Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Anna Hazare’s Movement

This is a real torture when one cannot take a firm stand on a issue which is holding sway over the country for the last few days. I am still vacillating—sometimes on this side, sometimes on the other. And mostly in between. This happens when the facts are not available though there is no shortage of rhetoric on both sides.

I clearly remember this—when Manmohan Singh first became the Prime Minister of UPA-I, he promised to bring administrative reforms—reforms in administration, judiciary, police, military, everything. This was the much needed second generation of reforms. We believed MMS because after all he was the famed reforms man of the P V Narasimha Rao’s regime.

But sadly this did not happen, even though we are in the middle of his second term. We have not seen a single reform so far, not even much in his pet line of economic reforms. Whatever actions we have seen have been in the domain of the SG-chaired, extra-constitutional NAC crowded with the Harsh Mander types, which prescribed wasteful and corruption-breeding schemes. Why have the priorities changed? The reason is easily understandable. In the PVNR times, the PM was wholly backing MMS, in fact PV was the real reforms man. With UPA-I and II, it is Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who call the shots and they are either not bothered about reforms or do not understand the need of it.

India has vastly moved forward since the socialistic days of Indira Gandhi. I still remember those days when to have a bag of cement or a scooter, one would either have to go to the black market or wait for many years. But though we have made some progress, reforms in India is only semi-done. Whatever happened has happened mainly in the economic front. Now India needs, badly needs, the other reforms promised by the PM. Had they taken place, they would have vastly improved the government’s functioning and reduced corruption to a great extent. Over-regulation is our bane which actually gives rise to corruption while pretending to tackle it. The promised reforms were supposed to reduce the regulations (particularly the discretionary powers in the hands of some as Swapan Dasgupta has so nicely explained recently) and create a free and competitive atmosphere.

But what has happened is that the level of corruption has actually increased over the years during the rule of this government. This has happened because politicians and bureaucrats have retained their vast regulatory powers to dispense/deny favours to industrialists. In India the situation is so bad that the industrialists who do not toe the dotted line would simply perish.

This is why I have been against bringing an additional and super regulatory authority like the Lokpal into the picture. We need to unshackle, not to put more shackles. Lokpal Bill appeared to me to be a movement in the exact opposite direction. Also, I cannot exactly comprehend how a few persons can root out both big-ticket and small-ticket corruption (considering the huge number of people involved in the latter). The pro-JLP intellectuals must explain these aspects to people before the latter is expected to form an opinion.

However, anger against corruption is something I do share like everybody in this country. This is why I respect Anna Hazare and his team and this is why watching Annaji’s movement unfolding on the streets and the TV screen brings tears to my eyes. These people have made us feel that there is still some hope left.

The imperious way with which the government has dealt with this issue so far has changed my perceptions to a great extent. Firstly, the treatment they have meted out to Baba Ramdev. In my own circles I know at least a dozen people who follow Baba Ramdev’s yog methods and they have greatly benefitted from it. To call this person as a ‘Dhongi Baba’ is equivalent to insulting all such people who have faith in him. No surprise India Today’s recent polls have shown a sharp decline of the support for Congress party in UP and an associated rise of BJP support there.

Well, Baba Ramdev was perhaps not fit for this fight. He obviously lacked courage that showed in his comic flight. He also prescribes solutions that are too simplistic. In other words, he does not have a proper understanding of the issues.

The Anna Hazare team comprises of much better intellect. To ridicule them will simply not do. Ordinary people have a remarkable wisdom and the huge popular sentiment pouring on the streets cannot be ignored. All this talk about being unconstitutional (which is a lie) and extra-parliamentary is mere technicality. Democracy is India is firmly secured. In fact this is also another face of democracy. When the government does not act, people have a right to bring pressure upon the government.

The anti-Anna intellectuals have so far been mostly sarcastic and nothing much more than that. They should now come out more in the line of explaining the matters. They should explain better alternatives, if there are any. They maintain that the JLP is draconian, but why? For asking life imprisonment for the big-ticket corrupt persons? Well, I would rather like execution for them, China style. In fact I feel that punishment for crimes in our country is too mild. Corruption in the judiciary is perhaps the most alarming thing and I hear that there is an Accountability bill lying with parliament on that—these things are to be explained.

Personally, my greatest problem with team Anna is the presence of socialistic, anti-industry, anti-capitalism outlook (eg Prashat Bhushan, Medha Patkar) which, in my view, will only work towards retarding India’s growth.

The government could have discussed the issues threadbare with the Anna team, inside the parliament, and might have had interactions with the public through the media. But it has not done so. The utterances of people like Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari and Divijay Singh only strengthens public suspicion that the government is attempting to hide things and is not interested in tackling corruption.

The way I see the matter right now is that in our country nothing comes the perfect way and perhaps something better will come out of this ‘imperfect’ Jan Lokpal Bill. We always felt hopeless against corruption, terrorism, etc … now we can at least see some hope.

(Ultimately this post remains a confused babble—a mirror of the present working of my mind.)


drift wood said...

The way this govt has conducted itself, i doubt there's anyone who supports it in this fracas. But, frankly, this 'movement' just didn't capture my imagination - dont even want to tick off points on why/how. Probably, i would've had more sympathy if less people had been invlved. A mass movement, in a nation such as ours, always runs the risk of being trivialised.

Shoumitro said...


This can perhaps be viewed as, as Aamir Khan pointed out, another form of lobbying -- lobbying by the people. After all the govt does not seem to take action without being under pressure, and to create the necessary pressure a critical mass of people is needed.

In my view there is space and need of both revolution and evolution, of the nor'westers and also of the steady and constant drips of monsoon. When the anomaly in the system is too stubborn, a great force is needed to dislodge the status quo. But as with storms and gusty winds, many ills also take place in any revolutionary process, which need further corrections immediately after. Already we are hearing various voices on the issue (from Aruna Roy, CVC, even CBI) that were otherwise silent earlier or not getting attention. That is where Anna’s agitation has succeeded in the short run. About intellectuals, my view is very pessimistic. They have always failed the people of this country.