Home  |  Contact  |  Bio  |  Interview  |  Essays  |  Latest Books  | Past Books  |  Buy Books


On the Anna Moment in India Today

August 2011


Right now the country is passing through the ‘Anna Moment’. This simple but honest and truthful Gandhian social activist has played the proverbial role of the child who innocently pointed out that the king was naked. I deem it my duty to my country and to my ideals to make a few observations and comments on the issue of corruption and the move to create the office of Lokpal.

There is no doubt that India has made tremendous progress on numerous counts during the past few decades of independence, and much of the credit goes to Team Nehru and the Gandhi-Nehru vision embodied in our Constitution. Yet, the entire Indian society remains seeped in ‘corruption’ in some sense or other. I say this in all humility and in pain. 

We, as a people, have become like fishes, which live and carry on the tasks of daily life embedded in the river of corruption. Living and moving in the foul air of corruption has become a way of life for our people who detest, protest (in private) but feel utterly helpless to challenge it in public.  Ours is a land where widows and the aged are either robbed or have to give a cut to others from out of their state sanctioned pensions, where fake and spurious medicines are in general circulation, where almost all food articles in supply are adulterated, where no welfare scheme of the centre or the states for the benefit of the poor is implemented without misappropriation of funds, where no public works are executed without cheating, wastage, cuts and graft, where no contractor can obtain payment of his duly sanctioned bills, where legislators are provided huge funds for development work in their constituencies without effective accountability, where  law courts function as complicated machines for extracting money from helpless litigants at the mercy of lawyers. It is a society where even saints get afraid of falling into sin. Meanwhile the helpless common man patiently waits for the dawn of Ram Raj.      

Anna found the moral courage and had the honesty of purpose to be prepared to die to awaken the country to face this glaring discrepancy between the great educational, agricultural, industrial and technological progress after independence and the continuing erosion of simple honesty and the sense of duty for its own sake in daily life.  Our planners should not live in denial of this ugly reality, or resort to excuses or evasive tactics.

Unfortunately, the executive has always been rather apathetic to the actual monitoring of otherwise sound developmental policies. The planners over-stressed the production side of economic growth, but neglected the need for accountability of the field personnel. Our planners assumed that all was well and would become still better as long as our GDP grew at a certain rate. They were right up to a point. But, any economic or administrative model that does not ensure honest implementation is doomed to flounder.

There is no simple panacea for abolishing corruption or crime from human society, but corruption could have been significantly reduced by now, had our leaders and public representatives given priority to the issue. Likewise, the government took very long to curb the evil of communal disturbances in the country. High-level commissions of inquiry made comprehensive recommendations, but the government did not or could not implement them for some reason or other. Only Bengal under Communist rule, Bihar under Lalu Prasad and Andhra Pradesh under Naidu saw through the game and promptly nipped the evil in the bud.

We all know that several countries in the west have had the office of Ombudsman and these countries stand very high on the UN quality of life index. I wonder how far our planners and social activists have bothered to study, in depth, the working of this fairly old democratic institution and how it could be adapted to Indian conditions.  Though not sufficient, it is the best beginning point in the battle against corruption just as the right to vote is the first step against autocracy and social injustice. The expansion of e-governance will prevent corruption at the source. Technology will also greatly help to get objective evidence of wrongdoings and thus prevent arbitrary punishments. Computerized reservation or booking in the railways shows how effectively technology can help. However, the first condition of success is the ethical passion and the political will to conquer corruption.

The Election Commission has been doing solid work to ensure free and fair elections. But electoral, judicial and police reforms have gone by default. In any case, the latent collective conscience of our ancient society (once it is effectively mobilized) is an undying resource. See the recent elections in Bengal. Earlier, a remarkable turn around took place in Bihar politics, thanks to the vision, integrity and dynamism of the Chief Minister. On the other hand, the ghost of some unethical happenings in Gujrat after the Godhra incident still hovers over the otherwise clean image of a respected and dynamic leader. 

The removal of corruption should be treated as a national issue just like national defense or security and communal harmony. Such issues must be treated as above all professed or hidden agendas. Ethical passion must be fused with the practical knowledge and insights of competent statesmen and administrators.

Jamal Khwaja


Bookmark and Share

Jamal Khwaja studied Philosophy in India & Europe. He was elected to the Indian Parliament in 1957. He retired as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Aligarh Muslim University. He is the author of seven major books. 

Khwaja’s work seeks to answer three inter-related questions: Firstly, What does it mean to be an authentic Muslim? Secondly, How should a believer understand and interpret the Holy Quran in the 21st century?  And finally, What is the role of Islam in a pluralistic society? 

Khwaja believes in judiciously creative modernization rooted in the Quran and firmly opposes shallow, unprincipled imitation of the West. His mission is to stimulate serious rethinking and informed dialog between tradition and modernity in Islam. 

Khwaja’s work is the definitive contemporary discussion regarding the collision of Islam and Modernity. Readers of his work will be in turn, informed, inspired, and intellectually liberated.