Thursday, April 7, 2011

AN ANTI-CORRUPTION AYATOLLAH

B.RAMAN

One has reasons to be gratified and at the same time concerned over the direction the national anti-corruption movement led and galvanised by social activist Anna Hazare has been taking since it was launched three days ago from Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

2. It has shaken up the indifference of the Government on the issue of corruption and mobilised the urban youth across the country to come out into the streets in support of the demand voiced by Anna Hazare and his supporters for setting up an institutional mechanism to deal with corruption at all levels, with even the Prime Minister not exempt from its scrutiny and action.The way Indian youth in various urban centres and netizens have woken up from their slumber on this issue and risen to the colours of the Anna Hazare movement should be a matter of satisfaction to all right-thinking people in the country.

3. While we have noted with amazement the way the young people have bestirred themselves on this issue, none of us has been able to explain this phenomenon adequately. But we had seen this phenomenon repeatedly in different countries of the world since the Second World War. We saw it first in France in 1968 when Youth Power ultimately led to the exit of Gen.de Gaulle from power. We saw it in action the same year in the US where the anger of the American youth over the Vietnam war contributed to the decision of then President Lyndon Johnson not to seek re-election.

4. We saw it again on different occasions in Iran, Poland, South Korea, Myanmar (where it did not succeed) and more recently in Tunisia and Egypt.I have been criticised by many and ridiculed by some for comparing the phenomenon of youth in action now being seen in India to the phenomenon of youth in action that we saw in Egypt earlier this year. The main point of criticism is that India has strong traditions of democracy and hence cannot be compared to Egypt ruled by a discredited despot.

5 I have been comparing India to Egypt not because I am oblivious of the merits of our democracy, but because I feel unhappy over the state of our democracy which has stopped enthusing the people of the rest of the developing world because of the ills of corruption, nepotism and political insensitivity. I also compare India to Egypt because just as the assertion of the Youth Power in Egypt forced the powers that be in that country to at least make a pretense of action against the ills confronting the country, in India too, it is only the assertion of Youth Power that has forced the Government to come out of its shell of indifference and insensitivity.

6. Anna Hazare and his supporters have been agitating on the need for an effective institutional mechanism against corruption for years and have re-doubled their efforts since January last. The Government has suddenly bestirred itself on this issue not just because of the fast of Anna Hazare, but because it has been startled by the outpouring of empathy and support for him from the youth of the country. Even the TV channels of this country largely ignored this movement since January till it saw hundreds of youth coming out into the streets in support of Anna Hazare. Hence, I do feel my repeated compasrison to the assertion of Youth Power in Egypt is apt and cannot be lightly dismissed.

7.But there has been a major difference between the way the Youth In Action phenomenon worked itself out in Egypt and the way it has been working itself out in India. In Egypt, the youth kept the leadership and initiative in its hands and did not allow an Ayatollah of Democracy to emerge by taking advantage of the mobilisation of the youth and the assertion of its power, but in India the assertion of the Youth Power has been sought to be manipulated by some leaders of the Anna Hazare movement---- without his noticing and discouraging it--- to project him as the Ayatollah of Anti-Corruption, who has the monopoly of wisdom on this issue and hence whose wishes and stature in this movement have to be accepted implicitly by the Government without any questions being asked.

8. It is this self-assumed and over-projected moral superiority of Anna Hazare over the rest of us mere mortals which should explain the deadlock in their talks with the Government and their totally unwise demand that he should be made the head of the joint committee to be constituted for drafting the proposed legislation.

9. There are many of us who are fighting on this issue of corruption for years----each in his or her humble way. There are many non-governmental organisations across the country which have been creditably fighting on this issue. We are all grateful to Anna Hazare and his followers for the way they have galvanised the anti-corruption movement. But, at the same time, I am not prepared to accept that he has superior or a monop[oly of wisdom on this issue and that we can do nothing better than to accept whatever he says or demands without subjecting it to scrutiny.

10. We want effective action against corruption. At the same time, we do not want an Ayatollah of Anti-Corruption in our midst surrounded by subaltern Ayatollahs.

11.Finally, a humble appeal to the youth of the country. You have succeeded where we failed by directing the spotlight on the issue of corruption. The Government is showing signs of action thanks to you and because of you. It is more afraid of your power than of any other phenomenon.

12. Use that power wisely and imaginatively. Don't allow that power to be misappropriated and misused by fledgeling Ayatollahs of Anti-Corruption.

13. The Government is terribly confused in its response. All its efforts have been towards placating Anna Hazare and his followers. We have come to the present messy situation because of the indifference of successive Governments to the public anger and disgust over the issue of corruption and criminalisation of politics. It is also because of the failure of communications between the Government and the middle class and the absence of a far-seeing political leadership in the seats of power.

14. It is good that even at this late hour the Government has opened up its channels of communications with Anna Hazare and his followers. It should also simultaneously establish a dialogue on this subject with the other political parties and with the youth of the country. It should constitute a group of eminent personalities to come out with an alternative approach to the issue of corruption in general and to the institutional mechanism in particular. These initiatives should not wait till its talks with the leaders of the Anna Hazare movement succeed. ( 8-4-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

6 comments:

Paresh said...

Here we go again. Three days into the protest and already we have cracks amongst us. This is always a problem with us Indians. We can never accept a leader. Sir, basically what you are suggesting is to have a movement where there is no one leader. Actually such movement will fail because it will pull in opposite directions and the willy politicians will be able to divide and rule and nullify the movement. Imagine giving such an advice to Mahatma Gandhi during his freedom struggle. "Gandhi is turning out to be the ayatollah of the freedom struggle. Let us not allow him to think he knows more about independence than us, mortals" --- We would still be under British rule. That's exactly why we don't have strong leaders today, because when anyone is about to become one, we start pulling his legs. Sir, not a fly was ready to take lead in the fight against corruption, this man stood up. Let him atleast finish his fight before we start to pull the rug from under his feet!!

We had decided to protest (against corruption) in front of the Indian Embassy in Finland a few days back. We had advertised our protest well in advance and about 40-50 people had showed interest in joining. Do you know how many people actually turned up at the event? 4!! When we called some of the 'youngsters' who were supposed to be present, they told us they were still sleeping!!!

Under such circumstances, I think it is a boon that we have Anna Hazare to wake people up! Let us not hit the axe on our own feet just when the fight is warming up.

Shital said...

Shri Raman Sir, I am engineer.Your analysis is impeccable. But this corruption menace have been engulfed our progress in a way that if we do not act sense of emergency we would be again slaved in terms of technology importing. These middleman and corrupt politicians neglecting our indigenous technology despite its reliable and just for few penny we corrupt.I still cherish the divine anger shown by mass when Gandhian resisted foreign Manchester cloths. I am sensing the logic behind that.

Traveler said...

Sir,

I would prefer an anti corruption ayatollah over a bunch of
Corrupt hitlers.

Yash

aaceeworld said...

Working within the govt heiarchy, to my amazement i found out that the general opinion is that this movement is a media hype... i was amazed if not dissapointed. utthe fact of the matter is that even if this is a media hype, let us not wither away this wonderful opportunity and in fact make the most it. Ironically this is what even the media would want. This is a golden opprtunity to set things right or attempt to do so, and we do not want to wait for another fifty yr=ears before such an opportunity comes by.

openlight said...

My take -

1. Public is on look out for some one who can lead the public angst against govt.'s inaction.

2. Anna Hazare becoming an ayatullah has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as for decades from nehru onwards (refer to 1948 jeep scandal)political leader and their admin rajas (IAS brigade) have looted country with no thought of countrymen and thus all efforts of changing the scene is just watered down every time. Won't public get fed up?? and demand an military style one leader/ayatollah style quick justice as even depicted in hindi films.

3. Nehru was a good visionary but not a leader thats why India got defeated in 1962, kashmir is still an blood sucking demon and the nehruvian policy of total control by admin (IAS, IPS) and political leaders is playing havoc with the country till date.

4. Most of persons on a monetarily significant position will try to benefit from it thus, not only punish people responsible but also make system transparent and accountable which has been elusive even in the india's most of govt offices.

Arun Nair said...

Sir.

Mass movements usually depend on a few key people to lead them. For example, India had several freedom fighters - all of whom fought with the same fervor for the same goal, but there were a few key individuals the movement centered around.

Ditto for the current anti-corruption agitation. Anna Hazare is at the forefront not necessarily because he is the most virtuous of leaders that we could have had. God knows that there are many others slogging away silently to keep the system from rotting completely. He is at the forefront due to factors that not many of us could have controlled, and it's important that we have people like him taking the lead. He is a key national resource at this point - a force for causing a massive mobilization and convergence of public opinion. Time for the rest of us mere mortals to overcome our peevishness at having missed our shot at immortality and support the movement for the greater good with what resources we can muster.