Dr. Binayak Sen at IISc

Concern – IISc, have managed to get Dr. Binayak Sen to come to IISc and give a talk – they call it ‘A Discussion with Binayak Sen’. The event is to be held in the Materials Engineering Auditorium today, Wednesday 18th January. It is quite something that people at IISc have done this. I of course will attend. It will be an honour to meet the man. I hope to get to ask him a question, the beginnings of an answer (a resolution, perhaps?) are already in my head.

There has been an ongoing debate on the institution of a Lokpal to curb corruption. Several protests, riots and fasts later, it is still predominantly an urban middle-class movement. The way you’d know that it is an urban-middle-class movement is by looking at what the definition of corruption being used amounts to: it deals merely with people being ticked off at having to pay their local venal government official. And while there is far too much of this for anybody’s liking, this says nothing at all about the staggering economic divide that exists in this country.

If every government office starts functioning honestly tomorrow, can we declare this country – one where half the people don’t have access to basic sanitation, where two out of five children are malnourished – free of corruption? Are these problems not symptomatic of the same malaise that also gives us epic-ally bad corruption ratings? Can we hope for a solution to the problem of corruption without bothering about the gaping class divide? Or can we hope to bridge the divide if we don’t allow for representation from the masses we seek to liberate (or, god forbid, the heathen we seek to civilise) ?

Like P. Sainath says, the hubris that is involved in assuming that a Nobel laureate is fit to decide policy for the governance of India is staggering.

I’m hoping Dr. Binayak Sen has something to say about the Lokpal debate.

NOTE: If you live on the JNC campus, special transport for this talk has been arranged. The bus leaves at 5pm.


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