The Pied Piper of the Indian Bourgeoisie

Posted: August 19, 2011 in My Opinion

He’s big. He’s bad. And his threats make the Government go crazy with fright.
Say hello to the new anti-corruption crusader, Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare. A little old man from a tiny Maharashtrian village that managed to make our 10th grade textbooks as a model of environmental efficiency, he has mobilised mass support like never before for his cause. Some liken the situation in India to the 1975 Emergency, some call it India’s Arab Spring (Reuters did. Sheesh), while some go so far as to say this is India’s second freedom struggle.

The Pieper’s Revenge

What is Anna fighting for? The Lokpal bill is a bill introduced in 1969 for the setting up of an ombudsman in India. It has been doing rounds of the Parliament till 2008. Then along came Team Anna, claiming that the government did not want to pass it because it wanted corruption to go unchecked. Since then, Team Anna and the Government have been engaged in some grotesque love-hate relationship. The Government threatens, Anna tries to fast unto death. They hold discussions, Anna threatens of a fast unto death. The Government disagrees with Anna’s version of the Lokpal bill, Anna starts fasting unto death. Again.

This bill stipulates the formation of a body of eight people to check corruption at a national level, called the Lokpal, with ombudsman bodies called Lokayuktas at the state level under it (be glad you read this line, most people don’t know what the Lokpal is).  So how did one septuagenarian farmer come on the scene and revolutionize the campaign for this bill?

The Magic Word

With a wave of his long spindly finger and a flick of the Gandhi topi, Anna has drawn the denizens of big metropolises out from their comfy homes out into the (already crowded) streets to protest against the government. People hold candlelight marches, rallies, anything that makes them feel patriotic.

How did he get so many people on his side without even having to explain to them what the Lokpal bill is? He said the magic word. The word that makes every citizen of India’s middle class feel like a victim of the zulmi sarkar. The word that strikes a chord with them all. The word that makes the Government (apparently) drop to its knees. The word that has been, in effect, the Pieper’s flute. Corruption.’

Anna has struck at a time when the Government is up to its neck in corruption charges. So tempted by the lure of a one-stop shop for the eradication of corruption is our middle class that Anna has found the largest number of his supporters among them. Leaving their brains and sense of duty behind, the middle class follows Anna around, going where he takes them, doing what he tells them. I’m sure half of them don’t vote and laze around when it comes to paying taxes. Most pay bribes. And they choose to dance to the music of Baburao Hazare’s flute.

Of scary legislations and bottomless cliffs

I have received all kinds of questions asking why I don’t support Anna’s cause, ranging from curious to hurtful to outright bizarre . I usually don’t care, but I’ll tell you the real reason.

Team Anna and its ideals scare the peep out of me. There’s no doubt Team Anna feels for their cause, they are “making people aware” of what’s going on in the country, making them “stand up and fight.” But has any of their supporters ever scrutinized the provisions of the Bill in question?

Team Anna proposes that the Lokpal wield unfettered legislative, executive and judicial powers, with the ability to sanction investigations, make investigations and prosecute those accused of corruption. Giving so much power in the hands of a panel of eight people not elected by a national vote? Really? I thought the Constitution of India said that power is vested only in the elected representatives of the people. Even if there was no such Article in the Constitution, no organization should be able to disrupt the democratic system of checks and balances.

This bill wants to bring the Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal (there’s something called the dignity of office that you’re not supposed to breach when it comes to the highest positions in a government). The fact that they want to bring the judiciary under the jurisdiction of the ombudsman, by itself is frightening. What if the Lokpal turns out to be corrupt sooner or later?

Team Anna’s demands are unconstitutional, and threaten to subvert democracy.

One glaring problem all the Team Anna supporters have failed to see is that those who are not on Twitter and Facebook have no clue of what is going on. Like the farmer in rural Maharashtra who tried to commit suicide yesterday because he didn’t get his dues. Or the Odissi tribal who got mauled by policemen because he didn’t want to give his land up. About 70% of our country can’t even afford basic amenities. How can you expect them to care about a piece of legislation?

A recent poll shows that just 1/3rd of India knows what the Lokpal is about. Out of those, only 40% is willing to take sides. Out of that 40%, only a handful supports Anna Hazare. So, do you think Anna is a representative of civil society, let alone calling his movement a ‘revolution’?

(Don’t tell me Anna is a reincarnation of Gandhi. Over 2/3rds of India knew what Gandhi was fighting for, at least.)

This isn’t to say the Government is totally right. A terrible way of handling the situation and failing to take public opinion into account has been more of a hindrance than a help to their efforts at saving face in front of the public.

Now you understand why it’s scary. So many people, most from the educated middle class, have mindlessly pledged their support to such a potentially harmful piece of legislation, the movement to promote which, doesn’t even care about seventy per cent of the population. While dancing to Anna’s words of ‘Corruption Hatao’, and getting ostentatiously apoplectic at the gaucheries of the Government, they don’t realize they’re moving towards a bottomless cliff.

Look before you leap

There is more that is said on this. There is a debate on the character of Anna. People question whether he is just a face for a movement spearheaded by a faceless individual, whether there is a nexus between Team Anna and some certain vested interests, etc. I’m not too sure of such allegations, but I don’t think that can be ruled out.

I did feel tempted to go down the beaten path. But the music tempts me no more. I realized corruption is just a symptom of a deeply rooted malady. Something has gone gravely wrong in the economic policies of the nation. Its laws are open to exploitation. Rallying for a bill to check corruption is like treating a bruise with balm without caring for the fracture underneath. People have been indulging in ghooskhori even in the presence of other legislations like the PCA (Prevention of Corruption Act). What’s another law to them?

Don’t tell me “this is the first step” and “this is for a good cause” because I will never believe you. I’d rather stay safe in my home while the Piper faithfuls jump off the cliffs of India. Just one piece of advice: look before you leap. 🙂

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Comments
  1. anothereader says:

    Wel written. very very well written.
    other than the fact that most of the people i know dont know all this lokyukta stuff, i think the people are finally understanding that there are problems everywhere, even in team anna.
    his way of interacting is totally undemocratic and wasteful exercises where nothing happens and the situation tumbles from one status quo to another.

  2. it’s like a petulant child.if mommy denies him a toy,he starts bawling.same way,mr hazare starts fasting. and yes,it did strike me how ignorant more people are to the fact that the whole lokpal bill goes against the very crux of what democracy stands for. but even i was a little ignorant about the finer details, so thanks a ton, i learnt something 😀
    and btw,superbly written!! 🙂

    • smartie94 says:

      Hahaha 😀

      Thanks 😀

    • Why this much support for Janlokpal bill and fight against corruption now but not earlier ? Subramaniam swamy and Advaniji was taliking about the blackmoney stashed abroad since 2009 and 2G scam , CWG , YSR`s corruption etc , etc . People were thinking all this is political fight and the corruption at the social level had been accepted as a part of the life . The turning point which confirmed the corruption in such a mammoth scale is by CAG report on 2G scam and Supreme court forcing the govt to take action on the offenders . This had become officially endorsed by two govt institutions which acted together at a time in cohesion . Then people realised that what is happening in the country is not only corruption but looting the nation . They are angry . Then Anna Hazare with a team of eminent legal experts and Kiran Bedi came into the scene , a simple man of trurh with a non violent movement against corruption with a janlokpal bill . Alas , then the people found a man whom they can believe and offered to follow him . Mean while the govt played so many dramas which could not coverup their real intention and completely exposed . 2nd freedom movement against corruption started with a bang and moves ahead successfully getting stroger by the day . Divine blessings are with this movement as this is the fight against EVIL . So a few people like you want to stay hope safely and enjoy the fruits of others` efforts , we do not envy you but pity you .

      • smartie94 says:

        Sir, I have never said i am against the fight to eradicate corruption. My problem is the kind of method being employed to do away with it.
        And Sir, I think the Government is stupid. Did you not see where I criticized how it handled the whole situation by ‘not taking public opinion into account’?
        I choose to base my opinion on logic and reasoning rather than my emotions (my hatred for corruption). Trust me, I hate it as much as you do. I’m shocked at these exposes. But do you think this is the lasting solution? Will one more act stop the babus from pilfering money? Is it right to confer so much power on an extra-constitutional institution? Is it right to say a movement of only the bourgeoisie represents all of India?
        Anna is simple? He slaps and flogs people in his village when he advocates non-violence in the city. Also, did you know that the Jindal group is financing Anna’s campaign? The same group that finances political parties’ campaigns and gets into nexuses with the govt.
        And tell me, have you read copies of the govt bill and Anna’s bill? Both have their good and bad points.
        What efforts, Sir? Walking down a couple of blocks screaming to eradicate corruption? What about the half dead tribals in East India? Fight for THEM also! Fight against the weak laws of the nation, not to put a new, draconian one into place.
        I’d pity you, because, I repeat, I’d rather base my opinion on sense than sentiment.

  3. Pranav Reddy says:

    has a lot of information,….was great !

  4. freemanfaiz says:

    Good article. Pretty brave for someone to stand-up and write it on record. I am sharing this.

  5. antara says:

    excellent post really 🙂 i hope that atleast some of those who blindly follow the iac take facts into account.

    • smartie94 says:

      Thank you. 🙂
      I sure hope so, too.
      people don’t agree with this post even after my having dissected fact by fact why this movement is not a movement. There’s more information I got to know since I wrote this article…now I’m even more firmly convinced this is a big circus. 😀
      the kind of people who support IAC are usually uninformed of the latest news…and if they are, they’re incapable of forming their own opinion.

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