What according to you are the imperatives to end corruption?
A strong institutional framework is a must, and not at one level alone. Besides Lokpal, Lokayukta, etc, you need to fix our rule of law, our broken court system, our weak and not-really-independent prosecution. Our police is ineffective — it is under political control, inadequately trained and poorly equipped. Most importantly, we must create a system of competition everywhere, particularly in natural resources extraction.
When will we have this ideal state?
I’m only talking of a practical state. For example, the criminal justice system will see a change in the next year or so. Many elements are already in place, including the National Judicial Commission and the Indian Judicial Service. The Supreme Court has given a direction in the 2G spectrum case in which it cancelled the licences. Now, the competition has to be institutionalised. The CAG has come out sharply against the recent coal block allocations. So the public mood is now in its favour. Also, it would only take a Public Service Guarantee Law to deal with petty corruption at the local level, which worries most people. Already a Bill is in Parliament and may be passed in the next session.
How will this law help the people?
It guarantees delivery of services to citizens within a fixed time-frame, with penalties on the service provider and compensation to citizens in case of violations. Coupled with electronic technology, it can significantly change things. We have the technology and the resources. We just need the will to enact this law. Decentralising power, however, will take longer. Unfortunately, we are too focussed on problems and less on solutions.
What is the one thought that made you do what you are doing?
I grew up in a village, went to a government school. This society gave millions like me a fantastic opportunity. Today, the kids there don’t have a future. There is nothing more sinful than unfulfilled potential. The kids in this country don’t have opportunity only because of the circumstances of their birth.
What is the one idea that will trigger change in India?
If we combine our resources with wisdom and understand what is to be done, things will change.
Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.