The Iron Lady against Corruption

A very strong personality coupled with strong values, she gives off an aura of strength that is perceived from very few people. After a tryst with journalism, she stepped into the world of activism to crusade for the people and fight against corruption in the governmental offices. A strong backer of the Jan Lokpal Bill, this fearless fighter has made it a mission to cleanse the country of corruption and make it a better place to live in.

Team MM caught up Anupama Jha, former Executive Director of Transparency International India Chapter, for a tete-a-tete about her journey and her crusade against corruption.

Excerpts: 

MM: What made you embark on this perilous journey of fighting corruption?

Anupama Jha: I wanted to serve the society and I thought that the best way to serve was by being a journalist. I thought that that there a lack of clarity when I was very young. So, I did not know how to do this. I realized that one way perhaps would have been through writing about the problems that are faced by the people. That is why I became a journalist. But, later I realized that it is not the best medium of serving the society. If you really want to, then there are other ways out there. So, I went to rural Uttaranchal, rural Jharkhand and Bihar doing a lot of work there. I realized, during my course of work, that there is huge corruption: there is money coming from the government, but is not reaching the people, the people for whom the money is meant. That is why I thought that, one very important problem that the people face is corruption and I decided to devote myself to that area. I was very lucky at that time, because Transparency International was looking for somebody to head their organization in India, and they approached me. This is how my journey in this field started. 

MM: What has been your experience as a journalist?

AJ: I had a great experience in that field. I too hail from a very small town and this profession gives you a lot of confidence and exposure and opportunity to interact with a lot of people at a time when you are very young and had not even dreamt of meeting the president or prime minister! You get to see a lot of pain of the people and an opportunity to wipe their tears and interact with a lot of people.

MM: What do you think is India’s position on corruption today and what steps can we take to make a better society?

AJ:  If we look at the ranking of India in the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, it comes at 94 out of 178 countries with an integrity score of 36. So, I must say that the country is in a very bad situation in terms of corruption. What we can do is, create a political will. For instance, if all the students of this institution, decide no matter what, no matter how painful it is, will not resort to any bribery, we can take a step towards anti-corruption. We can put more focus on e-governance, use technology to the best, ensure more transparency and accountability, and use a very powerful tool: Right to Information Act, 2005. Use this tool to ensure transparency and accountability. 

MM: Now that the government has changed, what expectations do you have from the new one?

AJ: My expectation from every government, no matter which one, is that, they should do something to check corruption, make things more accountable to the people. Unless they do that, things are not going to change. I believe that the electoral process should change. There should be legitimate funding and clean electoral process. 

MM: What changes do you think can be brought about by Jan Lokapal Bill?

AJ: The basic tenet of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to have an independent ombudsman. Right now, the general perception is that CBI, which is supposed to be a police body and an independent institution, in not the one it looks to be. There is a lot of political influence being used. So that is why there is cry for the Jan Lokpal Bill where we can have a strong and independent body to look into corruption. That is the purpose of Lokpal. Corruption is a hydra headed monster. It has many head. We have to look 360 degrees. One size cannot fit all. We have to take in the differences and act accordingly. 

We are in a consumerist society now where everyone is running. What I want say is that: don’t run. Stop and be stable inside. Think and then act.

MM: What has been your work at Transparency International India chapter’s Executive Director?

AJ: My main job was to do the research. We had a project where we had a development pact: normally the politician prepares the manifesto for the people. We decided that the people should make the manifesto and present it to the aspiring representatives. We gave that to every electoral candidate. All except one rejected the conditions in that. And in the elections, the people voted the person who had accepted their demands, to power. Now, his actions are evaluated thoroughly and we do make sure that the manifesto is implemented. 

MM: What is the work of Trace International?

AJ: We basically try to convince the companies not to give bribes to get any job done. We want them to follow the procedures and the norms properly. When any company from outside the country is coming to invest and setup business, they tie-up with the local companies to form a base. Many countries like USA and UK have very stringent laws about giving and taking bribes. They are not allowed to bribe in any country. Also, the local companies they have tie-ups with come under their laws. So, we provide a certification that the local company is clean and they can do the business with them. 

MM: How has been your journey from your days as a student to the Executive Director of Transparency International India Chapter?

AJ: It has been a very good experience. I got to know and interact with many people. I came to know the sufferings of the people and decide to fight for it. I made it an aim in life to reduce, if not eradicate corruption. I have worked at many places and many projects and will continue to do so. 

MM: What would like to say to the citizens of the future India?

AJ: I want to say: look within yourself. Introspect your actions and think properly before acting. The very first step towards reformation must start from you. Make it a life’s promise not to give or take bribes and not to encourage corruption in any form. If you start reforming from a personal level, then only things can improve.

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