Bringing To Heel

The corrupt normally observe a law of silence. The public , too, suffers in silence. Once in a while someone comes across to rock the boat and spill the beans. Anna Hazare of Ralegan Siddhi is one such person. His name is synonymous with ecological regeneration. But he has also been in the forefront of bringing "the corrupt" to heel. In 1990, Hazare heard about the purchase of equipment by the Maharashtra forest department. His inquiries revealed that a lot of the equipment, procured from companies in Mumbai, was of no use to the department. Furthermore, it could have been purchased from the local people at 25 to 50 per cent less. When the Centre for Science and Environment sent a media team to investigate the case, K K Gokak, the state's forest secretary, admitted that corruption exists in the forest department.

He said that the three distinct areas where corruption is rampant are:
• Illegal felling in which forest officials connive with contractors,

• allotment of contracts, and

• bulk purchases.

Similarly, Hazare's inquiry into water supply schemes in villages also opened a Pandora's box. He wrote to 425 sarpanches (village council chairpersons) to find out about the rural water supply schemes in their areas. Some 165 sarpanches responded and said the water supply schemes in their areas were as good as dead. He forced the government to look into the matter in Ahmednagar district. A three-member inquiry team studied 661 schemes and found that 40 to 50 per cent of the schemes were not working. Each of these schemes - in existence for about a decade - had cost the government some Rs 7,00,000. The government agency, responsible for these schemes, was only interested in building the project, not in its operation.