Kudos to our Chief Minister. I was so very happy when he announced his support for our fight against corruption by saluting Anna Hazare and by writing him that long letter pledging his support. And I was even more thrilled to hear that the Gujarat Chief Justice, the Governor and the Leader of the Opposition have agreed upon the name of retired Justice S Dave as the new (and 7 years overdue) Lokayukta. As the Lokpal and the Lokayukta are the corner stones of the new Lokpal Bill which Sri Modi supports, I am sure he will welcome this. Justice Dave is widely believed to be a man of integrity and courage and that is what Annaji says a Lokpal or Lokayukta must be. There can, therefore be no reason for our government or the Chief Minister not to install him immediately. For a government that is not corrupt, and which has sworn to fight corruption, the greatest stamp must necessarily come from such a Lokayukta, and that surely is what we want for our State.
The need to set up this office and get it functioning efficiently immediately can’t come at a more pressing time. A young forest range officer in the GEER foundation has just committed suicide, apparently because of the pressures he felt in his quest to open up the scandalous corruption in the organization. And there have alas been many other recent suicides or murders of key whistle blowers or clean officers. Too many upright police officers have been sidelined. Far too many for any government not to hang their collective heads in shame and mortification.
Even in a State where close to 69% of the people feel that corruption has either remained at the same level or has gone up over the last five years (CNN-IBN Indian Express survey), there is still the occasional gram Panchayat that holds up a shining example of truly good governance. There are a couple of Panchayats where every transaction from grants received, to those disbursed, to tenders floated, to the Panchayat members sources of income are available on a board outside the office and are updated constantly. Any villager can go and examine these records and take personal cognizance of whether or not things are being handled correctly. No possibilities here of thousands of bogus voters or BPL card holders or NREGS card holders or payments made. No possibilities of work never done but charged, bori bunds never built but paid for, roads built with inferior material or thousands of crores run up in bad loans that were never given with an intention of recovery> No chance either of officers being transferred for “inconvenience”, nor of nepotism or obfuscation. And if a case does arise, there is the Lokpal or the Lokayukta.
That is the kind of government which would never fear an RTI for there would then be no need for one; everything would be our there, on the internet for any citizen to examine. That is what this fight against corruption is about. And it is not just a dream. Several countries in the world have put this in operation, not least the Scandinavian ones. And these are the countries that are listed by Transparency International as the least corrupt. These are also the countries where each citizen feels the country is truly theirs, where they have a direct say and can hold to account all elected and selected officers, from the Head of State to the village clerk.
That is the Gujarat I wish for, one that shines in openness and transparency, one that leads for and by the people, one where each one of us can thump our chests and say, “Yes we are keeping and eye and everything is OK”. Mr. Chief Minister, lead us there and I will be the first to shout, “Modiji aap aage badho, hum tumhare saath hai”.
April 17th, 2011, DNA