Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anna & the Anti-Corruption Movement - My Take

I'll begin with making one thing clear. I am against corruption. And would support any movement which can eradicate this. Do I believe that the Lokpal Bill will be the cure for corruption in the country? I do not know, but certainly would like to believe that it might help.
First a little recap of the events going on.
Earlier this year in April, Anna Hazare went on a fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to ask/force (?) the Government to propose the Lokpal Bill. The country was then on a patriotic high. This had come just days after India had won the World Cup. The movement generated a lot of awareness in the people about the Lokpal concept. And certainly there was a massive outpouring of support for the cause. Anna Hazare had become the rallying point for the public's fight against corruption. My thoughts post the fast are here
Post the fast there were some more copycat fasts. Prominent was the drama created by Baba Ramdev and the Union Government. A whole team of cabinet ministers went to receive the Baba. And then there was a police crackdown at his fasting stage, which resulted in civilians getting tear-gassed and injured, while the Baba did a dramatic football style dive and escaped wearing a shalwar kameez (Just wondering, with his appearance, how much of a disguise was a woman's dress?). Post the crackdown, the public sentiment had swung in the favour of Baba till he started making weird statements about creating an armed force to take on the government (I guess a good enough reason for putting him behind bars, but the Government did not want to  take the risk).
Back to Annaji and the Lokpal Bill now. A joint drafting committee was formed with representatives from the Government and the "Civil Society" (another interesting term, which implies that the democratically elected Parliament represents the non-civil society). The Government produced a pretty mild version of the bill proposal with not too much powers to the Lokpal, while the "civil society" had a much different version. (Critique of the government bill is here and here is a comparison made by a news site, a presentation on the subject is here). Not satisfied with the Government's draft, the civil society led by Annaji proceeded on a second round of fasting.
Again there has been massive outpouring of support in the media and on the social networks for Anna Hazare. I have also seen demonstrations and rallies in his support. And these have been mostly voluntary. However I am not too sure of the public support which is coming right now. The support is there not as much in favour of getting a bill, but an outburst of the built up frustration in the people. Just too many scams, bribery at every level of the government machinery, inflation and just too many people. And the Government is not helping its own cause by behaving in an idiotic manner. Arresting Anna was a stupid move, and  with spokespersons like Manish Tiwari, Kapil Sibal, Digvijay Singh speaking for the ruling party, the Anna movement certainly did not need any campaigners for their cause. (An aside - The BJP must be really thankful that it is sitting in the Opposition right now)
The movement can be summed up as follows. The public is fed up, they wanted to do "something" and this looked like that "something", so why not do this. I am all for supporting the agitation but there are a few things about the movement/agitation which is worrying me.
First of all, there is a growing mass hysteria. Anna's supporters have built a George Bush kind of "Either you are with us, or against us" attitude. A person need not support Anna Hazare, and can still be against corruption. Try posting any statement which may seem to be in favour of government or against Anna and his team and look at the abuse you'll get. There seems to be no room for a contrarian view point. Definitely not an ideal condition in any democracy.
Then there is the hysterical media coverage. The coverage has been focussed on the activities going on while forgetting the main issue. What I see is logistics of fast being arranged at Ramlila grounds, whether and when Anna will leave Tihar or not, which celebrity has tweeted his support for Anna. What I don't see is the point-by-point debate on the two drafts. Or is that something which no one is caring about. The movement seems to be losing focus. (Or maybe it might have slipped from my attention due to all the jingoism everywhere)
The movement has been hyped up the Lokpal Bill as a panacea for all corruption. Nobody knows yet what form it is going to be, forget the implementation part. The Government draft  does not achieve anything, but neither does Anna's. If implemented in current form, that would be the end of all government functioning. We have already seen how a hyper active CAG through its "selective media leaks" has paralyzed a couple of union ministries. The ideal bill would be certainly something in-between the two drafts, but will either side listen to it. Even if Anna's version is proposed, the final law has to be passed by Parliament, which will certainly be a toned down version. What does Anna do then?
There already seems to be a 3rd version of the bill getting drafted by Aruna Roy. Hopefully that will enable public debate on the bill. At this rate I think all citizens should get in the bill drafting mode. Why not go in for a "crowdsourced" bill like the recently drafted Constitution of Iceland?
As for the public uprising going on, I get a feeling of deja vu here. Remember 26/11 and the citizen rallies which took place after that. Lots of frustration came out. People took to the streets, candlelight marches, posters and slogans against the Government. The TV channels were building up the hype. The stage looked set for a revolution. And then when the elections were held within 6 months of that heinous incident, hardly 40% people voted in Mumbai. Now where were the bringers of change?
There is a need for change. But the way the movement is going on, I do not see any change being brought forth. Though I am no expert in these matters, I guess we already have enough laws and their implementation mechanism in place. What we don't have is the willingness to follow them. And that certainly can't be created by just another law.
I don't have a solution myself but I am certain that what I am seeing all around is neither.

5 comments:

Ashwin Atul said...

I am with you on this!!

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Christopher Poshin David said...

I agree with you that whatever that is happening now is not a solution. This definitely can't result in a better India can it?

Dormeo said...

I am not sure if this type of government can bring a stable governance system. I agree the kejri govt. at Delhi is doing some good stuff at certain level but even non of these are clean handed and in my opinion are wolf in deer's cover.

My personal opinion though

Dormeo said...

I am not sure if this type of government can bring a stable governance system. I agree the kejri govt. at Delhi is doing some good stuff at certain level but even non of these are clean handed and in my opinion are wolf in deer's cover.

My personal opinion though