Sunday, April 17, 2011

Do we really support the Lokpal Bill?

Anna Hazare has made some great noises and started a great process.  The government has buckled under the pressure to offer us the passage of the Lokpal Bill, which, when it comes into law, will allow us to prosecute the corrupt, rather quickly, and effectively, depending upon the final draft that comes into force.

This doesn't mean we will suddenly see corruption go away.  It means, if we want, we can prosecute without the usual hindrances.  It will still take considerable effort to use the Lokpal to put away corrupt individuals.

The urban middle class of India is the most politically inactive but fashionably righteousness conscious demographic of this country.  It is a mindset, indeed, and we are mad about a lot of things, but unwilling to unleash that anger on anything that will get something done.

So, how about including a small clause in the Lokpal bill that makes it a crime to notice a crime and not report it?  After all, corruption, as we call it is a bloody crime.  It is thievery, blackmail, denial of rights to people coming through the fair competition route, and anti-national to the core.  So, let's bring in a healthy dose of the words "crime" and "criminal" into this revolution!  In other words, if you pay a bribe, you're a bloody criminal as much as the pig who takes bribe - for whatever reason!

Unless we, the people of India are under threat of being prosecuted for a criminal offence, we will not report crime like we should.  So, how about making this Lokpal Bill include us and our brothers and sisters across the expanse of this nation of India not just responsible but actually culpable to the crime of corruption?  Should it not be our duty to report crime?  How about enforcing this duty as well?

Blackmail is a crime, and bribery more often than not, is blackmail, when demanded for a legal procedure.  If the procedure is illegal - well, that is already a crime, isn't it?  We seem to treat corruption as some kind of common cold, while murder, rape and other more spectacular deeds are more like heart attacks!  This must change.  If it is illegal, it is a crime against the nation's rightful progress, and a bloody crime against the nation.

Why do we suddenly want more laws?  The Lokpal Bill is just another law coming into effect, isn't it?  We already have plenty of mechanisms that we have eroded, ignored, or abused, like the Vigilance Commission.  Why is the Lokpal going to be any different?  Legislation is not going to solve any problem we face in India.  Enforcement can.  We are not good at this.  The first step to enforcing any law or prevent the escape of those breaking the law is reporting.  We need at the very minimum, a robust reporting mechanism, that should not be reserved for spectacular crimes.

Can we please let the Lokpal drafting committee know that it should be legally incumbent and binding upon the citizenry to report crime?  After all we are, by virtue of half the members of this committee being from civil society, absolutely responsible for making it work, whether the government does its part or not!  Also, when the government would love to prosecute its citizens for not reporting, it would have to acknowledge the crime as having taken place, and will have to prosecute the other side as well!  What a beautifully binding marriage this!

The most spectacular crime, by the sheer scale of practice, that most Indians participate in, is apathy.  If we support the Lokpal Bill's passage, we should have no problem accepting an anti-apathy clause as well.  What do you say, flag wavers?  Ready to do some real work?

- BSK.