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A city sans corruption. Really?

On Thursday morning, as some colleagues and I walked towards Jantar Mantar to see for ourselves Anna Hazare and the crowd of protesters rallying with him, a volunteer handed me a yellowing pamphlet about the Jan Lokpal Bill.

entertainment Updated: Apr 09, 2011 00:43 IST
Damini Purkayastha

On Thursday morning, as some colleagues and I walked towards Jantar Mantar to see for ourselves Anna Hazare and the crowd of protesters rallying with him, a volunteer handed me a yellowing pamphlet about the Jan Lokpal Bill. Written by the India Against Corruption society, it explains in layman’s terms what the much-talked about Bill will mean for you and me.



The pamphlet had a 9-point summary explaining the concept of the Lokpal as a body against corruption. As I skimmed through it, one sentence caught my eye. It said: “You could approach the Lokpal if the police is not registering your case.”



Any Delhiite who’s ever had to register an FIR will understand why this particular sentence stood out for me! You understand, don’t you, how empowering this could be?



Just two weeks ago, on a bright Sunday afternoon, I found myself at a police station, trying in vain to report a theft. My mother’s wallet had been stolen outside a mall and the cop on duty was trying to convince us why “lost” was a more appropriate word than “stolen” to use in an FIR . We needed the FIR more than him and he knew we would relent. We did. What choice did we have?


The Oxford English Dictionary defines corruption as ‘dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery’. In Delhi, we define corruption as survival. Bribery, touts, jugaad and other variants of rule-bending have become the norm— so much so that we don’t even consider it corruption any more.



My neighbour, Sudeep, chose to get his passport renewed through a tout rather than face any harassment at the Ghaziabad passport office. Every single person I know has bribed a traffic cop at least once. According to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, 54% Indians said they have paid bribes.



We don’t think it’s wrong, because there seems to be nothing we can do about it. But, what if there was something we could do? What if this utopian bill actually fulfills its promises — to form an organisation unaffiliated to bureaucracy or politics, to investigate any complaint against corruption within one year, and to be open to citizens regardless of who they complain about?



My question is, if our voices could be heard one day, are we really ready to stand up and shout? And has that moment arrived now?