Say no to corruption
By Preethi Ann Thomas | Published: 08th July 2013 12:00 AM |
Five years in the world’s most powerful city — Washington DC, USA — was an eye-opener for anti-corruption crusader Vijay Anand. The ease at which he could get things done there shocked him. With no corruption and red-tapism, visits to government offices was a breeze. What’s more, there was no disrespect or humiliation. Like many other NRIs, he too wondered why India hadn’t reached that level of professionalism.
Unlike others who chose to crib and complain about the state of affairs back home, Anand chose to channel his anger into something productive. “Initially, I wanted to start an organisation that would encourage people to form queues, something basic. But there were not enough volunteers here. With the support of a few NRI friends, I began Aims India Foundation in 2001 to reach out to villages,” says Anand. “When I encountered high levels of corruption while trying to set up toilets in village schools, I finally saw the evil that needed to be eliminated. Not being dutiful and accountable is also corruption.”
Anand co-founded Fifth Pillar in 2007 to encourage, enable and empower citizens to eliminate corruption at all levels. “Most of us aren’t aware of our rights or do not perform our duties and are easily misled about procedures, which makes it easier for others with any kind of power to take advantage. Awareness and sensitisation is the only way to change this,” he says, while seated behind a MacBook, which that also sports the Mark Twain quote, “Explore, dream, discover”.
Sensitisation, Anand believes should start early. “Students at the threshold of adulthood have open minds and are positive and forthcoming as far as change is concerned. So we travel to every nook and cranny of Tamil Nadu, visit colleges and other institutions, airports, railway and bus stations and launch campaigns,” he says.
A Zero Rupee Note (ZRN) was also launched by Fifth Pillar to spread the word. Fifth Pillar has opened citizens charters in different colleges. Giving out ZRN has also brought in many corruption complaints, which they help channel to the right parties.
This revolutionary believes asking the right questions will help you weed out corruption. Also, affiliation to an organisation like theirs gives you a backing that induces fear in the offenders.
Anand has also launched Dreams India in 2012, a media company to produce short films, ads, feature films and videos for and about change-makers. The company also hires out cameras and other equipment. This venture helps Fifth Pillar stay afloat.
AGNI (Action Ground for New India) was launched this year to counter corruption in villages in a non-confrontational and tactful manner. Knock It Out seeks to knock at every door and knock every hint of corruption out of the system and SAC (Students Against Corruption) reaches out to the student fraternity in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Delhi, Rajasthan and Bihar. A membership only costs `200 annually. You too can learn more and join the movement by visiting www.5thpillar.org, emailing email@example.com or calling (0)8754046342.
This Ashoka Award winner is always on the move, with packed schedules that run late into the night. He is always thinking of new ways to impact society positively. In his words, “I am an incurable optimist, and cannot take no for an answer. I cannot tolerate wasted potential and avoidable suffering. I believe that education is a waste if it is not useful for the society, fellow humans and nation-building.”
He is actively involved with associations in Washington like the India Cultural Coordination Committee and National Federation of Indian-American Association. His wife and son still live in USA, where his son is pursuing higher education.
Anand had even dabbled in politics — he was briefly a member of with the fledgling party, Makkal Sakthi Katchi. He opted out because he wanted to concentrate more on Fifth Pillar. This former politician idolises Mahatma Gandhi. “Although he did not enter electoral politics, he still is my favourite. Every campaign he carried out to lead the nation to independence was laden with politics. It baffled the British and eventually made them leave India. He was instrumental in moblising various freedom struggles and converting them into one big national movement.
Anand also admires Kamaraj, former CM of TN for his integrity, simplicity and a controversy-free public life. “We need more such politicians to change status quo and make politics a proud and noble profession again,” he says.
The GodFather and Kurudhipunal are his favourite movies. He loves Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. Anand credits his parents for educating him. By leading a righteous life, they inspired Anand to fight for what he believes in.