Friday, August 19, 2011

Jan Lokpal - the Collective Conscience of a Nation

Many Indians like me were initiated into the 2nd freedom struggle of India after listening to Anna Hazare's views in this video. That was half a year back. The veteran anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare sends out a call to the uncorrupted..... Mark his words... He insists that whoever offers to join his team should be clear of corruption themselves. Yet today as the entire nation rallies to support the Jan Lokpal Bill, there's a cynical minority out there.... raising concern over this vast response to Anna's call. Are ALL of the people rallying for Jan Lokpal really non-corrupt? they ask. I have a probable answer.

Yes, there may be a lot of teenage college students in the crowd who have driven automobiles below the age of 18. Perhaps parents who bribed the RTO to fetch their kids an early driving license are there in the rally as well. There could be petty businessmen in the rally, who must have never paid their Rs.1500/- worth of Income Tax, and also shopkeepers who do not maintain a legal billing system. Many of them must have not stopped their auto-rickshaw driver from breaking traffic rules when in a hurry and perhaps also bribed a Traffic Policeman to be excused. There are those middle-class house-wives who must have bribed Rationing Officials to fetch their ration card on time. And entrepreneurs who evaded taxes in the early years of their start-ups because the taxation system in our country is pitiably regressive. Some have corrupted the environment by still using plastic in everyday life, others have offended nature by felling trees for paper and furniture. Everyone's guilty of corruption to some degree. Yet they all are there in the rally demanding Jan Lokpal Bill to come into effect.

Our Police has been forever tainted with records of corruption. Yet if you've been at one of these India Against Corruption rallies in the last three days in my city, you cannot have missed the Mumbai Police's co-operation to the movement. Their restraint, smiling services and soft corner towards peaceful protesters is significant. On Day One of the movement, I was aghast when one of them confronted me at Nerul (Navi Mumbai). The policeman saw me with the Indian National Flag in my hand and asked me where I would like to get arrested - at Nerul, or at Azad Maidan - the center of the movement. We protesters were offering ourselves to be arrested for the Jail Bharo Andolan ('Fill the Jails' Movement). To test the policeman's inclination, I later told him that I wished to get arrested at Azad Maidan. He politely moved aside and let me board the train to CST..... I was pleasantly surprised. For the first time ever in life, I stopped to sympathize with the men in uniform - perhaps they are victims of the system too. Why are these daily soldiers paid a peanuts salary? Why are they made to serve orders that go against their conscience and also their professional duty?

This brings us to the crux of the topic - Why are so many people supporting the movement, when they know that they may not be able to continue their unclean ways once the Jan Lokpal Bill comes into effect? In my belief, this historic display of unity between Indian masses from all levels is a reiteration of the people's courage. Yes, Courage. Very few 'superhumans' are strong-willed enough to exercise restraint where their convenience and well-being are compromised. All other mortals need a framework of strict laws to control their greed, to regulate their unjust urges. If everyone was so self-controlled, we wouldn't have needed laws at all, isn't it? Our conscience should have been enough to make us do only that what's right. But there are Laws. And a majority of India that's true to itself, has therefore come out to support a Bill that will bind them in a system of righteousness. They are whole-heartedly offering themselves to a Law that they know, will punish them for their past wrong-doings too!

Cynics think that the Jan Lokpal system won't work. They thought the same for the legendary 'Right To Information' Act too. We'll pardon them this time... because not everybody has the courage to face their conscience, as I said before.

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