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Friday, April 15, 2011

Question Anna, IAC out of Solipsism?

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Several eminent writers and thinkers have started pouring in their opinion about the movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare, the Jan Lokpal bill and how and why it wont work. I am no authority over political science and governance but my commonsense makes me wonder why people of such repute and influence dont carefully examine the situation before writing opinion on blog, newspaper etc.

Let us take a close look at what has happened.

India Against Corruption movement has started (in recent past) with a letter and petition to our PM, which elaborates the deficiencies in the current anti corruption laws and government version of the proposed bill, which can be read here Unfortunately the PM never cared to reply nor our popular media seems to be concerned about this and gave the due attention to such a strong and relevant letter signed by respected members of the civil society. Infact I have never seen/heard of any interview/article about this petition by the leading media and newspaper agencies. Perhaps they are always bothered about what's happening/selling today and things which shape tomorrow does not seems to appeal them much, barring few exceptions ( cricket, bollywood, stock market). A comparison between government version and civil society version of bills can be foundhere ( a much recent article though) Surprisingly not many people including the intellingentsia seems to have covered widely about this version of bill and criticized government about introducing such meaningless bill.

On 8th Feb, Anna Hazare showed his concerns about deteriorating law and order conditions in Maharahstra. Once again not many people seems to be caring about what they said and what was happening. Some RTI activists were attacked in several parts of Maharashtra, a detailed article can be found here . Unfortunately some of the activists lost their life in Jan 2011 and no comments were released by CM, PM, Mrs. Gandhi or Sharad Pawar about such shameful acts which seems to undermine democracy. Another detailed article can be read here On 26h Feb, Anna Hazare declared that because India Against Corruption movement has not heard back from government and no seriousness is shown by government, he will sit on indefinite fast from 5th April. A news article can be found here

Though some skeptics ( can be ignored) questioned why he started fasting after the world cup victory perhaps were not aware of his announcement earlier and back in Feb this year nobody in India would have imagined that India will win the Cricket world cup. Some seems to question why fast ended the same day IPL started. They should ask this question to Congress and the government of India rather than India Against Corruption movement. IPL is a multibillion $ entity and its absolutely possible that some of the politicians have vested interests in the success of IPL. On first day of fast, Congress termed Anna's fast a premature. A detailed article can be read here A nice attempt by the government by outrightly rejecting the whole idea behind the IAC movement led by Anna Hazare and attempting to trivialize the whole idea behind taking strong measures against corruption. But Anna Hazare continued this fight, despite almost no support on day 1. As stated in this article Anna Hazare rightly stated that Congress is trying to mislead the people of India. Is misleading public using their high offices and power not attributable to a crime ? Perhaps people of India have been so immune and indifferent to blatant crime and corruption in every walks of life that the famous PR campaigns by state/ central governments, using their high offices to distort the facts and hence wrongly influencing the public opinion is not even considered a crime in India ( by media, public, opposition parties or even court).

Then Mr. Sharad Pawar resigns from the Group of Ministers working on anticorruption bill. He states that he's busy campaigning for state elections, as was also covered in newspapers But nobody seems to understand the simple fact that elections dates were announced a long back and so were IPL and Cricket World Cup final schedule was announced, so Mr. Pawar should have made his schedule accordingly then why he resigned only after IAC movement started rejecting the government proposals and infact started targeting this senior leader directly. Was he afraid of something ? Alas Mrs. Gandhi responds on 7th April ensuring that his demands will get full attention of the government. Why all of a sudden Mrs. Gandhi felt the need to respond and give full government attention to the matter after it has taken a shape of national movement? and Why not before or after ? So tackling corruption was not her/Congress agenda at all or were they having any effective alternate hidden plan? Was she worried more about the upcoming state elections than anything else? For sure she and the Congress knows the fact that masses generally vote based on popular consensus, near term events can have a damaging effect but was it too late already, was the damage to the image and hence the complete election campaign already being done and perhaps they were trying to save whatever they could ! And now Mr. Sibal steps up, a lawyer by profession and taking care of the Telecom ministry after the massive 2G scam by Mr.A.Raja. Congress and the Government of India was definitely trying hard to negotiate the terms and conditions, as can be read here But once again surprisingly nobody cared to question the government that What they were trying to negotiate with IAC - a little weaker Lokpal? perhaps lesser transparency as compared to what IAC was demanding or something else? While BJP and Shiv Sena extended support to IAC, some of their lone stalwarts tried to blemish Anna Hazare, but for sure they had their vested interests behind it and rightly they didn't got much media coverage. More can be read here In parallel a lot of celebrities came in support of Anna, some again out of vested interest and some like Anupam Kher out of genuine interest and concern about the matter. Unfortunately his house was stoned by hooligans, who all of us know were from which political party. I think in few more years these hooligans will loose all the little relevance and media coverage they still enjoy due to their glorious past, so I hope out of their own vested interests these hooligans learn to behave themselves in a civilized, democratic society else they will be obsolete/ extinct very soon.

Back to negotiations with a well educated lawyer Mr. Sibal goes invain. The government is not ready to issue official notification till 8th April and does not accept any member of civil society to chair the Lokpal. Nobody questions the intention of government even now, why were they so afraid to accept members of civil society to chair a committee responsible for drafting a bill ? Power lust is perhaps the ultimate sin, that too over others, that too ultimate, without any question. Why does a democratically elected government behaving like a dictator and wanted a absolute control over everything. In a later interview by Mr.Karan Thapar of Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Mr. Thapar repeatedly blames the IAC movement as an attempt to undermine democracy. If Mr. Thapar is such a true journalist by spirit then has he not raised questions when GOI tried and succeeded in doing the same so many times in the past by not responding to the petitions of IAC, by trying to negotiate with IAC on Lokpal framework, by trying to make Lokpal a complete dummy and by not doing anything to punish the corrupt in its 7 years of governance. And so after lot of negotiations IAC and government agrees for a Joint Committee with 2 chairman. I felt it was a equation because its important to have duly elected members as a part of this committee. Government also agrees to issue notification to this effect and Anna Hazare declares to end his fast. A much needed and well deserved victory for the people of India. Surprisingly the finally proposed members from GOI are veteran specialists in law, finance and governance, quiet a contrast with the originally proposed members of the committee ! Does this mean that government was not serious before and perhaps IAC movement made them realize the importance of this burning issue of corruption and an urgent to need to address this issue before 'they' sell the heart and soul of its people ( in addition to land, sea, air, minerals, food grains, fodder, arms and airplanes, dams, bridges, roads, airports and everything possible) to corruption !

Some analyst, writers and think tanks are calling the proposed Lokpal as draconian body, all encompassing and all powerful. How else do they intend to address the issue of corruption? Requests, articles, movies, petitions, RTI appeals, CBI, Police, Judiciary and Polity all have failed incredibly in addressing the issue pertaining to corruption by the high and mighty. Amidst the 5 day fast, CBI released yet another piece on nonsensical chargesheet on 2G scam continues its old tradition of working under political influence, submitting half prepared reports and eventually providing lot of time to the accused to take sufficient measures to find loopholes in the documents, procedures and finally get away with it. A good article on the efficacy and culture within CBI by Justice Verma can be read here How many cases against politicians, bureaucrats, high and mighty filed by CBI in past 60 years have been solved till date? What attempts have been made to recover the losses caused by that corrupt individual/ party and what subsequent measures have been taken to ensure that things dont get repeated? Ineffectiveness of CBI is a wide know fact, but was it considered even a issue worth contemplating by any of the governments/political parties in the recent past?

Lokpal will not be a magic wand, a solution to all the problems pertaining to corruption at all the levels in India. Indian democracy and society is way to complex and will pose many more challenges in tackling issues of national importance. We simply cannot afford anymore to hide behind our cultural lineage and diversity and keep complaining that we are like that only culturally or we cannot have all encompassing laws because of our diversity. Eventually We the people of India will have to make use of the provisions in Lokpal in addition to provisions in RTI and other similar acts which empower the people. Lokpal is just a beginnig in right direction, first step towards a path to tame the demon of corruption. If democractically elected politicians provide constructive inputs, a strong will to amend, frame and then pass the Lokpal bill and then of course several other similar laws which empower the law enforecement agencies, the judiciary to take corrective, punitive measures and whatever it takes to ensure that 'everybody' obeys and live by as per the laws of the land. IAC is a movement by the people, by right set of people with genuine intention to solve issues, they are open to suggestions, they have not done anything to gain publicity, they have not reached that stage overnight, they have been working in this field for years and they know the subject matter in great details. So let us not sabotage their efforts by complaining that all regions, religions, sects, race, color, ethinicity, state etc should be represented. Instead its time to come out of Solipsistic frame of mind and ask all the questions bubbling in our minds in a appropriate manner to IAC team AND ask the same set of rigorous questions to our democractically elected Block officers, MLAs, MPs and make a wise choice this time, thinking beyond the freebies and the proposed rate cuts which benefit us in the short term but have no long term significance whatsoever.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

An appeal to India Media, Bollywood, Cricket team and Industry

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A Humble Appeal.

Dear Indian Media,

We Indians sincerely Thank you for providing necessary support to this revolution against corruption. We really do hope that you will keep covering this revolution with same zest and vigor not only till the government agrees to form the committee but beyond that till the bill is actually implemented and we the common people of India are made aware/ learns how to approach Jan Lokpal, how to raise voice against corruption happening around them in their day to day life. At some point in time you might be tempted to give front page coverage to IPL, or something which you might perceive as more sensational in that particular second/hour/day. We hope that you will realize the need and potential of this movement based on not what it is today but what it can bring tomorrow for all of us. You have a role to play and perhaps might be required to keep aside the profit making moves, motives and news for a few days but be rest assured the people of India will definitely reward you for your insights, updates and transparency about this movement against corruption. So please maintain your focus, the media space it deserves considering the national importance of this matter for generations to come above and beyond the monthly TRP ratings.

Dear Bollywood and Indian Cricket team,

We are thankful you for your relentless efforts and dedication in entertaining us and for keeping our spirits high despite a mundane life, despite all the pressure, tensions and worries about trivial things such as food, water, electricity, clothes etc. he popular platform you have provided will definitely provide a fertile ground to many other forms of arts, entertainment and sports in years to come. We really hope that you appreciate the love and fan following and the associated rewards ( money, life style and perhaps a different kind of stress) you have gained over and above the fixed income/fee and tax rebates. We now humbly request you to use the available privileges at your disposal to support this movement against Corruption led by Anna Hazare and encourage more and more people to be a part of it. We also hope that with your talent and skills you will be able to keep the spirits of the masses high amidst such demanding situation and in conjugation with media will come out with some encouraging posters, slogans, banners, short films, documentaries, songs which can make people realize what they really deserve and what they have been getting over the years from our government. We know your prime responsibility is of sports and entertainment but perhaps its sometime important to rise above the routine ( as we sometimes do by watching your movies more than once and standing in a Que for hours to get your glimpse etc) and contribute back actively to the society for the common good of all the members. Unfortunately more than 400 million people in India still have to put an immense fight to earn the livelihood for the day despite of billions of Rs/ $ being spent on development schemes. So a corruption free society is bound to improve the living conditions of those millions some of whom might be able to join your ranks or at the least will be able to enjoy what you do, some day.

Dear Industry Leaders, Visionaries and Gurus,

Despite a minimal government support you have worked towards the growth of this society, economy and the industry. Unfortunately several state and central governments have been taking credit of your efforts but we the people know who are the real hero behind the India shining story. At some point in time smart and educated people amongst you might have been harassed by a bureaucrat or a politician who's not worth a dime otherwise and do not deserve to even talk to you. Over past 20 years, you have shown the power and prowess of Indian businesses all across the world and have generated huge employment opportunities which government has never ever thought of in distant dreams. This is our humble appeal to leverage your good offices and resources available so as to support this movement. You can write to several offices in government to especially look into this particular case and give consent to the Jan Lokpal bill. This country needs you now more than ever to play a more active role in politics and civic societies. If some of you can come forward and join the movements such as India Against Corruption and Loksatta . The times have changed and people of India will definitely vote in your favor. the best support you can extend is fostering a culture of complete no to corruption at all levels within your organizations internally and also externally while dealing with government agencies, clients and vendors alike. Initially you might face some loss ( decrease in profits) in business but for sure over a long term this practice will bring in unforeseen rewards to your organization and to the society at large. So in order to benefit your business over a long term and in order to make the system more easy to deal with, people and business friendly please support this bill, this movement and Anna in best of your capabilities.

To All

All of us are insanely capable of critically analyzing the situations and taking decisions which in long term will benefit us as an individual and as a society at large. However when all of us collectively take decisions after a complex series of interactions between various stakeholders of the society, we always tend to distrust the others ( the other people, the other stakeholders in the society) and take decisions which benefits us and our immediate family in the short term
(fearing that whatever is planned for long term might not actually materialize). And so this bill is important because it will bring in transparency in the system and will have sufficient ways and means to punish the corrupt and thus setting strong precedence for others. Since this bill will empower the citizens of India to file complaint against bureaucrats and government officers who ask for bribes and do not behave as per books, the general habit of casual corruption amongst the masses will also go away/significantly reduce over a period of time. So please come forward and support this bill, this movement, Anna Hazare for our own personal interest.

PS: this appeal does not mean that the people of India necessarily needs support from any/all of the above mentioned agencies, but since these people too are part of the same society and are well respected by the people, their small efforts will go a long way in support of this movement.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

India Against Corruption

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After immense hard work and analysis India Against Corruption movement has gained momentum. The nation which woke up from a recent Cricket World Cup victory starving for heros and reasons to celebrate and be cheerful about is all set to rise up against corruption this time.

About Dr. Anna Hazare -

Anna Hazare is one of India's well-acclaimed social activists. A former soldier in the Indian army, Anna is well known and respected for upgrading the ecology and economy of the village of Ralegan Siddhi which is located in the drought prone Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra state. The erstwhile barren village has metamorphosed into a unique model of rural development due to its effective water conservation methods, which made the villagers self-sufficient. Earlier, the same village witnessed alcoholism, utter poverty and migration to urban slums. Inspired by Hazare’s unique approach of salvaging a hopeless village, the state government has implemented the `Model Village’ scheme as part of its official strategy. Hazare is now synonymous with rural development in India.

More can be read here

About India Against Corruption Movement -

India Against Corruption movement is an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption.

More can be read here

The Problem of Mindset

Indians typically are not socially conscious and always look upon to their elders, their idols, their gods and demi gods, kings, politicians, cricket stars, bollywood folks, perhaps a bit more than almost anybody else on the planet. but the problem is of mindset...and once the public start seeing some changes in the system at large (perhaps lesser number of scams running into billions of dollars, corrupt getting prosecuted and punished) then slowly the mindset of masses will change as well....the change does not happen in a linear fashion...especially when we are talking about a paradigm will happen all of a sudden...overnight...nobody will realize it...but after it things will change forever and hopefully for the good.

Now About the Bill

Salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill

1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up

2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.

3. Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.

4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.

5. How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.

6. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.

7. But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.

8. What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.

9. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.

10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.

PS: I have taken liberty to quote from the websites of IAC and on Dr. Hazare and I hope they wont mind.