It’s a year since. The twelve days in the second half of August 2011 which saw an unprecedented public outpouring on Indian roads predominantly in national capital but also across the country and even abroad had stirred up reactions and responses across all sections of the society. Since then inflation has only risen. Political waters have only vegetated and clogged to reek of more fetid. Government has only chiseled its art of ignorance. Scams haven’t lost any curve from the cycle of their frequency. And Hazare, the leader of the group which spearheaded the movement, seemingly appears to have given up on the efficacy of fasts.
|The secular versus communal divide of Indian politics reflects poorly on the social structure and the engendered political one. The sense of resignation to fate and gargantuan divisions in the society left room only for carping and groveling
Lets’ try to revisit those twelve days which in recent Indian history were unparalleled in the shear swarming that was displayed and the imaginations and attention it captured worldwide. People might allude to other protests in recent times to have generated large deluge of mankind but those protests were particular in their nature unlike the one under consideration. Let’s see what it really contained underneath the ground and what it looked like on surface.
Anna Hazare’s arrest on August 16, 2011 released an existential intoxicated air laden with patriotic passion. Middle class people in acute diversity stepped out of their homes across major urban centers and made for dramatic and provocative television images first time to be seen in the life time of my generation. Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption seemed to have rattled India out of a typical Indian smuggish somnolence. Youth of India especially from esteemed universities stepped out on streets and chanted slogans against corruption.
What Was It
It wasn’t a revolution from any stretch of imagination as the revolution, at least in political sense, entails in it the turn around. (Our country’s diversity makes it immune to any political revolution, thankfully. We do not need as much a change of political system as its reform. Passive democracy warrants to be changed into active democracy. Naked capitalism is in need of some clothes). This turn around in the society should be seen in the process as well as in the result. The post revolution scenario is something new, substantially if not completely divorced from the past. The French revolution in 1789 and Russian revolution in 1917 threw up a system of society and governance which retained little from the pre revolution days. Even the recent Arab uprisings haven’t been called the revolution though they have been able to bring off, wherever successful, a change in political system of their countries if not societal. Need I say some of political change courses down the societal chutes too. In India, 1857 though called a ‘kranti’ (revolution) was only an uprising which was crushed brutally. Independent struggle was, of course, far from any shred of revolution. A revolution cannot be divorced from aggression however latent or even somnolent.
We could call whatever unfolded in those twelve days nation wide protests snowballed into a movement against corruption and to an extent against politicians per se. It was the political corruption whether pecuniary or governmental as manifested also in ample measure on the handling of Anna Hazare’s fast that in good deal helped morph the call of Anna Hazare’s fast into a bugle that threatened to tear through ossified auditory senses of government in particular and politicians in general. The naked fact of rampant corruption at other levels of society which is largely the offshoot of corruption at the top and passivity in all its hues at the bottom coupled with other factors only fanned the flame. The sight of an avuncular or even grandfatherly septuagenarian caught with omniscient cameras denouncing the food for a cause which hovers around the very lifeline of billion people must have stirred many to support him in whichever way possible. The idea of support him reigned high. Many thought they were doing something good in supporting him.
Lets’ first delve into the psychology of protests. What is a protest? How does a protest arise? What is the nature of a protest? What we should expect from a protest and what we should not? What is its relationship with anger? And how a protest should be responded to?
A protest is an expressed objection. The meaning this word evokes with respect to an expressed objection by people en masse to an establishment encompasses three variants. First, a cross section of people is up against the establishment irrespective of the nature of its rule i.e. most often colonization or dictatorship, second, up against the existing structure of constitution or parts of it as formulated by establishment and hence discordance i.e. dissent and third, up against neither the establishment nor the constitution or parts of it but perceived or real ill functioning of the establishment i.e. frustration. Any protest regardless of its genesis aforementioned or form it takes i.e. violent or non violent by its very nature is the product of an incompatibility between protesters and establishment. In each of these cases both may be on the right or wrong side of the universally accepted sense of righteousness with respect to basic tenets of humanity even if both happen to be honest to their convictions. Conflict could also rise between two rights as it happened often in Nehru’s reign in India or two wrongs as it often happens in politically motivated protests i.e. right reasons but wrong spirits. The incompatibility engenders from the myriad factors controlling the concerned society is also a function of time. What seemed right yesterday might appear wrong today and vice versa. Because the establishment save colonization arises from within the society manifesting its maturity in return the protesters at least in the beginning will always form only a small cross section from the populace.
The protests of first and second category are targeted at a major overhaul in the existing structure not in terms of mere proper and sufficient use of it for public good but to either clear the ground to lay new foundations or to bring about a facelift of such proportions that old rumples are either smoothened down or even removed to make way for a sense of novelty. These protests are like currents against the tide. The buffets of establishment’s orientation may send off violent sound waves. Jean Paul Sartre made the case for political violence in his 1951 play The Devil and The Good Lord. He himself committed verbal violence when he said, ‘an anti-Communist is a dog.’ Once sparked these protests cease to be mere protests and take on the form of movement leading way to uprising or even what we call revolution. How many further stages do these protests pass and in what form hinge upon the weight added to their tendons in terms of popular support, leadership skills and the might establishment possesses or decides to use. Since protest is the manifestation of discontent with the establishment their nature too might flow from the hue of establishment. A peaceful sit-in may not work in dictatorship and a violent demonstration may militant against the very cause in a democracy if implemented in earnest in general sense. Spirit of most protests unless politically or pecuniarily motivated is honest, at least in the first stage, so long as the flames of primary reasons behind the drive to challenge what has been considered unjust are not died down. All protests want attention. In this light to expect a protest to be meek, sheepish and groveling is nothing but an act of foolhardiness. To a considerable extent it is also the form of the attention or lack of it coming by and response to it (perhaps the most important factor) that determines the form it might take in addition to the nature of cause as well as the circumstances and social milieu prevailing. In other words protest is anger, either curtailed or tamed or channeled or directed or dispersed or evinced. Anger need not be told about its wrath. Either it can be left unattended to subside on its own or be paid heed. First option runs the risk of having to counter rage in future and second option warrants either tactic or honesty. Tactic provides only a sequestered putting off and honesty though might entail even danger but guarantees lasting solutions.
What unfolded in India during second half of August 2011, the month characterized by its Independence Day celebrations, for twelve days following arrest of Hazare though falls into third category of protests but with a slight variation. Indians though normally as it happens around the world are castigating of their politicians love to lead their lives in their social cocoons. In most states a man on the street is not ideologically drawn towards any one party, a telling manifestation of ideologically lacunar political system. Unlike in Bengal where laypeople could define themselves as either communist or Marxist or socialist the substantial chunk of the rest of India is divided either on caste or religious lines. The secular versus communal divide of Indian politics reflects poorly on the social structure and the engendered political one. The sense of resignation to fate and gargantuan divisions in the society left room only for carping and groveling. Personal frustration on account of career or money ripples their equanimity which Indians are so adept at smothering. Whatever knocks they get from the inefficient run of the system via venal or incompetent officials can be attributed to fate, a factor that any establishment should thankful to. Social frustration is only a luxury. Farmer suicides caught the attention of some activists but mainstream India and its politicians remained unaffected. NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) though good for immediate pain relieving leaves the wound unhealed at the risk of exacerbation. Walter Crocker was only partially right when he said in Nehru A Contemporary’s Estimate that Nehru’s plans for an industrialized and socialized society worked towards ‘destroying India’s greatest wealth, the contentment of the Indian people.’ It was but natural that India looked up to higher standards of living, however modestly, thanks to Nehru’s overzealous drive during his reign and then in the beginning of nineties Finance Minister Manmohan Singh’s opening up of Indian economy which gave rise to a mammoth middle class. But despite it all sense of contentment did not get much perturbed beyond the possession of modest materialistic gains.
Even the theory of materialistic gains is highly over hyped as a staggering 645 million or 55% of its population live below Multi Dimensional Poverty Index as calculated by Oxford Poverty and Human Initiative and United Nations Development program (UNDP) in its 2010 report while Africa’s 26 poorest nations are home to 410 million poor. It takes into account social indicators like schooling, nutrition, electricity, drinking water, sanitation facilities, assets etc. The sense of contentment which Crocker feared for in sixties can still be seen once one ventured into Indian villages. In this light the frustration, the crux of third category of protests, the offshoot of latent pent-up anger, doesn’t seem to be the right reason to describe Indian protests. Through out the twelve days one could have seen a huge current of enthusiasm for something running through throngs wherever they appeared in support of Hazare. The general sense of anger is hardly visible at least on surface in country despite being so horrendously hard done by ruling class and its apparatus. People go about their lives quietly. They wobble on potholed roads, suffer an anachronistic and vegetated education system, grovel before government employees, endure four or even less hours worth of electricity supply in a day and many other hardships as ineluctable part of life.
The middle class India with all its variances whose surge formed the backbone of protests is also the beneficiary of corruption on both sides of the table. Curiously that doesn’t mean that Indians don’t want a society, free of corruption, as much as is possible. Nor does that shroud the fact that Indians are not angry. But this anger is not the anger of Egypt. It is the typical Indian anger which is more about cribbing and less about acting. This time around this cribbing was fortunate enough to be voiced by Hazare on national stage in such a sonorous and sententious tone that its echoes were lapped up by youth of the country. This is the youth born either only a few years before or after liberalization. The urban youth which form a hunk of population is the youth which grew up aspiring for cushy but hardworking private jobs than secured but laidback government jobs and is more ambitious and less greedy than previous generation. Coupled with this is a system that allows politicians a monumental leeway and the quotidian humiliations a common man goes through in the course of one single day and we have a readymade support for any voice against corruption. The rural youth, most affected and helpless and innocent victim of government’s passivity, in terms of personal as well as professional growth, knew the cause was worth supporting. This brings home the point that despite the surface ease with which a common person goes about his life in India he or she is not oblivious of those who take him for ride. Helplessness however passive is active.
From a software manager in a company down to a carpenter or mason in village some things run so common that any gaze at them evokes the same response. Despite the visible urbanity of the protests the support cuts across all classes, religions and age groups. Mumbai’s famous dabbawalas took a day off for the first time in their history. Sex workers held their own protest supporting Anna Hazare. Muslims made their presence felt at the Ramlila Ground and even were upset at religious prism’s domination in some journalist’s questions. Elders and housewives thronged the venue. The labeling of these protests as middle class protests kept Dalits wary. Though the possibility that sense of adventure and curiosity did not play any part cannot be ruled out but that doesn’t take away anything from the response that movement generated across India. The enthusiasm for something that I earlier hinted at was perhaps the sense of contribution perceiving ushering in of a new era however flawed and naïve this perception may be. At the same time it also displays in ample measure the sense of patriotism most Indians response to.
Fortunately this time around it wasn’t a cricket match or war but a crucial cause. Since more people pay money than receive most often forcibly but voluntarily too to save time and effort and escape cumbersome processes more people would want accountability in bureaucracy than less. Yet such is the level of corruption in India that some people have even begun to endorse the converting of a certain kind of corruption into facility-fee constitutionally thus adding more to exchequer from who can and saving on time. Such move would only encourage the already exalted status of money, one of the reasons for corruption, in India i.e. ‘earn more to pay facility-fee and save yourself rigmaroles.’ It would further whet the adage, ‘money makes the mare go’, a perfect recipe to demarcate poor on one side, thus digging divisions deeper even fanning resentments thus creating a monster for the democracy. Thereby the mass interest and emotion that this movement generated was the function of two factors: utter despair with corruption whose most striking manifestation are politicians and government servants and not wanting to lose an opportunity to support a cause which may, in their perception, be good for country. In this way this mass support has further given us reasons to believe in the idea of India. Those who chanted slogans about Gandhi and Hazare may have neither known much about Gandhi or past of Hazare or even details of Jan Lokpal Bill but they buttressed a voice and lent their own share of audibility to the voice at the center irrespective of the nature of the sound needed to get heeded. I believe Indians still lack in anger. It is this lack of anger and its channeled application that has Indian democracy become a knot whose factual reality of freedom of expression wrestles with actual reality of freedom of unaccountability and inertia.
This Protest and That Protest
Now let’s dwell upon the protest itself and the decrying it invited for myriad reasons. The fast of 2011 was Anna Hazare’s sixteenth fast cum protest since he started in 1991 in Maharashtra. Though this was inarguably the most successful in generating awareness about his cause its eventual success not only socially which is too tricky a needle to thread but also officially still a year after remains to be seen. Now the talks of him going around India before floating a political party, the frustrated outcome of the latest fast, have further muddled the consequences. Last year, government, very shrewdly, only lollipoped. This time around, government remained or at least feigned, an absolute ignorance. Is fast unto death undemocratic way of protest? The man who believed that unjust means could not be used to attain just ends, Gandhi, once referred to the tactic of using fasts to drive one’s point home as ‘the worst form of coercion’ (The Real Mahatma Gandhi, Christopher Hitchen, The Atlantic, July/August 2011). Yet Gandhi himself used the means of fast unto death on various occasions for obviously just ends. Shall we assume that Gandhi concurred with the ‘violence’ suffused in threatening to push oneself towards death to have one’s way? Yes, he did. And perhaps for this sole reason he made sure his fasts were devoid of any shred of rancour for the target they were aimed at. He did not hesitate from saying ‘if a man, however popular and great he may be, takes up an improper cause and fasts in defense of the impropriety, it is the duty of his friends (among whom I count myself), fellow-workers and relatives to let him die rather than that an improper cause should triumph so that he may live. Fairest means cease to be fair when the end sought is unfair’ (Mind of Mahatma Gandhi (Encyclopedia of Gandhi's Thoughts) Compiled by Prabhu & Rao, (H, 17-3-1946, p. 43.)
So it is amply clear that Gandhi tried to offset coercion implicit in fast unto death by the piety of his purpose and aiming reform of the target. Devoid of these threads the idea of exploiting someone’s sense of guilt by having macabre visions of death jive before him is not only antithetical to life per se but also perilous to the sense of guilt by subjecting it to a gradual ossification. This ossification is already entrenched in parts of our society as Swami Nigamananda’s death evinced. Hazare’s fast was not Gandhi’s fast. Hazare’s aim was to bend the government to what he believed was right. Gandhi sought change of heart. But despite the political successes the fasts accomplished, sometimes temporary, Gandhi did not effect any whatsoever change in British imperial heart. His most successful fast in terms of the real purpose of ‘reform’ came in post independent India in Noakhali in Calcutta (Now Kolkata) amongst those who held him in esteem when he had been able to clinch a written document from the leaders of communities promising Calcutta free of any violent jangle. Theodore Zeldin was right to say in An Intimate History of Humanity (1994) that ‘even Gandhi, with all his charisma, did not melt the hearts of his oppressors, as he had hoped (emphasis mine). After softening, hearts harden again.’ He further adds ‘Asoka too was wrong to think that he was changing the course of history, and that his righteousness would last ‘as long as the sun and the moon.’ Nor it is right to say that only the noblest purpose of reforming the target could have been applied to each and every fast that Gandhi undertook as the last resort. His fast in Yeravada Central jail against separate electorates for untouchables was successful in winning a British approval of his position while 21 days fast in 1943 went numb on British senses as American magazine Times wrote on March 15, 1943 ‘it was also clear that Gandhi's fast, hitherto an infallible weapon in reaching moral victory or political compromise, had achieved neither.’ But diverse results and different circumstances don’t take anything away from the purity with which Gandhi associated every moment of his fasts and tried to elevate them to the status of prayers. At the same time Gandhi’s insistence that a Satyagrahi should always be ready to die for a cause while keeping from inflicting any pain on others if stretched can be called self violence. In the Annual Gandhi Lecture for the International Association of Gandhian Studies, delivered at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville on October 2, 1990, Mark Shepard, talking about Gandhi’s Non Violent independent struggle said, ‘Gandhi steadfastly avoided violence toward his opponents. He did not avoid violence toward himself or his followers.’ In the light of Gandhi’s fasts, the ultimate arbiter of peace in recorded human history, how shall we reconcile with Hazare’s fast. Is this reconciliation necessary? Yes. If a fast has to be seen as infliction of violence upon oneself and coercion upon those it is aimed at we need to bring into our purview all the factors played out prior to or during the fast.
Then only can we have a vantage view to look at fast and its inflictions. It is undeniable that fasting has been used as a political weapon in independent India. Morarji Desai had the Gujrat government dismissed in 1974. Recently R Chandrashekhar Rao went on fast unto death with some theoretical success demanding Telangana to be carved out from Andhra Pradesh. Hazare has been fasting since 1991 not without considerable success. He may not have intended to reform the corrupt politicians but he certainly rid state of the venal spittle of some of them. No personal grievances can be established for ministers he managed to rid off the back of the nation. The act of flogging some alcoholics might exhibit his tendency to resort to personal violence for what he considers just end but given the initiatives he has taken over the years which range across a gamut of social service programs with spectacular results more than make up for that lapse (it can be called a lapse only if it was a one off event, at the same time the human mortification he inflicted on drunkards irrespective of their realization of it can’t be overlooked). Anyway he is not a Mahatma but a social activist who can claim to have done some social good and should be seen in this light.
It is not easy to gloss over also at the alleged inability of an RTI activist to protest by fast at Ralegaon Siddhi, Hazare’s village, owing to the Gram Sabha’s argument that only Hazare can fast at village, which is worrisome. In her article published on August 22, 2011 in The Hindu Arundhati Roy, Booker prize winning novelist and a consummate scold of Indian democracy, wrote about Hazare, ‘who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Greyhound further away. He doesn't seem to have a view about the government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.’ She continues her salvo, ‘he does however support Raj Thackeray's Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the 'development model' of Gujarat's CM who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims.’ The title of her article I would rather not be Anna said it all. While Roy is bang on target and very rightly in her crotchety tone in taking Hazare to task for supporting Raj Thackeray’s divisive politics sans its violence she doesn’t make much of a case when she steps into the role of an arbiter for ‘things of urgent concern.’ Things she mentions are of gravest concern but an individual activist can’t be expected to take up every possible cause in the giant nation of billion people. Hazare has taken up a cause which too is nothing less than an ‘urgent concern.’ Can we accuse Roy of not being able to see anything beyond Maoists and Kashmir? Can we expect her to visit families of victims of honour killings in Haryana? This is not to say anything against her but there is only so much an activist can take up at highest level. She has established herself as a sort of counterweight forcing us to see we generally avoid through her dissent and any democracy would only be benefited from people like her. I would even go to the extent of saying that a genuine dissenter is to democracy what gravity is to earth. But dissenting cannot be for its own sake. As for Hazare’s comment on Gujrat which he later withdrew I would leave it to reader’s discretion to cogitate as to what one should make of good work as we hear done by a chief minister who allegedly sat twiddling his thumbs while thousands of his subjects were being murdered. Apart from the corruption charges which Manish Tiwari leveled against Hazare on August 14, 2011, these are some of the skeletons in Hazare’s cupboard. If any of these charges are proved then law should take its own course.
But Tiwari’s regret at having spewed venom (charges) befuddled us. If a man has done something wrong legally then mere public support however strong doesn’t exculpate him so why regret. Stand the ground. This in itself presents a sorry picture of our government’s sense of democracy. If Hazare had not garnered public support would he have been persecuted or prosecuted? If intellectuals can make an absolutely, very rightly, uncontestable argument which I support vehemently that bills cannot be passed only on account of mass support then what stops them from questioning government about its abashing flip flops flowed from the sole factor of visible humongous mass support. Doesn’t this give away the utterly undemocratic message, to model on second half of Marx’s famous phrase (to each according to his need), ‘to each according to his strength.’ Unfortunately and paradoxically a government headed by docile Mr. Singh showed feudal colours and imperious disposition in its handling of handling of burning issue by Hazare which actually it could have hijacked from him. Neither the word feudal and nor the word imperious sit well on the tongue of democracy.
The 2011 August fast which made Hazare the center of national or even some international attention for all its angry tone served a purpose for Indian democracy. Not only did it bring smug parliamentarians on tenterhooks however temporarily but also stirred up an itching on the skin of the lumbering elephant we call India. Anna Hazare cannot be manufactured into Mahatma for all the visible efforts to draw a parallel but he will be remembered as someone who tried to manufacture accountability in political class and awareness in people, two inter alia important spokes of the wheel of democracy, for all his obstinate displays. Without going into the intricacies of Jan Lokpal Bill which I might think a sort of terra incognita for me what is clearly written on the wall is an urgent need to stem the tide of corruption. And unfortunately we don’t see even an ounce of this urgency on those who can take the initiative and set examples before those who follow them and observe them and see them. Commentators have accused Hazare and his team of concentrating only on political corruption while choosing to remain mum on corporate or middle class corruption of suborning. Isn’t it obvious that political corruption is the root of every hue of corruption? The political class may not be the root of cultural India or even social India but the waters of working India issues out of political fountain. Corruption may be a socio-ethical problem with needs and wants hovering around but it exists in the veins of working India starting from highest stratum to down to lowest one. We are fortunate that aberrations do exist. But aberrations in public life have the disposition of guest, however garrulous, in this avatar always cautious. It goes without saying that monster of corruption can ultimately, in whatever degree possible, be tamed only by inculcation of social ethics, civic sense and moral awakening coupled with a sense of if not patriotism belongingness to the country and its resources.
Small level corruption has multifarious reasons. One simply doesn’t see anything wrong in it, again, because of myriad reasons like, everyone is doing, I am not nagging a poor man, it’s not my fault but system’s, I had to pay bribe to get the job, my boss compels me, I have to survive etc. These reasons as one can sense don’t hold any water against even a speck of what we can call moral duty as citizen but for a child the ambience inside and outside school is so corrupted that even education, formal or in any other cloak, which is the central bedrock of human development, ends up as mere a single point agenda for earning money bypassing the act of learning which should have brought money by endowing the learner with the possession of skill and its professional use. This child is future venal employee. In a poor country like India where subsisting anyhow is the first priority to be taken care of every act of earning money by any means becomes a habit which in the mind of habitual is a normal act serving to elevate his status in society and be responsible towards his family. No surprises that earning money and only money forms the backbone of life. Amongst two sons of a father the earning hand can be assured of greater say and respect in the family affairs regardless of his deeds so long as they seem normal, a word which in corruption terminology runs the risk of losing its meaning. ‘Don’t worry. It’s normal.’ And normal notches up and up every year. This normality of the corruption is so abnormal actually that it has numbed our senses to their own ability of getting shocked at seeing any abnormality.
Another reason is pure avarice. The corrupt now has surfeited the stage of putting forth excuses and wants to possess more and more. When there doesn’t seem to be an end the process is interminable. If the person happens to hold a substantial department his disease becomes contagious and virus percolates down enforcing the aforementioned cycle and reasons. The need is rarely the reason for corruption. A straggler tries to make up for it. Hence small level corruption which directly impinges on common man’s fortunes as well as national exchequer is the product of flawed education system and lack of social and national morality. How shall we get past the fact that India is not short on institutions and organizations which drop the word morality at the drop of a hat.
The political corruption which prompted the current movement is as much a result of abovementioned two reasons as the need. But the need factor of political corruption in no way nullifies the insult it heaps upon the spirit of parliament, (the organ whose spirit and importance today our parliamentarians, with tangible political expedience, seem to have woken up to) wiz a wiz the mysterious process of fulfilling the political needs like funding of a political party in all its aspects always having been kept in dark from electorates, officially. In sixty five years of Indian independence those who now claim to be piqued at being law makers and yet being forced to debate an outsider’s bill did not think it fit to propose even a single law (however politically congenial-not because it should be or people should accept it but given their record) to regulate the flow of money in political parties. Today this cryptic phrase party fund has become one of the major sources of political corruption. Add to this the fact that the general level of education, feeling of solicitude for subjects, awareness of world politics, sense of serving the mother land and enthusiasm to lead the public has fallen severely since independence, almost in direct proportion to the passage of years. The chasm between representative and represented is so immense and unbridgeable that the word ‘democracy’ seems to have been held captive to mere counting of ballot boxes, now electronic machine keys. Psephocracy. Locked into this is corporate corruption. Recent Niira Radia tapes, mysterious tapes, played like Vivid Bharti songs, brought it out into the open. Recently when Hazare announced the possibility of forming a political front the word ‘money’ was arm in arm with another word ‘policies.’
How many laws have our respected law makers made with the sole purpose of smoothening common person’s life? RTI, the revolutionary law of independent India, owes its existence to some civil society members and prime ministers’ personal backing. NREGA as discussed above is only a temporary measure not even solution. An article by Aditi Tandon published in The Tribune on August 20, 2000 said, ‘while the Law Commission has, from time to time, been sending proposals to the government regarding alterations in the legal system, Parliament has somehow not found time to pass most of them. Other law experts maintain that the procedural codes are far more faulty. Out of the three codes in India, the Evidence Act was passed in 1872 and the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) was passed early in the 20th century. The most ironical feature of the procedures is that they have all remained silent on the maximum number of days which should be taken for a case to be settled. One major reason that blocks legal reform is that it is a low priority area for Parliament. While India is badly in need of effective reforms, media reports indicate that the time spent by the law-making body on law making is less than 0.6 per cent of a Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha day.’ People of course are to be blamed for electing the powerful not the proficient but their darkness too to an extent is the result of political corruption, pecuniary as well as administrative. On account of working at the top most layer of administration politicians form the crux of working India. Their emergence may be the result of social India and to some length cultural India but their direct activities have a bearing now insidiously fatal on the working India. The very recent comptroller and auditor general report about coal allocations and murky deals in the running of Delhi airport and a power project in Madhya Pradesh are nothing short of salt on wounded skins of an injured nation. The report published in Times of India August 18, 2012 stating Sunil Arora, former Indian Airlines Chief, wrote to the then cabinet secretary B K Chaturvedi in May 2005 about being pressurized into taking ‘financially damaging and commercially unviable decisions’ if true not only points to mere corruption but a habit of to hell with the nation with many of those intoxicated with power to make (break) laws. We are already increasingly falling into the habit of brushing aside major scams impinging national resources as cases of crony capitalism.
The percolated corruption from above as is the case in India has grown deeper and dilated. So though the corruption is rampant across all sections of society it owes the large part of its genesis, growth, survival and bloom on the incessant political de-oxygen in the interminable immoral sunlight. Nehru, a man of unimpeachable personal integrity who in Walter Crocker’s words, perhaps in senses transcending pecuniary fences, ‘born rich he died poor’ (page 140, Nehru), put up with the corruption of chief minister of Punjab preferring stability of a sensitive state in fledgling democracy to public uprightness in 50s and 60s. The rot of profiteering from land acquisition had begun to spread its tentacles as early as 50s. In a letter written to Swaran Singh, the then minister for Works, Housing and Supply, Nehru, after literally naming the accused in land profiteering writes, ‘what is specially to be noted is that senior officers of government are involved in this business. Of all the persons, surely the Chairman of the Delhi Improvement Trust should not make money in this way (Nayanjot Lahiri, The Caravan, January 2011).’ The phrase Of all the persons in the last sentence of Nehru’s letter gives away toleration, annoyance, irritation and need for those who hold important positions to be more moral, guarded against vices and upright than others. Similarly should not in the same sentence betrays sufferance and perhaps an optimistic belief in the reform of accused through his letter alluding to a hidden castigation for tribulations mentioned. That was 50s. India had only future ahead of it like an adolescent boy however strayed.
Today we have enough history behind us to be written with a lump in the heart. Corruption and its manifold implications in terms of stunting the growth as well as hollowing out the existing like a termite might command tomes of its own. Polity of a country is its administrative head. The drops of corruption clouds pierce through administrative holes? If the head is corrupt his corruption trickles down. Contrarily the rectitude of head is a moral shield for employees working under him to fend off temptations. Not to say honesty of head is a guarantee of clean department but certainly a guarantee for a department trying to be clean and working against the filth. Political class heads and runs the administrative functions of the country. They control the resources of the country. They are the commencers of most moves. In simple words pecuniary corruption despite its multilayered and multifarious character has a great deal to do with our political class or if one can say somewhat proportional to lack of their will, abilities and patriotism. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the head of our government, who heralded the new era of liberalization, (was there any other choice left), couldn’t hold those working under him from making the mockery of the administration. This is a burning and needling question we all need to ponder. Has his honest and innocent face not been used to draw only votes? Does he command the respect of his entire cabinet? Does he feel like head of Congress MPs? The argument that he is only the head of government not Congress doesn’t hold water as the head of the government ipso facto unless some political calculations go berserk is the popular leader of majority party. If the answer to these questions is an emphatic no then unfortunately we have reached a stage where we need to debate about state of our parliamentary democracy. Do we need a leader or an expert? If it is compulsion of coalition politics then again a deep rumination invites our political scientists. Democracy warrants a re-look and perhaps a new definition in commensuration with the geography and society. But corruption per se was no less even when a strong so to say autocratic leader headed the government. Shall we conclude that corruption is either cousin of polity or simply untamable. But taming is what today we all are talking about. If not utopian annihilation. Here comes the role of legislation. India is in dire need of a leash in strong and skilled hands of an able and above board mind. I am not right person to comment on legal matters but one thing stands out as writing on the wall. Any Lokpal Bill keeping Prime Minister, conduct of MPs in parliament and major law enforcement institutions and lower judiciary outside of the ambit of the legislation will be a trampling steed with utterly discredited political class saddling the new found back. It will have to be complemented with State Lokayuktas being subordinate to Chairperson heading the Lokpal. It is for experts with vision to decide what will work and what won’t.
Response of Indian Intelligentsia
One vital section of the Indian society which brutally failed those twelve days was Indian intelligentsia. That section which is obliged to take a divorced view of things from the heat that dictates the action on ground to let the rationality and sense reign supreme. Their appraisal is a beacon of light for any society. They don’t tell us what we want to hear like most of the media but what we need to put our ears and mind to. Intelligentsia helps a nation from venturing into self delusion and at the same time doesn’t funk from coming up with original and unpopular but profound solutions to axiomatic but axing problems. If disingenuousness irritates them martinetish winds test their patience. They are the upholders of the reason. They are the sustainers of the sanity.
Inhabiting the world of ideas in the service of humanity in all its varying forms ranging from particularities of individuality to summaries of generalities intelligentsia warrant a deep look wiz a wiz their more or less discomfiture with recent mass protests in India which remained much to the credit of legacy of Mahatma Gandhi non violent. Were they upholding the reason? Were they sustaining the sanity? Were they being original in their response? Did they say something which stood out from the hubbub? These are some of the questions which stare at us? A confession: personally I have never been a fan of rule of majority which to some extent any kind of democracy conforms to. Nonetheless democracy having been by far proved to be the best system of governance amongst all tried and tested with its peculiar edge of flexibility one can’t help but stick to it. In different societies it has different colors. If the majority happens to be illiterate or poor and thus subject to exploitation by either few entrenched or few beginners or few bowelless Rastignacs of Balzac not rejecting but working in collusion with Vautrins the result is less a democracy and more a feudalism garbed in diaphanous clothes of democracy. This could well be called rubbing clean both sides of the democratic coin. Universal suffrage and universal candidature militate against the very idea for which it is exercised so long as a vast majority of electorate remains incapable of independent and intrepid thought. In this light even the electoral aspect of the democracy becomes a drama to be played for a substantial chunk of those who cast their vote every five years (or few) rather than a franchise to be exercised. The tenor and setting of the drama keeps changing from feudalism to caste factors to religion to nationalism with only occasional developmental planks thrown in, that too with limited action. The exploitation of exploitable (vote bank) is reason enough for exploiters (vote collectors) to keep the road of former’s time stationed so that latter enjoys a smooth ride. Good education is a fertile ground for the crop of questions the establishments find bitter and sour and insalubrious for its electoral health. Our electoral results are the reflection of our society. If we need a revolution today it is in the primary education, the bedrock of life for any child. Nehru gave us world class higher education institutions but made the mistake of ignoring primary education, ‘lamentable’ as put by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen once. Notwithstanding the laws passed regarding universal education and improving enrollment rate the standards of primary education ‘are as bad as Papua new Guinea and crisis torn Afghanistan and Yemen’ according to a team of Indian economists as reported in Financial Times, August 25, 2011. Lamentable, even after 65 years of governance, of the people, by the people and for the people.
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