Since his moral victory in forcing the government to form a joint panel for drafting the long pending Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare has been facing sniper attacks from politicians of all hues.
Kapil Sibal took a pot shot at him for his obsession with the Lokpal bill claiming that the people’s problems were different and that the bill had no significance for the illiterate and thirsty. This was a specious argument, considering the fact that the poor and the illiterate are most affected by corruption because it denies them the their much needed entitlements. Digvijay Singh then suggested that Anna Hazare should fight elections. This was a subtle reminder that the influence veiled by him was extra constitutional and that the government may not be willing to oblige him all the time. His reference to elections is consistent with the thinking of the political class that considers electoral victory (by fare or foul means) to be the touch stone of all power in a Democracy and attaches no significance to morality. Pranab Mukeherjee dubbed the joint panel as a ‘new experiment‘, the success or failure of which will determine its outcome, hinting government unease and a possible future snub. L.K. Advani in a veiled attack, criticized persons close to Anna Hazare for demonizing politicians. There was even a tame protest by various political parties against the overt attempt of agitating Civil Society activists to distance themselves from all political parties by refusing entry to them. To top it all, an anonymous CD surfaced just days before the first meeting of the joint panel, accusing the Civil society co-chair,Shanti Bhushan of trying to negotiate to fix a judge. Another bomb shell was dropped by the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, who is also a civil society representative on the panel, by his statement that he was considering to resign from the panel in view of the ongoing slander campaign against them.
All of the above may seem like disparate and disjointed criticism, but their real target is the Lokpal Bill itself. Politicians fear that the presence of civil society members will throw up a draft that will be politically very costly to oppose. This is why they are desperately trying to nibble away the credibility of the civil society members to turn the panel into a nonstarter . They were all together in condemning Anna Hazare for his denigrating of the politicians. This despite the fact that everyone agrees that the movement would have fallen flat on its face, had it been perceived to be obligated to any political party. This predicament of politicians where it is hard even to argue that there are good as well as bad politicians, is what worries the top political leaders most. Yet the decline has not been sudden. Things have grown from bad to worse. For years civil society activists have waged a loosing battle for reforms. Thinks have failed to take off wherever interests of the ruling elite have converged. Political leadership have also failed miserably in isolating the bad apples amongst them. For too long the law makers have reveled in being the chief law breakers.
Even though in the past too there have been many fasts unto death inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, most have faced public apathy, some were dubbed as maverick acts, some were even made fun of. Very few have received the wide spread public support that Anna Hazare got. His honesty and simplicity though were only part of the reason. The other important reason was the in rising public anger against rampant corruption and the recently unleashed season of corruption that never ends. Even though there is no denying the danger of a sustained denigration of politicians in general, corrective measures are needed to restore the balance of public concern in governance. Only massive public support can ensure that the involvement of civil society does not remain an isolated experiment but leads to more responsive governance that acts instead of stalling crucial reform legislations such as Women’s reservation, Election reform, Police reform, Witness protection act etc. apart from the Lokpal Bill and the anti corruption measures.
Strikes are still the weapon of choice for political parties to drive home their point. Yet a look under the hood of a typical strike, fails to reveal anything distinctive or hope inspiring.
The strike date is notified well in advance (so much for spontaneity). It is then publicised through all means available. Media picks up the announcement and features it prominently, giving it further publicity. At local levels threats and innuendos are used freely to forewarn everyone. On the day of the strike, hooligans and muscle power is used to force shops & offices to close down. Many though stay away on their own, fearing violence and commotion. Trains and other modes of transportation are obstructed, with least concern for those caught in the middle. Many a times those in urgent need of hospitalisation are unable to get their, those traveling for work, interview or examination are also made to suffer for no fault of theirs. The more the hardship to the public, the more successful the strike is considered to be. At the end of every strike, supporters always claim that the strike was spontaneous, voluntary & a grand success while the opponents claim it to be a flop show. No quarters gained, none lost. Net result is loss to the public exchequer and public misery.
Apart from general strikes that are ignited by occasional events, there are the ‘habitual’ strikers. Every year at the start of festive season the municipal workers strike work, the teachers & the non teaching staff go on strike during the admission season, Doctors strike work even when the ICUs are full of critical patients, bankers go on strike just before a long weekend. The intent clearly is to maximise the impact. The apparent success of the strike is again measured by the amount of public hardship.
While it is natural for us to blame the strikers for all the public hardship, the Government is equally to blame. One could understand if occasionally there was an issue that was complicated and could not be solved solved easily, leading to agitation. But strikes have become an integral part of our lives. So much so that first one agitates for constituting pay commission, then agitate if recommendations are not to one’s liking, then on to enforcing its implementation. Once the central Government implements the recommendations, as if on cue, one by one the state Government employees start seeking parity with central employees. On and on the cycle keeps repeating itself. Worst part of the process is that Government frequently goes back on the settlement reached at the end of a strike. There are strikes and agitations to simply get Government to keep its word and sometimes for payment of salary for the previous strike duration.
The frequent agitations are symptoms of a deep malaise in our system. They show that our grievance redressal mechanisms have all collapsed. While the judiciary takes ages to resolve complaints, everyone else is too busy protecting their own vested interests to spare time for problem resolution. Take for example the 3 – 4 PM slot that is normally reserved by bureaucrats to meet public for grievance resolution. Most officials make it a point to be away from office during the time period. Even meeting a public official does not lead to a solution. Things have come to such a pass that even problems referred by the Chief Minister in his Janata Durbar need multiple petitions before they get redressed by the officials down below. Even the courts have to get their judgments implemented by using the ‘contempt’ stick. Officials use every ruse for not implementing decisions that are not to their liking starting with appeals to simply delaying their implementation . Every organ of the state needs to be dragged by the scruff of their neck into doing anything. Often Government becomes the biggest law breaker when it tries to brow beat individuals and smaller groups with its size and power. All this leads to a general environment of non compliance and encourages people to agitate for their just as well as unjust demands . Things can only improve if problems are redressed at appropriate levels and judicial intervention is available in a defined time interval.
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While political speech in India is mired in the ’70s doublespeak jargon, agitations too are stuck in between the Independence struggle and the strident trade unionism of the ’80s. continue reading »
‘Satyamev Jayate’, being the motto of the country has not stopped Indian politicians from mastering the art of doublespeak. Indian political discourse is full of stonewalls, falsehoods, propaganda and disinformation.
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If yes, then tell us about it. The fight against Corruption may well begin with simple acts of documentation.
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