Sunday, August 21, 2011


I finished 3 days of relay fasting today morning, and now its time to start the fourth day tomorrow. I didn't want to take a leave from work, so decided to fast alternate days while working. Its not as easy as it sounds, believe me. Spending an entire day, working, travelling, talking to people, going to Freedom Park whenever possible, and trying your best to remain cool, all this while having just water in your system - Its difficult. Doing this over a week every alternate day, its even more difficult.

I didn't feel much the first two days of the fast, but the third day, I could feel a strange kind of a lethargy creeping over me. I grew silent and introvert, my thoughts eating up my hungry self. Today, I have been eating all day, but somehow, my body seems to be recuperating from some illness. My cheeks look sunken, and I look terrible, people say. My body has slowly started persuading me to stop, and her arguments are tempting.

But I don't want to stop. There are some causes for which you should do something, anything. Then, there are some causes for which you must do everything, everything that's possible. This is one of them. If I won't, who will? If not now, when? And if I don't give it my best now, how will I ever live with myself?

As a kid, I grew up listening to the stories of our freedom fighters, listening to how the greed of a few people cost us our freedom and the bravery of a lot many won it back for us. And when I listened to them, I told myself - I won't be selfish, I will be brave, like my freedom fighters. I grew up in the world of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, and I grew up with the assertion that I will be courageous like my heroes, I will be strong, and I will stand up for the Good. If I don't live up to my own words, who will? If I don't become my own hero, who will?

Yes, my body is complaining. Yes, she is tired. But more dreadful than this fatigue is this chilling feeling - What if this crusade doesn't work out? What if there aren't enough people? What if, even after getting this one opportunity, we fail? Will I be forced to live in this corrupt India? Will I have to bear with all the injustice around me, even if it kills my heart to look at it? I would rather live with a tired body for a fortnight, than with a sorry heart for a lifetime. That's my reason.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Jan Lokpal

A lot of people I know believe that the entire nation fighting for one bill to be passed against corruption is not justified. There is a widespread belief that a bill cannot root corruption, that corruption is a mindset which every individual has to let go of. That we have to first stop giving bribes ourselves, and then only can the problem of corruption be addressed. I disagree. I agree, on the other hand, with Anna. And I know this is being really imposing, but I want you to understand why I say this so confidently. I will first elucidate why I think this school of thoughts might not work, and then I will tell you why the bill will.

A. Why the individual fight against corruption might not work:
1. These are all Utopian imaginations, and we, unfortunately, live in India. This is the country where people won't throw a plastic in the dustbin voluntarily, even though it doesn't cost them anything. Do you really expect 1.2 billion people to change their attitude, when it will cost them a lot of comfort?

2. You and me want to change, do you know why? Because we are the bribe payers. Give me one reason why the bribe takers will want to change.

3. I know, if nobody in the country gives a bribe, what will the takers do? Thing is, corruption isn't just about the small 100 Rs. bribes circulated among the middle class. The corruption which affects the nation is at a much larger scale, and the people involved needn't be Indians in such cases. Right there, this theory crumples down. (Go to Things You Should Know for an example.)

Why Jan Lokpal:
1. Can I safely assume that the government officials and bereaucrats do not form more than 30% of our population? I will, for now. Now, corruption is a two way process, as you said. Disable one side, and the process stops. Its easier, arithmetically, to control the 30% of the population, the bribe takers, than it is to control the rest 70%, the bribe givers, don't you think?

2. The above-mentioned bribe-takers wouldn't give up corruption voluntarily, ever. They have to be made to do so. Hence we need something that makes them do so - law, punishment, force. Jan Lokpal.

3. No bill can remove 100% corruption. The Jan Lokpal promises around 60% reduction. But the presence of an authority which has prosecuted 60% of the criminals instills a sense of fear, at least in the minds of the officials of lesser stature. That helps induce a non-corrupt mindset. We are a lot more closer to Utopia already!

4. Nothing stops the Jan Lokpal from being corrupt, except that the Jan Lokpal can be prosecuted by another Lokpal. But we will get a chance to elect them again. All we have to do is ensure we don't vote for the one who has been corrupt. Note that this committee will be structurally much simpler than our Parliament. So we will have a much bigger say in their election. Also, a big number of them will be civilians having no ties with politics or bureaucracy. There would be a lesser conflict of interest there.

C. Why you should fight for the Jan Lokpal even if you think all of this was bullshit:
1. These protests have been a nightmare for the government. Next time they will watch their step. And every added protestant will increase their fear. The next Government, whichever it is, will dare not commit the mistake this one did.

2. These protests have made working against corruption a 'cool' thing. India Against Corruption has hammered the message of 'Every Indian Anna Hazare' deep and clean. People will now be more courageous against the day to day bribery. They won't be ashamed of saying No.

D. If you still don't want to fight:
The administration has been callous towards tackling corruption with an iron fist. Every Indian who doesn't fight against this attitude, justifies it. If you don't fight, the Government takes that as a vote of your confidence. Register your dissent, just to assert what you want. Protest, just to remind them, that you are the one they represent, you are the one they should work for, and you are the one who inspires their decisions. Protest, just to tell them that you care, and so, they must, too.

E. If you disagree, still
Do  you know of any other way, one that will actually work?

P.S. Obviously, no single bill can end corruption, Jan Lokpal is not a magic wand, and anybody who believes so is seriously mistaken. But at the same time, those who claim that the bill is unfair because it covers only the politicians, are being extremely negative and unrealistic. This bill is a start. This protest is a beginning. And we have a long way to go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things You Should Know

Many of you think that corruption is not the only thing plaguing our nation. You are right. But there is a good chance you are underestimating what corruption does to us. You know of the small Rs. 100 bribes you pay in your everyday life, or of the 2 lakh crore scams which make it to the headlines. There's more to it, and its hidden. You know the overall picture of these things, but not the grisly details. And they make a lot of difference.

I will explain that with an example. Do you know about Enron and and the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB)? Sure, you have heard the name. Have you heard this then, that the Government of Maharashtra pays them 1000 crores a year, more than 2.5 crores a day, even today, for nothing in return? Do you want to know why? Read on.

Enron is a US based natural gas company, which in 1993 started India's first private power project. The MSEB (was forced to) pay $30 billion for a 675+2015 MW Power Plant in Maharashtra. The gross profit earned by Enron for the project was a little more than $12  billions. Yes, dollars, in bllions. Adding 2685 MW causes an 18% increase in MSEB's capacity, and 30 billion USD is 70% of MSEB's revenue.

Later, the power that the Enron project produced was 2 times as costly as its nearest competitor, and 7 times as costly as the cheapest electricity available in Maharashtra. So it was decided to better pay Enron the compulsory fixed charges required to maintain and run the plant (as a part of the contract) than actually buy the electricity they produce. The fixed charges work out to be 1000 crore a year for the phase I, i.e. the 675 MW plant, alone. 1000 crores a year for the next 40 years. That could perhaps be the reason why Maharashtra, especially Vidarbha, faces such an acute shortage of electricity. They are paying but not getting any electricity in return.

When the deal's negotiations were in progress, being undertaken by the Congress-led State Government on Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena Opposition were accusing the Congress of having taken a 700 crore bribe. The Enron itself acknowledged that it had spent millions of dollar in 'educating' the politicians and bureaucrats involved in the deal. The opposition by BJP-Shivsena led to the annuling of the bill. So then, how and why was the bill passed, you ask? Later, the BJP-Shivsena alliance got elected for a government at the Centre, and this Government lasted for 13 days. On their last day, amidst all the last day drama, they re-ratified the national government's counter agreement for the deal. After a couple of months, the BJP-led government in the Maharashtra State signed the deal with the above mentioned terms.

In my hometown in Maharashtra, in summers, we get electricity only 12 hours a day. And the number is decreasing every year. So now, you can extend this information to other situations logically. You know most of them. You have bad roads because dishonest and inefficient construction firms bribe the government for contracts. Perhaps, in some years to come, we will realise what a hoax the Nuclear Deal was. But the American companies won't lose a penny. They have the Civic Liabilities Bill. The politicians who took the bribes would be retired and happy by then. We, the people, and our country will bleed out the expenses.

If you want to read more about this and a few more things, try Arundhati Roy's The Algebra of Infinite Justice. Most of the numbers and statistics are borrowed from there.


An old man sent to jail before he committed something you call a crime, over 5000 detained for, well, not eating and fighting against corruption, peaceful mutinies all over the nation that you cannot control without force... Does that ring a bell? Oh wait, I remember! It reminds me of the colonial British Raj! But no, this used to happen when we were not independent, right? But now we are free, right?

Stop trying to be on both the ships, so you can decide which one to leave when it sinks. Rats do that. Speaking of rats, I always thought of you as monkeys rather than rats, seeing you have a Vanarsena at your disposal. But perhaps their courage and bravery comes useful only when Muslims are to be killed or partygoers are to be assaulted.

Nitin Gadkari,
Nobody goes to a party uninvited. Thing is, this is not a party, people are actually starving here.

Politicians in general,
Just a question out of curiosity - did you ever, as a kid, hold an Indian flag in your hand? Or, have you seen your kids doing that? (A pointer to help you remember: people look happy and proud when they hold it, not haughty, shrewd or gleeful.)
And oh, sorry for wasting your time with this question Ms. Gandhi. I know you didn't, so Your Highness and Your Kids are exempted of the shame.

All those citizens of India who know and understand what's happening, but have decided not to do anything about it,
Please explain to me how your mind or heart works. I need to understand. No, really, I do.

All the Indians who are doing something, anything!
Hang on there. You are this country's only hope, howsoever feeble it might be. Keep doing your better.

The day you were born, we got someone much better than what we deserved. Stay alive. Please.