The movement generated by Anna Hazare indicates that there’s a lot that can be done even without an anti-corruption law. The first part of a three-part article outlines what we ought to do so that the Jan Lokpal and Lokayuktas are effective in catching the crooks
One thinks of the fairy tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The people of the town of Hamelin suffered terribly from a rat menace. An army of rats had invaded the town and popped up everywhere-in the wheat bins, the sugar tins, on the carpets, under the chairs, and they even sat on the shoulders of little babies.
The people then heard of a person called the Pied Piper who could rid the town of rats. The mayor of Hamelin called the Piper and offered him a huge amount of money to lure the rats away. The Piper started playing a tune on his pipe which hypnotised the rats and made them run after him. Thousands upon thousands of rats ran out onto the streets. The Piper piped his way to the river running near the town, and all the rats rushed into the river and drowned.
A nice story, but it does not help the people of India, a country in which the rat plague is of a different nature. These rats are rats in the American meaning of the word: corrupt slime-ball crooks who are looting the people's money.
Now, read this recent agency news item from Beijing.
"BEIJING: Local officials in a western China city have raised a "cat army" to battle rodents that have been destroying crops and pasture land around it.
Pest control officials of Bole city in Xinjiang province said they had collected and released 150 stray cats to tackle the menace of what is described as a plague of rats.
The desperate measure comes in the wake of estimates by authorities that 5.4 million hectares of farm and pasture land in Xinjiang province has been affected by the rodent menace.
The feline hunters have proved their worth because the numbers of rats and rat holes have come down drastically, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the officials as saying."
Anna Hazare is metaphorically trying to create an army of "cats" (the Jan Lokpal and the team of investigators and prosecutors) to trap and jail the army of "rats" (corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, etc). And seeing the weak Manmohan/Sonia government shaking in its shoes and running around like chickens chased by a fox, we can be sure that the Jan Lokpal will become a reality in six months or a year. And the cats will trap the rats in their thousands. Maybe we should call them 'White Cats', to distinguish them from the 'Black Cats' who protect the 'fat cats'.
And now, a ray of hope even before the Jan Lokpal is up and running. This agency news item from a few days ago.
"PATNA: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's promise to confiscate ill-gotten properties of officials and to open schools for poor children in their palatial houses is close to becoming a reality.
The Patna High Court upheld a May order to confiscate the multi-storied building of suspended IAS officer Shiv Shankar Verma. The decks have been cleared for converting this building into a school for poor children, according to JD(U) state spokesman Sanjay Singh.
On July 6, 2007, sleuths of the Special Vigilance Unit raided Verma's houses and found movable and immovable properties worth about Rs1.43 crore, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income. Verma, then secretary of the minor irrigation department, was suspended.
A vigilance officer said the courts had so far ordered confiscation of properties in five cases. Three of these orders were passed in July. So, five more schools could come up soon."
We, as a country, are not a totally lost cause.
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)