An eight-city TOI-Synovate survey of young Indians shows that while they cherish the many freedoms our country offers, they also have rather clear-cut concerns about what ails it. The survey also throws up several city-level surprises.
For instance, 75% of respondents nationwide agreed that they enjoyed ‘enough rights and freedoms in the country today’. In fact 100% of Bangaloreans felt so, while most other cities showed over 60% of respondents agreeing. Except in Mumbai. A shocking 56% of Mubaikars answered ‘No’ to this question. Answers to subsequent questions perhaps hold the answer to this Mumbai anomaly.
When asked ‘Which right/freedom do you enjoy most’, 38% nationwide listed ‘the right to live and work anywhere in India’, with ‘free speech’ and ‘right to vote’ garnering 27% and 22% respectively. But the ‘right to vote’ tops in Delhi (43%), Kolkata (48%) and Jaipur (41%). Only in Mumbai does the ‘right to work anywhere’ clock a whopping 64%. Seen in conjunction with the results from the next poll question (‘Do you think today’s India offers great job opportunities?’), it reaffirms young Mumbaikars’ distaste for the regional chauvinism preached by a couple of parties there.
When it came to job opportunities, 64% of respondents felt that great potential is to be found in India today, with Chennai the most optimistic of metros (96% agreed) and Mumbai the only city where a majority (63%), again, disagree.
About 61% of young Indians also felt corruption is the biggest threat facing India right now. Most also said they would not pay a bribe, but only just. Bangaloreans, strangely, appear not to mind paying up; 96% said they’d pay a bribe, while 40% and 39% of Chennai and Ahmedabad respondents, respectively, said they’d do so too.
Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal campaign is supported by 80% of those surveyed. Some 65% of respondents also support life imprisonment for corrupt officials, with most Delhiites (77%) vehemently agreeing on the measure. Only in Chennai and Jaipur did a large chunk (47%) feel the current five-year prison term was enough.
Cricket is what young India is clearly crazy about. India’s 2011 World Cup win was seen by the largest chunk (46%) as our greatest achievement in the last decade. Ahmedabad and Chennai are the only cities that buck this trend; 56% of Ahmedabad respondents vote for economic growth as the big gain, while the majority of Chennai youth plump for India’s telecom revolution.
But India’s love affair with cricket prevails nationwide and clearly spills over into young India’s choice of favourite role model: Sachin Tendulkar. Anna Hazare finishes second, while Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan come in at three and four. Rahul Gandhi is a distant fifth. Only Delhi voted for Hazare (40%) over Sachin, while Chennai is the only city where Rahul Gandhi polls second place. But it is Mumbai, yet again, that saves its biggest surprise for this last question. The city’s top choice of role model is not its favourite son, Tendulkar, but that good old Indian ethic – family; 20% of Mumbaikars choose their ‘parents/father’ over Sachin (19%).
STUDENTS & SOLUTIONS
Wanted: Freedom from corruption
As the largest democracy in the world, India has a lot to be proud of. Unfortunately, clean governance is not one of them. The malaise of corruption is so all-pervasive that businesses have found innovative names under which to record bribes as business expense, “facilitation fee” being just one!
Why have bribes become an inseparable part of Indian life? The current system of governance gives us some answers. The legislature has members who get elected after very expensive campaigns funded by vested interests that get paid back through favourable policies. The executive implements the mandate of the legislature skimming out part of the gains that are to be had, while the judiciary that should place checks and balances is too overloaded to punish anyone despite the mountain of evidence.
The system incentivizes corruption, and people respond to incentives. Corruption pays in the form of financial gains, favorable relations with superiors among others, and these come at very little cost since the likelihood of punishment is minimal and the worst that can happen is some bad press if there is an expose. The tax placed by an individual’s conscience only diminishes as corruption increases.
We need to change the incentives – add to the costs through time-bound investigations and punishment and cap the gains by recovering losses incurred by the country from the guilty individual’s estate. These changes will not come without resistance, but some things are worth fighting for!
Ramjas College, Delhi
The common man has come to believe that the success of the battle against corruption hinges on the outcomes in Parliament – the Lokpal bill, for instance. We forget our own duty to uphold and enforce the laws that already exist. The Prevention of Corruption act, 1988 provides for special judges and a five-year jail term. But no, the Lokpal sounds far more exciting; it cannot possibly fail, right?
Corruption is an ethical issue; it is deeply entrenched in our mindset. We have come to accept it as a completely rational system that gets our work done, even though we are entitled to it.. For some of us, it is also a way of boasting about our fabulous “negotiation” skills, flaunting the money in our pockets as though it was small change. This mentality will have to change for any long-term solution to corruption. In the short term, it seems the only way public officials will stop demanding bribes is by creating adequate supply-side shocks. The use of electronic means to transfer funds is a workable idea that eliminates the cost of effort and time as well. This should be coupled with full public access to information, to avoid the secrecy synonymous with Swiss banks.
Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
The government is peddling a Lokpal bill that is merely a recipe for shielding the corrupt in high places and intimidating anti-corruption activists and whistleblowers. This is not surprising considering the bill has been drafted by the very government whose own ministers stand implicated in various scams! We need an effective movement to ensure this toothless bill is rejected and a genuine anti-corruption legislation is passed by Parliament.
As part of a countrywide youth movement, we believe that democratic citizenship must be rejuvenated. Thousands of activists braved police batons to take part in the protests at Jantar Mantar this week. They came to fight against corruption. To fight for the constitutional vision of this country as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. And, to save India.
All the money involved in the recent scams may seem like small change when compared to the crores quietly siphoned off in the name of welfare. Every year, the central government spends over Rs 3 lakh crore on social safety-net schemes. When this money does not reach the intended beneficiaries, it is a failure of governance at the grassroots.
The Unique ID programme, Aadhaar, is a major step in the government’s efforts to curb these leakages. With a unique identification for every individual, and financial inclusion through a corresponding no-frills bank account, these losses could be substantially reduced. Similar schemes in Brazil, South Africa and Argentina have shown dramatic results in reducing corruption.
It is also heartening to see civil society raising its voice to demand solutions. Thanks to the role of the media in creating awareness and the efforts of Team Anna, the Lokpal may soon become a reality. The institution will encourage transparency.
In the long run, however, one needs to create a society which equips its people to earn an honest living. For each person to be gainfully employed, education is a must. The UID project and the Lokpal bill are a good start to a much larger project. True salvation lies in uplifting the masses, educating every Indian and ultimately electing responsible governments.