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Saturday, 27 August 2011

First Victory! Deadlock Broken: Parliament Adopts Unanimous Resolution in Both Houses Adopting Anna Hazare's Conditions

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 27, 2011

Breaking the Deadlock: A Long Day in Parliament

Both Houses of Parliament Concluded Today After a Daylong Debate on the Anti-Corruption Movement.  In all, 27 speakers spoke in the Lok Sabha, in the session that started at 11 am and ended at about 8 pm, and a similar number also spoke in the Rajya Sabha.  At the outset, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave a history of what had happened so far, even admitting that the government had made some mistakes, and said that the objective of parliament was to come to some resolution on the three points raised by Anna Hazare as necessary preconditions for ending his fast, not indulge in academic debates.

Unity in Parliament

On the whole, while some speakers took issue with specific provisions of Anna's demands, such as the establishment of state lokayuktas conflicting with the separation of federal and state powers, and the Jan Lokpal's jurisdiction over the lower bureaucracy (primarily a complaint of the communist parties), most speakers said that these differences could be smoothed out after detailed discussion at the standing committee level.  If there was any evidence of friction or anger, it was only by MPs who took offense to a mockery that Kiran Bedi had made of all politicians last evening on the stage at Ramlila maidan, where she accused most politicians of being untrustworthy, and during which actor Om Puri also ridiculed most parliamentarians as being illiterate bumpkins.

Most MPs spoke glowingly of Anna Hazare, described him as a great man, and spoke from their hearts of the need to save the life of such a great soul.  Because of Kiran Bedi's antics at Ramlila yesterday, she and the other members of Team Anna were not very popular with the MPs.

The Resolution

At the end, Union Finance Minister made long speeches, first in the Lok Sabha, and then in the Rajya Sabha. Each speech was followed by the statement by Pranab Mukherjee of a resolution that, in principle, Parliament agrees to the three conditions stated by Anna Hazare. This was not followed by a vote or even a voice vote, but by thumping of the desks by all members, in both houses.

Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar stated that the unanimous thumping of desks by all members is equivalent to a unanimous resolution passed by the House. Team Anna also accepted this demonstration as evidence of Parliament's intentions.

End of Anna's Fast

Following this, a letter from Manmohan Singh to Anna Hazare was taken by Union Heavy Industries minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to Ramlila maidan, which had already erupted in joy on hearing the news on TV.  Deshmukh presented the letter in which the PM summarized the day's events to Anna Hazare and requested him to now break his fast.  Anna announced that he would break his fast at 10 am tomorrow, as he has a habit of never breaking a fast after sunset.

A Great Victory

This is a great victory, not just for Anna, but for the people of India.  It is a victory at several levels.  Let us see what has been achieved.  Beyond the immediate achievement of making parliament promise to make a very serious effort to incorporate, to the extent possible and practical, the central features of the Jan Lokpal bill within the framework of a revised Lokpal bill, the nearly two-week movement, despite being concerned with a very emotional subject for most people, was completely non-violent.  

How many movements, whether in India or abroad, can we point out where there are no incidents of violence for such a long period.  Indians can justifiably feel very proud of their country and their fellow-citizens.  Never since the time of Gandhiji have we seen such a nonviolent movement.  Even the Mahatma's movements were often marred by incidents of shocking violence (such as the famous Chaura Chauri incident where several policemen were burnt to death within a police chowky).  But, despite the fairly long movement, people refrained from violence completely in this movement.  

Anna's other great victory is in getting millions of apathetic Indians who had gotten used to a "Chalta hai" ("It's okay") attitude for decades to finally shake that apathy and march on the streets in support of a noble cause.

What's Next?

The crisis has, I think, ended in a way that neither has compromised Parliament's prerogative to discuss a bill in detail nor given up on Anna Hazare's basic demands for a corruption-free India.  The next step is the standing committee, before which the Government bill, Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal bill, as well as suggestions from anyone else in the country, such as Aruna Roy or Jaiprakash Narayan, will be entertained.  Team Anna will be invited to present and justify their views in front of the standing committee.  While this was also the government's earlier offer, Team Anna had been very suspicious earlier of the Government's bonafides.  But now, Team Anna has clearly made its point, the Government has also made a strong show of its honest intentions, and it will be very difficult to just brush away Anna Hazare's very pertinent points even if they change their minds.

It is very important for India to participate with the same intensity in the debates in the standing committee and to not rest until the final Lokpal bill is passed, providing for a strong public ombudsman, with enough checks and balances to make sure that this institution is both effective as well as not abused.  Certain crucial aspects of the Jan Lokpal bill also need to be pushed through without dilution.  In particular, the need for a strong ombudsman to monitor the petty bribery that the lower bureaucracy constantly engages in cannot be understated.  The resistance from organized labor in Government offices to such an ombudsman who will keep tabs on their illegal activities should also not be underestimated.  All of these hurdles cannot be overcome without continuing participation by people.

Electoral Reform

But the struggle does not end here.  A strong lokpal bill is only a start to the process of eliminating corruption in India. Much more needs to be done, as so many commentators have pointed out, especially in the area of electoral reform. One of the key reasons for the skyrocketing corruption in public life is the sheer amount of money spent on elections. In India, one cannot win even a state legislature election unless one spends at least Rs. 15-20 crores ($3.5-$4.5 million) on it.  The main source of election funding is corruption, and so reforming electoral funding (what Americans refer to as campaign finance reform) is one of the key actions needed to effectively remove corruption from Indian public life.  This will not be easy, as experience in the US clearly shows.

Changing Personal Paradigms

One of the great things that has happened in the last 12 days is the intense debate and soul searching within India. One of the points that has repeatedly come out is that Indians have grown too accustomed to corruption at a personal level over the last 64 years of independence.  Indians are so used to corruption that even when they encounter an honest official in government, they try to bribe him.  For instance, if one wants his son to get admitted to a college of his choice, but the son does not have the requisite performance in school, most parents are quite willing to bribe in order to get their son in.  This mindset must change, and this is a larger, cultural change.  Mere regulation cannot achieve this.

The Legacy of the Jan Lokpal Movement

What has happened in India over the last two weeks is unprecedented.  Millions of Indians, who have vacated the political space for decades, have finally decided to reclaim that space.  This is especially true of the middle class - though this movement is NOT simply an urban middle-class movement, as some have tried to portray it in a motivated fashion.  Having grown up in a middle-class family myself, I remember very well the way I was raised - study hard, get an education, get a job, don't fight the system, and stay out of trouble.  The last piece of advice refers to staying away from politics, public statements, and pretty much anything controversial.

There is an old saying that nature abhors a vacuum.  Before independence, a lot of educated people studied law, entered politics, became idealistic in pursuit of India's freedom, and participated in public life.  This changed once India obtained its independence.  Educated, literate people who were really capable of understanding the larger issues involved in society largely stayed away from politics, which is why the quality of our politics and parliamentarians has gradually declined since independence.  This has reached such a nadir that it is common for people to say things like "Mera neta chor hai" ("My leader is a thief.")  During the current agitation, many people had "Mera neta chor hai" tattooed on their arms to register their protest.

That sense of apathy changed for me and for millions of other Indians in the last two weeks.  I found myself, for the first time in my entire life, participating in a political rally.  I found myself downloading copies of parliamentary bills and the Indian constitution.   I also found myself writing articles such as this one, emailing them to friends, and posting them on websites.  And, for the first time in my life, I found myself today glued to Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV for the whole day, channels to which I had not devoted more than 10 seconds at a single sitting.  Suddenly, I was not bored. I even found myself getting impressed by the oratorical qualities of some of our MPs and by their intelligence. 

This is neither foolish, idealistic euphoria, nor is it a transitory phenomenon inspired by Anna Hazare.  I am a lot more knowledgeable about various issues of civics today than I ever was, studying civics in middle school.  And I am a believer in participatory politics, since I have seen that it can work.  This experience has taught me that we have the power to change the world around us; we can no longer stick to the script that our parents wrote for us, urging us never to get into anything controversial.  I am not vain enough to think that I am some sort of singular exception in feeling this way.  Indeed, in walking the streets of Pune, in chatting over email and over the phone with various friends, and in discussions in the office, I get the distinct feeling that a lot of other people feel the same way.

The challenge for us is to make sure that we never forget this feeling.  If we continue to believe this and act accordingly, there is no limit to the positive change that we can bring about in this country.

The day we all feel this way will be the day of Anna Hazare's real victory.

Jai Hind!

Seshadri Kumar
(with inputs from Sandhya Srinivasan)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Is this a Mass Movement? Look at the Evidence, and Decide!


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 23, 2011


Some people and some media personalities, such as Karan Thapar of CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate, claim that Anna Hazare's movement is not a mass movement, that it doesn't really represent all Indians.  Some have even said that it is only people from Mumbai and Delhi who are protesting, and that we think it is a national movement only because the national media has blown it up.

Is this true?

Take a look at the events in India on 21st August 2011 in support of Anna.  Some of the huge (1 lakh+) rallies are at Juhu Beach, Mumbai - from Bandra to Juhu; at Freedom Park, Bangalore; at Marina Beach, Chennai and, of course, at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi.  But there are rallies all over the country (even, see in list below, a 1 lakh+ rally in, of all places, Indore!!!).  This is just a list I have taken from twitter (and these are just 21st August's events).  Mumbai alone had more than a lakh of people who walked in the rain.  If all this doesn't show that all of India is rising in support of Anna, then what does???  When will the govt wake up?

The list below is in no particular order, but I have tried hard to avoid duplication.  Some of the events are multiple events in one city.  For example, Pune has at least 4 rallies in the evening, including one biker rally in the afternoon.

Jai Hind!

Seshadri Kumar

List of Events of 21 August 2011
  1. About 10000 people to take rally from KD Singh stadium to local MP, Lalji tandon's residence at 7PM TODAY (lucknow)
  2. around 15000 gathered at Amar Jawan Jyoti, JAIPUR to support anna and janlokpal pls rt. Candle march will be held at 9pm at sahid smark
  3. Bhiwani, Haryana: #Janlokpalsupporters to gherao MPs residence today at 7 pm
  4. Candle light march in Vasundhara enclave DDA market today 21 aug in delhi to support Anna hazare ji join us guys jai india
  5. candle march in Bikaner,Rajasthan from ambedkar circle to the collectrate. at 6:30pm today!
  6. 4 Candle Light Marches 2day in Pune Rally3 (Sutarwadi), Starting point Sutarwadi Link Rd, Near Sagar Restaurant 7:00pm
  7. http://t.co/uxzYUNJ "A picture of the 1 lakh from Bandra to Juhu circle rally …Bande Maataram !!!
  8. 4 Candle Light Marches 2day in Pune Rally1 (Baner/Aundh), Starting point Symantec Junction, Opp Mahabaleshwar Hotel, 6:45pm
  9. 4 Candle Light Marches 2day in Pune Rally2 (NCL/Bavdhan), Starting point Pashan Circle, Cosmos Bank Compound, 7:00pm, Cntd
  10. Delhi: Candle march in Munirka DDA Cental Park at 7pm
  11. National FLAG n CANDLE MARCH Bhopal(M .P ) New Market Today 08-00 P M
  12. Candle March has been started from #Allahabad University by 5000+ supportes. Jai Hind Jai Anna
  13. Live from Marina Beach l Huge Crowd.. I am proud to be here with my family.http://t.co/GuCecD8
  14. AJMER: Meeting at VIJAY SMARAK at BAJRANGARH For SILENT CANDLE MARCH at 7.30 PM
  15. Candle light march at Samachar Apartment, Mayur Vihar, New Delhi. 6:30 PM 
  16. Huge rally @ Kalyan... Whoever in Kalyan pls participate..now @ Ramdev hotel .
  17. Vizag rally  http://t.co/sDMPkuX
  18. another trip 2 freedom prk - sun afternoon, massive crowds. impressive org by IAC volunteers. hats off to all of them
  19. Massiv rally Indore on MG road around 1 lac gathering amassing spirit. India against Corruption
  20. Raebareli (Sonia Gandhi's constituency): Candle March Today at 7 pm from Railway Station to Degree College Chauraha 
  21. Delhi: Candle-light march at 8 pm in Vasant Kunj today
  22. Candle Light march @ BADDI, Himachal Pradesh today 7 pm, AMRAVATI MANDIR, PHASE 3, COME & JOIN
  23. Delhi: Around 2 lakh citizens now marching from India Gate to Ramlila Maidan
  24. From 7:00 Pm today,the whole meerut is going to do MARCH with making sound of Plate and spoon from Regal square.ANNA
  25. Two Wheeler Rally In Bathinda, Punjab Today 6:15 PM. Starts From Rose Garden
  26. We did a march today, supporting the bill and IAC + ANNA HAZARE. Around 2000 people marched from ahinsa chowk,KATNI,M.P
  27. Hisar, Haryana - Join candle light protest to support Janlokpal, Sunday 21 Aug at Old Govt. College Ground at 7 PM (Daily)
  28. Delhi: Candle march in Munirka DDA Cental Park at 7pm 
  29. A bike rally happening in #Punetoday at 4.30-7.30pm in support of Anna Hazare & @janlokpal bill.It will start from Balgandharv.
  30. Lucknow: huge gathering in jhulelal park in lucknow to support Anna hazare. 
  31. At Dighalipukhuri, Guwahati a public meeting is held in support of Anna Hazare
  32. More than 20 ppl are fasting for almst 3 days at 153,LB ROAD, THIRUVANMIYUR, CHENNAI. for the @janlokpal bill n support to ANNA HAZARE.
  33. GURGAON: Protest to support #Janlokpal, Sunday 21st aug at Residency Greens, Greenwood City, Opposite Unitech Cyber Park, 7 pm onwards
  34. Successful #JanLokPalProtest in Hyderabad dis morning! Gr8 turnout at 7am on a Sunday! Electrifying! About 5000 attended..
  35. 2k people rallies in calicut in support of anna.
  36. Candle Protest March at Mohali Phase-7 at 7 PM, Chawla Chowk in Support of #JanLokPal and Shri Anna Hazare 
  37. Protest currently in progress at JP Nagar Phase 7 in support of India Against Corruption. @janlokpalhttp://t.co/2HPpfLi
  38. Rally from mini market,Ashiana Colony, Moradabad today at 6PM.All Volunteers pl. Note
  39. March n Protest against Corruption in Bisauli (Budaun)
  40. Ppl of Dombivl, In support of #JanLokpal#DombivliGymkhana Sun,21aug-6pm & march to Gharda Circle with candle.Spread the msg
  41. Daily candle light protest march at People's plaza,Necklace road, Hyderabad at 6pm. Meri shaam desh ke naam!!
  42. Panchkula, Sec-20 (Haryana): DAILY Protest March at 7 pm from VITA booth (outside Park) - near GHS 40 to support #JANLOKPAL
  43. GURGAON - Join candle light protest to support #janlokpalSunday 21 aug at Galleria mkt Ph.4 DLF, 6 pm onwards. 
  44. Candle March at 7PM at Swarn Jayanti Park in Indirapuram,Ghaziabad,be there to Support Anna
  45. Sending SMS to everyone in my phonebook to attend Rally in support of @janlokpal @ Kali Temple, Beach Rd, Vizag @ 4.30 pm. Glad to be a part
  46. In sapourt of Anna Hazare Jan Lokpal August 21, 2011 at Gulabi bagh flatfacebook.com/media/set/?set…pic.twitter.com/XbxrfPg
  47. Candle march in Barnala, Punjab: Aaj shaam 6 pm Bhagat Singh chowk to shuru hovega #JanlokpalRamlila Maidan
  48. JANLOKPAL ke Samarthan Mai Vishal ANNA MARCH Sham 5 baje REGAL SQUARE se. Please Join And Forward.IAC-INDORE
  49. IAC protest in trichy srirangam temple...http://t.co/twVNEGj
  50. Today 12:30pm HarleyD n Enfield though boys will roar thru city from Bandstand to Azad Maidan n bk to Bandra for 1LakhPpl rally @4:30pm
  51. Rally in Jaipur at 2.30pm from MNIT JLN road to Amar Jwan Jyoti .
  52. rallies everyday @Chakli Circle, Vadodara.. by AOL & others.. AOL today @600pm.. Jai Ho.. fight to Finish, till WE get #JanLokPal
  53. rally in Nasik from Rajkamal sweets Nashik road at 11 am
  54. 2nd freedom fight Rally at Thane today 21-05-2011 Join there to support #annahazare 
  55. BIKE RALLY@ 6 PM IN SIGRAULI . FROM DUDHICHUA TO JAYANT.JOIN US AND LET SHOW THE SPRIT OF SINGRAULIANS.
  56. MAHARALLY STARTING FROM MIRA ROAD STATION today 4pm FROM VIRAR SIDE...............JAI HIND
  57. Lucknow: Rickshaw rally from sector D indira nagar to jhulelal park,  and Rock concert (patriotic) jhulelal park 5 pm.
  58. 21st Pune FC Coll. Main Gate 9-10am: Citizens will sweep the footpaths to symbolize “Sweeping of Corruption” - Carry own brooms
  59. Jhansi,U.P.:Candle march today i.e.21 Aug @7 PM at Club bundela BHEL
  60. rally arranged from Dwarka hotel Dombivli west at 5 pm on 21st august & bajiprabhu chowk in the east.. at 5 pm..
  61. Rally of nearly 5000 people will start from union Bhawan, University Road Halland Hall Gate, Allahabad University Time: 5:00 PM
  62. Haridwar, Uttarakhand: Candle March Tomorrow (21Aug) @ 8:00pm at BMS office sec.1 BHEL
  63. Udaipur :Rally at fathesagar at 8 to support #annahazzare and JLPB ! So plz come in huge mass for our rights ! Jai hind
  64. JODHPUR: Historic Maha-Paidal Rally Tomorrow (21Aug) @ 5:00pm From Medical Collage, Jodhpur, Join where ever you are
  65. Peaceful protest outside the house of MP from Jalandhar, Punjab Mahinder Singh KP #janlokpalhttp://t.co/IAvJbN8
  66. Big protest and candle light march in front of Thane MP Sanjeev Naik's home. Handed over memorandum
  67. Peaceful protest outside the residence of Congress leader Manish Tewari in Delhi 
  68. Ppl protesting frm Rohini sec-7 to pitam pura metro station. More than 700-800 people but peaceful n ensuring traffic runs smooth

The Indian People Support Anna. Does the Indian Media?


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 21, 2011


Well, for the most part, they don't.  Times Now is the only channel I have seen on Indian TV that actually supports Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement.  After yesterday's electric news conference at Ramlila (the first after Anna set up camp there), Arnab Goswami, chief editor, in his evening program, Newshour, simply said, "The Government will have to pass this bill."

But the rest?  Oh no, they are dead set against Anna.  When you think of the major cable news channels in India, you think of NDTV (Prannoy Roy's channel), Times Now, and CNN-IBN.  NDTV and CNN-IBN are both anti-Anna.  

Nothing illustrates this better than a comparison of two interviews on the program "Devil's Advocate," hosted by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN.  On June 18, Karan interviewed Union Human Resource and Development Minister Kapil Sibal; on August 20, he interviewed Team Anna Hazare activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan.  I am posting links below to the two interviews.  Read them and judge for yourselves whether or not Thapar has a bias.

The Sibal Interview: Yes, Minister

The interview with Sibal seems just like a platform for Sibal to state what he wishes.  Karan sometimes asks questions in response to what Sibal says, but these are in the nature of clarifications, to help Sibal propagate his message better, not to challenge anything he says.  Often he simply repeats what Sibal just stated.  Just once does he interrupt Sibal, that too in a very minor way.  At one point, Sibal makes a starkly incorrect statement suggesting that the President of the US or any other head of government has never been answerable to any ombudsman, when clearly everyone knows how Bill Clinton was investigated by Ken Starr leading to his impeachment - but Karan doesn't call him on that.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/anna-hazare-is-like-the-pied-piper-kapil-sibal/160622-3.html

The Bhushan/Kejriwal Interview: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

In contrast, the interview with Kejriwal and Bhushan is sharp, accusatory, and confrontational.  Karan interrupts his guests almost every time they speak, asks questions in a manner suggesting that his mind is made up and no response from Kejriwal or Bhushan would satisfy him, and constantly badgers them.  He even goes to the extent of saying that even if the Jan Lokpal people had the support of 10-15 million people (which he says he's willing to grant them), it doesn't count. 

 This is bordering on the utterly ridiculous.  On the one hand, you have surveys that are based on 1000-2000 people at the most that make up people's and news channels' minds on what the wishes of people are.  Most people are actually not aware that most life-critical medication they take are based on surveys involving less than 200 people.  And here are people who are able to show the support of much larger groups of people, and this anchor glibly dismisses them as irrelevant!  

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/pass-bill-by-aug-30-time-for-talks-over-team-anna/177203-3.html

THAT'S WHAT YOU CALLED BIASED COVERAGE.

Why So Many People are Against Anna...


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 21, 2011


There are a lot of "intellectuals" out there who go out making intellectual-sounding arguments against the anti-corruption movement - how it is undemocratic, anti-parliament, constitution-defeating, etc., etc., without a thought about the huge positive aspect of the movement and the mood of the people.

I was responding to a comment from one such person to one of my articles, and I made a statement which made me realize something.  This person was trying to suggest that if Anna Hazare succeeds in pushing through his law, based on sheer majority, without the 15-day review period, then it would set a bad precedent for anyone who could bulldoze parliament by a show of majority.  What I said in response was, "India is a Hindu-majority country, but if you try to make a law that discriminates against Muslims, the crowds on the streets will not be people in favor of the bill, like it is now, but people against.  I have enough faith in my country."

Special-Interest Groups

This made me think.  Why is that?   Because Muslims form a special-interest group that is linked with politicians and vote banks.  In fact, so does most everyone.  Try creating a law against Gujaratis, there will be an agitation - because Gujaratis form a special-interest group.  Today there is an agitation in favor of a Telangana - because there is a special-interest group for Telangana.  There is also a special-interest group against Telangana.  But this goes for every group you can possibly imagine - women, children, Maharashtrians, Bengalis, Tamils, government employees, auto rickshaw drivers, dabbawalas, you name it.  Create a law that goes against them and the next day you will have an agitation on the streets - headed by politicians.  Why?  Because there are votes involved here.  Someone who is pro-Bengali or pro-Maharashtrian or pro-rickshaw drivers stands to gain from the votes of that vote bank.

The Anti-Corruption Vote Bank?

In contrast, an anti-corruption movement, by its very definition, has no vote bank.  Why would any MP or MLA support an anti-corruption movement?  There is no special-interest group for anti-corruption, because the very title "anti-corruption" implies no special favors.  In addition, there is a huge governmental office lobby that stands to lose from this - from your office peon to the highest office-bearer in the land.  

This is why they are using every trick in the book, and every pseudo-intellectual argument, to try and defeat this bill.  You cannot tell the truth, viz., that it will hurt your livelihood, so you couch your argument in terms of high-sounding phrases like "protect the constitution," "parliamentary procedures," "tradition," "open discourse," and so on.  What amazes me is that a large number of educated people believe this nonsense.

Jai Hind!

Seshadri Kumar

Should we Respect Parliament and Parliamentarians?


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 26, 2011


The Refrain

Something just struck me when I was watching a debate on TV.  Harish Salve, an apologist for the government, complained about how Kiran Bedi had spoken unflatteringly of parliamentarians this afternoon and said that "people should show respect for parliament."  There has been a lot of similar stuff said in the last 11 days during this agitation.  I wondered why I keep hearing this refrain.

Indian Traditions

Then it struck me.  This is related to the Indian penchant for respecting institutions simply because of who they are.  For instance, "respect your parents," or "respect your teachers," or "respect elders," or "respect your husband."  I'm sorry, neither parents, teachers, or husbands (or wives, for that matter) deserve respect for simply who they are.  They should only be respected if they deserve it.  If your father is an uncaring father who doesn't show love to you or your mother, then he doesn't deserve respect.  If your teacher is not a committed teacher who is dedicated to his/her profession, he/she doesn't deserve your respect.  If elders do not behave with the maturity and wisdom we expect of the elderly, then they do not deserve your respect.  If your husband comes home drunk every night and beats you up, he doesn't deserve your respect.

Similarly, if parliamentarians do not behave with the moral integrity, the courage, the responsiveness to their constituencies, and the ability expected of them, then they, too, do not deserve our respect.  

Respect is not given;  It is earned

Have our parliamentarians behaved in a manner that makes us respect them?  I have lost track of the countless times I turned on TV, only to find out that they are showing a scene where MPs throw things at each other; where they shout down other people instead of letting them speak; where they show notes in parliament proving that their votes were bought; where a sitting MP has been convicted of a heinous crime such as rape, extortion, or murder; and when, of course, an MP has been found guilty of embezzling the government of Rs. 1,75,000 crores!!!  Do such people deserve our respect?  Have they earned it?

You Reap what you Sow


Respect should, of course, be given, but only when the other party respects you. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to go back, way back into our culture, and use an example from the Mahabharata. On the 17th day of the great battle at Kurukshetra, Arjuna and Karna finally came face to face and fought a great battle. The unfortunate Karna, by virtue of a curse, had the bad luck of his chariot wheel getting stuck in the mud, thus becoming a sitting duck for Arjuna. He immediately went to try removing the wheel from the mud, but the curse was too strong, and he was unable. He stood up and addressed Arjuna and said, "My chariot wheel has become stuck in the mud. Great warrior as you are, and understanding Kshatriya dharma as you do, surely you will not take advantage of this situation. Allow me to remove my wheel from the mud and then I will give you as much battle as you wish." At this point, Krishna intervened and said, "Evil man, like all evil men, you remember dharma and fairplay only when it suits you. Where was this sense of fairplay when you cheated the Pandavas of their kingdom, when you tried to burn them in the wax palace, and when you asked Duhsasana to strip Panchali of her clothes in the assembly during the game of dice? Wicked man, speak not of fairplay and dharma, for you have never followed them." Krishna then asked Arjuna to shoot the fatal arrow that severed Karna's head. 


So, even in our ancient epic, you have the lord Krishna saying that fairplay and dharma are not correct responses against a foe who does not practice them. So parliament, which has not been fair or responsive to the people of India, should not now invoke parliamentary procedures as an excuse to do nothing.  And when parliamentarians have behaved disrespectfully and shamefully, they should not expect respect from the people.

Jai Hind!


Seshadri Kumar

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Arab Spring v/s Indian Monsoon - My Response to Paul Beckett's Article in the WSJ


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 19, 2011


My attention was drawn to an article written by Paul Beckett for the Wall Street Journal about the Jan Lokpal movement.  The article is so flawed that I had to write a response to the article on the website; I am reposting that here.


Here is the original article:
http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/08/18/why-anna-hazare-is-not-indias-arab-spring/


and here is my response:
*******************************


I really cannot believe people are praising this piffle so much.


You may think this as an extreme statement, but read on, and you will understand why my irritation is justified.


Reading this makes me wonder if the author ever has even been in India - this guy is probably either 


1. An armchair critic, who thinks that some superficial understanding of the issues qualifies him to write an article, or 
2. A person with a clear anti-Anna Hazare and pro-Indian govt. bias.  I will give him the benefit of doubt and simply assume he is misinformed - and ask him to do a better job of journalism next time.


Here are the things that are wrong with this article:


1. The comparison between Arab Spring and Indian Monsoon is not based on the presence or absence of tanks, stone-throwing, dictators, etc., etc.  The point is that an entire population has finally woken up against decades of injustice - and that a people who, by and large, have always accepted the status quo have challenged it in previously unimaginable ways.  


In fact, the reason there is a crisis at all is that, in both Arab Spring and Indian Monsoon, the people's reaction was so unexpected that the rulers did not know what to do about it. Just as in the Arab context, the Indian rulers assumed that they could go on doing things "as usual" and no one would say anything in protest.  And people reacted in a way that no one expected.


2. Don't overestimate the freedoms Indians have.  We are a democracy, yes, but only certain people can win elections.  Politicians and bureaucrats have learned to misuse the parliamentary and democratic system in a way that makes sure access is granted to only a few and that you have to beg and bribe for everything.  It is this tyranny and slavery that Indians have gotten sick of.  So, the fact is, just as Beckett says about the Arabs, Indians are also asking for "greater representation and a switch to a democratic system."  


I'm sorry to say, the politicians India has do not represent us.  For many years, my parents simply did not vote because they felt the choices were so bad - they would only be replacing one thief with another.  Since my childhood, I have always heard discussions in which people would debate whether we have had enough of democracy and whether we should have a dictatorship instead - a clear sign that the so-called "representative democracy" has failed India.  Pay India a visit and see how bad things are.  It is not because India is a poor country.   India is NOT a poor country.  It is a rich country with a lot of inequity, like many African countries that have huge mineral wealth but the majority of its citizens living in abject, heart-wrenching poverty.


3. Mr. Beckett says that "no one, in contrast, is surprised by crowds taking to the streets in India to vent their frustration."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This one statement clearly shows that the author doesn't really understand India at all and doesn't know what this movement is about.  The fact of the matter is that the magnitude and reach of the protests in India have completely taken the government by surprise.  They were clearly not expecting anything like this.  


India has not seen protests like this at any time since independence.  Now, this is not to say that protests are disallowed in India - of course they are not.  But, in the past, when you have seen protests on the streets, they were not organized by the common people of India, but usually by political parties.  The people attending those rallies are usually their party faithful, the rally numbers inflated by truckloads of people carted from nearby villages to attend the rally in return for a free meal and some cash.  The current protests, in contrast, are completely spontaneous.  


The other reason these protests are a huge surprise is the kind of people who are participating.  The people participating in these rallies are people, who, in the past, would have said, "why bother?  nothing will change by our marching.  why get into trouble?"  The surprise is that they have shaken off that apathy and realized that unless they do something, nothing will change.  THIS HASN'T HAPPENED IN 64 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE.  Isn't that a monumental shift?  


Beckett comparing these protests to other routine protests that might be called by a political party shows how superficial his analysis is.  We have had "Bharat Bandhs" before, but they were not affairs in which the people of the country voluntarily refrained from going to work in support of the cause - they did not go out of the house in fear of being attacked by goons.  But this time, no one is forcing people to march on the streets, and they are voluntarily taking time off to participate.


4. Mr. Beckett says while Arab Spring wanted a complete overhaul, the anti-corruption movement in India makes demands that are "embarassingly modest and narrow."  Mr. Beckett thinks that the only points of difference between the government's lokpal and Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal is only that Jan Lokpal wants the PM and the Judiciary and that the government's bill doesn't.  In Mr. Beckett's oversimplified style, "That's it."  


What is embarassing here is not the scale of the anti-corruption movement's demands, but Mr. Beckett's abysmal ignorance of the issues.  But again, this is what you would expect someone with only a superficial understanding of the issues to say.  To some extent, we should also blame Anna's supporters and the media for focusing so much on the issue of the PM and the judiciary, but the fact is that there are many differences between the two bills that are far more significant.  


For one, the government's bill would exempt all sitting MPs and MLAs from the purview of the Jan Lokpal.  This is a major issue for several reasons.  Several of the high-profile corruption cases that have hit the news in recent times have involved sitting MPs.  So if you have a lokpal that cannot investigate sitting MPs, you are missing out on the biggest scams!  For another, the government's bill would exempt all government officers below grade A.  This means that most of the forcible corruption that the people of the country are subjected to: having to pay a bribe to get a license, to get even a death certificate, to get a ration card, to get your telephone number changed, etc., etc., will have no redress as the junior clerks and officers who demand those bribes to do their job will not be accountable to the lokpal.  And everyone knows that the existing laws are not enough to prosecute those criminals.  


So the differences are very deep and very significant.  With the government's lokpal bill, nothing would really change for the people.  The PM and higher judiciary are actually a much smaller issue than the issue of MPs and officers below grade A. 


5. Mr. Beckett talks about the government being restrained, in that no tanks or bullets were used.  This is not a great achievement.  Only a total lunatic would attempt to use force against a movement like this.  They arrested Anna, and look at the response they got.  Had they fired on the crowd or used force, by now the government would have had to resign, so great is the support from the people for the movement.  


The people, on the other hand, and Anna Hazare's movement, deserve tremendous credit for not letting their emotions getting the better of them.  THERE HAS NOT BEEN A SINGLE VIOLENT INCIDENT IN THIS AGITATION!  The protesters have proved that Mahatma Gandhi did not live in vain in India.  It is very very easy for such large crowds to get violent, yet they did not.


6. Finally, Mr. Beckett makes a statement which is incredibly ignorant of the reality: "Nor does India’s protest movement yet really deserve to be called “mass” when tens of thousands of largely middle-class folks turn out in front of television cameras while hundreds of millions carry on their daily lives, oblivious and wondering how they will afford their next meal."  Does he have a clue?  The idea that "largely middle-class folks" are the people agitating is a canard spread by people who want to discredit the movement.  There are so many instances of documented support for Anna from people who are clearly not middle-class or urban.  Take a look at these samples:


http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/story/support-for-anna-hazare-in-amethi-and-rae-bareli/1/148352.html
http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=112314
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-08-17/news/29896664_1_anna-hazare-effective-anti-corruption-law-auto-drivers
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/for-the-first-time-in-their-120-year-old-history-mumbais-dabbawalas-to-take-a-break-for-anna-hazare/articleshow/9649340.cms
http://news.oneindia.in/2011/08/19/anna-hazare-gets-support-from-sex-worker-janlokpal-bill.html


Are these middle-class folks?  This is the problem with someone like Mr. Beckett who writes stuff based on secondhand information without an understanding of the pulse of the people.


7. And let me make one of my own points without reference to this worthless article from Mr. Beckett:  I will say that what is happening in India is far more of a mass protest than Tahrir Square ever was.  How many places in Egypt did you hear of protests happening?  Only Tahrir Square in Cairo and maybe, 2-3 places more at most (minor).  Turn the TV on and all you saw was this one place in Cairo.  


Compare this to the movement in India and you see people in tens of thousands marching all over India: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram, Udipi, Mysore, Coimbatore, Ahmednagar, Sholapur, Bhubhaneswar, Ranchi, Shimla, Patna, Raipur, Pune, Bhagalpur, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Jammu, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Dibrugarh, Madurai, Karwar - and this is only a small list.   So I guess I agree in one way with Mr. Beckett - this is no Arab Spring - this is the Indian Monsoon!

How One Man Can Move a Nation


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 19, 2011


Cannot tell you how it felt when Anna was going on his cavalcade from Tihar to Ramlila Maidan - it is an inspiring moment. This morning we were waiting for when this would happen, and since nothing happened for a while, my mom was watching her favorite daytime soap. I turned on the TV in the other room and then told her about this, she switched to the news channel.  Now my mom is very particular about watching her daytime soaps, no matter what else is on TV, so I said, "I just wanted to let you know so you didn't miss the event - do you want me to change back to the soap?"  She said, "who cares about the soap now? Let's stay with this - it is too electric."  After a few minutes, she said, "This is a great man.  I was too young when Gandhiji was alive ... I feel like I am seeing him now." My wife and I felt the same way. I had never before seen the ability of one man to move a nation before now.

Just now Team Anna concluded a news conference at Ramlila maidan.  Boy, they are energized.  They have won, and they know it.  They say the Government has to pass the Jan Lokpal bill.  They are open to the way to do things, but they will not compromise on corruption.  They are not going to say someone or some group is above the law on corruption.  NO.  One journalist asked the oft-repeated canard in the press that Anna is operating outside the parliamentary system and that this might be construed as anti-democratic, to which Arvind Kejriwal said clearly and forcefully that the government exists for the people.  The Lokpal bill has been introduced and rejected 10 times since 1968.  They (India Against Corruption) have conducted referendums in several places in India, and in every referendum the people have consistently returned results that over 85% of the people want the Jan Lokpal bill.  The concept of a democracy is not that MPs only get elected once in 5 years and then do whatever the hell they choose, he said.  They have a duty to represent the people in a parliamentary democracy, and if the people want the Jan Lokpal, then it is their duty to pass it.  

Arvind Kejriwal said that if the government doesn't trust Team Anna and the millions of Indians who are marching on the streets that this is the wish of most Indians, then they are open to the Government holding a nationwide referendum on the Jan Lokpal bill v/s the watered-down Govt lokpal bill.  Whichever the people vote for should be made law.  Is the govt. ready to do this?  If not, then they should accept the Jan Lokpal bill.  And they are in a position to pass it, since they are in a majority in both parliament and the standing committee.

I think Parliament had better take notice and start preparing to pass this bill.  The people have spoken.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A Critical Look at the Misinformation in the Media About Anna Hazare and the Anti-Corruption Movement


Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 23, 2011


There has been a lot of concern expressed by pro-government media and armchair so-called intellectuals on the need to follow parliamentary processes, the need to respect the constitution, etc., when it comes to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption fast.  These are but some of the red herrings floated in the media by various people. 


Let us look at the fallacies that have been carefully spread by constant repetition in the media by various people:

1. Anna is Being Unconstitutional

Anna is not saying that we will establish an agency that is beyond the law or the government - indeed, with an agency of the scope of lokpal, only the Govt. has the resources to establish it.  Anna is merely putting pressure on the government to enact a law in the manner he and millions of others see right.  There is nothing unconstitutional or morally wrong about this.  It will still be parliament that passes the law.  In a parliamentary democracy this is quite common and accepted.  If parliament passes Anna's Jan Lokpal bill, it will be a constitutional act.  

Conclusion: Just because Anna pressurized the Govt. to pass the act DOES NOT MAKE IT UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

2. Anna is Blackmailing Govt; if Govt accepts Anna's arguments, it would set a Dangerous Precedent

Today, Mr. Ashwini Kumar, Minister of State, stated that if the government adopted Team Anna's bill under pressure from the hunger strike, it would be "the end of constitutional democracy."

Really, Mr. Ashwini Kumar?

Let us look at just some of these past legislations to see if this is really the case, and if our constitutional democracy has ended because of them:

a. Formation of Andhra Pradesh: Potti Sreeramulu goes on hunger strike in 1952.  Govt refuses to consider his demand.  Sreeramulu dies, and this is followed by 4 days of rioting and destruction of property, including shops on Mount Rd. in Madras.  Under this pressure, Nehru creates the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Indian democracy survived.

b. 1965 Anti-Hindi Agitations in Tamil Nadu.  Government wants to introduce Hindi as national language.  Riots erupt in Tamil Nadu.  Govt. forced to withdraw its act and say that both English and Hindi can be national languages.  Again, a show of force and violence compelled the government to pass a bill.

Indian democracy survived.

c. The Assam Accord of 1985, famously advertised by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was forced by a long campaign of the All-Assam Students Union and the All-Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, including the Nellie massacre, in which 2191 Bangladeshi immigrants were brutally slaughtered.  Again, a gun was put to the government's head, and it came up with a law protecting Assamese "Sons of the soil."

Indian democracy survived.

d. In 1986, the Bharatiya Kisan Union, led by the firebrand leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, agitated against the Government of Uttar Pradesh to protest rising power rates by conducting a dharna against the Muzaffarnagar power house.  The dharna was called off only after the power rates were lowered. (This was only one of several such agitations that Tikait conducted).

Indian democracy survived.

e. The autonomous region of Bodoland was also the result of an armed struggle by the Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF), which ended in an accord in 2003.  Again, a gun was held to the Government that an autonomous region for the Bodos be carved out.  This was not the result of petitions sent to parliaments, peaceful negotiations, etc.

Indian democracy survived.

f. In 2007-2008, the Gurjar community of Rajasthan started a violent agitation that involved road and rail rokos, tampering with rail tracks to cause derailments, and bandhs to pressurize the Rajasthan government to accede to their demand for a special caste status.  Finally, Vasundhara Raje, CM of Rajasthan, agreed to their demands.  (It is another matter that this has not solved the Gurjar agitation.)

Indian democracy survived.

g. Finally, on 29 November, 2010, K. Chandrasekhara Rao went on a fast-unto-death to agitate for the formation of Telangana.  There were strikes, violence, and a general shutdown of the Telangana region for several days.  KCR stopped his fast only when the Union Home Minister at the time, Mr. P. Chidambaram, made a statement that the Indian government would start the process of creating a separate Telangana state.  Again, a gun was put to the Government and the Govt. agreed to the demand.  (Again, it is another matter that Telangana has not been formed yet - but that is not the focus of this discussion.  The Govt. agreed to the demands, which they had rejected before, and the cause of this was the pressure exterted by the agitation.)

Indian democracy survived.

So, isn't it rather strange that the government and so many pseudo-intellectuals keep claiming over and over that if the Govt. agreed to Anna's Jan Lokpal bill, it would mean the "end of Indian democracy", and that this would "create a dangerous new precedent"?


Mr. Ashwini Kumar, aren't we being a tad too dramatic?

Conclusion: There is no permanent danger to Indian democracy if the Govt. agrees to draft the Jan Lokpal bill because of pressure from Anna Hazare and civil society.  There is also no danger of setting a new precedent - the precedents are already there.

3. It is disrespecting parliament and the constitution to say that parliament should not put the bill in front of a standing committee and that parliament should pass the bill in 4 days

Last night I downloaded a copy of the Indian constitution and went through it.  There is no mention of the words "standing committee" anywhere in it.  There is also no mention of how short is too short a time to consider a bill.  Indeed, there have been countless times that the Indian parliament has pushed through 15 bills in 4 days, etc., when it suited them.  So Anna's insistence that the Jan Lokpal bill be immediately tabled in parliament is neither disrespectful of the constitution nor is it unprecedented in parliamentary practice.

Further, in Indian parliamentary practice the standing committee is not mandatory, it is a device to discuss a bill if enough is not known about it.  In this case, there is no need for a standing committee because the issues are well-known.  That doesn't mean there should be no debate on it.  It can be directly debated on the floor of the parliament - just that there is no need to have this delaying tactic of a 3-9 month standing committee process.

What seems more like the case is that no one likes to lose face, and if the govt. agrees to Anna Hazare's demands, they would lose face.  Instead of saying that simple truth, they are covering up with smoke screens like "end of Indian democracy," "danger to the constitution," "disrespect to parliamentary process," etc.

Conclusion: There is no disrespect to the constitution or parliament in Anna insisting on a fast passage of the bill. 

4.  Anna and his team want to push through this bill without any debate

Anna's proposed Jan lokpal bill has been out in the open for 8 months.  The reasoning behind the bill has been publicly explained by them and debated all this time.  The bill has received intense scrutiny and discussion in the media over this time and the team has received 1300 suggestions from various people that they have incorporated into it, according to Arvind Kejriwal who stated this in an interview on TV with Karan Thapar.  The current version of their jan lokpal bill, according to Arvind Kejriwal, is the 13th.  In contrast, how open has the govt's bill been?  Did they consult anyone except themselves?  It is clear to everyone except those who do not wish to see that Anna Hazare's people are open to valid criticism of their bill and are willing to change the draft if a valid objection to it is raised.


 It is the govt which has taken the "my way or the highway" approach, not interacted with the people of India, and simply thrown Anna's draft into the trash.  Critics of Team Anna also do not realize (or affect not to realize) that the Govt. had invited no debate on its bill, in contrast to the Jan lokpal bill which was in the public domain and which was inviting comments from anyone concerned for months.  It is only after Anna started his fast that the Govt. even agreed to have people give in their feedback on the bill (with their 15 day period offer).  But curiously, people who are quick to criticize Anna Hazare on not allowing debate are completely silent on the fact that the government would have passed their bill with no feedback from any citizen had Anna not intervened.  

Conclusion: Team Anna has allowed plenty of time for debate on the bill - and are willing to let parliament debate it further as well.  They only object to the delaying tactic of a standing committee.

5. Team Anna is too much in a hurry - can't you wait 15 days?

The issue is not about 15 days.  Of course, Team Anna and the people can wait 15 days, even 3 months as some have suggested, if the Government were serious.  The issue is not 7 days old.  It is 43 years old when you consider when the first lokpal bill was introduced in parliament.  The Jan Lokpal draft that Team Anna drafted is 8 months old and the Govt. has not taken it seriously.  It is 4 months since the April fast of Anna at Jantar Mantar,after which the Govt. promised Team Anna it would look seriously at their suggestions - only to produce a bill that completely rejects the spirit of Anna's jan lokpal bill, by making the lokpal an instrument of the government rather than a watchdog and by rendering it toothless.  It is in the background of all this that one must understand Team Anna's refusal to consider the 15-day period for other proposals considered by the Congress.

That it is a delaying tactic was further confirmed by Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi, when he said yesterday that the 15-day period is only for allowing other proposals to reach the committee; then the standing committee may take 3, 6, or even 9 months to finish considering all the bills. So clearly, the Congress is buying time, and hoping that by cooling off people for several months, they can reduce the intensity of the movement.  

Furthermore, the demand by the govt. for more time to "study" the bill is unnecessary.  There has been enough study of the bills.  The government has already had 4-5 intense meetings with the civil society people to discuss each and every detail of both bills, so at least the principals involved in the discussions with Team Anna are intimately familiar with the Jan Lokpal bill.  That itself proves that the demand for more time to study the jan lokpal bill is bogus.  It is time for parliament to take up the jan lokpal bill on the floor, discuss it in detail in an honest way, and pass it, only making changes if something is obviously wrong and if there is potential for misuse of any of the provisions.  If you are serious, you don't need a lot of time to pass a bill.  If you are not serious, all the time in the world will not make a difference.  This is why Team Anna is trying to force the issue.

Conclusion:  Team Anna in not in too much of a hurry.  It is only pressing the issue because the govt cannot be trusted if Team Anna agrees to a delay.

6. Anna is not Allowing a National Debate - Won't That make the bill better?  Won't debate in Parliament make it better?

Surely it will.  Nobody is denying that, and Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have made it clear in interviews on several TV channels that they are open to modifying the draft.  A debate in parliament, if conducted in good faith, taking Anna's bill as a base, and then modifying it suitably, will, I am sure, not be objectionable to anyone in the Anna camp.  But the government's bonafides are questionable.  Given the past behavior of the govt., one cannot be sure that they will not simply dismiss all its provisions when it goes to parliament.  

One must also seriously ask if MPs will willingly agree to provisions that say that they can be investigated by an external agency when they currently enjoy immunity.  Who will vote against themselves unless you put pressure on them?  This is a parliament of which 18% of its members are either convicted of very serious crimes like murder and rape or facing such charges.  Will they willingly agree to be investigated by an external agency as mandated by the Jan Lokpal bill?  The govt.'s bill gives them the safeguard that only their own colleagues in parliament can investigate them, which is a great relief for such people because they can then rely on party politics to save them.  

If the government can assure the people publicly that it will try to honestly debate Anna's bill in good faith and not dilute it for their own ends, I think the people and Anna will agree.  But consistently, the govt. has never struck a conciliatory note.

There is also the issue that the removal of immunity of MPs would require a constitutional amendment and that can take time.  So be it.  Let the government give an assurance that this will be done, and I am sure Team Anna will not mind the extra time.  But what the govt seems to want is getting extra time with no strings attached, no commitments. No one who is protesting for a cause can accept such terms.

Conclusion:   Team Anna is not against debate and would be willing to debate things even further, if conducted in good faith.

7.  Anna is an extremist and dictator: he makes statements like "Lao ya jao" and is forcing his views on parliament

Anna is trying to bring in change to a reluctant government.  A show of intransigence, coupled with a show of support, is necessary to bring the govt. down from its high horse and make it willing to compromise.  When you go to the bazaar in India and are willing to pay Rs.40 for an item, you don't immediately put your best offer first.  You will typically ask for the item for Rs. 20; the shopkeeper asks Rs. 60 for it, and finally you settle for Rs. 40.  Look at what Anna's stubbornness has achieved so far.  Had he not gone on fast in this way, had he not refused to leave Tihar Jail when he was arrested, would you see the millions of Indians going on the streets demonstrating in support?  

Compare the tone of the government a few days before August 16th to their tone now.  Before this started, the govt. was publicly insulting of Anna and his team, and incredibly smug in their dismissal of him - now all that has stopped.  Would this have happened had Anna had been polite, meek, and just talking nicely to the govt.?  He tried that for 4 months and look at the insults he got from Manish Tiwari, Digvijay Singh, and the like.

Anna's public stubbornness should be seen for what it really is: a negotiating tactic.  I am sure he is willing to negotiate with the govt., but do you really expect him to announce that on national TV and reveal his hand when the govt has not made any conciliatory overtures?  But his team has made it clear that while they are willing to negotiate, the negotiation is about issues like implementation, etc., not about corruption or about leaving some people out of the ambit of the bill.  I think this should be viewed as reasonable; the aim of the lokpal is to eliminate corruption; how can you negotiate on corruption?  The govt. continues to be stubborn and sound like a stuck record; but I don't see commentators talking about how the govt. is behaving in a high-handed and dictatorial manner, and how it completely is ignoring the wishes of the people!

Conclusion: Anna's tough stance is a negotiating tactic - he will be flexible if faced with an honest offer.

8.  If the Govt. agrees to Anna on Jan Lokpal, then tomorrow any crackpot proposal (say, a bill making women second-class citizens) can be pushed through by a determined group of people by going to the streets and going on a hunger strike.

This argument is completely disrespectful of the people of India.  The people of India are rising up for a noble cause - eliminating corruption.  They are not going to do that for every issue.  Have they done it for any issue before?  If you wanted to pass a law making women second-class citizens, how many people will come on to the streets?  Hardly anyone.  Give some credit to the people.  

And give some credit to Anna Hazare.  Do you think any Tom, Dick, or Harry going on a fast will get this kind of public support?  I am not fan of Digvijay Singh, but I think he got this one right when he warned Baba Ramdev on the eve of his fast: "Don't think people will support your fast the way they did Anna Hazare's."  And that turned out to be true.  Ramdev was thrown out of Ramlila by a very high-handed, arrogant action by the government; how many people stood up for him?  So there is no danger of this tactic being used every few months by anyone and everyone.

There is no danger of hunger strikes becoming the norm of the land in bringing in new legislation.  It all depends on the issue and the leaders involved.  I am not saying this cannot happen again - surely it can - but it takes something special for millions of Indians to march on the streets.  I certainly don't see that happening for every single issue in the land.  Given that this situation is so exceptional and given that the moral high ground does belong to the people, it behooves the government to respect the will of the people.

Conclusion:  There is no danger that every law in India in the future will be a coerced one through hunger strikes.

9. Anna doesn't represent everyone.  Do 10 lakh (1 million) people on the street represent 1.2 billion?

This is one of the most spurious arguments used.  Most surveys of people's opinions are based on much smaller samples.  When a bill is proposed that would hurt the interest of a specific group or agenda (you name it - Jats, Gujjars, OBCs, Maharashtrians, Tamils, Oriyas, women, children, price rise, reservation) - you have a political party that takes it up, uses 1000 armed goondas to create a ruckus in the country, burns buses, breaks shopfronts, enforces a bandh that people have no choice but to obey at the risk of death or bodily injury - and the govt. backtracks, saying it has to respect the will of the people, when in fact it has only respected the will of a few hundred or thousand armed goondas.  

In contrast, here lakhs of people from every stratum of society are marching, in a nonviolent movement, and the government will say they do not represent the people.  Is this not hypocritical and contradictory?  Doesn't this suggest that the government chooses to reward violence and punish restraint?

Furthermore, turn on Indian TV and see the interviews with the participants in the marches and rallies and no one in his or her right mind will say these are not ordinary Indians from every segment of Indian society.

Conclusion: Anna Hazare represents the will of the majority of Indians. 

10. Jan Lokpal is a draconian bill, the Agency thus created and the Jan Lokpal at its head will be a law unto themselves/himself

This argument either reveals that the people who are making it have not read the Jan Lokpal bill and the Govt. bill, or are hoping that the average person hasn't.  A careful look at both bills quite clearly reveals that it is the Govt.'s bill that will create an agency that is a law unto themselves and has a huge potential to abuse its power, while the Jan Lokpal bill puts a lot of checks and balances to make sure the lokpal cannot act arbitrarily.  Specifically, on the issue of complaints against lokpal staff, the Jan lokpal version asks for independent bodies in each state, composed of retired judges, bureaucrats, and civil society members to investigate the complaints, whereas the Govt. lokpal bill only asks the lokpal itself to investigate complaints into its officials.  

The "draconian" charge probably also stems from the fact that the Jan Lokpal bill is a bill which actually gives the lokpal some powers, whereas the govt. lokpal bill is completely toothless.  
 We had a Lokayukta under the current law in Karnataka, and look at the problems.  Santosh Hegde was only able to indict Yeddyurappa and the Bellary brothers; he could recommend action against them, but he could take no action against them.  Has the govt. taken any serious action against the Bellary brothers? No. The govt. lokpal would be only as powerful as Santosh Hegde was under the govt.'s bill.  So you empower a government body, and the anti-Anna folks starts screaming "draconian."  Would these people rather have the Bellary brothers roaming freely and looting the country at will, as they are currently doing?  

To add to all this, such people also add, rather patronisingly, I might add, that the intention of the bill is good, we are all against corruption, but the bill is misguided.  If anyone says that the net effect of what they wish to happen is a toothless bill, then I must question the part of the previous statement that says that they are against corruption.

Conclusion:  The Jan Lokpal bill is a bill that provides the lokpal with needed powers.  It is not draconian.  It also has checks and balances to make sure these powers are not abused, which the Govt. lokpal bill doesn't.

11. The lakhs of people who fill Ramlila grounds, Freedom Park, Azad Maidan, etc., really don't know the issues involved.

This might have some truth to it, but then I would ask: do you think the hundreds of students of Osmania University, who caused so much disorder in Hyderabad in Nov-Dec 2009 on the Telangana issue, knew all the issues related to the formation of Telangana?  Do you think they all knew how much money is currently going to the different districts, how much to Hyderabad, how much to Guntur, how much to Adilabad, how much to coastal AP, etc., that they actually feel there is an injustice to Telangana?  I bet the answer to that is that less than 1% of the students actually knew what they were agitating for.  But they placed their confidence in their leader, K.Chandrashekara Rao, and trusted that he had done the analysis and concluded correctly (according to them) that Telangana was being discriminated against (whether that is true or not is not the subject of this discussion).  

This is what happens in any agitation.  A few leaders study a situation, are convinced that a course of action needs to be followed, express their point of view in summarized form to their supporters, and the supporters take up the cause on behalf of their leader.  It is the same with any agitation.  Compared to the normal standards of agitation, I dare say that the people who are agitating for the Jan Lokpal are a. much more aware of the issues than in any other agitation, and b. sincerely involved in the agitation.  
By the latter, I mean the persons involved genuinely care, as opposed to many agitations which are carried out using mercenaries to cause disturbances and violence.  A lot of people are placing faith on the integrity and scholarship of the leaders of the anti-corruption agitation.  Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, the Bhushans, and Kiran Bedi have earned that respect out of a lifetime of living an exemplary life.

Conclusion: The people in the anti-corruption are more aware of the issues than are the participants in most protests in India.

Guys, there is a lot of misinformation going on in the media, and even well-meaning citizens are being taken in by the anti-Anna hype.  I know this is a long article, but there has been so much anti-Anna rhetoric on all these points in the media that I felt compelled to clear the mists of misinformation floating out there.  I request you to circulate this as much as possible so that the misinformation can be countered!

Jai Hind!


Seshadri Kumar