Monday, April 11, 2011

Moment of truth

A great victory was won in Delhi last week.
India liked, tweeted and candlelit its way to ‘persuading’ the Government to see the light on the Jan Lokpal Bill. It also helped that Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare went on a fast unto death to get the Government of India to act on the Jan Lokpal Bill. And so we had our own little Jasmine Revolution. Or so it seems.
There is, I guess, little doubt that the Jan Lokpal Act, also labelled the Anti-Corruption, Grievance Redressal and Whistleblower Protection Act, will soon be a reality. In some form.
And once the Jan Lokpal framework is in place, corruption will be a thing of the past in India. At least that’s what the theory is.
But try telling that to someone I know who had to pay a ‘service’ charge last week to have a vehicle released by India’s finest. Of course, this was in addition to a mountain of paperwork, including several ‘no objection certificates’. And this was for a vehicle that had not been in an accident or violated any rule.
So why did he pay, thereby encouraging corruption, even when he had done no wrong? “Because I paid, I got my vehicle back in a day. If I hadn’t paid, I would probably still be running around to get the vehicle back. Or I would’ve had to get someone influential to make a couple of calls on my behalf,” he said.
I’m not too certain how much of this will change with the Lokpal Act.
Yes, the version of the Lokpal Act drafted by a group of social activists outlines a system for people to make complaints against corrupt government officials. But how many of us will take the time and effort required to see the process through to the very end.
For all the tweets and candlelight vigils against corruption, how many of us will actually take the road that’s currently less traveled? Not just by not taking a bribe, but also by not giving one and also by not using our influence to get something done in government. Ever.
And do so knowing that not paying up is going to have a direct impact on our lives or the lives of those we care about?
That will be our moment of truth.

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