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The Transparency Revolution in India

Corruption is not new. In the present Indian scenario, what is new is not corruption, but people’s thirst for justice, and their participation in the fight for a corruption free society.

With the economic boom, corruption also has soared to new heights. A few examples of scams in 2010: (Please note: 1 crore= 10 million rupees; 1 rupee= .0225 US dollars;  1 crore= 225,000 US dollars.)

Commonwealth Games scam: Corruption involved: Rs.8000 crores.

Adarsh Housing Society Scam: A group of flats were constructed in Mumbai violating all regulations; constructed for the widows and veterans of the Kargil war (May-July, 1999) between India and Pakistan), but actually went to politicians, bureaucrats and army officers. Corruption involved: hundreds of crores of rupees.

2G Spectrum Scam: Mother of all scams! The loss of income caused to the government in the under-pricing of 2G Spectrum licences to private telecom companies: Rs.275000 crores!

Besides these: Hasan Ali Khan, a stud farm owner, is undergoing investigation for tax evasion of Rs. 50000 crores. Two ministers of Karnataka state, the Reddy brothers, are accused of illegal mining worth Rs. 50000 crores (at least!). The unaccounted money deposited in foreign banks by Indian nationals is more than Rs. 7000000 crores, belonging mainly to politicians, bureaucrats and rich businessmen. There are a number of corruption charges against K.G. Balakrishnan, former Chief Justice of India.

A grim picture! Isn’t it? But, there is a dawn of hope in the public reaction to these scams. Media, social activists and the judiciary have done a wonderful work to bring to light these scams. Due to public pressure, the government was compelled to take strong actions against the accused. Suresh Kalmadi (Commonwealth Games scam), Ashok Chavan, the Chief minister of Maharashtra (Adarsh Housing scam), A. Raja, the Central Telecom minister (2G Spectrum scam) and many other prominent bureaucrats and politicians had to resign or are imprisoned. Political analysts say that people’s reaction against corruption was reflected in the recent elections.

People’s reaction against an all-encompassing corruption was best expressed in the support given to Anna Hazare, a Gandhian and social activist. On 5th April, 2011, Mr. Anna Hazare started a fast unto death to demand the government to pass a strong anti-corruption bill as envisaged in the public ombudsman, “Jan Lokpal. In fact, Lokpal bills were introduced several times since 1968, yet never passed by the Indian Parliament.  Hazare’s fast led to a nationwide protest, supporting his complaint. The government accepted Hazare’s  demands; the fast ended on 9th April. The government constituted a 10-member Joint Committee of ministers and civil society activists, including Anna Hazare, to draft an effective Jan Lokpal Bill. There are apprehensions about how genuine Hazare is but for the moment he has become a national idol in the fight against corruption.

This is perhaps the beginning of a new revolution in India, which the media rightfully call, the “transparency revolution.”  From transparency to a corruption-free society!

Democracy, to become meaningful and to ensure justice, needs real involvement of the citizens in the day-to-day affairs of the country; the representatives of the people are supposed to uphold transparency in public life. How shall we ensure the success of democracy and guarantee justice and a corruption-free society? This is a question to be taken seriously by Indian ethicists.

In India, Christians are a minority, but occupy a significant role. But, in the fight for justice, the presence of Christians is so insignificant that nobody would recognize that the quest for justice is an integral part of the Christian vocation. Justice, transparency, corruption free society, etc. occupy only a marginal role in the pronouncements of the Church leaders. The Church responds/reacts immediately and vigorously when the rights of its institutions are threatened or when issues related to sexuality, family and reproductive technology arise. Surely, we must address those issues. However, we should not become a self-centered community, interested in our own well-being alone. The question is: “Why don’t we respond with equal enthusiasm when justice and basic needs are denied to the poor and when the nation’s wealth is plundered by a few?”

Furthermore, people belonging to a community that does not ensure justice, will never feel empowered to stand for justice. Christian leaders must assure therefore that their own internal structures of the Christian community promote justice and transparency. Nonetheless, at present we can ask: Does this apparent indifference of the Christian community towards people’s movement for justice demand a re-evaluation of the functioning of the Church itself in ensuring transparency, justice and people’s participation in its own life?

People are becoming increasingly aware of their rights and dignity. Only a Church that stands for justice, both within itself and in the wider civil society, will be a meaningful and relevant Church. Justice is the basic right of the people and commitment to justice is the basic responsibility of the Christian community, for itself and for its society.

Shaji George Kochuthara, CMI (kochuthshaji@gmail.comteaches moral theology at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK) (Pontifical Athenaeum of Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law), Bangalore, India. He has published The Concept of Sexual Pleasure in the Catholic Moral Tradition (Roma: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2007) and a few articles. He is the editor-in-chief of Asian Horizons: Dharmaram Journal of Theology and the Chairperson of the Institutional Ethical Review Board of St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore.