How the Lokpal can prevent rape

Published: December 19, 2013
The writer is a journalist in Delhi whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. He tweets @DilliDurAst

The writer is a journalist in Delhi whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. He tweets @DilliDurAst

All of India’s problems boil down to corruption. Including violence against women. It is arguable that on December 16, 2012, if the traffic police were not looking the other way, that white-coloured bus (where the infamous gang rape took place) would not have been able to look for passengers at the bus stop and that heinous gang rape and murder that shook the world would not have taken place. That bus was supposed to only ferry office-goers and not ordinary passengers. But it used to pay a ‘hafta’, a regular bribe, to traffic cops to be able to ferry passengers after office hours. Newspaper stories said that it was because of the entries in the hafta diaries of traffic policemen that the bus and its occupants that evening were traced in no time! The police, of course, deny these charges.

Since that day, the number of rape FIRs in Delhi’s police stations has skyrocketed. Delhi police officials have anonymously said in the media that they have asked police stations not to turn away rape complainants, implicitly admitting that they used to do so. Anyone who has had the misfortune to be at an Indian police station for a petty crime, such as a road accident in which both parties are blaming each other, knows that Indian police stations should be renamed ‘compromise stations’. The police do not want to waste the time of citizens by making them run around the courts; they suggest you do a ‘compromise’. Depending on your perceived economic status and the gravity of offence, you can shell out a desired amount of paper with Gandhi’s image on it and voila! Case over.

Since the anti-corruption movement of 2011, corruption in India has been debated as a moral issue. We are all corrupt, the argument goes, so those crusading against corruption are the worst hypocrites. Those speaking against corruption are seen with the kind of contempt that should ideally be reserved for the corrupt.

But corruption is not a moral issue. It is an issue of governance, administration and efficiency. Defenders of corruption argue that corruption oils the machinery that would otherwise not move thanks to cumbersome laws and rules, ‘red-tapism’ and the general apathy of politicians and bureaucrats. But what corruption actually does is that it creates a parallel system of administration, which makes it a disincentive to reform the formal system, to even try and make it work. This parallel system — with its commissions set and fixed, collected through touts and distributed across the chain of command — is good only for those who can shell out money. It is like a hidden tax. And if you can shell out a lot of money, the government is your servant.

India has the world’s largest number of road accidents but when someone dies in a road accident because the roads are bad, we don’t think of it as a corruption issue. We think of rash and negligent driving, perhaps blame the traffic, the hospital authorities, or God — but not corruption. We have so deeply internalised the idea of corruption as a positive force we all participate in that we can’t even see what corruption in government does to governance.

The 2011 anti-corruption movement became a political party and it has succeeded so quickly that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are both scared of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Debating the Jan Lokpal Bill in parliament — which proposes the creation of an independent body to probe corruption cases — the BJP leader Arun Jaitley said that it was important to pass the Lokpal Bill because the credibility of the political system was now at stake. It is the arrogance of the BJP and the Congress that they think they are the political system. They are only a part of it. Now that we have a Lokpal, let’s see if the Bharat sarkar is willing to reform itself.

The AAP’s success in the Delhi elections has stalled the creation of any government in Delhi state and prevented the BJP from coming to power. The AAP has shown that an election can be fought and won on white money. The beneficiaries of corruption — the business class and the defenders of crony capitalism — are frightened at the prospect of the AAP capturing power at the central level one day. The day might not be far!

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • gp65
    Dec 20, 2013 - 12:18AM

    Far fetched logic. It is possible that the specific bus that Nirbhaya and her friend boarded may not have been permitted to run at that time but are you saying that if there were no corruption, no bus service would be available to ordinary passengers at that time of the evening? So if it had been some other bus driver instead of this one, how do you guarantee rape would not have occurred.

    No doubt passing of LokPal is indeed a very encouraging step. All kudos to Anna Hazare for bringing it front and center which also created visibility for Arvind. Though I am not a supporter of AAP due to its many populist and non-pragmatic ideas, one cannot help observing that the LokPal bill which was hanging fire for 18 months was passed in a hurry once the Delhi results came out. Of course the fact that this time around Anna was not just on a fast but fast unto death may have had something to do with it also.

    I agree with you that corruption is not just a moral issue but also a governance issue since it misallocates resources and adversely impacts law and order. The high number of deaths in traffic accidents in India is partially due to corruption no doubt. But the laws for hospital intake of ‘police cases’ , the sufficient ambulances etc. also contribute to the death.Recommend

  • Vish
    Dec 20, 2013 - 12:23AM

    “That bus was supposed to only ferry office-goers and not ordinary passengers.” Not sure why this rule was in place, unless it was in place just so that someone (read traffic police) could make a quick buck. India is full of such arbitrary rules & regulations, which seem to be in place just to harass the common man and make money. Hopefully a Lokpal will help. However it is more important to reform the administrative system and get rid of useless rules & regulations. A transparent system which lays out clear & time bound road maps to obtain any public service, with nil or minimum scope for arbitrary interpretation by government officials (both elected and appointed) will be more useful in reducing corruption, then probably a Lokpal. Even the author admits that Delhi police is now taking more cognisance of rape complaints. This even without a Lokpal. Finally what if the Lokpal is also corrupt?


  • np
    Dec 20, 2013 - 12:25AM

    Passage of LokPAl bill is definitely a big win for the India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. Kejriwal also gets credit for proving that this issue resonates with the voters.

    Arvind Kejriwal is personally honest. No 2 ways about that. But this does not mean he would govern well if he was in power. His populist ideas are not necessarily implementable e.g. free water to households, halving the electricity price without explaining where the funds would come from. The stroke of pen regularisation of colonies would simply encourage and embolden wrong doers in the future. Honesty is a pre requisite for good governance no doubt and such honesty should be supported through institutions like LokPal, laws like RTI, and a strong media and independent judiciary. Depending on individuals to make that happen is not the right way forward.


  • Hafiz
    Dec 20, 2013 - 12:52AM

    Man may I know when they forming govt in delhi for get center.


  • Himanshu
    Dec 20, 2013 - 1:01AM

    Well written sir! Very cogent arguments, until the point where you started blabbering about AAP being the saviour of them all. All they’ve brought is anarchy to the capital.


  • Not a Diliwala
    Dec 20, 2013 - 1:40AM

    Firstly, New Dehli is not a microcosm of India. For the rest of us Indians, New Delih is precisely what is wrong with India. People living in a bubble of their own for most of the year imagining that they are doing something important there for the people who are toiling elsewhere.

    For AAP to come so close to power in New Dheli is something that is not so easily replicable elsewhere. I wish some BJP MPs broke away and supported AAP because then every resident of New Dehli would know if they would in fact get electricity at 50% discount and 700 liters of free water a day. Now with the Lokpal bill being passed by the Lok Sabha, AAP has lost its main election plank. Even Anna does not seem too enthused by AAP and anyway the Lokpal was the conception of Atal Behari Vajpayee.


  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Dec 20, 2013 - 3:49AM

    India’s police is corrupt – the whole world knows this and we all have experienced this.

    Once I took a video in Bombay as a tourist. The cops came and showed me a sign (hidden otherwise) and asked me for money. “It’s a security issue,” they said. I had no choice as I had to catch a flight that evening. So, I paid them money, and guess what? They didn’t bother about the video I had taken!

    So much for the security stuff!


  • water bottle
    Dec 20, 2013 - 5:37AM

    “All of India’s problems boil down to corruption.”

    Others from India, I ask you, how many of you believe that population explosion is the root cause of every problem and not corruption?

    In fact I would say that population explosion is the root cause of corruption also when everyone is fighting for a piece of the small amount of resources we have in this country.

    This also explains why corruption has grown in India like a reptile the keeps growing with age since 1947.

    Today India is more corrupt compared to what it used to be in 1947. A lot more. I was not borm in the 40s. But I can certainly compare today’s India to the India of the 80s and the 90s and say without a doubt that India is more corrupt today.

    But somehow, no politician or political party makes this a major point in their agenda.


  • 1984
    Dec 20, 2013 - 10:02AM

    @water bottle:
    The problem is that few religious organizations are up in arms for protest when we even suggest about family planning

    Muslim organizations say “Allah gave baby a mouth,so he will somehow arrange for food”

    Christians used Mother Teresa as their poster child to discourage people from using contraceptives and abortion…In fact Mother Teresa in her Nobel acceptance speech said that the biggest problem the world is currently facing is abortion

    and not to be left behind former RSS leader Sudharshan suggested that Hindus should have atleast 3 children instead of 2 because Muslims are rapidly multiplying and we need to keep pace with them


  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Dec 20, 2013 - 6:01PM

    @Not a Dilliwala, Lokpal is not a conception of Atal Behari Vajpayee as Ponkaran II also.
    Lokpal was waiting to happen from Nehru times I think…but was not getting moved due to various other reasons. You can check the correct date and chronology if you google.
    Similarly Ponkaran II was frist concept by Rajiv Gandhi, Ponkaran II happened dispite change of 4~5 PMs, and varoius defence/scientific secretaries.
    This is the strength of India that is why many are scared about our achievements.
    Atal was just the executor of it at the right time. PonkaranII must have happened atleast 5yrs before Atal came to power, due to Economic reasons it was postponed twice.

    Before Atal took up this decision he had a discussion with Manamon singh(present PM) and oppostion, to keep them in loop and also to know the economic difficulties ahead.

    You can Google Ponkaran II too. I read it from Outlook / Frontline i think


  • gp65
    Dec 20, 2013 - 9:29PM


    @amoghavarsha.ii: US was putting pressure on Rajiv Gandhi and subsequent PMs to not carry out any further tests. Rajiv and others were intimidated, Vajpayee was not. Hence credit goes to him for Pokhran II just as surely as Indira gets credit for 1974.

    As far as LokPal is concerned, the idea of a constitutional ombudsman was proposed in the 60s for the first time by Ashoke Sen.


  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Dec 21, 2013 - 1:50PM

    @gp65, I know ur a BJP supporter, still, USE did intimidated vajpayee too but because the status of country’s economy was better when vajpayee entered the office, economic reforms was started and was in motion already, Also vajpayee only gave go ahead for test, not a go ahead for design & manufacture !!!!! This is big difference!!!!. Until the test was conducted no clue was available to any country, this was surely not credit to only vajpayee, because he was not in full preview of the status until ready for testing stage.
    No PM can take a bet on this kind of issue without knowing the pros and cons, and weigh everything. ONLY BJP took credit for test, which was down right silly if you know how things work. For that matter cong/others did not trumpet that they initiated the projects or maintained secrecy !!!!
    Even 1974 test was conducted not for fame? It was conducted to demonstrate technology, to keep away china thirdly because world was gearing to get NPT up, again we were kept out of NPT because of our potential. When want to take false credits we can bet on BJP


  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Dec 21, 2013 - 2:04PM

    @gp65, I do not check wikipedia, after it allowed everybody to update what ever they want to without backups,
    LOKPAL as u confirm was definitely not of vajpayee, so that proves atleast that how BJP will try to get credit where none to apportion
    Also LOKPAL is not a new concept to India, Later Aryans who moved from Indus to Ganges valley had this concept which would select elders of the village/grama who would advice the Rajan(king) on various matters and also keep a check on his power. This group was called the sabha and anybody can voice there concern in a sabha.
    So concept of Lokpal is actually not new to most civilizations too, only that it has evolved in time to cater the present society.


  • sanjith menon
    Dec 22, 2013 - 2:09PM

    Corruption in this country India in a study done by transparency (done in 2005 ) is worth 25000.00 crores or 4 bn dollars. We poor malayalis from Kerala state just 33mn in population bring in 12 bn dollars as foreign deposits. just to give a comparison. so running behind corruption is no big thing. It might be a good step forward, but not everything.


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