Lokpal comes into effect we will be able to stop such practices’.
Really?! Do you really believe that an institution like Jan Lokpal will eradicate such transactional corruption? Justice Hegde, You seem to be carrying a very high degree of optimism about the results of Jan Lokpal, while holding very pessimistic views about the current system of governance! Some magical formula, this Jan Lokpal is?
Let us consider this. Last month, when I was home in Kerala, the Postman (actually a lady... but do we call them Postwoman or Postperson? in any case, she referred to herself as Postman!) came home to deliver a letter from an Insurance company. When my mother mentioned that it was second consecutive day that she is visiting our home, the Postman said to me, “It is the custom that if a Postman visits a home for two consecutive days, ‘something’ must be given”.
I clearly understood what she meant. However, considering her age and status, I just replied to her, “My God, you are a Central Government employee. How can I even think of gifting you something as it can be considered as an attempt to bribe you?” We both smiled. She didn’t pursue or threaten to take my mail away.
I probably did what I did because I am not one of those who wear the “I AM ANNA’ cap. My apologies if anybody is appalled at my behaviour condoning of an attempt to indulge in corruption by that Lady.
But I am curious what would you have done, Justice Hegde? Let me make a guess on the available choices: (i) pay her some money and silently curse her (ii) pay and consider it as a tip to an underpaid employee, who had walked all the way to your home, in that rain, to deliver your mail (iii) pay the ‘bribe’ and then file a complaint with the Police or with the Vigilance Officer of the Postal Department, or (iv) undertake fast for the Jan Lokpal to be passed, so that the complaint against her can be filed.
Oh, that brings up another question. If one is to file a complaint against that Postman before Lokpal, can’t that person file the same complaint before Police or any other existing vigilance agency? Is it because of lack of agencies that we do not report such matters? Or, is it because we do not consider it important enough to spend our time and energy on?
I have always found it easy to avoid or smile away a situation of bribe, than to pay it or take legal actions against it. I don’t know how many of the ‘I AM ANNA”s would use the option of filing a complaint with any authorities, including Jan Lokpal.
As for the larger bribes, it is never demanded directly. It is always a part of negotiation; a give and take between two parties, most probably involving a go-between, to appropriate undue benefits for both sides. Again how many of those individuals, will prefer to go and complain to Jan Lokpal about a ‘crime’ that s/he is involved in/benefitted from?
That means only those instances, where a third party makes a complaint against corrupt deals are left for the Jan Lokpal to intervene. Those are cases of high political potential, otherwise called as spectacular corruption, like 2G and CWG scams. Our present systems are currently dealing with those spectacular corruptions. The need of the hour is to strengthen the existing systems and not create more and more systems.
It is even fine for Justice Hegde to raise those demands for Jan Lokpal as one more layer of agencies to oversee the corruption cases at all levels. But, for him to make misleading promises to the people of this country that Jan Lokpal will eradicate all the ills of this country is, in my opinion, not very noble and affects his credibility. That Postman will continue to seek 'something' and the life will go on as before.