Corruption, the driving force everywhere...

Corruption, the driving force everywhere...

Essential Service gets a new meaning as doctors join stir in Mangalore.

But contrary to the general belief, when Anna Hazare sat in dharna, a large number of people (a few who never ever thought of taking part in a dharna or protest) extended their support — many openly and a few quietly (morally).

Apart from those who regularly stage protests (political parties, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and Nagarika Hitharakshana Vedike among other associations), many others, especially new faces, took to streets. They included litterateurs, priests, nuns, seers, artists, lecturers, students and even doctors (under the aegis of the district unit of Indian Dental Association).

A number of associations submitted separate memorandum to the Prime Minister through the Deputy Commissioner, appealing to him to implement the Lokpal Bill.

A television channel too organised a special programme in support of Anna Hazare in which Lokayukta Justice N Santhosh Hegde was invited to air his views and interact with public.

“I have never participated in any protest in my life. But Anna Hazare’s move made me take part in a protest,” said a doctor, who did not wish to reveal his name.

St Aloysius College Vice Pricipal Rev Fr Francis Almeida, who also took part in a protest march, said that this (Anna Hazare’s stir) is the only way to free India from corruption. Anna Hazare has given a lead and we are extending our full support.

* * *

As the 2011 Assembly election unfolded in Tamil Nadu, it was the Election Commission (EC) which emerged the common man’s hero as the crusader against corruption.

All because the EC was determined not to let the ‘cash-for-votes’ phenomenon, which began with the Tirumangalam by-election to the State Assembly in January 2009 allegedly at the behest of the ruling DMK, and which was also seen during the last Lok Sabha polls, to be replicated now.

Anna Hazare would be proud that he has a solid institutional counterpart in the EC’s extremely rigorous guidelines including thorough vehicle checks to curb the flow of unaccounted money.

By the time the April 13 poll day neared, the EC had seized over Rs 50 crore of unaccounted money and other articles in kind, apparently meant for luring voters.
The Opposition AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa said it (the seizures) was still ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ for the total amount in motion for the elections was a staggering Rs 5000 crore! All this was happening when Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption in Delhi was making national headlines.

In fact, when Jayalalithaa was asked about Hazare’s indefinite fast, she welcomed it. But she also made a thoughtful point that Hazare’s action was necessary, though not sufficient. “We also need a strong Prime Minister (who can take action),” she emphasised.

* * *

A few weeks before Anna Hazare began his famous fast, corruption had acquired a cataclysmic political meaning in Kerala – one threatening to halt the much anticipated return of the Opposition Congress-led UDF to power in the state.

What seemed to go in favour of the ruling Left Democratic Front was the Supreme Court verdict in the Edamalayar dam corruption case just a month before elections were announced. In February, the court sent former power minister and Kerala Congress (B) supremo R Balakrishna Pillai and two others to a year’s rigorous jail term while upholding the trial court’s verdict in the case. The prosecution said that the accused conspired in awarding the contract for construction of tunnel and surge shaft of the Edamalayar hydel project in the 1980s, causing Rs 2 crore loss to the state exchequer.

It was Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan who petitioned the Supreme Court against the High Court decision quashing Pillai’s conviction by the trial court. As expected, Achuthanandan ripped through the Opposition UDF’s election campaign using his legal triumph without which the ruling LDF’s electioneering would have come a cropper. The huge crowds that thronged Mr Achuthanandan’s public meetings could only be seen as their appreciation of his success as an anti-corruption crusader which bore fruit through Pillai’s jailing.

In an era when the conviction percentage of the corrupt remained negligible, the visual image of 76-year-old Pillai being taken to jail seemed to have had a telling impact on the people. It also speaks volumes of the one issue other than roti, kapda aur makkan that the common man holds close to his heart –  jailing the corrupt.

* * *

Ever since the Congress party regained power with a thumping majority in Andhra Pradesh in the 2004 assembly election and again in 2008, the then chief minister late Y S Rajasekhar Reddy was in news for breaking new records, mainly on corruption front, allegedly though, outclassing his predecessor, the tech savvy Chandrababu Naidu.
Though the mainstream media never attempted to cover these corruption stories to their logical end, the common man has been following the sordid saga of very innovative and relentless swindling of money by the parties, leaders, ministers and bureaucrats all the while.

Opposition parties in the state used to target YSR for funding elections anywhere in the country as mobilising and supplying such huge money is the only sure way to prove loyalty to the party high command in Delhi.

It is also rumoured that two-third of such collection is transferred to the high command, and one-third is retained. Hundreds of scams have been reported by local newspapers over the years involving thousands of crores. Real estate boomed as the advance money paid to Jalaygnam irrigation projects has been pumped into Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy, skyrocketing the land prices, making the dream of owning a home impossible for the common man. Land allocated to weaker sections was taken back and handed over to SEZs who in turn sold the land to realtors at a higher price.

Land became a source of payment. Karnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy was allegedly given rights of Obulapuram mines where he was allowed to sell valuable iron ore without even commencing the construction of the steel plant. It was also alleged that land was allocated to an IT firm of Bangalore in Hyderabad for transferring the property in the name of Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.

The people of the state who have seen political parties making noise while in opposition and doing nothing when they sit in the treasury benches, found a voice in Anna Hazare.
Social Activist Anna Hazare is not a stranger to Andhra Pradesh. In late nineties the then chief minister Chandrababu Naidu had invited Anna Hazare to hold seminars and workshops for partymen, Government officials and legislators when he launched the PPP model of welfare and development activities titled ‘Janmabhoomi’. It is another matter that the Janmabhoomi turned out as a golden goose for TDP workers to bag government contract without bidding as Naidu doled out the works on nomination basis.

-Inputs from Ronald Anil Fernandes in Mangalore, M R Venkatesh in Chennai,
R Gopakumar in Thiruvananthapuram, J B S Umanadh in Hyderabad.

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