No Way But Onwards-The Anna Hazare Context

by Ashok Yadav 

"No way but onwards" was the title of a chapter I had read in English coursebook of Class XI which taught that problems arising out of applications of science and technology cannot be solved by bypassing them but on the contrary by more and more engagement with and application of the same. Likewise the problems that have arisen in India in an environment of parliamentary democracy can only be solved by more and more democracy, social justice, social reforms, more institutional reforms etc. The Anna Hazare method of taking on corruption is to set up a super body and legislation called Jan Lokpal bill which will oversee prime minister, higher judiciary, cabinet ministers, MPs etc like an eagle perched on a high rise building.

The Anna Hazare method to combat corruption is not to engage with systemic failures and distortions, devise and explore ways and means to correct the distortions and effect the necessary reforms to arrest the failures. The formation of a super body and legislation called Jan Lokpal is to bypass parliamentary democratic process. The supporters of the Jan Lokpal bill argue that parliament, judiciary and executives have all become corrupt, so India needs to have an omnipotent Lokpal to prevent and cure corruption.

To such people if I ask for guarantee that the members of such Lokpal will not become corrupt or the already corrupt will not be appointed as members of the proposed Lokpal, I wonder what will be their reply. From where will they pick people who have never sinned in order to have the moral right to throw stones on the sinners? A super body like Jan Lokpal will need to have super men having Socratic characters and erudition, having absorbed the true spirit of India's freedom movement, constitution, social composition and parliament democracy. How will it be ensured that such people appointed as custodians of the super body will rise above caste-gender-religious-regional biases and prejudices? How will it be ensured that only people like Laloo, Raja, Shibu Soren, Kanimozhi from weak social backgrounds will not be arrested for corruption? No one can ensure this, not even Anna Hazare.

V P Singh, the Finance Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, ordered income tax department and other wings of finance ministry to raid many industrialists and influential persons. He caught the imagination of the country by his drive against corruption. V P Singh was shifted from Ministry of Finance to Ministry of Defence. There he ordered to probe the alleged kickbacks in the purchase of Bofors gun. Lastly he was shunted out of cabinet. He first launched Jan Morcha and then a political party called Janata Dal. In the next parliamentary elections he became the Prime minister. Thus he did not allow others to harvest the crops of his movements. But in the case of Anna Hazare we have no indication till now that he is going to launch his political party. The natural question is who will reap the benefits of anti-corruption movements of Anna. The people are of the view that BJP will be the biggest beneficiary of the so-called anti-corruption movements of Anna.

 A comparison of movements of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare is also instructive. The agitation of Baba Ramdev is based on solid and clear demand of bringing back black money deposited by corrupt Indians in foreign banks. The agenda of Anna Hazare is generalised, vague and controversial. It is not known how a piece of legislation alone can cure India of corruption when other anti-corruption legislations and bodies have utterly failed. Baba Ramdev held hundreds of meetings all over India telling people about billions of dollars stashed away in foreign banks and how that capital if brought back can eliminate poverty and underdevelopment in our country. Anna Hazare has not done so. He has not toured the country holding meetings after meetings telling people about the proposed legislation. He has banked upon media support, media hype and support of upper middle class people. While Baba Ramdev's campaign against corruption had support of lower and ordinary middle class people, Anna Hazare has support of urban elites.

The Congress Party is a past master in maintaining status quo, putting all social-political contradictions under the carpet and diligently avoiding carrying out systemic reforms. Without an iota of shame and regret the Congress Party has blissfully continued with colonial administrative structure to this day putting its own existence in danger in an era of social-political awakening and communication revolution.  I wonder what Rajiv Gandhi meant when he harked during his prime minister-ship that India needed to prepare to welcome twenty first century. By initiating information and communication technology revolution Rajiv of course did his bit to prepare India to face 21st century but his party has utterly failed in carrying out any systemic reforms to match the aforesaid revolution that could have expanded and deepened democracy, social justice and secularism. The result is that the youthful Indians who occupy major part of our demography are spreading consciousness against and about the Congress Party’s government’s failure and inability to check corruption and alleged complicity in corruption by using the tools of information and communication technology which Rajiv Gandhi had introduced in the eighties. India is shouting and crying for massive systemic reforms but India’s political class otherwise professing allegiance to the doctrines of democracy, social justice, secularism and socialism is ignoring and postponing the same for as indefinitely long period as possible giving ample scope and opportunities to going-backward forces having no concern for the aforesaid doctrines to exploit the situation. 

[Ashok Yadav, is an author and is associated with the All India Federation of OBC Employees Welfare Association]

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