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Swati Ramanathan | Make it real, make it personal - take a PLEDGE
The two years between Independence Day 2010 and Independence Day 2012, has brought into razor-sharp focus the issue of corruption in the country. With scam after scam hitting the national headlines, followed by a relentless media, the Anna Hazare movement led the first post-Independence national uprising of the middle-class. The most important achievement of Anna Hazare and team is that they have shown that middle-class India can become politically relevant.
Given that the issue seens to have ended not with any big-bang change, but with a decided whimper, does this mean the fight against corruption is lost? I think that the expectations were misplaced to begin with– contrary to popular expectations of the Lokpal bill, there is no single solution to miraculously end corruption in India. Instead, I strongly believe that it will take thousands of small and big acts to contain, curb and checkmate corruption.
The fight against “wholesale” corruption - public procurement, crony capitalism, corporate corruption - requires a continuous spotlight and resultant rigor in regulatory reform.
With the changes in the Anna movement, the danger is that public cynicism sets in deeper, that nothing can ever change. I think that the Anna movement suffered from two key limitations: first, the “all or nothing” nature of their gamble; and second, the absence of a personal call to action that can energize every citizen in the fight against corruption.
Nothing can be done about the first issue – this is a decision of Team Anna and how they chose to run their campaign. But something can be done about the getting citizens to focus on things that they can do themselves. This is what the ipaidabribe.com initiative is focused on.
Janaagraha’s ipaidabribe.com was launched exactly two years ago on Independence Day, as a homage to those who fought so hard for the freedom we all enjoy today, built on the new age tools of internet technology and social networks.
What distinguishes ipaidabribe.com is that it provides a bottom-up connection to corruption through the experiences of citizens themselves. This site is not about wholesale corruption but about “retail corruption” - the small and petty amounts that are demanded for services that we are legitimately entitled to from our governments – birth certificates, land registration, passport issuance and so on. In the two years, 20,000 reports on instances of bribe giving for such services have been reported on the site. Many of the reports are moving accounts of loss of personal dignity, and compromise in values.
The impact of wholesale corruption is limited to those with unbridled power, with little direct impact on the aam aadmi. However, unchecked retail corruption results in the corrosion of ethics and values in an entire society, and ripples across all aspects of our daily lives. Already, we are seeing the increasing seepage in the private sector, where it is quite common place for doctors to take kick-backs, for contractors to grease company accountants for speedy payments, for travel agents, printers, etc to vie for business with back-room deals with employees. And we are the same citizens who are outraged by corruption in government. It is time to admit that we are all part of the same problem that we are angry about.
There is one step that each of us can take, to stem the rot.
This Independence Day, I PLEDGE not to become part of the problem. – I PLEDGE not to ever pay a bribe.
- Swati Ramanathan
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