Monday, April 11, 2011

On the 'movement' against corruption

Readers may be interested in two excellent pieces analysing the recent 'awakening' against corruption in India: Shuddhabrata Sengupta writing in Kafila and Mihir Sharma in the Indian Express (Readers may also be interested in watching Karan Thapar roast Arvind Kejriwal in this interview). I endorse Sengupta and Sharma's outrage at the preposterous provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill and share some of their misgivings about this television-driven 'movement' against corruption. I don't know what I think about the legitimacy of Hazare's chosen means - fast unto death - but the telling comparison with the much-ignored-10-year fast by Irom Sharmila in remote Manipur is noteworthy.

One hopes that the committee set up to draft the Lokpal Bill will realise that the impunity around corruption in India is part of a larger problem with our criminal justice system more generally. The police and the prosecution are not separated from other branches of the executive and consequently lack independence and professionalism, the use of torture, 'encounter deaths' and other 'shortcuts' to deal with less influential criminals is routine, whereas impunity provisions like section 197 of the CrPC protect public servants who commit crimes. Our politicians, and indeed most people with requisite influence, manage to avoid convictions not just for corruption but for all other crimes, including murder. Nor are the politicians the only people who are corrupt - what about the corporate houses only recently exposed in the Radia tapes? Structural reform of the criminal justice system does not translate into sexy slogan, but then India Against Corruption's Jan Lokpal Bill will do nothing to address the problem of corruption, and create others we can do without.
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