Today a major part of the business hub of Bangalore – the Chickpet / Balepet and other nearby areas were closed voluntary to show solidarity with the Anna Hazare campaign. Loosing business hurts everyone and if some one is doing it voluntarily, it shows the amount of pain the people have and the contempt for what is going on.
In the evening, I was listening to the speech of Anna Hazare and felt that as I had outlined earlier, while his goals were genuine and something that has to be accomplished, the route he is taking to get there is not the right way.
One of the key demands of the campaign is to include all levels of administration under the Jan Lok Pal. Of course this is a credible demand since much of the day to day corruption we witness is because of our interactions with the lower level of administrators than dealing with MP’s or MLA’s. But the problem is that the laws are such that it makes it impossible to get the work done without paying off.
For instance, let’s take the question of building a house. I would say that there would be less than 10% of total number of persons who have built their houses but haven’t needed to pay a bribe. The reason the vast majority are compelled to bribe is because the rules are highly impractical and illogical (in some cases).
The laws governing how you can build a house in your site were laid out years back. At that time, a 40 * 60 (feet) sites were allotted to Low Income Group. Set backs were framed to
1. Make it bit uniform in appearance
2. Give enough space for light and air.
But that was then when the land rates were pretty low and population was smaller. In the current age, with a growing population and growing needs, the cost of land has shot up substantially. But the laws remain the same despite sites getting smaller and smaller. Sites of dimensions of 15*20 (feet) are many in number. When one has paid through the nose for acquiring such small space, it defies logic to leave out so much of space to setbacks.
Architects when planning the building generally draw 2 plans. One is what will get approved and the second is what is actually constructed. The first observes every law that is demanded of and the second breaks virtually every law there is in the book.
Once the construction starts, the local AE, EE comes to visit since its now common knowledge that the building has violations (and that too in plenty). Depending on the amount of violations and amount of bargaining one can accomplish, a price is fixed and handed over which would mean that the guys will turn a blind eye to the said violations.
Now lets assume that there is a Jan Lok Pal and these guys are afraid, does that mean that every one will start obeying the law? On the contrary I feel that the asking price will go up since now its more risky than earlier. The guy who is building would not get him caught since he knows that he is violating the law in the first place and if he does get the guy caught, the guy coming next will ensure that the building never gets completed.
What instead would solve the problem is if laws are changed to reflect current situation. Agree that setbacks are needed to ensure Light and Air, but as the sites get smaller, it just is not possible to build anything. Why not change the law to reduce the said rules (including one that says that you cannot build a room over a Garage if the Garage is in the front of the property – not sure what logic is that, it defies conventional logic) and make it easy for people to build based on requirements and current trends.
If one looks at any new individual house, there would be violations galore. If 90% or more of the population is violating the law, then the answer would be to change the law rather than try to get everyone to follow the same. This may defy logic but will ensure that corruption comes down in some way.
I believe the same can be extended to a lot of areas where corruption is rampant because of unfollowable laws.
As Gujarat Chief Minister says, the best way for the government is to ensure Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. Simplying the laws and making it upto date will reduce the reasons for some one to pay off to get the work done and hence have a tremendous impact on the society itself.