Friday, 2 September 2011

The Anna Fever

Political and bureaucratic corruption in India has always been a major concern. A 2005 study conducted by Transparency International in India found that more than 45% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices successfully. Interestingly, Transparency International estimates that truckers in India pay US$5 billion in bribes annually. In 2010, India slipped three notches to the 87th rank out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.


The tentacles of corruption are spread everywhere and not just limited to government organizations. Recent instances such as the IPL scam and the Commonwealth Games fiasco underscore how big money attracts corruption in every occupation. Corruption is not just limited to India. It is a dark all-pervasive phenomenon, a malignant cancer, destroying the benefits of globalization in many poor countries.


Given the scenario, Anna Hazare is a breath of fresh air that has fired up the soul and imagination of a nation plagued by corrupt polity. Being anti-Anna would imply being corrupt, against the very aspirations of a commoner, and archenemy of the great architects of a young independent India! Yet, this holistic dictum of 'either you are with us or against us,' is reminiscent of rhetoric used by then-President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war. Yet, the more one reads about the Jan Lokpal Bill as espoused by Anna Hazare and his alleged supporters the more one doubts the true intent and purpose of this so-called mass movement.


The ever hungry for anything that can make as headline, Media made much ado about Anna’s tirade. Further, its usage of terms like ‘Team-Anna’ and making it sound synonymous with Team-India has gone a long way in firing up the moral fibre of a very decadent society.


In fact, Anna Hazare and his supporters were able to capitalize on the federal government's inept handling of the issue. The bumbling congress party leaders made sure that world saw Anna Hazare as a 'noble crusader' rather than a politically naïve activist who is using 'fasting' as a tool of blackmail to push an agenda, no matter how noble, which is likely to destroy the democratic fabric of our polity.


No one can dispute Anna Hazare's principal assertion that corruption is harming India. However, his demand to give the proposed watchdog, The Jan Lokpal, authority to investigate and prosecute Supreme Court judges and the prime minister is bothersome. In a typical democracy, judges and top elected officials have immunity. The idea is to protect these people, while in office, from politically motivated prosecutions. Moreover, the present constitutional checks and balances are adequate to impeach any erring political entity. Anna Hazare’s argument that the present system allows government to shield the corrupt officials & elected representatives holds little water. In fact, any supreme council or supreme watchdog agency, like the Lokpal, is always in danger of assuming the authoritarian role of providing a safe haven to the corrupt & the criminal elements.


His ideologue seems to go against the very tenets of democracy that he professes to be upholding. He seems to be an unwitting instrument to usher in chaos and destabilise the present form of polity. He is either an unwitting sleeping partner or an activist wedded to usher in an era of right-wing Presidential Autocracy advised by an elite panel of Dharam Gurus & Nagpur based Chanakyas. There has been a deliberate and concerted effort to brand Anna Hazare as modern day Mahatama Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.


However, before we jump to conclusions and my motive let us deliberate on the questions and issues raised below:


01.) Is Anna Hazare a naive activist marshalling the cause of anti-corruption forces or a messiah of truthfulness, justice, equality, and a new socio-economic order?


02.) Is Anna Hazare really the face of a resurgent young India or yet another front chosen by the ultra-right wing parties and other opportunist political entities?


03.) Are we that naïve that we would fail to notice the organized forces that are behind Anna Hazare's campaign?


04.) Why is Anna Hazare incessant on creating a divide based on dangerous politics of ‘Us & Them’?


05.) Why is Anna Hazare so convinced of his own virtuosity? Watching him on a certain TV channel (in a highly politicised game show, which was supposed to show case the talents of kids singing par excellence) he came across as desperately trying to portray himself as the modern day ‘Gandhi.’ He (in words and body language) did not betray a single sign of Humility, Selfless dedication to a cause, and Humbleness. He came across as a person desperate to go down as a martyr. He did not speak like a social reformer but like a political aspirant!


06.) If the entire nation has become so intolerant of ‘corruption’, then why is every elected government corrupt?


07.) Why is every official corrupt? Is it because we allow them to be corrupt? Or, because deep inside we are equally corrupt?


08.) In addition, why is every businessman/entrepreneur busy cheating, peddling, lying, and defrauding the Federal Exchequer?


09.) Why do we sell our votes at the political hustings?


10.) Why do we elect such corrupt governments?


11.) Why are known anti-social elements shouting themselves hoarse chanting ‘Vande Mataram’? The very hoodlums who only till yesterday were busy black-marketing, drug peddling, bribing, over-charging, cheating on taxes, perjury – in fact, the list is endless.


12.) Why are we busy selling our consciousness at the drop of a hat?


An interesting observation that is worth leaving the readers with is that the so called mass movement appears to be an upper-caste, middle-class movement as it seems to address their issues – such as bribes paid to the police or at passport offices. Peasants, vulnerable sections, do not fall in their purview.