When an ailing Anna Hazare left his fast midway on December 28, many thought that the 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader was down and out. But Anna is back with the same “tevar” (determination). He has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raising some valid questions about autonomy of the CBI and the power to investigate vested with the Lokpal. He has asked the Prime Minister to bring a strong Lokpal to check rampant corruption, for which people of India would always remember him.
Anna’s letter reminds me of what Manmohan Singh said on January 9, while releasing a study on hunger and malnutrition which stated that 42% of the children in India are underweight. Singh called it a “national shame”. Indeed it’s shameful for a country producing a record quantity of foodgrains. But the Prime Minister did not specify who should be ashamed of it -- the “aam admi” or the Congress which has ruled over India for over 50 out of 63 years after Independence. Isn’t it true that corruption is responsible for these underweight children because crores pumped into welfare schemes never reached the grassroots?
The Congress-led UPA government is bringing Food Security Bill, which it claims will solve the problem of hunger and malnourishment. Similarly, it has introduced 4.5% sub-quota for minorities (read Muslims) within 27% quota for the other backward class (OBC) category.
Significantly, The Sachar Committee in 2006 and the Rangnath Misra Commission in 2007 had said that the socioeconomic condition of the Muslims had deteriorated after independence and today their status was worse than dalits. The two reports recommended 8-15% Muslim quota.
But only 4.5% quota has been introduced and that too after six years. Some announcements have also been made about reservation to dalit entrepreneurs in government contracts, fixed quota for most backward classes (MBCs) in OBC reservation and to divide dalit quota among various dalit sub-castes. Significantly, all these announcements have been made on the eve of assembly elections in five states, particularly UP, which is crucial for Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as Prime Minister. All the announcements aim at dalits, Muslims and MBCs. They are among poorest of poor but valuable in terms of votes. Dalits are 20% of the population, Muslims 18% and MBCs 30%. Children of these communities are mostly malnourished. So, is the Prime Minister’s concern for real or will it last only till elections?
Further, isn’t it a matter of shame that thousands of farmers are committing suicide? Isn’t it a matter of shame that Bhopal gas victims are waiting for justice for the past 28 years? Isn’t 1984 anti-Sikh riots a matter of shame? Isn’t it a matter of shame that because of corruption, the big fish involved in corruption and criminal activities always get away without any punishment? Almost all the other political parties more or less follow the political culture set up by the Congress. Every political party which has been in power in any of the states has given us one reason or another to be ashamed of -- Singur, Dantewada, Bhatta-Parsaul, Lalgarh, Bhanwari Devi, rotting food grains, NRHM scam, army coffin scam, petrol pump allotment scam, Gujarat genocide, loot of natural resources in the name of mining, killing farmers and displacing lakhs of tribal by acquiring land for so-called development -- the list is endless. Just scratch the surface of any department and you will find a scam. And, at the time of elections, promises, sops, reservations, criminals, caste, faith and money -- everything is used to divide people and divert their attention from the real issues. Politicians alone are not responsible. No scam can take place without involvement of bureaucrats and others in the government machinery. Morality, conscience, honesty and integrity have no meaning today.
The conduct of the privileged class is no better. The rot is deep. Top lawyers defend only those who can pay hefty fees. It doesn’t matter that client is a criminal and threat to society. Judges get out-of-turn plots. Top doctors are available to those who can afford. People die due to neglect in hospitals. Paid news. Radia tapes. Stock market scams. Spurious drugs, medicines, milk, food products etc. Fake encounters. Human Rights violation. Corporates are “funding” political parties to get out-of-turn favours. In fact, the motto of the privileged class is “Apna kam banta, bhaad mein jaye janta” (Only personal gains matter). No real concern for the country.
It was corruption which killed 12 children in a road accident in Ambala recently. The van had space for 10 but 25 children were packed in it. It was a violation of rule but no action was taken. Similar accidents are waiting to happen in other parts of the country. But who cares? Where do people go and complain? And, what is the guarantee that action will be taken? How many of us actually get out of our cars to help accident victims on road or a destitute? Every year, hundreds of homeless people die due to cold during the winter. The Supreme Court had given orders to build night shelters for poor but look around and you will find that very little or nothing has been done in this regard. But is only government responsible?
If India is still alive, it is because the poor continue to work with honesty against all odds. Farmers continue to feed the nation. Weavers and artisans are keeping traditions alive. Tribals, dalits and the marginalised continue to struggle against the feudal elite. The youth from the privileged class can bring change but for that the mad rush for pay packages and comforts of life will have to be replaced with dedication and sacrifice. Our source of inspiration should be Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh who wrote in his jail diary a few days before being hanged to death: “The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity in social, political and individual life.” He also said that a real change takes place only when privileged class makes sacrifices for the underprivileged. He was just 23 years old when he made the supreme sacrifice for the nation. Many like him who could have led a comfortable life sacrificed themselves for India’s freedom.
We can do wonders with 10% dedication and sacrifice which our real heroes did. Here I would also like to quote what US President John F Kennedy said in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” However, the irony in India is that barring some exceptions, the privileged class continues to be selfish, which can be best described in a one-liner from Piyush Mishra in the “Gulaal” movie: “Is mulk ne har shakhs ko jo kaam tha saupa, us shakhs ne us kaam ki maa-ch-is jala ke chhor dee.”