Anna wave used to wash down corruption in Uttrakhand

Dehradun: Anna Hazare, courtesy his tirade for a Jan Lokpal Bill that was misconstrued by the masses as a panacea against the prevalent mass corruption, and hence their pent up frustration outpoured on the roads, has naturally become a household name. And now that the battle seems to be over for the civil society, at least for the time being, people in this small mountain state, who had given mass support by coming out on the roads and taking processions, are having second thoughts.

The reason — everyone and anyone, irregardless of the fact that allegations of corruption had tarnished their image and reputation when they were, or are in power, jumped on the Anna bandwagon, perhaps in a futile bid to wipe their slate clean by putting on the Anna mask.

In this capital of this tiny mountain state, which is still in its infancy and goes by the pseudonym ‘Land of the Gods’, because of its four dhams – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri – besides the numerous well known temples that dot the various mountains and valleys, processions, candle marches and stopping the already chaotic traffic had become the order of the day.

To add to the woes of the common man, the vyopar mandal along with other industries and business organisations decided to call a day off and down their shutters in support of Anna Hazare.

A former chief minister of the state, whose wife, the buzz word is, was reportedly the epitome of getting things done during his tenure and a businessman was said to be the de facto chief minister, as he could get anything and everything done, albeit at a price, also led a march against corruption in support of Anna.

It is another story that the former chief minister is presently not enjoying the confidence of his party’s high command and spearheaded the march against corruption in an apparent bid to improve his lot within his party.

The grapevine here is that scribes are in possession of audio clips in which an IAS officer, who happens to head a department is saying that he has to pay the chief minister Rs 50 lakhs every month.

This he reportedly told someone from whom he had asked for a bribe of Rs five lakhs and was justifying his demand. That is the level of the prevailing corruption in this state.

It is sad but true that Uttarakhand got its legacy of corruption from Uttar Pradesh, of which it was a part till it was granted statehood and carved out on Nov 9, 2000.

The babudom that it got was said to be those whom Uttar Pradesh though it could do without, because of the alleged notoriety that went with most of them. And rather than trying to get rid of the malaise, the roots only went deeper as one weak chief minister after another came at the helm. Greasing palms and moolah changing hands became the order of the day.

This will perhaps tell a part if not the whole story. A deputy forest ranger and a ‘van daroga’ recently stormed into the office of the chief minister waving the tricolour and shouting slogans against the prevalent corruption.

Rather than going into why they had taken this extreme step and preventing the rot, the obvious happened. The duo were arrested by the cops for vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of the chief minister’s office.

The icing on the cake was the procession taken out by state government employees under the banner of the Rajya Karamchari Sanyukta Parishad in support of Anna’s tirade against corruption.

This despite the fact that a majority of them are just making life miserable for the aam aadmi and there is hardly any movement of a file in perhaps any office till the ‘suvidha shulk’ is duly given.

This is what this scribe had to undergo just to get a ration card made, having come to this state after super annuation.

First the babu at the office refused to give a form to be filled on the plea that none was available, but it could be got from an agent for a price.

It was procured, at the said price, duly filled and given to the babu, who after going through it kept it in a corner. His attempts at opening a file and then a drawer to send the message that the form was not complete without the ‘suvidha shulk’ was overlooked, so he started sipping his tea.

“When do I come for the ration card”, I asked.

“Come back after a month, you will get it if you are lucky”, he retorted.

“But why after a month and what do you mean lucky”, I shot back.

“Because there are no ration cards in stock so obviously we cannot make one and it will be possible only when the supply comes from the government will it be possible”, he said indifferently with a mischievous tinge in his eyes.

Dehra Dun is the state capital and right under the nose of the bureaucracy and the ministers. That the department is without ration cards, is hard to believe, but then the babu is right for it is more than the call of duty that makes him work.

So much for Anna Hazare, who brought the issue of corruption to the fore (not that it was not known). But the all important question is, whether it will free the aam aadmi from the malaise of corruption that is so deep rooted in sour society.

This is what the aam aadmi is hoping for and this is why they took to the streets and the Ram Lila Maidan in such large numbers, that the powers that be register the message of their urge to get rid of this cancer that has afflicted the society at large and the babudom in particular.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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