Corporate governance and Anna Hazare’s fast
A few months ago, Kiran Bedi visited the Thomson Reuters office in Bangalore as a guest speaker to mark International Women’s week and also to address us on corporate ethics and governance. It was also the day when some of us heard of a man called Anna Hazare and a bill called the Lokpal.
“A few of us activists, like Anna Hazare, if you’ve heard about him…,” began Bedi. “He’s called the Gandhi of Maharashtra,” and she continued further, enlightening us about the anti-corruption bill and the support and impact this man can provide.
“Anna Hazare is known to be very effective in the past,” she said. “Whenever Hazare has sat on a fast, the Maharashtra government gave in and he got the right kind of laws.”
Days into Hazare’s fast in New Delhi, Bedi’s prescient speech echoes in the minds of those of us who heard her talk about how the bill is being enacted not because the government wants it, but because it was a signatory in the G20 resolution to fight corruption and was bound by it.
“It’s all about governance. The principles of governance are similar whether in finance or in public service,” she said.
But is a “fast-unto-death” the only means, some may even label it a threat or emotional blackmail, to achieve a resolution? Is it soon becoming a silent weapon to ensure establishment of those “principles of governance” that Bedi mentions? If governance is not just about public service but also corporate, what if this silent weapon finds its way into institutions and companies?
In a country where over $60 billion gets soaked into corruption every year, the way out to establish rules may have to be more stringent than quiet sacrifices. The show — corrupt or not — will go on, irrespective of protests, but will right governance only be achieved by not eating or drinking? Even when Bedi transformed Tihar Jail in the mid-90s, her only weapon to make the government agree to her prison reform plans was pressure tactics.
“I didn’t threaten but I used threatening methods,” she told a packed corporate audience of data handlers, market viewers and corporate journalists, informing them that private corruption was also an integral part of the Lokpal bill.
“The corporate has been a bribe giver and the government has been a bribe receiver,” Bedi said. “The receiver had been caught whenever, the giver never got caught.”
Much of the Indian money in Swiss banks and other tax havens may have a lot of corporate backing and the final bill will highlight how businesses may be affected.
“So I think I’ll share this good news,” Bedi told us with a smile. “Corporate is going to be part of this act.
“Is this good news?” she asked.