Monday, August 29, 2011

Dissecting India's democractic victory over corruption

In the history of independent India, 16th August 2011 and subsequently 27th August 2011 will be ear-marked as significant days that propelled our democratic rights.

Any movement in the world has people both for and against the issue, if there is something physically tangible in this world, then definitely it has two sides to it, if not more. I would like to go back a little in time and see why the people of India were forced to come on to the streets?

Few members of the civil society led by Anna Hazare wanted to fight corruption. There are many groups in India who have constantly been trying to fight corruption, but what made this group stand out? Direction! India against corruption and its members had done enough groundwork and were aware of the Lokpal bill that has been pending in the parliament for 46 years. To address any problem, one needs a solution, it just not enough to voice out. In my opinion we have had many voices against corruption earlier, but this group had a solution in the name of Jan Lokpal bill. The solution can always be debated.

They had a possible solution that could control corruption and made sure they went to the people of the country and educated them on the proposed solution. They finally had to take the suggestions to their elected representatives. They had to emphasis the effectiveness of the proposed bill as opposed to the bill waiting for resolution. The elected representatives were not interested. The civil society group went from one door to another knocking even at the doors of the Prime Minister, but to no avail.

In Indian democracy though we elect our leaders, both the citizens and leaders forget each other for the next 5 years. It was quite unusual for the elected representatives to see a group of civilians advising them on the bill to be passed. If democracy is by the people, for the people and of the people, then weren't we undermining our own powers?

Well, now that none of the elected representatives across the political class by majority were interested to encourage the civil society in drafting the bill, the members of the civil society had to resort to desperate measures to call for attention and so they did.

It was March-April when Anna threatened to Fast for the bill, that the political class turn around. Even back then, many of the civilians had no idea about the Lokpal bill. With the elections due in some of the states, the Govt in its desperate measure agreed to allow the civil society to sit for a Joint drafting of the bill. The government in my opinion had been acting in haste, in handling the civil society without any forthrightness or direction.

The Government or its patrons tried to tarnish the image of the civil society members, they tried to employ the divide and rule policy of the British, but they fail to realize times have indeed changed.

Both the members of the civil society and the representatives of the Government never got along. They held a very distorted perception of each other that couldn't change over days. The outcome of the joint drafting committee fell short of everyone's expectation. The Government tried to display high handedness and never made it appear like a collective effort, the govt bill remained and the suggestions from the civil society was never even looked at.

Of course, this angered the civil society and they began to threaten the Government again by setting deadlines.

The most absurd reactions from the Indian Government was trying to curb the peaceful protest by the people of India. I still don't understand how the Indian Govt thought it could get away with such an act. First imposing unreasonable conditions for the peace protest and fast and later arresting Anna Hazare before he began the fast.The Government still not sure of itself, continued to act in haste. They released Anna Hazare and allowed him to Fast. The Govt creates High drama only to give in later.

The Indian Government fueled the people of India.

It is after this act of the Government that many started showing interest in the Lokpal movement. More awareness was created. For the general public, it was not about Lokpal, it was about Corruption, the fight against corruption strengthened.

The thousands of people who came on the streets, came to show their dissent to the Government, their dissent not just towards the Govt Lokpal bill, but also towards the Governments inaction to curb corruption, their arrogance and stupidity in handling the sentiments of the people.

I had been to the field to support the movement and i can only say people knew why they were there. In contrary to the views people who stayed at home and work held, the people on the streets knew their purpose, else achieving what they have today would have been impossible. People were mature and responsible in their demands, and actions. They exercised their freedom with utmost responsibility!

Anna Hazare and the common man have the right to protest for their rights, similarly the Government has the right to say No, and we have a method to do both. Civil society knew its method well, the Government was clueless. If the Government had the will to fight corruption it would have found its way and wouldn't need to follow the civil society, sadly the Government lacks the intention.

The Indian Governments inadequate response to the widespread agitation irked many. Anna Hazare in his address to the people began to sound aggressive and came under the scanner of few. He had already become a Hero to millions that even if he was wrong with few words, he was forgiven.

Many questions were raised on the effectiveness of the Jan Lokpal bill, cynics were all around. There were others who said, change begins with you. Corruption is a mammoth issue, there has to be a beginning somewhere, let JanLokpal be the start.

In my opinion any solution can be made effective/ineffective by the people who are administrating the system. To start with we need to have strongly laid ground rules, and then the system needs to take care of the nuances. If we start by assuming, people will misuse, abuse and overuse their rights then we can never make a beginning. This applies to any system that comes in place, So do we have no constitutional bodies then ?

Finally the Government agreed to the demands of Anna Hazare and passed a resolution in the parliament. People's might won over the might of the Government.

The battle is only half won. I am not trying to be skeptical, but given the history of the Government in handling the entire issue, i still feel it has given into the pressure of the people, opposition and the media.

A sincere Government, with the welfare of the people in mind should have fought its stand. Few months back the same Government felt constitution needs to be amended, certain elements of Jan Lokpal would set dangerous precedent, it would be a parallel Governance can't just agree to it simply today. Our all the genuine concerns of the Government today vanished?

Some questions still remain unanswered:

1) If the Govt never had any intention to include any of the suggestions from the civil society, then why hold a joint draft?
2) If the Govt felt most of the suggestions provided by the civil society were in creating a parallel Governance and would threaten our democracy, then why did they agree now?
3) If the Govt had reasonable concerns over the issues, they why couldn't it come up with better solutions?
4) When almost everyone, both people against and for Anna's movement agreed that the Govt bill is a weak bill, why did the Govt try hard to push it?
5) Why isn't the Govt not being sincere in tackling corruption?
6) Why did the Government take such an hard stance?
7) How could the Govt stop someone from protesting peacefully for their cause?
8) Is this Govt sure of its actions? They seem to retract on their words and actions, how would the common man place faith in them?
9) How would the Government handle the implementation and maintenance of the Lokpal body?
10) Do we have to continue protesting at every stage for the Government to take effective actions?

There is some respite for now! This whole Lokpal movement has questioned the credibility of the Government and people have lost faith in their elected members. It has also brought the civil society together, made them more aware of their rights and power.

India is turning a vigilant society and it is only the beginning.