Corruption is probably the most talked about issue in the Indian media today. It has extended its roots to every strata of society whether it’s the guy who takes your driving test wanting an extra 100 bucks to make sure you get the license or it’s the 2G scam that robbed the ex-chequer off of Rs 68,000 crores. Can the enactment of one single act solve the problem of corruption? We have thousands of acts, laws and commissions proclaiming one policy after another, hardly a third of them are actually implemented.

The purpose of this article is not merely to join the anti-corruption bandwagon or criticize the civil society movement outright. I doubt if a majority of those involved in the civil society movement has even read the act that they want to implement! My doubts were further raised when a friend of mine emphatically said that the people need not know the contents of the act, they have a right to be rid of the evil of corruption. Does this mean we should introduce an impromptu random rash act? Why should we leave everything to the government?

In a recent statement made by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, he said,” Elected members cannot yield to civil society as it will undermine parliamentary democracy”. I understand the argument that civil society cannot usurp the right to legislate as we have people whom we have elected through ‘free and fair elections’ to do that for us. But does this mean the role of the ordinary citizen is limited to voting once every five years? Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari actually called the movement ‘street coercion’ and ‘fascism’!

There are two ways that one can see this as. The civil society members are trying to hold elected representatives to ransom or the beleaguered UPA government is desperately trying to hold on to power fearing an angry backlash from the same people that put them in power for a second consecutive term.

Even though the power of framing the law rests with the Parliament, an active participation by the civil society will help raise awareness among the people about the specific clauses mentioned in the law. They’re seeking to shape the draft of the laws, and they also seek to mobilize opinion on the content of the laws and hold elected representatives accountable to such opinion. As a result of so much public participation, the debates in Parliament will be more intelligently and alertly scrutinized by the citizens.

Think of it from the government’s perspective.  All the MPs are elected representatives of their respective constituencies. If we ourselves elected them through a democratic process, then don’t they have the legitimate right to formulate laws without public opinion? If the people are allowed to protest against every single decision made by the government, would decisions be ever taken? Isn’t it next to impossible to satisfy everyone in the world’s largest democracy?

So, the fundamental issue that must be addressed is whether, India, as a democracy is giving too much power to the government. Ayn Rand once said, “The basic moral principle without which no society is possible is individual rights.” Man’s rights can be violated only by physical force. If we elect a government that has a monopoly over this physical force, then aren’t we compromising our basic rights?

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