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india’s deep rooted malaise

recently, siddharth shanghvi wrote in new york times about a party that he’d hosted in bollywood town mumbai, with the who’s who of indian society: photographers, models, artists, art collectors, designers, publishers, venture capitalists, writers et al.

discussions overheard included the recent sexual assault against a junior female colleague by a writer who’s been the poster boy for public morality – tarun tejpal – which made headlines and which tejpal tried to keep hush-hush, and jyoti singh’s rape and death in december 2012, which, if we remember, brought throngs of people manifesting on the streets everywhere in india against sexual violence towards women.

this duplicity and institutionalized fraudulence overheard at this party seems widespread in india, and the host wonders why the partygoers are so surprised and shocked by such epic scams.

scam has been an ongoing problem for india, not that other countries don’t have similar scandals and corruptions. berlusconi’s sexual politics caused his resignation as did elliot spitzer’s and others from public office. people take stances against corruption and force the corrupted to reevaluate their situation and quit office.

in the past, some indians have also taken a stance against corruption. IAC – india against corruption- came into existence to offer and manage a set of platforms and tools to empower individuals who share a common dream that someday corruption will be eliminated in India by whatever means required.

in 2011 and 2012: IAC sought – under Team Anna [anna hazare who led a hunger strike]- to mobilize masses in support of demands for a less corrupt society via the lokpal creation [the right to arrest and charge government officials accused of corruption], but internal divisions spawned and split it into AAP [Aam aadmi party with kejriwal as chief minister] and jantantra morcha [a new ‘bharat’ and true democracy where dalits, adivasis, landless, muslim and other marginalized communities could devote energies towards a second freedom struggle].

kejriwal promoted the right to information and the lokpal bill in the AAP, but resigned on valentine’s day this year after failing to pass the lokpal bill in the delhi assembly. then there was kiran bedi, an outstanding activist who is a woman and who holds law, masters and doctorate degrees, is a nehru fellow, a national & asian tennis champion, recipient of the asian nobel prize [ramon magsayay award], anchors radio and TV shows, is a columnist and author of several books, is head of indian police service for more than 35years, a prison reformist, outreaching to underrepresented women, children and men in many areas, and who has been in the vanguard of a nationwide india against corruption movement led by hazare. but, she also left the group in 2013, and now supports modi as prime minister for 2014.

each time someone comes forward and announces change, efforts fall and NRIs wonder if it is legit. arudhathi roy slammed hazare’s actions as ‘props’ and ‘choreography’ like the world cup victory parade by urban middle class.

this veiling of problems has grand scales and repercussions. BJP and Congress blocked Kejriwal’s move to introduce the anti-corruption bill; rapes continue to occur to women and girls of all ages which take an eternity to punish, and while they keep recurring and accumulating, the world outside india hears about them. the world hears about indian women still being blamed, harassed, acid washed in some places, forced into marriage that they don’t want, about unfit politicians in power whose corruption continues to poison india at every level. when an article comes out in the nyt about the corruption and unsafe rules on drugs produced in india, it is not difficult to disbelieve.

people feel outrage at problems, and some act: gandhi, kejriwal, bedi, hazare etc. however, if little can be done, the incredible india we see on taxi ads and walls in the western world give the impression that india is an awfully pretty country from a distance, while the same lens and eye of that guest who posted and instgrammed the photo of bombay as impressionist ignores the side of bombay which is 70% slums [which makes up mumbai]. it ignores the dirty side of mumbai, just as politicians etc ignore india’s problems.

expressing moral outrage at india’s current problems takes on the scale of a ‘parallel economy’. and those talking about the problems – like tejpal -are guilty of the same dodgy brokering they revile: wheeling, dealing, fooling, fabricating which are cloaked in this new india’s urbane cool. apology parties may expose what’s on people’s minds, but it will take more than talk and even action to fix bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, largesse, police corruption, extortions, caste-ism, untouchability and equality for genders and classes that plague indian society.

there is an anti corruption party since 1924, and it keeps failing or splitting. 92 years later, in 2014, and that day hasn’t yet come: IAC is still fighting to fight corruption. an anti corruption party continues to exist because there’s corruption, because the law isn’t on the side of justice. perhaps if religion and cinema are strongholds in india, it’s time they take the lead role in modeling that corruption is not glamorous. it could be only a drop in the bucket, but eventually the several drops can fill up the bucket.


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