Finally, it seems that there will be an end to all corrupt practices. Everyone will be transparent and accountable. People will become sovereign and lokpal (ombudsman). Pray this happens!
But I cannot stop thinking what is so special about the said Lokpal or Jan Lokpal Bill. Will it be able to do what all anti-graft bills failed to do miserably? That is yet to be seen. But one thing is sure that the accumulated angst of people has finally found a vent in the form of Anna and his rallying crowd. I will take the liberty of calling it a safety valve, which indirectly has only helped the government ease the tension against corruption.
When the Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed in 2005, people had similar expectations. In fact, this is the very act that has made both Anna and his newly found lieutenant and media savvy Arvind Kejriwal. In fact, both of them subsequently won the prestigious Magsaysay award as well.
However, Anna now seems to desert the same RTI. I remember the incident when a few months back, an RTI activist went to him taking the case of the irregularities being practiced in the appointment of the Maharashtra information commissioner, but this Modian Anna did not listen to him. The RTI activist then sat on dharna (sit-in) before Anna’s ashram. At that time neither Anna supported him nor even any media organisation. Perhaps, he did not know how to manage the media and was not strategic enough. It’s a different story though that he himself has worked in the mainstream media. The irony was that Anna, who himself sits on hunger strike for a “noble cause,” called the police and got the RTI activist thrown out from that place. This is how a person who has been termed anti-corruption crusader treats his fellow comrades.
But Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi praising Anna does not regard Baba Ramdev, who recently came in headlines for his close nexus with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as corrupt. Even Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav came for his blessings. There have also been charges of corruption against him.
Corporates, politicians of all colours, NGOs and those who have always opposed reservation for the down trodden, all came in his open support.
Too much have been written and spoken about Anna in the last two weeks, but not much about his team of “trusted” camaraderie. I shall here delve a bit on at least two of them.
Riding on the Sunder Nagri campaign, Arvind Kejriwal won the Magsaysay award. Alas! not much has changed in Sunder Nagri so far. Now Arvind has reached a great height, but Sundar Nagri is still there with no change in the condition of its people. Sundar Nagri is mainly resided by Muslims but unfortunately, a handful of people know Arvind. He helped set up the “model” RTI call centre — one of the projects that made Nitish Kumar an “effective” chief Minister — in Bihar. But the condition is of this call centre in the state is so pathetic that it is better to forget about that. It is not so that Arvind does not have knowledge about the present state of the call centre. With these efforts, Arvind got what he desired. Nitish emerged as the great beneficiary of this effort.
Now Arvind does not prefer to attend smaller projects and seminars on RTI. He organises RTI awards and national level campaigns these days. This easily extracts funds from big corporate houses like Tata, Infosys, etc.
I had personally taken an initiative to make all activists fighting for accountability and transparency to come under the ambit of the RTI Act. I had filed RTI applications to 10 such activists and organisations. I had filed similar RTI application to Arvind Kejriwal’s Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) in 2010. In the half-hearted information, his organisation replied that they “do not come under the purview of the RTI Act” and therefore, they do not maintain all documents and receipts.
I had also sought information on the asset details and functioning of Parivartan, another organisation run by Arvind. But it also did not give any detail and said that Privartan was a public revolution and that it did not get any government fund. It is interesting and worth noticing here that those who claim to be working for transparency and accountability themselves are not transparent and hesitate to give any detail. And at last, I don’t remember reading that a revolution cannot have vested interests.
(Afroz can be reached at email@example.com)