Another friend who has taken time out to protest on the streets told me, “They’re doing this in Egypt, they’re doing it in Libya – why should we not get up and make our voice heard?”
I think both these voices represent the anger that many Indians feel towards the government there.
Anna Hazare, the veteran anti-corruption campaigner who refuses to leave his jail cell at the time of writing this blog, has become somewhat of a catalyst for people to come together and make themselves heard.
The focal point of protests is the draft legislation that would create an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.
The BBC reports that the final version of the bill was presented in early August, but Hazare and other activists rejected it because the prime minister and senior judges would be exempt from scrutiny.
In the past few years, corruption scandals have rocked the country time and again. The Commonwealth Games hosted in Delhi, for example, were supposed to be India’s coming out party. This was a message Indians wanted to send to the world about its rising economic success, about the ‘new India.’
But instead, the games turned out to be a sordid tale of corruption and mismanagement. Other ‘scams’ have included a telecoms bribery scandal that may have cost the government $39 billion. And allegations about homes allocated to war widows being diverted to civil servants and politicians.
Apart from the big ticket scams and scandals, corruption is a way of life in India. The BBC’s Rahul Tandon told Lisa Mullins about young men who he met at a slum in Calcutta. They told him that even getting a job in the police involved paying a huge bribe.
Arvind Kejriwal, another prominent activist, wrote in his blog a few days ago, “Our anti-corruption systems have inherently and intently been kept flawed. India needs a total overhaul of the anti-corruption delivery system.”
Some analysts have pointed out that an unelected group of people should not dictate to parliament what it should or should not do.
“The path (Hazare) has chosen is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy,” Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister said in Parliament Wednesday criticizing Hazare.
The thousands of protestors converging in Delhi and other Indian cities don’t agree with Singh, it appears.