“Former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary S.C. Behar, the man behind the successful concept of ‘gram swaraj’ [rural self-rule], that helped bring decision-making powers to the village level in the state, is to work at the token salary to help the AAP government draft its much-talked about swaraj (self-rule) legislation in Delhi.”
When I read this news at a top Indian news portal, I scratched my head. I come from the state being portrayed as a success story due to the “decentralization of power”. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or any other freshly-minted political party must understand that Indians can no more be taken for a ride based on mere “paper or legislative revolutions”. It is important for these parties to recognize that the way new-India needs to be governed is not through wonderful laws but how those laws are implemented on the ground. And demonstrate the perceptible difference those laws are making on the daily life of an Aam Aadmi (common man). My fear is that this is where most revolutionary political movements will fail.
With regards to the laws meant for the “decentralization of powers”, there is abundant evidence that in Madhya Pradesh or elsewhere, they have simply decentralized corruption. So before the decentralization of power, when needing a building permission, for instance, one had to bribe the Municipal officials in cities. After the decentralization, one has to bribe the Sarpanch (or Village Chief) at the village level for building any structure in rural areas. But I do not blame Mr Behar for this. He did what he could.
Living in a corruption-free India is probably the dream of every sane Indian. But how to achieve that in a society that is rushing in a completely opposite direction is a serious issue that must be tackled first.
Too much consumerism, too much greed and too few moral filters on the way the future of India (our children) is being raised cannot be dealt with by one or ten or one hundred brilliant current or ex-bureaucrats. Corruption in our society has taken roots over an extended period of time. It has not happened overnight. The way we plunged into our current state, where one can see the bribes being accepted by Babus (clerks) inside the courtrooms while the honorable judges are sitting across the same rooms, has taken many years of courage by the recipient of bribes and many years of neglect and weaknesses by their superiors – at all levels going up to the top-man in the country.
So the corruption-free India will also not emerge overnight. It will need to be built brick-by-brick. And that will take enormous energy, time and efforts. But it is not rocket science. It is doable. If every family (or if that is asking for too much then at least a sizeable population) who are suffering from the endemic corruption on a daily basis takes an oath with their own conscience that we will raise our children differently. We will teach them the downside of unchecked consumerism and greed. We will demonstrate the upside of living within our means, no matter how limited our income is. We will search for and put them in schools where this type of culture is being practiced and promoted. This will probably help us sculpt a generation that is different and better than ours.
Until a couple of decades back, we only heard individuals/families borrowing for sheer survival or extreme medical emergencies. Living off others’ money (loans) for the purpose of consumption was already considered something bizarre. But in order to fuel unchecked consumerism, the neo-capitalism has gone to the extent of offering loans for completely insane purposes like foreign holidays. What an incongruous society is taking shape around us that borrows for fun! This is the height of moral and social bankruptcy.
How is this type of corruption connected with the bribe-taking corruption? The answer is, when everyone around us is having fun, those who are not able to raise consumer loans for competing with their neighbors and relatives; but if they happen to be sitting in places where they can misuse their positions, then they are tempted to make extra bucks so that they can also have fun! There is plenty of evidence in the society that bribes are not being taken by those who are struggling for two square meals. Bribes are, in fact, being taken by those who already have over-grown tummies.
This is why, targeting illegally cash-collecting officials and police constables will have, at best, limited impact. Because the issue of corruption is not just about bribes. It is much deeper and wider. And it cannot be addressed through piecemeal efforts. Until there is a serious, well thought-out and comprehensive action plan, all legislative efforts will remain futile.
By Dr. Mansoor Durrani
Seven Questions to Aam Aadmi Party