Sunday, August 28, 2011

Are you Anna?

The recent Lokpal issue-led revolution by Anna Hazare has been a great victory for India. It has shown the world that voice of the people can be expressed in a peaceful nonviolent way to have an impact of historic proportions. For anyone who was not present to witness the pre-independence struggle of India, this was a great way to get a glimpse of what India went through to get independence from the British. In the age of sophisticated military and terrorist warfare comprising of unmanned drones, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, it is great to know that the Gandhian principle of non-violence is still as effective as ever.

There are widespread celebrations across the world about the success of this revolution. Social media is abuzz with media, celebrities and the people congratulating the common man on the victory against corruption. I feel this is well deserved and appropriate. But this is also a time to reflect and see what this really means for all of us when the emotional energy fades away. I believe this victory should be treated as a first successful step in a long journey that never ends.

It takes two to tango. People have conveniently ignored the fact that the other side of corruption is us - the very people who are fighting against corruption. While the person receiving a favor or a bribe is always portrayed as the villain, let's take a brief moment to look at the other side of that trade. In many cases, going the easy route is usually a matter of convenience and is not perceived as corruption. Rationalizing by saying that the bribe receiver is forcing us to do it is no longer an honest argument in the post-Lokpal era. In a country like India the infrastructure, systems and affordability are equally responsible for the state of corruption.

Are you Anna? Here are some questions I want you to answer before you answer this question. Do you declare all your assets and sources of income to the income tax department? What do you declare to the customs official while returning from your trip abroad? What do you choose to do if you have to take leave from work to stand in line at a government office to get a license or a document? Do you offer to pay cash instead of cheque to get a discount at your shop? Are you a consumer of illegal software, music and movies? What will you do when your own son or daughter can get a life changing education if you take just one difficult decision? What will you do when you have a sick child needing urgent attention waiting in line for a hospital bed? There are countless such questions and the answers are not easy. It will take time for us to get there and the only way we can get there is acknowledging our role in the transformation process.

So let me ask again - Are you Anna? I think a more appropriate phrase to use is "I want to be Anna" and not "I am Anna". All I can say is, saying you are Anna and being Anna are two completely different things. That shouldn't come as a surprise to us because otherwise we would have seen at least a dozen Mahatma Gandhijis in 100 years. I don't want us to beat ourselves because of our shortcomings. Aspiring to follow a higher standard itself can bring about revolutionary changes even if we fall short at the fringes. But it would be foolish for us to declare victory saying it is all someone else's fault and we have solved the problem.