Oh God Make Me Holy, But Not Today

Use your power wisely

Use your power wisely

It is the time of election,
You’ve got to vote for someone!
None is purer than Satan,
It’s a shame, but it’s got to be done!!

They give money and freebies,
And try to buy our voting power!
Only when you sell it for few rupees,
The servant becomes the master!!

Occupying the highest office,
They do nothing but promise!
They must say when they pray,
Oh God make me Holy, but not today!!

Five reasons why thousands are fasting with Anna Hazare?

Anna Hazare began his fast unto death yesterday in support of a stronger Jan Lokpal Bill to fight corruption. He is fasting in front of Jantar Mantar, Delhi and asking the government to create a joint committee with top members from the government and civil society to draft the bill. In support, thousands of people from over 400 cities in India and abroad are sitting on similar fasts. A few members are sitting on a fast unto death while many are doing relay fasting. People from all backgrounds, students, professionals, activists, are participating in the fast for one cause, a stronger anti-corruption bill. Many people are fasting from their work or home in support of Anna ji.

The media coverage of his fast has been very good and heartening to see. It will surely help in spreading awareness about the issue to the general public. Here are five reasons I think thousands have joined in support of “India Against Corruption” and why you should also join and contribute to this movement.

1. Fast for your country
We all fast, at different times, for our religion, some festival or for someone. Fasting holds a very important place in our culture, and we take pride in our traditions. This time, thousands are fasting for the country. People from different religions, castes, states have come together to fast for a disease which affects all of us, corruption. In these days, we rarely get to see the face of united India. We recently saw when the whole country celebrated the World Cup triumph and there were celebrations on the streets. Let us get behind Anna Hazare and fast for our country in the same spirit, and I have no doubt corruption (or any other issue) will be gone in no time if India unites and all Indians stand up for a just society.

2. Anna is doing this for us at 73 years
“At 73 years, Anna is not fasting for himself, he is fasting for the future of my kid. I will myself fast on 5th April for a day and ask my 5 year daughter also to skip a meal.” Rakesh, a software engineer said. And very rightly so, if Anna Hazare can fast until death for a corruption free future for us and our children, can’t we join him for one day in support. Seeing more and more people behind him will give Anna and India Against Corruption movement a lot of courage and confidence. It is also a chance for all of us to show we care about our future, the future of our kids and a corruption free India.

Anna Hazare, with Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi

Anna Hazare, with Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi

3. Spreading awareness
By fasting for one day, two days, alternate days, or whatever time and duration you are comfortable with, you can spread awareness among people around you about India Against Corruption movement. You can be a part of this movement by saying “I fast with Anna Hazare against corruption.” You can share and post about it on your mail, status messages on facebook, twitter, etc. We need more and more people behind this to put pressure on the government to bring a strong anti-corruption law, and each one of us can do our bit for it.

4. We only need a decent environment to live in
Most of us don’t want to be involved in politics or public affairs. And that is why we choose a government. We only need a fair society to live in. We need good roads to travel, good schools for our children, buses and trains for us to travel. We ask for nothing more. We are decent people only asking for a decent environment to live in. And we deserve it. The current environment has been polluted by corruption and the government has not taken steps to curb it. It is high time we realize our duties as citizens and peacefully demand what we deserve.

5. Corruption can, and must, end
Most of us see corruption as a problem which is deep rooted in our society and which can’t be eradicated. But history is proof that if committed citizens come together for change, anything is possible. The case of Hong Kong is one major example. Hong Kong was so corrupt during the 1960s that it was an open secret and a way of life. And the government seemed powerless to do anything about it. But in the early 1970s, one event after another triggered off a storm of public protests and a powerful and independent agency was setup to deal with corruption. The Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC, was created in 1974 and now Hong Kong is one of the most cleanest and corruption free cities to work in. Similarly, it might look there is no end to the problem today, but seeing in perspective, this is our time to act and be the cause in the matter of a corruption free society.

So participate in the fast, for whatever duration you like and be a part of the movement. Spread the word to your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, everyone. I will end with this quote by Edward Abbey – “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government“.

Fast with Anna

He is going on a fast unto death,
Anna Hazare has declared!
Let us say with our every breath,
The corrupt will not be spared!!

We demand the Jan Lokpal Bill,
Will not settle for anything less!
Let them not test our will,
It is time our problems they redress!!

All of us have come together,
And fasting on 5th Apr/16th Aug in unity!
Sacrificing our meals for the future,
We demand retribution for the guilty!!

It is the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi,
And the Freedom Park in Bangalore!
Join the fast venue in your city,
To show you care, and will not ignore!!

Or fast at your workplace,
And wear a badge for the cause!
Invite others you see and face,
High time we replace the old laws!!

By fasting in every town and city,
It is time to make a statement!
By taking collective action we,
Will turn this fast into a movement!!

Fast in whichever city you are

Fast in whichever city you are

What is Jan Lokpal Bill?

Update on 18 Oct – I have tried to answer some commonly asked questions about this movement, and also written about what all it will take to become an Anna Hazare..

I thought it right to write a post describing what Jan Lokpal Bill is and why is it needed. To give a brief history, Lokpal Bill was first introduced in parliament in 1968. It has been brought in parliament on eight times on later occasions, but has never been passed by the parliament. It is a bill that is supposed to give powers to citizens to sue the people responsible for corruption. A similar kind of independent agency disappeared corruption from Hong Kong a few decades ago.

The government is again thinking of introducing a Lokpal Bill in parliament this year, and the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Sonia Gandhi is considering it. But as it stands today, the bill is riddled with loopholes, defeating its very purpose. Social activists have remarked it to be a toothless bill and not at all acceptable. An alternative bill, the Jan Lokpal Bill has been drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal after series of consultations with public and social activists. This bill is supported by Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan, Anna Hazare, etc.

The Dandi March 2 event and the subsequent ‘fast unto death’ by Anna Hazare from April 5 and Aug 16 were in support of this ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’. The activists have already sent the bill to the PM and all CMs but there has been no response. After the ‘fast unto death’ was announced by Anna Hazare, he was invited for talks by the PM, but the response was bad as the PM said the government has no time for corruption till May 13. This after the numerous corruption scams like the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Society, 2G scam being uncovered in the past months.

The Zero Rupee Note - Stop Corruption

The Zero Rupee Note - Stop Corruption

The present system to fight corruption in India can be described in some points as below –

  1. The Anti Corruption Branch and CBI comes under the government. Despite having evidence, it is very difficult to convict people as they have to take permission from the same bosses, against whom the case has to be investigated.
  2. No corrupt officer is dismissed from the job because Central Vigilance Commission, which is supposed to dismiss corrupt officers, is only an advisory body. Whenever it advises government to dismiss any senior corrupt officer, its advice is never implemented.
  3. No action is taken against corrupt judges because permission is required from the Chief Justice of India to even register an FIR against corrupt judges
  4. The functioning of CBI and vigilance departments is secret and hence it promotes corruption.
  5. Weak and corrupt people are appointed as heads of these institutions by the government.
  6. Citizens face harassment in government offices. Sometimes they are forced to pay bribes. One can only complaint to senior officers. No action is taken on complaints because senior officers also get their cut.
  7. Nothing in law to recover ill gotten wealth. A corrupt person can come out of jail and enjoy that money.
  8. Small punishment for corruption- Punishment for corruption is minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years.

As you can see, in the present system, there is no deterrent for any public official to engage in an act of corruption. Some of the salient features of the Jan Lokpal Bill are –

  1. An institution called LOKPAL in the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up. These institutions will completely independent of the governments, just like the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. No minister can influence their investigations.
  2. Investigation in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt officer, or politician goes to jail in two years max.
  3. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
  4. If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time.
  5. Election of Lokpal officials – What if government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
  6. What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
  7. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
  8. The punishment would be minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment.

Please read my two poems “Fast with Anna” and “Messenger of Hope” and join in this fight against corruption. We must remember Anna and others on fast are fighting for US and OUR India

Why our country needs a revolution like Egypt?

The recent crisis and revolution in Egypt forced their President of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak to resign and pave the way for a civilian government. Egypt has remained under emergency rule ever since Hosni Mubarak came to power three decades ago and he has ruled Egypt with an iron fist since then. But all it took was 18 days of protests by the Egyptian public at the symbolic Tahrir square that forced Mubarak to relent to the demands. Though hundreds of lives were lost in the protests, it marks the sacrifice people have given for demanding their right to a democratic government. With the world media focussed on Egypt, and social media like Facebook and Twitter making it impossible to stop what was happening in Egypt from coming out, it was impossible to crush the rebellion as had been done in China and other countries earlier.

In our country too, we have seen protests in the past. In fact, such peaceful protests all over the world have been inspired by none other than our own Bapu. He lead the country in peaceful protests against the British rule, inspiring leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela in the process. Our forefathers had come together and raised their voice in unity for their right of self governance from the British. We can say that we have inherited the ability to protest peacefully to demand our rights from the government. After independence too, we have seen protests during the emergency period in the 1970s and the recent anti-reservation protests in 2006 where students marched against the governments decision to implement 27% caste based reservation in educational institutions.

Today we live in a democratic country. As a country, we are governed by the constitution which was framed in 1949. Unlike Egypt, we have a government which is answerable to its citizens, and which in fact is chosen by its citizens. Our democracy, as with most democracies, came into being after an era of protests. Protesting for our rights and for what is rightfully ours is not only within our rights as per the constitution, it is also our duty as responsible citizens. Considering the current state of our society which I have mentioned in previous posts like “The India of Today” and “The Irony of living in India”, we more than anyone else need a public uprising and peaceful protests under the principles of Gandhi and Nehru. We have an obligation to our forefathers, and to our children and grand children, to give them an India which our forefathers dreamed of. And there is no reason we can not make the current government and its officials accountable for their responsibilities towards the nation.

Although the principles of such a revolution will be the same as followed during the Independence struggle, the objective would be very different. India protested against a foreign rule before Independence, for the right of self-governance. However, right now we have self governance, but any protest will be to stop the rampant corruption in the system and ensuring our constitution doesn’t only remain a text. The protest should be to make the government officials accountable to the people and to the constitution. The protest could include appealing to the courts, making use of the law as it exists today to make sure we are not denied of our fundamental rights. If these modes of protest won’t work, we can turn to public protest. This can be in the form of strikes, civil disobedience or plain old gatherings to make the government take notice.

Anti Reservation Protests in 2006

Anti Reservation Protests in 2006

We have seen some protest in the last decade, like after the Jessica Lall murder case, after the reservation decision by the HRD ministry, after the Mumbai terror attacks and most recently, in Jammu and Kashmir. All these protests have been triggered by some event or tragedy which has shook the nation emotionally. However, the rampant corruption and neglect of civilians by the politicians and babus has continued ever since independence. They are supposed to be public servants and at the service of the common people. But they have gotten into the skins the Britishers left behind and never treated their jobs as a service to the nation.

Having said that, we have no right to blame the government being in a democracy. We have elected this government by our own votes, and we have the power to overthrow it the next time. We give excuses to ourselves by saying that all parties are the same and nothing can be done. By thinking so, and suffering silently at the hands of the government, we are not acting as responsible citizens either. Only responsible citizens have the right to have a responsible government, and I think we have ourselves to blame for our condition. If we don’t give bribes no matter what the cost, our officials can’t be corrupt. If we don’t sit silently over the injustice happening around us, it would never give confidence to the wrong doers to continue their act. What I am trying to say that we are equally responsible for our condition, and its not only because of the government or the babus or the system.

A symbolic image of the 2006 protests

A symbolic image of the 2006 protests

A protest against this has to start with ourselves. We need to act like model citizens as the first step of our demand of an accountable government. We need to stop giving bribes to corrupt officials, we need to stop being resigned about our government and take legal actions in case of any injustice. We need to take the means which are written in the constitution and follow our fundamental duties to be rightful claimants of our rights. Now, as with every protest, we have to bear some hardships and give some sacrifices in order to gain what we want. There might be times, when the government/police try to forcefully threaten us under the guise of law and order. But we have to stood our ground, and suffer patiently without being aggressive as a sacrifice for our future generations.

We have to follow the same powerful principles which the Father of the Nation, Mahatama Gandhi advocated. We have to hate the sin, and not the sinner. We have to smile at them, treat them with respect, even when they shout at us, beat us or threaten us. We have to follow what Gandhi said, “There might be reasons for which I am willing to give my life for, but there is no reason I am willing to kill”. We have to abjure from violence at all costs, and violence means all kinds of aggression. Not just the aggression from our actions, but aggression from our heart. When our fellow Indians could make this work against the Britishers, why can’t we act with compassion with our officials, who are after all our own brothers and sisters. We have to follow his words “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” as we go about being responsible citizens.