Common man as crusader
Record-breaking polling turnouts. Swelling debates on social networking sites. Simmering discontent with corruption in everyday life. Are these signs of India Churning?
"This computer literate generation that’s integrating village and city is leading a dynamic movement. The voter turnouts reflect this," says Delhi-based sociologist Susan Visvanathan. "Across the country, people are wanting ‘to know’, which leads to action," she adds.
According to Nishant Shah, director of research at Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, a social cause on networking sites has never reached the levels that corruption did last year. “The movement targeted at the middle-class for whom corruption is a big issue was also the first middle-class movement in a long time.”
Citizens Resource and Action Initiative (Cranti) – a 2009 social movement led by activist-dancer Mallika Sarabhai became a street play in 2010. It’s about reminding people about their rights. The movement recently embarked on a voters’ awareness yatra in Gujarat. Director Bharatsingh Zala says citizens are becoming aware about how the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and corporates is depriving them. “People have lost patience and realised that unless they become vigilant, entrenched and pervasive, corruption will not end.”
India scored 3.1 on a scale of 0 to 10 (0=most corrupt, 10=most honest) on the latest Corruption Perception Index released by global civil society corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI). The score was down from 3.3 in 2010 and 3.4 in 2009. India ranked 95 out of 183 countries, more corrupt than China (75) and better off than Pakistan (134). The organisation has been working to get the Right to Service Act passed, which is the right to get a service in X number of days. Ten states have already enacted it. TI is also working on an Integrity Pact, which is the commitment of public sector undertakings (PSU) to have complaints looked into by external independent monitors. So far, 14 PSUs have signed up. “There is a shift in attitudes now. People are voicing their resentment with corruption, a reality they accepted earlier. Tools such as the Right To Information have been effective,” says PS Bawa, chairman of TI India.
Various socio-cultural battles are being fought in India according to sociologist Shiv Visvanathan. “The mindset of the middle-class is changing which was cynical of the political system. Corruption was earlier a civil society issue with the state and party being indifferent to it. Now, the issue has become big. But the scale of anti-corruption protest is one thing, to integrate it into one’s lifestyle/livelihood is another,” he says.
There’s a long way to go. Gerson Da Cunha, convener-trustee of Agni, a 12-year-old movement for good governance in Mumbai, feels the anti-corruption movement is a ripple than a churning right now. “We can’t see a cultural shift to a cleaner administrative life until the political system stops being the generator of unaccounted money,” he says.
With inputs from Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad.