Sunday, February 6, 2011

Citizens’ (Luhar) Ka Ek…

Today it is a cacophony in the public space; important people scream judgments about each other and the rest of us sit by and watch a tamasha, confused and disillusioned… Scapegoats are hounded in the name of getting at the root of corruption; actresses are now being targeted in the game of pulling everyone into the mud…

Is it apt to hound Raja to solve the problem of corruption… the intellectual din is not allowing anyone to get to the root of the problem. Can we rise above all that noise? Where is the root of the corruption? How do we hit it and hit it hard?

In this last of the five article series, we look at where Indians should spend their energies, focus them like a lens and truly deliver a hard blow at corruption… If a billion people ask for it, who will get in the way?

(Click here to return to summary)

So where does one start setting things right in respect of corruption? It is unrealistic to expect ‘education’ to solve the problem since it would involve bringing about a positive and across-the-board change in teachers all over the country. Spiritual lights could help but in the spiritual and religious arena there is little cooperation. Then icons of all kinds in society, sports, films etc could help but what would inspire them act together to a single plan…? Difficult to conceive really… The best hope is in the political field…

Politicians have a decisive role in creating laws, and in running the government. They also occupy a place in society that was occupied earlier by the likes of Nehru, Patel, and Shastri so people do look up to them. They can hugely affect the outcomes in areas that matter to checking corruption. But then we have reasons to believe that the filter process of elections is not throwing up the best of men for the job…

If India should have hope of getting in a batch of top class Indians into the parliament it is the filter process that needs rectification; elections need reform.

That brings us to a long list of election reforms but taking them all on can lead to great dissipation of energies. Ask for too much and get nothing… ask for the core… the rest will follow…

The ceiling on election spending should go and along with that the entire process of collection and expenditure of funds for elections and for running political parties should be made transparent.

One can just imagine, if we do not know who is sponsoring our candidates, it could be anyone from the Soviet Union to the CIA to Al-quida, to some oil baron from the Arab countries, to some mafia don from Mumbai. If these people are impacting our highest forum… hopefully they are not… but should we all not know…?

A transparency and a reformed election spending lawn are the needs of the hour.

We need to ensure through a parliamentary law that the income and expenditure of political parties are audited; income and expenditure statements for elections are to be audited; and both kept open for tax and public scrutiny. And along with that they will ensure that if there is a ceiling of expenditure for elections, it will be at realistic levels arrived at through a sensible calculation or then no ceiling need exist at all…

A period of six months is enough by which the present parliament should be able to draft, discuss and pass a bill that ensures transparency.

Here is what we need to do.

Pin down each parliamentarian on this issue of transparency in the system and don’t let him wriggle out;
Let the people in the respective constituencies know of the stance taken by each of the parliamentarians on this matter

Don’t allow the high and mighty to sit mum especially when they are all committed to removing corruption from public life… and

Ask all of them why they are not allowing the admission of ‘Mariyada Purushottam’ into the parliament.

Remember that the political class is vocal and can play to the gallery. They will say such things as ‘we have kept a ceiling to ensure that everyone can contest’—it is a façade. And given their talent they will use diversionary tactics of setting up commissions, having discussions, look for consensus, link it to other controversial issues… when such things happen know that the politician is up to his game…

If one is serious about cleaning up the process, it is not the pimples one should go after; clear the blood. The game is not about judging individuals; the need is to create a filter process in elections where talent and high values get into the parliament—the system needs correction.

In the field of political action there is need for simplicity and focus, whatever the changes, finally one needs to ensure the following three things:

1) Transparency in accounting in Elections
2) Transparency in accounting in political parties
3) Ensure removal of all caps on spending for elections.

The election Commission and other experts already have well thought out drafts for these particular laws; if we focus on these three categories of laws and get the parliament to pass the same then the general elections of 2014 can be a turning point for us.

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