“Saaku” – Enough Already

Dec 9th is the International Anti-Corruption Day. With India ranking a shameful 87th- along with Albania, Jamaica and Liberia – on Corruption Perception Index 2010, with the 2G Scam holding up parliament sessions, and the land and mining scams closer to home, corruption was quite a relevant issue. Several NGOs came together in Bengaluru under a common banner to raise awareness about anti-corruption activities that week and to say “Saaku” (“Enough” in Kannada) to corruption.

Starting with a workshop on “Fighting Corruption” on Dec 8th and ending with a rally on Dec 11th, I had an opportunity to meet several activists, including Dr. Shankar Prasad from Lok Satta Party. With him and his team, I visited several colleges, including RV College of Engineering and St.Josesh’s, on Dec 9th and 10th. It was encouraging to see many youngsters getting involved carrying a baton from one college to another. I had an opportunity to hear Lok Satta’s founder Dr. JP’s speech. The rally was quite successful with 800+ people coming together on a Saturday morning. Overall, it was an energizing and warming-up exercise for me as I had just begun my journey.

Amidst the excitement of shouting slogans with hundreds of people, I was painfully aware that saying “Saaku” was not enough. It was not simply because of annoyances that many volunteers showed up at 9:45 AM – 15 minute late – grinning that IST stands for “Indian Stretchable Time” and our rally in the prestigious section of Bengaluru forced us to walk through pot holes and filth. It was because of a simple question by a poor and illiterate woman who began walking with me during the rally.

The woman hadn’t understood the purpose of the rally or our slogans such as “Saaku Saaku Corruption Saaku”. She didn’t know the English word – Corruption – or its Kannada equivalent. Yet, she enthusiastically walked with us and I actively encouraged her. Well, my jubilation was soon dampened, when she whispered “duddu kodtaaraa?” (“will I get money?”). It dawned on me that she had been accustomed to join political rallies who were simply buying out participation. Unfortunately for her, participants in our rally were volunteers who are outraged about the levels of corruption in the government, private, NGOs and general public – and were definitely not bribing anyone to join!
The poor woman probably needed daily wages – to feed her family that night. She had no capability to think about her own future, let alone nation’s.

I shuddered to think that the poor woman represents about 40% of population – and perhaps 50% of the voters – in India. Will she vote for a positive politician who wouldn’t violate the ethical codes of an election and wouldn’t distribute cash or sari to her? Will she realize the short-term benefits of some petty cash aren’t worth risking the gainful employment for her teen-aged son in the long run by electing a corrupt person? How can we help her understand the long-term views? Are there possibilities so that her understanding of the issue becomes irrelevant? The Saaku event has added several interesting questions to my journey through the political maze!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hem on January 17, 2011 at 1:10 am

    True; Corruption is a big issue.
    However, part of it is cultural.. See interesting article on the topic by Jagdish Bhagwati at ProjectSyndicate


  2. Now we can say that corruption has become part of our life and most of the people do not live without it specially government employee .
    Indian Anti Corruption Act


  3. Posted by monujesh on November 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    As someone who regularly travels in the hinterland of India, it is my perception that we need to educate the educators to teach learning and not literacy. Only then will our people understand the opportunities available and walk for causes rather than money.


  4. Posted by Prashanth on May 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    it is a gospel truth that the country is riddled with corruption. would be interested to know the plan charted out by Loksatta party to eradicate this. I completely agree with the fact that it may take generations to restore Ramrajya once it was.


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