Op-Ed

Self-Righteousness Activists Should Also Look Within

Krishnaraj Rao,  BeyondHeadlines

In context to Anna Hazare’s campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill, as well as Baba Ramdev’s campaign for bringing back money stashed abroad,  I have been wondering if self-righteous “civil society” activists even care to look within.

In recent years, I have been visiting several municipal offices, government offices, police stations, State Information Commissions and other departments to collect information under RTI Act, or file complaints and hold meetings.

We activists want to clean up the system — government, police, judiciary — abolish corruption; bring reforms, transparency, accountability, rule of law etc. But in our reformist zeal, we fail to see the obvious, and this earns us the contempt and ill-will of both administrators and the common man. We start out with the wrong assumptions, and therefore, we condemn our actions to failure.

Here are some obvious truths that activists (including myself) habitually overlook:

Government officials, political leaders, members in judiciary are all products of the system designed by, headed by and manned by people from amongst you and me. So why do we habitually consider them as conspirators, hypocrites and sinners?

Yes, many of them have privileged access to ‘the system’, and insider knowledge of the key decisions being taken. True, they are abusing this access and knowledge for private gains. But if placed in the same shoes, can one put hand at heart and assure that we would behave differently?

At all cost, we all must be humble and avoid being self-righteousness to stay focused on reforming the system that breeds corruption.

There are some – such as Prashant, Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Justice Santosh Hegde – who have a fairly deep understanding of the system. However, there are others who have never shouldered responsibilities of governance. Ironically, they are the ones whose voices are the most shrill when they condemn political leaders and top bureaucrats, who have shouldered these responsibilities for decades!

The yardstick that applies to government also applies to us. It is true that our government and administration, at every level, are far from ideal. To a large extent, they are nor transparent and accountable.  But are our decisions and actions truly transparent and democratic enough?

From my experiences as members in the managing committees of chambers of commerce, trade associations, clubs, cooperative societies, Gandhian institutions, NGOs etc, I can vouch that they generally don’t function in a democratic and open manner.

I am yet to see elections of such bodies held through secret ballot, or one general body resolution passed with a truly informed consensus, without social coercion. So let us not have unrealistic expectations from people in governance. We all are from the same breed.

I do not in remotest implying that we all should hung up our boots and leave what we like to call ‘activism’ or learn to live with the system.

I am of course against corruption and support the cause of ‘India Against corruption.’ But that does not make me enemy of the government and I do not hate those whom I voted to power.

As a free citizen of this country, I refuse to be manipulated by the cheerleaders of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev into taking a position that is anti-government and anti-establishment.

Krishnaraj Rao is an RTI Activist based in Mumbai, Mahrashtra and can be reached at sahasipadyatri@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.

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