(Reuters) - Mahesh Kundu paid 2,500 rupees for a driving licence, Rupam Bhatia 5,000 rupees to be admitted to hospital and Vishrant Chandra 6,000 rupees for a marriage certificate. These are the commonplace bribery stories experienced by middle-class Indians who have poured into the streets to say "enough is enough".
Corruption in India is as old as the Ramayana, when the evil demon Ravana bribed a guardian of hell to avoid punishment in the ancient Indian epic. What is unprecedented is the spontaneous middle-class anti-graft movement coalescing around hunger-fasting activist Anna Hazare, a former army soldier- turned-social activist, who has created an Indian "spring" of rebellion against politics as usual.
Tens of thousands of people have joined peaceful protests across the country, forcing a weak and fumbling government and an equally hapless opposition to try to placate growing frustration and anger at the political class.
"Anna Hazare has raised our inner conscience," said Vishrant Chandra, a 35-year-old sales manager at Sun Life insurance in New Delhi, who had his own story to tell.
"A marriage certificate cost 6,000 rupees," said Chandra, smartly dressed and wearing a sticker saying "Anna. We are with you", as he described his brush with corruption.
"Agents outside the marriage certificate office roam around. Those are the ones you pay," said Chandra as he wiped sweat from his forehead in the sweltering sun at the Ramlila ground, where Hazare lay on a public stage in the sweltering monsoon heat in the second week of his fast.
India has a long history of civil movements, topped by Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent protest that led to the end of British colonial rule. But this is a rare instance of India's middle class putting aside their material concerns to take to the streets for a political cause.
The near-double-digit economic growth India has enjoyed since the economy was opened up in the early 1990s has elevated millions of people to...