Getting Rid of Government Corruption

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I have been traveling in India for the last week, and I have been following the hunger strike of Anna Hazare with great interest. Anna Hazare, for those who don't know, is the Indian anti-corruption crusader who told the Indian government last week that he was fasting until anti-corruption legislation was introduced in the Indian parliament. Hazare was so serious about this that he was reportedly prepared to die rather than be ignored or denied.

After fasting for four and a half days — without food or water — the Indian government reportedly caved in to Hazare's demand by promising to introduce anti-corruption legislation during the next monsoon parliament. As a result, the nation is awash with excitement, and marches and celebrations are taking place all over India. Hazare is already being hailed as the Gandhi of this generation, and people are talking openly about a "new age of participatory democracy" in India. One commentator actually called Hazare's triumph an "epic victory for the Indian people."

It would appear that things are turning up roses in India, what with Hazare's so-called victory on top of India's victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup several weeks ago.

The problem is, as anyone with even cursory knowledge of Indian political history can tell you, fighting "government corruption" in India is about as impossible as holding back the sea. The fact that a man had to almost starve himself to death to get the supposedly democratic government to even promise to introduce anti-corruption legislation tells us something about the likelihood that real change is at hand.

Think about that for one minute. The Indian government let this very old man publicly starve himself for almost five days before they would even agree to only introduce the bill in parliament. Moreover, it's not like Hazare was asking for the Moon. He was only asking the government to abide by its own laws, and it took five days for the government to agree to consider it next monsoon season. The long time frame to introduce this "change Indians can believe in" gives the government plenty of time to figure out how to placate the gullible public with a bill that will change absolutely nothing. It will be hailed by the government as a radical bill, and they will publically praise Hazare for his role in bringing it into existence, but India's government at this time next year will look exactly like it does today.

The fact that Mr. Hazare is being beatified before the Indian government has even done anything at all does not bode well. Promises of political reform are as cheap as Indian tobacco, and that is all the government has deigned to grant so far. What happens when, as should be expected, the Indian government does nothing more than pass a token bill in six months to placate the already beatified Anna Hazare? What then? Will millions of Indians publicly then starve themselves to death to try to rid the country of corruption? Big deal. That's a daily occurrence here. When has the Indian government ever given a damn about Indians starving to death?

Anna Hazare and the rest of the Indian people who are celebrating in the streets today are missing the forest for the trees. They are under the Western-inspired delusion that democratic government itself is never evil — only individual leaders or specific laws are ever "corrupt" and in need of reform. Following his "victory," Hazare himself counseled the Indian people "to have faith in democratic government." This from a man who had to almost commit suicide solely in order to convince the democratic government to consider following its own laws. The depths of human naiveté sometimes boggle the mind.

You really would think ordinary Indians would recognize this, because the government here does nothing that is of use to ordinary Indians. The infrastructure, if indeed it deserves the name, is a shambles. The water the government provides people to drink is literally poisoned with super-bacteria. The sanitation and sewage systems that the government is providing the people of this country are laughable to the point that it will make your eyes water — and your nose burn. What the hell do the Indian people need this fantastically corrupt government for anyway? Why try to "reform" something that is completely incompetent, corrupt, and unnecessary?

From the perspective of an outsider without patriotic prejudices, it is clear as day that Hazare's crusade will reform nothing about the Indian government. The Indian government, even though it is called a "democratic," does not exist to further the interests of men like Anna Hazare, and it does not exist for the beggars on the streets of Jaipur. It only exists to extract money and privileges for itself out of the Indian body politic just as surely as the leaches in the Ganges exist to suck blood out of pilgrims. It's been doing it since time immemorial, after all. Just have a look at the splendid gardens and marble inlays at the Taj Mahal that were paid for by hungry and poor Indian taxpayers in order to build a tomb for a dead politician's wife.

As long as a government exists in India, even if it is "democratic," the Indian people will continue to get fleeced. Democratic government is only a method for deciding which liar will put his hand in your pocket. It is being given the right to choose which pickpocket in the Varanasi train station is going to nab your wallet. It does not matter one whit whether the money that is demanded from the Indian people comes in the form of supposedly "corrupt" bribes or supposedly "legitimate" taxes. It does not matter at all whether the arbitrary rules that Indians must abide by are made by so-called "corrupt" officials or whether they are made by parliament.

I wish that I was wrong about this. I wish that Anna Hazare had truly won an "epic victory for the Indian people." But he has not and will not so long as he and his followers seek only to rid the country of corruption. An "epic victory for the Indian people" will only occur if the Indian people decide to squash their giant government leach, instead of asking it to behave itself while it's sucking.

It is the one animal that these poor and pious people should not hesitate to put to the knife.

Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.

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