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By MANU JOSEPH, nytimes.com / Published: August 17, 2011.
NEW DELHI — The best thing about Indian politicians is that they make you feel you are a better person. Not surprisingly, Indians often derive their moral confidence not through the discomfort of examining their own actions, but from regarding themselves as decent folks looted by corrupt, villainous politicians.
This is at the heart of a self-righteous middle-class uprising against political corruption, a television news drama that reached its inevitable climax in Delhi on Tuesday when the rural social reformer Anna Hazare was about to set out for his death fast — the second one he has attempted this year to press his demand for a powerful anti-corruption agency.
He was arrested by the police, ostensibly in the interest of law and order.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his Independence Day address to the nation on Monday, took digs at Mr. Hazare and his tactic of using hunger strikes to twist the arm of an elected government. Mr. Singh said that he did not have “a magic wand” to end corruption in India.
The anti-corruption movement has the simplicity of a third-rate fable.
There are the good guys (the reformers and the average Indian citizen) and the bad guys (the politicians). But the real story is not a fable but art cinema.
Indians have a deep and complicated relationship with corruption. As in any long marriage, it is not clear whether they are happily or unhappily married. The country’s economic system is fused with many strands of corruption and organized systems of tax evasion. The middle class is very much a part of this.
Most Indians have paid a bribe. Most Indian businesses cannot survive or remain competitive without stashing away undeclared earnings.
Almost everybody who has sold a house has taken one part of the payment in cash and evaded tax on it.
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