The devil is in the detail, goes the old but appropriate cliche. It could apply to the reading of a contract or the framing of a cohesive strategy to combat corruption. Its the latter or the immediate lack of it that worries me. To the extent that we expect this television and social media fuelled movement to go to a next, logical phase.
We are basking in a post World Cup cricket victory glow. A well-timed Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign appears to have satiated our innate desires for another win. After beating Pakistan and Sri Lanka, surely a corrupt politician was small change. Question is can we now prevent the movement from being a one-day win just like its cricketing predecessor.
At the outset its not easy. I believe corruption affects us worst in our immediate vicinity, in our day to day lives. A 2G telecom scam revolts us but only because it deeply affects our sense of values and the context we see ourselves as a democracy. Beyond that, what price Government-owned telecom spectrum is sold for does not materially change our lives.
A Builder's Reception
A week before Anna Hazare began his fast at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, Maharashtra minister Kripa Shankar Singh's son was found to have received a sum of Rs 4 crore from builder DB Realty. Its not clear for what. Good news is you cannot accuse the poor fellow of bias when it comes to builders and developers. It was also found that his wedding reception bill for Rs 15.5 lakh had been picked by another builder, HDIL. HDIL's key pitch is slum rehabilitation. They should add weddings to the list.
This is one example that jumped at me. Every village, town, city and state in India has hundreds of such instances. Happenings that we learn of or see in broad daylight. Ive always wondered how politicians get away by installing plainly illegal hoardings at Worli junction, near where I live in Mumbai. Is it corruption, blatant misuse of public property or just breakdown of law and order.
Or how a politican like Chaggan Bhujbal in Mumbai, elected legislatively but without any state cabinet position, can travel in eight-car police convoys, mowing aside cars that are driven by members not of his ilk. So there is no visible corruption here, or is there ? And how do we convert the anger we so wonderfully expressed on a day to something that keeps such people in check over a sustained period ?
The Visible Symbols
Its human nature to rally around symbols. The daily corruption of the administrative and bureaucratic kind cannot be fought through single symbols. You need motivated people at a very specific, regional level to seek information (as many are), build up cases and then go after the perpetrators. This is a full-time job in itself, so deep is administrative corruption and linked inefficiency in our country.
This is where I think the youth of India have a greater role to play. As they've shown their solidarity on Facebook and Twitter with Anna Hazare, they need to seed small movements (for example) in college campuses and institutionalise the approach. For instance, can colleges in Andheri (a north Mumbai suburb) pick up all the land parcels that have been alloted to builders in the last five years and write project reports on how the transactions were done ? And can they get a few marks for doing this ?
Can other projects look at the state of the roads (measured against the repeated expenditure) ? Or the illegal posters ? Or can you help truck drivers trying to enter Mumbai city and being harassed for entry tax (octroi) and often forced to pay bribes. Or endure impossible waits. Or do a real check of every politicians real assets, compared to what they've declared while standing for elections. Yes, you will spend the first few days laughing at the figures declared. That will be the fun. But the details will not be. That's the nature of the devil.