Atanu Dey On India's Development

Anna Hazare Goes to New Delhi

| 41 Comments

Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast for getting the “Jan Lokpal Bill” passed has met with almost universal approval. The media frenzy has caught the Indian public’s attention to an extent that they generally reserve for more important matters such as a cricket match. One could argue that both the public obsession with cricket and the current spectacle of a public fast share a common origin, the deep-seated desire of the people to participate in what they believe are events of great significance. Mob hysteria is awesome to behold but rarely if ever leads to beneficial outcomes.

Just to be sure about the background of the agitation, let’s recount the agreed facts. For about 40 years or so, a bill known as the “Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill” has been pending in the Indian parliament. Essentially, it allows the creation of an advisory body which which would investigate cases of corruption brought to its attention by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. The group led by Hazare and company want an alternative bill, called the “Jan Lokpal Bill” passed instead.

Setting aside for the moment the merits of the Jan Lokpal Bill, I think we need to inquire into what’s being done to force the government to adopt it. Anna Hazare is a widely respected social worker, having brought the village of Ralegoan Siddhi to national attention. Without questioning his motive for pushing this particular version of the bill at this particular time, I find his use of a hunger strike questionable.

Hazare is celebrated as a Gandhian, and I believe that he is indeed one to the extent that he’s using an old Gandhian ploy. Gandhi too used fast-unto-death threats effectively and to much popular acclaim. Of all the hypocritical actions that Gandhi indulged in publicly, fasting to death is most definitely the most remarkable. It’s hypocritical because he talked loudly about non-violence and simultaneously took steps that could lead to death. If forcing others to give in to your demands by threatening to kill (suicide is not the same as homicide but it does involve the ultimate violence of the death of a sentient being) is not violence, non-violence is a meaningless concept mouthed by self-serving people.

Even if one is not wedded to the concept non-violence, a moral case can be made against the use of violent blackmail as an instrument of achieving public policy ends. Threatening to kill oneself to get others to do what you want is blackmail that’s impossible to ignore. That is unacceptable in small closed groups such as a family but it becomes infinitely more reprehensible when played out at the national level.

As a means to an end, I am not against violence. Violence is certainly justified in cases where it’s the last means of combating unbearable injustice. But violence has to be the last resort in one’s desperate fight against injustice and only if one’s violent action prevents an even greater violence. What makes me see red is when violence is camouflaged with pious talk of non-violence. Hypocrisy is ethically and morally repulsive.

Violence has no place in a civilized society which is supposed to be ruled by law. People who threaten to kill themselves are no better than those who take to the streets to riot and rampage destroying life and property. It is an unfortunate fact that too often the government gives in to demands — reasonable or not — when sufficient violence is employed. At some point when the nation as a whole, including the government and the citizens, becomes sufficiently mature to play by the rules, and the use of violence as an instrument of forcing public policy becomes verboten. I believe it is high time that India became such.

Hazare’s fasting to death and the public support that he has enlisted shows how immature India is as a nation. Endorsing his and his supporters’ actions in this case is dangerous for the simple reason that its essential consequence is rule by mobs hell bent on having their way by threatening violence. Already India suffers from episodes of mobs forcing the government to restrict personal freedoms such as expression and speech by violent means. Whether Hazare’s action will result in a better ombudsman bill or not is uncertain. But it will certainly reinforce the public perception that if you want your way, instead of taking the hard way of arguing your case, the quickest and most expedient way is to take to violence.

Yes, Hazare and his cohort are fighting for a good cause; yes, we have to collectively and publicly fight public corruption; yes, we have to make heroic efforts to clean the Augean stables which the Indian legislature has predictably become thanks to the Nehru-Gandhi clan’s misrule. But in our haste to do something we could be painting ourselves into a corner.

“We have to do something against corruption; this is something; so therefore we should do this.” It has superficial appeal but however intense our passion for justice, we have to make certain that it is the right thing to do, not merely the most expedient or the most TV news worthy.

My contention is that what Hazare and company are doing is definitely spectacular but is also as certainly the wrong thing.

Bandwagons are spectacular, full of sound and pomp, but the streets revert back to their normal once they pass and the spectators have dispersed. The celebrities — movie actors, cricket players, politicians, news anchors — after they are done riding this one, will jump on the next one to continue to distract the public. Candle sales will drop until the next big thing — perhaps another terrorist attack — comes along for the public to latch on to. Mind you, I like a circus as much as the next guy. I would rather have one in town for entertainment but not if we are entertained into a comatose state.

I have argued why fasting to death is the wrong thing to do. But there’s more. I am convinced that the “Lokpal Bill,” either version is at best a palliative and does not strike at the root cause of corruption. Corruption is a serious matter but in the end, it is only a symptom of a deeper cause. Corruption is the manifestation of a systemic problem. Government power and control forms the foundation on which the massive structure of corruption is built.

I have written about the connection between control, shortage and corruption previously. (See “The Shortage Congested Economy.” April 2010.) I will briefly recapitulate the arguments here. Here’s how it goes. First, the balance of power between the government and the civil society. The government gets control of economic activity and arrogates to itself the power to dictate who does what. Instead of merely being a referee and enforcer of rules in the great economic game, it becomes a player. That gives the people in the government the opportunity to make economic profits (what economists call “rent.”) Rent-seeking opportunities attract the most greedy and the least principled to government positions. Instead of a democracy, it becomes a kakistocracy. Massive public corruption is the necessary and predictable consequence.

Imagine that being the minister for telecommunications affords one the opportunity to make $20 billion through kickbacks. One has to get elected to become a minister. We know that getting elected is a costly business. How much one is willing to spend on elections to become the minister for telecom depends on two things: the opportunity to recover the money spent on the elections and one’s readiness to steal from the public.

Now the larger the opportunity, the more the attraction for the greedy to seek the position. This leads to intense competition among the morally and ethically handicapped. It also weeds out the honest people. Suppose you are really capable of formulating good telecom policy but you have scruples. You don’t want to steal. So if you were to become the telecom minister, you would not even take a wooden nickel from the public till. You can spend at most a few lakhs on your election campaign that you are able to raise from your well-wishers. But what about your thoroughly dishonest competitors? They will make $20 billion if elected and so they can outspend you. You know that and thus keep out of the race.

The license-permit-control-quota raj is at the root of the criminalization of Indian politics. The less scruples one has, the greater the loot; the greater the loot, the more intense the competition to win the position; the more intense the competition, the greater the cost of fighting elections; the greater the cost, the greater the need to recover them; the more greedy and unprincipled people in government, the greater their desire to increase the government’s choke-hold on the economy.

The government controls massive segments of the economy. Food procurement and distribution; education; fuel, aviation; telecommunications; railways; banking and insurance; real estate; . . . the list is endless. The government is in it not because it is good for the country but because it is good for the people running the government. The politicians ride around for free on the government controlled railways and airlines. The government determines who gets the licenses and how restrictive the quotas have to be to extract the most rents. Ministers in charge of handing out mining rights make more money than the annual GDP of many small countries. Some are so rich that they must be counted as the richest men in the world. Raul Vinci aka Rahul Gandhi made it to one such list.

As if that was not enough, multi-billion dollar schemes (all named after Gandhi or the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family) for “social uplift” proliferate. Using taxes — our money — the government buys the loyalty of this or that vote bank. It would have been the most astonishing miracle if given the circumstances India had not been the world’s largest kakistocracy.

India is a corrupt country because the rules — those that give all the power to the government to run a license control permit quota raj — make it inevitable. George F Will was referring to the US government but his words apply with greater force to India when he wrote, “The administration’s central activity — the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.” [Tincture of Lawlessness. The Washington Post, May 2009.]

The root cause of corruption and the related issue of absolutely abysmal governance is our set of bad rules. India’s persistent deep-rooted poverty is due to that. Douglass C. North noted that “economic history is overwhelmingly a story of economies that failed to produce a set of economic rules of the game (with enforcement) that induce sustained economic growth.” The road out of poverty starts off with people deciding on a different set of rules. The corruption we are suffering today can only be eradicated by redressing the balance of power between the government and the people. The way to do that is to change the rules. But that change has to come from actions that are legitimate and consistent with the principles of a constitutional republic.

But, one may argue, isn’t that what Hazare and company are trying to do: change the rules? Indeed they are but that rule change is palliative and not curative. What they are trying to do is to see that criminals are punished. That’s after the act and it is not likely to be a deterrent because the penalties are paltry relative to the rewards, and the corrupt can buy their way out given that the system — even the courts are not immune to corruption — is corrupt.

Alright, you may say, but what is wrong with doing this first and then taking on the larger matter later? Wouldn’t it improve the situation?

Actually it may make the system worse because it would distract the people long enough for the larger problem to become more acute. It is like giving a painkiller to a person suffering from a gangrenous limb. It reduces the perceived urgency of removing the limb and is therefore ultimately more damaging to the body.

So what should be done? Instead of a hunger-strike, what is a better way of registering protest? Hazare should get his millions of supporters to protest peacefully. A few hundred thousand should go to New Delhi and not allow Pratibha Patil, Manmohan Singh, and their handler the Italian-born Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi to move out of their houses. Do that for a few weeks under the full glare of international media attention — remember all these worthies have foreign connections — and I bet that these people will get the message.

Instead of threatening violence, Hazare should use reason to persuade people to vote for change. In civilized societies, people argue, debate and use reason to make their case and persuade people. Let him take on Manmohan Singh on prime time TV. Let’s all hear what Manmohan Singh has to say for himself. Let the people ask MMS tough questions, instead of a stage-managed bunch of stooges — oops, I mean media personalities — throwing him softballs.

Popular leaders like Hazare should educate themselves first — so that they don’t end up making a bad situation worse. Mere good intentions are no guarantee that one is not seriously mistaken. Too often it is like the monkey trying to save a fish from drowning by putting it up on a tree.

Work to amend the constitution. The set of assumptions made when it was written were probably wrong then, but they are most certainly wrong now. Treating citizens like immature children is one such assumption. The British did leave the building but their rule book is being followed still.

The Jan Lokpal Bills is better than the Lokpal Bill. But that is not saying much. Both bills are dangerous because they focus on what punishment to dole out for crimes, and not on preventing criminals from committing them in the first place. But even if you believe that passing a bill is what you have to do, how you go about doing it matters because of the precedent it sets.

To my mind, the way out of hole that the Nehru-Gandhi clan and the Congress party has buried India in is to elect a competent and incorruptible person to be at the helm of affairs. That’s a tall order but it is not impossible. We can do it because when all is said and done, the citizens of India have the power to elect such a person. No one of us has the power to elect a real prime minister but together we can make it happen.

We have to unite as voters and create our own vote bank that demands a great prime minister. We have to launch a public awareness campaign so that the next election cycle the leader is someone who is serious about governance and not interested in loot. The rules can be changed by a good leader. India has 1.2 billion people and it is impossible that there isn’t one competent and honest person to lead India. The way out is therefore through the ballot box.

Postscript: The hunger strike is off as of 9th of April. The powers that be have assured Hazare that something will be done. The matter will be looked into. A committee will review the changes.

Kapil Sibal said, “We have resolved issues which seemed intractible. Our fight against corrupiton is a fight in which we are the civil society are in the same page.” Yes, indeed they are. As I had argued before, without the civil society being corrupt, it would not be possible for the corrupt to rule the country for so many decades.

Anyway, it’s all about kissing and making up now. Hazare thanked Manmohan Singh and Antonia Maino. All’s just wonderful. Mera Bharat Mahan.

Additional Readings:

Nitin Pai wrote a great piece on the matter: “Against Jan Lok Pal and the politics of hunger strikes”.

The Jan Lok Pal will become another logjammed, politicised and ultimately corrupt institution, for the passionate masses who demand new institutions have a poor record of protecting existing ones. Where were the holders of candles, wearers of Gandhi topis and hunger strikers when the offices of the Chief Election Commissioner, the Central Vigilance Commissioner and even the President of the Republic were handed out to persons with dubious credentials? If you didn’t come out to protest the perversion of these institutions why are you somehow more likely to turn up to protest when a dubious person is sought to be made the Jan Lok Pal?

But this is us. Given this reality, the solution for corruption and malgovernance should be one that does not rely the notoriously apathetic middle classes to come out on the streets. The solution is to take away the powers of discretion, the powers of rent-seeking from the government and restore it back to the people. This is the idea of economic freedom. Societies with greater economic freedom have lower corruption. We have long argued that we are in this mess because we have been denied Reforms 2.0.

Sandhya Jain’s piece is another worth reading very carefully: “Anna Hazare: NGOs for Governance?”

Anna Hazare’s so-called fast-unto-death is questionable for its anti-democratic disdain for elected government and people’s representatives. The timing is equally suspect – right after the adjournment of Parliament after passing the Union Budget. It may be recalled that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to gift Rs. 40,000/- crores to the leaky MREGA project favoured by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her unelected friends in the National Advisory Council; his attempts to curtail this hole in the exchequer enraged her.

As if on cue, Hazare, NAC cronies, Rockefeller Foundation-funded Magsaysay Award winners, and other usual suspects, ganged up against the besieged prime minister. Concerned citizens and analysts have a duty to ask whether the government of a Republic that derives its power from the people should – in the months preceding the monsoon session of Parliament – cave in to blackmail by well-heeled and well-connected NGOs, and accept a legislation drafted by them? If laws are to be adopted and enacted in this manner, do we need either government or Parliament?

. . .

Readers who may regard this critique as harsh should consider that Anna Hazare wants a joint committee comprising government and civil society leaders [read individuals and NGOs favoured by him and his friends] to rework the current draft Lokpal Bill. I am refraining, in this article, from going into the merits of his critique of the Government Draft [I stipulate there will be much merit in it]; in fact, I am not going into the text of his draft at all, nor comparing it with the impugned Government draft.

My point is that he is instigating the middle class intelligentsia that comes to hear him at Jantar Mantar – and neither he nor any of his allies is a grassroots mass leader – to despise and distrust politicians and bureaucrats as a class when these are the constitutional pillars of State. In their place, Hazare moots an unelected oligarchy. This does not bode well for the nation or the society.

While he is within his rights to fiercely criticise the Government draft Lokpal Bill, it is utterly unworthy to say that, “If the government alone drafts the anti-corruption bill, it will be autocratic not democratic, there will be discrepancies.” Here it may be pertinent to note that while Hazare’s charmed inner circle includes some high profile lawyers who have made a mark in the battle against corruption in high places, he has placed NO FAITH in the Judiciary as an institution in rectifying anomalies in the law and its application, and in bringing culprits to justice. This is a strange kind of crusade.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s column “Of the Few, By the Few

Corruption is a challenge. And public agitation is required to shame government. But it is possible to maintain, in reasonable good faith, that the Jan Lokpal Bill is not necessarily the best, or the only solution to the corruption challenge. We should not turn a complex institutional question into a simplistic moral imperative. Many of the people in the movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill have set examples of sacrifice and integrity that lesser mortals can scarcely hope to emulate. But it is the high vantage point of virtue that has occluded from view certain uncomfortable truths about institutions.

The various drafts of the Jan Lokpal Bill are, very frankly, an institutional nightmare. To be fair, the bill is a work in progress. But the general premises that underlie the various drafts border on being daft. They amount to an unparalleled concentration of power in one institution that will literally be able to summon any institution and command any kind of police, judicial and investigative power. Power, divided in a democracy, can often be alibi for evading responsibility. But it is also a guarantee that the system is not at the mercy of a few good men. Having concentrated immense power, it then displays extraordinary faith in the virtue of those who will wield this power. Why do we think this institution will be incorruptible? The answer seems to be that the selection mechanism will somehow ensure a superior quality of guardians. Why? Because the selection committee, in addition to the usual virtuous judges, will have, as one draft very reassuringly put it, two of the “most recent Magsaysay Award Winners”. Then there is no sense of jurisdiction and limits. It is not going to look at corruption only. It can even look into “wasteful” expenditure. They can, potentially usurp all policy prerogatives of democratic governments. So many accountability institutions, in the name of accountability, are not distinguishing between policy issues and corruption. They are perpetuating the myth that government can function without any discretionary judgment.

  • Yoga
  • trueq

    You have to go thru Iain Buchanans video vis-a vis Anna Hazare.

  • Rohit

    Very good post Atanu.
    While I totally agree with most of your thoughts (mainly we need solution which will prevent/control corruption) there are other important things that we can not ignore.

    1) As you explained , people do want to be part of something big. I do not think it is just ‘big’. In most cases this does mean the required reforms. Unfortunately very few among us can really understand what that really means nor such knowledge can come overnight. So we need leaders which will guide us. Unfortunately we do not have them too .. May be we have but they write articles and blog post (no pun intended) none comes out on street to for head-on-fight fight (dont read fight as violence).

    2) People need something that they can be part of and contribute according to their capability. Supporting leaders like Hazare, doing a candle march for a day or two certainly resonates with many people as they are mostly clueless about what else can be done…so at least lets-do-this sort of feeling.

    3) While having sound reasoning and arguing once case is very important, in my opinion it is also very important to openly challenge people whom you are criticizing. I am not very big fan of Hazare or Raj Thakare but I like one thing very much about them : They do come out on streets and actually fight their battle. It is very easy to write and forget than to come out on street and gather masses/educate them and ask for justice.
    Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying writing/blogging/thinking is not important. But is is just one step in the final solution and also it is very disconnected from indian masses. Think of how many indian people actually know of your thoughts on Manmohan Or Sonial Gandhi. You can argue your case against those two but it won’t reach to many people. But whatever Hazare has to say : Many people in India today know what is he expecting from government and most of them support it. Now what he is doing might not be the best solution for the problem but he is doing it in a way which gets public support fairly easily and I think this is very important thing.

    4) Lets assume after this fast-unto-death, we have Mr. ‘X’ starting another march/argument against government which criticizes Hazare and government and mostly its policies. Somebody who explains people of india what is going wrong and how we can reduce government control and ask those hard question to Manamohan. Do you think people will not support it ? They will .. it is just that nobody comes out like that…and this is big problem. Most of the brilliant people who understand the problem and can provide the solution just do not have guts to fight against the government. so these things do not change.

    5) BTW any new institution is also going to face the same corruption problem. We need institutes and the culture which hates corruption. It should not really matter who is heading which institute. There should be no incentive (/harsh punishment ) for corruption. Even a person with low moral standards must be made to behave if he happens to be in the such institution such should be the power of its rules and culture.

    I think people who understand current systems’ problems and have very good solutions need to :
    1) Explain all these things in lay man’s terms
    2) Come on street and communicate to masses. Do use media attention to reach to many people
    3) Ask all those hard questions to all ministers outside their home/parliament and not stop until satisfied

  • Arun

    Completely endorse the viewpoint that the means taken by Anna Hazare is wrong on principle. Read through Nitin Pai’s column as well as the the broad mind at INI – http://broadmind.nationalinterest.in/2011/04/ods/

    Only one issue that foresee with the point you make about electing a good leader is that the country voted for a change when the NDA was voted to power. While I shall not get into the merits and demerits of diff governments now, it is too simplistic to assume that one (or few) good person(s) on top can change the entire system. The small bribes one paid to traffic cops & govt officials still remained.

    For me, the question is how do to address the small bribes people end up paying to get work done faster (I remember facing this while procuring a marriage certificate some time back where I refused to pay but another couple nearby ended up paying some amount to get the certificate immediately). While the govt policies in the past may have led to this situation, it is more important to look forward and work out a feasible solution in the long run (I don’t count Jan Lok Pal bill as a solution in getting rid of corruption).

  • Mahabaleshwar Hegde

    I remember the statement Mr.Manishankar Iyer (I am not a fan of him :) ) made some time back ,”Every five years millions of Indians vote and decide who rules the country, and in the intervening period a few thousand who do not vote and probably do not believe in voting, decide how this country is ruled, and when the people who rule lose the election, conveniently call it anti incumbency “ that is the deficit of governance.

  • http://www.culturezest.org/home/users/detail?UserHexID=176D5BC5-FE33-42BE-AD68-18C92C4F0AF7 Serena

    YES. Your explanation of how a country’s government becomes corrupt is spot on.
    Corruption is a virulent contagion. The US government is corrupt, too. It’s just that it is not as apparent; and, well, people here just look away. Uprooting the foundations of corruption is key, but how is this to be done? I think India is a progressing country, and as the largest democracy in the world, it has a chance to make these fundamental changes in the way their government rules.
    I have not studied India as much as I had hoped to, but I intend to learn more in depth about it.
    It’s a fascinating country. I have a lot of reading up to do…

  • Sahithi Bayana

    Um, no.

    I understand your need to be different and show opposing views for constructive criticism. But most of your views are “stupid.” I choose this word carefully.

    1. “People who threaten to kill themselves are no better than those who take to the streets to riot and rampage destroying life and property.”
    Really?
    If fasting is violent, then what about the kids that die of hunger and poverty everyday in our country?

    source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-02-27/india/28009938_1_global-hunger-index-food-insecurity-india-ranks

    Our government must be a violent mass slaughtering machine according to your theory then. But it isn’t. It is just corrupt.

    Fasting has a great religious and historical significance in our country. It fought battles for us that sticks and stones couldn’t. It speaks volumes when you are able to say I can let myself rot to death but I won’t live in a corrupt country like this.

    Now how is this different from “those who take to the streets to riot and rampage destroying life and property?” Simple. Those who do not support your cause don’t have to be a part of it and still sit in that bus that has not been burned down. They can still walk with confidence that no one will throw fire balls at you, and you can go home to your kids to teach them some math problems.

    See, fasting isn’t violent. Fasting is just giving a deadline. Death being the deadline. Death for a cause.

    2. Your statement “Hazare should use reason to persuade people to vote for change” doesn’t really work for a country like ours with corrupt nature. If we had elections based on eligibility, human empathy and ambition, we could bring down the prime minster to “argue, debate and reason.” Sure. No problem. But what if- even the core of the entire system is corrupt? How are you able to reason with corruption? (Not saying the prime minister is corrupt- but the system in general.)

    Them making bills that state that “Lokpal will be an advisory board and ‘competent authorities’ will have the final say.” How are sure that the government won’t bribe these so called authorities?

    3. “Popular leaders like Hazare should educate themselves first — so that they don’t end up making a bad situation worse”

    Let me counter this “stupid” statement by – the man is extremely wise.

    Your argument to elect an incorruptible prime mister and other authority members is sensible- but just silly in this case when we are fighting corruption in the first place.

    Mr. Hazare IS trying to “change rules.”

    “Indeed they are but that rule change is palliative and not curative.”
    What?
    No human is born corrupt. But if he does commit a mistake, he should have a severe punishment. The punishment alone should keep him away from committing this crime. It cannot get anymore “palliative” than this.

    Rethink the issue. Cricket is big, fighting against corruption is big too. Yes. But this is not the only reason why people would want to be a part of it. They want to see their country prosper. That, my friend is the reason alone to be a part of it.

  • Win7

    This has permitted Kapil Sibal and others like him to claim to be working against corruption ! How Ridiculous ! Let there be full transparency of the committee’s working. Otherwise there will be many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip !

  • Kalpesh

    Atanu,

    Lets assume that Anna’s fast is violent & blackmail.

    Why should the govt bow down to this?

    What alternative do people (people who don’t go out on the road and protest OR don’t give a damn, including to vote) have? Leave aside the voting process that comes every 4 to 5 years, it is enough to loot the people for any party. Can we stop the looters much earlier than to see them loot for 4 to 5 years?

    Stopping MMS, Sonia etc & blocking them from coming out. Is it different than violence?

    “Work to amend the constitution. ” – It is 50+ years for Lokpal bill to see the light. Do you think constitution amendments can be done in a couple of years?

  • MJ

    The JLP was a proposal. It is unlikely to be accepted in its present form. A new draft will be made. So, it is pointless to argue its merits/demerits, at this point.

    On Anna’s methods, I’m not sure why people think it was undemocratic? He got his power by the people that backed him. He proposes prohibition too, but, if he chooses to go for a fast on that, I’m sure no one would back him and it would fizzle out. And then, he wasn’t fasting to force his bill through but to merely setup a committee with people in it who have fought corruption – what is undemocratic about that? Who says that laws should be drafted only by elected members. Elected members ask for public opinion and expert opinion all the time, anyway.

    Maybe, democracy comes down to just voting for the right person. But, isn’t it also about institution/community building on an ongoing basis? Voting is only a part of that. Something like this agitation is a tiny step in the direction of making people (atleast the young) realize that they need to participate on an ongoing basis. The kind of environment that was created raises the possibility of creating social entrepreneurs and new leaders among the youth. Worst case, the people will learn how to build the right institutions by trial and error. They will learn to look out for the right policy experts before committing their support.

  • MJ

    Sahithi,

    “Our government must be a violent mass slaughtering machine according to your theory then. But it isn’t.”

    You argued for it then backed off. Why? The govt is indeed a mass slaughtering machine via its bloodsucking policies.
    ——-

    I had one more point to make. Worse case, Anna will betray the faith of the people with another hare-brained policy. It might be what is needed for India to get away from Gandhian tactics. It may not be such a bad thing after all.

  • RC

    40 years ago, Jagdish Bhagwati wrote a paper pointing to the disaster that license-quota-raj system will result into. His views were vindicated after the initial reforms (done at the point of a gun). Even after a proof is available of his argument, India has failed to abolish license-raj.
    Now these well-meaning yet misguided fellows think that more government and more laws are going to fix corruption !!!

    In spite of getting another chance to rule, and knowing that he is going to retire after this, MMS is still not pushing for reforms. Makes me think that he might be a hold out of the old socialist thinking who never bought into the first round of reforms.

  • TiredProf

    A society cannot timewarp through development. Hazare is doing what he is doing because most Indians (even those with college degrees) have no ability to perform long-term cause-effect diagnosis of large systems. Yes, there’s a danger of less well-meaning people resorting to similar methods (perhaps in despair). But we have seen than already: students immolating themselves, farmers drinking pesticide. Anyway, the summary is that no populist leader can rise above the quality of their supporters. If even 20% of India had Atanu’s undergrad degree, Manmohan might never have been born and Hazare would not be needed.

  • TiredProf

    “The government controls massive segments of the economy.” Not the first time Atanu has made this observation. As far as I know, even when Sanjib Gandhi was not actively crimping shut men’s vital plumbing, the government never forced people to copulate. “The people” might have chosen a different path: have fewer children, find and reward teachers within the community, get kids educated, so they have yet fewer children, who are even better educated so that they cannot be hoodwinked or bought off by scumbags. Instead, “the people” chose to copulate with nary a thought of what the kids will eat, leave alone read. They must now lie in the bed they made! Just as with disease-ravaged people, there comes a point when saving a civilization is no longer worth it, painful as it may be seeing them go.

  • Sahithi Bayana

    MJ,

    We are both fighting against the same thing.

    Granted, the corruption in the government has led to the unfortunate statistics we encounter today, it is unfair to completely blame it on the policies alone.

    Poverty is not uncommon in democratic countries. For example, Steve Jobs went completely broke before he built his empire. But poverty is a sin in India. So everyone is solely focused in on becoming rich. Including the politicians.

    You and I might bribe the traffic police to get out of a traffic violation, and politics just take it to a whole new level. Just because they have the power. You and I might bribe the traffic police with half the ticket money, so we can “save” the rest in our pockets while politicians do it royally.

    They don’t exactly mean to kill the rest of the society. The goal is to get rich. We are not bad people, but we are greedy. We don’t think of the big picture (even the as a politician) when there is an immediate gratification for oneself. We are NOT a mass slaughtering machine, but a corrupt government – to the core.

    I am not saying what goes on is right, I am against it too. But I find Hazare’s ways very insightful. He reminds us that morals, values and ethics are pure- worthy enough to fight for.

    Our abilities are anything but far from being able to reason with the government and their ways. So we, as a country take it up to them peacefully, but firmly – certainly a cause worth a self sacrifice. His passion has certainly influenced the masses – they didn’t care about this bill for forty years, but now they do!

    Even if his bill doesn’t pass through, he got the message across. He’s an inspiration.

  • Manu

    Atanu

    I agree with almost whole of your article except for the bit where you call fast unto death a violent tactic.
    Even if we were to take your premise that it is violence then why can’t it be used as a last resort (again your logic). Do you really think the people supporting Anna in such a large number would have laid siege to the city of Delhi? And who is to say that wouldn’t have been an even more violent act since it would have disrupted the lives of many?
    As for the fasting unto death being violent – no it is not. It takes great strength to fast for more than 2 days. Anyone without really believing his or her cause can not really fast for 2 days let alone 4. Btw Gandhiji did it for 12 days (if I am not wrong), his aim was to purify his soul (refer to the religious fasting) and yes he did believe that his life was worth sacrificing for a cause. Incidentally it was always done as a last resort (something that you are in agreement with)!

  • Oldtimer

    Hello Bayana,

    >>then what about the kids that die of hunger and poverty everyday in our country? .. Our government must be a violent mass slaughtering machine according to your theory then

    You ask the right question but develop cold feet to give an unambiguous answer. Would that be because to answer that question you’ll need to admit that socialists are indeed murderers?

    Swaminthan Aiyar did a study of the cost of our socialist policies, and concluded that delayed economic reform killed **14.5 million** children:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10964

    As a human being of conscience, as also one who is not “stupid”, you should put your question not to Atanu but to leftwing nutjobs: why are you killing children, sleazebags?

    The moment we ask this question though, some commies change tack, put on a different avatar, and start arguing that India didn’t do that bad after all. Have you been reading the Singapore threads on this blog? Leftwingers talk from both corners of their mouth. They want to take the moral high ground for poverty, which continues to exist thanks to their excellent efforts, AND also want status quo to prevail, lest levers of power should slip away from their hands into the hands of the hated rightwingers.

    All in all, right question, wrong context, wrong target.

  • Pingback: What’s Wrong with a Hunger Strike? « In The Armchair

  • Oldtimer

    Hello Bayana,

    >>then what about the kids that die of hunger and poverty everyday in our country? .. Our government must be a violent mass slaughtering machine according to your theory then..

    You ask the right question but develop cold feet to give an unambiguous answer. Would that be because to answer that question you’ll need to admit that socialists are indeed murderers?

    Swaminthan Aiyar did a study of the cost of our socialist policies, and concluded that delayed economic reform killed **14.5 million** children:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10964

    As a human being of conscience, as also one who is not “stupid”, you should put your question not to Atanu but to leftwing nutjobs: why are you killing children, sleazebags?

    The moment we ask this question though, some commies change tack, put on a different avatar, and start arguing that India didn’t do that bad after all. Have you been reading the Singapore threads on this blog? Leftwingers talk from both corners of their mouth. They want to take the moral high ground for poverty, which continues to exist thanks to their excellent efforts, AND also want status quo to prevail, lest levers of power should slip away from their hands into the hands of the hated rightwingers.

    All in all, right question, wrong context, wrong target.

  • http://sumitreddy711.blogspot.com sumitreddy711

    Came across a great poem, you should know.

    मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

    कोई एक गाल पे वार करे, दूजा उसके सम्मुख कर दो….
    तुम जीवन अपना इसी तरह, निश्चित विनाश उन्मुख कर लो…
    ये बात तो तेरी सहनशक्ति, सामर्थ्य शत्रु का तोल रही…
    अब युद्ध के व्यापारों मे है, इस विनम्रता का मोल नही…

    निष्फल प्रयोग निज जीवन पे, इसका मैं खंडन करता हूँ…
    मैं गाँधी का हूँ भक्त नही, मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

    अपनों के सर हैं कुचल रहे, तुमको आता आक्रोश नही…
    क्यू क्षीण नपुंसक भाँति खड़े, क्यूँ तुममे कोई जोश नही…
    जब मर्यादा लुट जाती है, तुम अमन की बातें करते हो…
    जो रक्त कभी भी उबल गया, तुम उसपे पानी मलते हो…

    जिनका है अब भी मान बचा उनका आवाह्न करता हूँ…
    मैं गाँधी का हूँ भक्त नही, मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

    यदि सिंह अहिंसक हो जाए, गीदड़ भी शौर्य दिखाते हैं…
    यदि गरुड़ संत सन्यासी हो, बस सर्प पनपते जाते हैं…
    इस शांति अहिंसा के द्वारा अपना विनाश आरंभ हुआ…
    जब थे अशोक ने शस्त्र तजे, भारत विघटन प्रारंभ हुआ…

    जो भूत की कालिख हटा सके, कुछ ऐसा साधन करता हूँ…
    मैं गाँधी का हूँ भक्त नही, मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

    हर हफ्ते एक उपवास करे, ये धर्मभीरु का लक्षण है…
    पैन्सठ दिन भूखे पेट रहे, यह मूक युद्ध का दर्शन है…
    है यदि अहिंसा शक्तिमयी, भारत क्यूँ टूट बिखर जाता…
    इन धर्म के ठेकेदारों में, इंसान कभी क्यूँ मर जाता…

    यूँ जाति धर्म आधारों पे, मैं नही विभाजन करता हूँ…
    मैं गाँधी का हूँ भक्त नही, मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

    जिस आत्मकथा की पुस्तक में, जीवन पे प्रयोग समाए हो…
    जिसकी आंदोलन आँधी ने, उसके ही मान भरमाये हो…
    उसने जिसने बलिदानो को, आतंक तुला मे तोल दिया…
    उसको कहते हो राष्ट्रपिता, ये राष्ट्र को कैसा मोल दिया…

    जो शत्रु के हाथों प्राण तजे, मैं उसका वंदन करता हूँ…
    मैं गाँधी का हूँ भक्त नही, मैं बात भगत की करता हूँ…

  • http://akshar100.wordpress.com Akshar

    Many people including you keep arguing that my giving it’s subjects more economic freedom we can reduce corruption.

    Currently our politicians act as if state is a cow and being in power is the right to milk it for themselves for 5 years. Yeah they share a tiny portion of it with their voters as elections approach and voters seem to be happy with that much.

    If we look at the countries that are least corrupt they also seem to be one of the more free countries in terms of economic freedom. I wondered what made UPA-II halt all the reforms.

    One member of the dream team, a senior bureaucrat, who also wears a turban visited our campus. According to him the root cause of corruption is the liberalization of economy in 1991. There is too much of money lying around and that causes the corruption said he.

    We have left our great country in the hands of very very dangerous people.

  • pranav

    very different perspective atanu thanks for sharing it
    i agree with rohit to a certain extent
    (except that he is wrong when he puts hazares name with Thakare clan)

    anna is doing something which people can understand.most of those media
    frenzy people dont know about lokpal bill .they just know that hazare is doing something against the corruption.
    anna got support because
    1)he is doing something the great gandhi did.all of us (those who studied in india)have learnt in the school about gandhijis non-violence fighting methods.(and considerable part of our history book was devoted to that compared to other contemporary means employed by savarkar or subhashaji)
    2)even after completing our education our media(which is controlled by handful of biased communist and industrialists-’I still dont understand how these to seemingly incoherent group work together)
    admired gandhijis methods(perhaps i should say they condemn other methods)
    so it has been imbibed on our minds that non-violence means like
    fasting and all are only true mean of fighting against any atrocity.
    so we perceive that anyone who follows these gandhian means is working towards public good and we should support him.
    by nature we always want to be part of bandwagon
    human doesnt like to think(most of us)

    5)though some of us understand about hazares incomplete methods we support him because ‘something is better than nothing’

    3)i agree with rohit when he emphasize about ground work(practicality)
    as most quantum physicist says” no matter how beautiful your theory is if cant justify with practical results its waste”
    4)you should have highlighted the positive points of hazare in much better manner

    other points are really good
    you cant judge anyone on the basis of awards/education.
    we did the same mistake while implementing the elite favored education and administrative system(most of this we copied from the British rulers)

    Hazare needs to be corrected but “who will bell the cat”
    (when it is surrounded by media!!!!!)

  • Sabarish Sasidharan

    Great post. I was telling my wife this is just herd mentality and immature thinking. Instead of protesting like this, Anna should have strengthened the existing process. May be start his own “Sacha Congress Party”. And people should start supporting after understanding the merits and demerits of the proposal. This event clearly highlights why unworthy candidates win elections, immature electorate.

    May be some like-minded people should start a fast unto death protesting against the immaturity of the idea and that this whole show be stopped :-)

  • Shiv

    Atanu- Wrong. I think the people are ahead of you on this. They have decided that the system has failed, that change cannot come through the system. And they are participating in a peaceful way to change it.

    Yes, the bill that will come will probably become corrupt. But one could also hope that this only marks the beginning of an active engagement of the middle classes with the India around the.

  • Sumitra

    Please read Radha Rajan’s analysis on the Hazare issue:
    http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=1722
    How can we prevent this bill from going foward? We don’t want oligarchy under Sonia Gandhi. We are indirectly being ruled by the west and very few people in India realize it. As she says, Indians are extremely naive politically. We have been taught false history, so how can we learn anything from it.

  • Dinesh

    Very Nice Article in Support of Anna Hazare : http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2011/04/11&PageLabel=11&EntityId=Ar01100&ViewMode=HTML

    1] It is a bit curious that so many commentators have re-discovered their belief in the democratic process as delivered by our existing political system after having railed at it systematically for many years. To argue that only elected representatives have a right to political action and that all inputs about governance must be channelized through elections is an extreme position to take.

    2] Many intellectuals praise French Renaissance retrospectively but they fail to recognize one when its happening live :P

  • Ramesh

    Indian Voter is immature and illiterate. They will continue to vote Scoundrels to power for next many many decades – in exchange for television sets, booze and money.

    Anna’s movement tries to by-pass this, peacefully, and with reasonable support. Therefore, it has my full support.

    It also highlights, that change is possible; and it is better to be governed by a non-elected clean group, than elected thieves.

  • Vickram Crishna

    @Rohit:

    “I am not very big fan of Hazare or Raj Thakare but I like one thing very much about them : They do come out on streets and actually fight their battle. It is very easy to write and forget than to come out on street and gather masses/educate them and ask for justice.”

    There is one more similarity between Hazare and Raj Thakare.

    They both can mobilize mobs.

    That this mob is only a tiny minuscule of the total population does not deter them least bit from imposing their will on all and sundry.

  • Vickram Crishna

    What if some one else also sits on a fast-unto-death to protest against too much power concentration in the hands of Lokpal and demands that Jan Lokpal Bill should not be implemented? Who is to decide whose life is more valuable?

  • MJ

    Akshar, the bureaucrat said something that seems thought provoking – Economic freedom cannot be achieved without rule of law. The country might have the right economic policies on paper, but, it will not be implemented as intended if there is no rule of law, or, if there is corruption. So, just economic liberalization is not enough, you need various ombudsmen, police, judiciary to be working to regulate (implement) the free market to the minimum extent needed. And, don’t tell me we don’t need any regulation whatsoever – that would be too idealistic, Greenspan the champion of deregulation admitted that doesn’t work.

    So, my question to Atanu is when you say that economic freedom is what is the answer instead of an empowered ombudsman, aren’t both needed together? Don’t you need basic rule of law in parallel with economic freedom so that the benefits of liberalization don’t accrue merely to the corrupt, so that liberalization works as intended on paper?

  • Suhit Anantula

    Hi Atanu

    I understand where you are coming from. As you rightly pointed out the Hazare episode was as big as the cricket world cup and that is saying something.

    Fast unto death is a common thing in India. However, not many have generated the kind of interest that this one had. No political party involved, no NGOs, no central planning…a spontaneous support from people in more than 35 cities. I think this is remarkable.

    Yes, there is a slippery slope aspect to this and I can already see this happening with Anna’s next steps and other projects.

    The important thing is that the people want to root out corruption. Yes, the Jan Lokpal bill is inadequate but we have something really good happening here.

    How do we take this forward? How do sustain this energy?

    Suhit

  • Sabarish Sasidharan

    @Shiv

    Its sometimes better to do nothing than do something that’s going to hurt in the long term.

    One example, the concept of reservations introduced as a short term fix has lingered on forever. And its hurting us because the government machinery has lost the interest to find the right solution and finds it lucrative to instead enforce the patch-fix (as if its the solution)

  • Sabarish Sasidharan

    @Suhit
    We saw this same excitement and passion after the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Don’t see it in the news these days.

    Once we open the bottle of Coke, the fizz is lost in a few minutes. Similar is the energy of the indian electorate. Unless the fizz of a few days is not channeled in the right effort, we are losing a big opportunity. Its unfortunate that its been lost on Lokpal already.

  • Pingback: The curious and unexpected affair of Anna the Hazare « The Art of Returning to India…and Staying Put…

  • Kaffir

    BTW, nice play in the title of your post on Frank Capra’s movie. :)

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading

  • Pingback: Rajesh Jain’s Recommended Reading – 21 | CEOMAG

  • harsha

    love the way atanu ends a post.karma, neh!…it’s all wonderful! mera bharath mahan..!

    I am still wondering how hurting oneself for a good cause is violence..!?You are not directly hurting anyone by doing thus.

  • Roshan

    I strongly agree with your views here. I have argued with many of my relatives and friends on this issue, and reasoned with them for the most part. However, I wasn’t able to provide counter-arguments with some of their points:
    1. If Lokayukta in Karnataka is successful (apparently), then why can’t the Lokpal in India be successful?
    2. How does a license-free system work? Where do you draw the line for issuing or not issuing licenses? Won’t it result in lawlessness?
    It would be nice if you could elaborate your views on these points.

  • Roshan

    @harsha,
    Trying to kill oneself (suicide or euthanasia) is a crime in India. But that is besides the point.
    If both the opponents in a dispute (say Ayodhya) decide to fast unto death unless the dispute is resolved in their favor, whose favor should the decision be? Judiciary exists to resolve such issues.

  • Pingback: The curious and unexpected affair of Anna the Hazare | | ulaarulaar