Democratic Disasters

Talks of democracy, corruption and rights are the new fads in the town, thanks to the vibrancy of civil society and mass movements lately, which has caused awareness among the masses, who have patiently waited long relying on democratic means and its visible symbol of politicians and bureaucrats. Its the rising middle class who for long was clutched in the shackles during the License Raj with socialist policies. Today this people are coming out for these movements for ‘They are out of other ways’, anyone suggesting ‘democratic’ means should reconsider the time they they have already spent trying with these methods.

As the faces of democracy, our leaders have left no stone unturned to disclose the ‘worst methods of discussion and behaviour in the best places of discussion and conduct’. We teach our children the value of discipline in schools, the importance of discussion, the significance of debate and to have an attitude of tolerance towards other’s views. When the same children grow up to see the unholy violations of these pious principles of democracy by their representatives (who think that by giving a vote people gives them the absolute right to dictate and serve personal and vested interests), in the very place made for debate, don’t they have the ‘right to ask, right to complain, and right to demand’ for the formulation, regulation, implementation and punishment for same rules of disciplines to uphold the democracy which apparently is the ‘only’ thing to be proud off after six decades of independence, lately this reason too is vanishing for the symbols of are proud democracy are being ruined stone by stone.

It is the same platform that they call other for discussion in order to save their governments when people’s popular protest rises beyond their control. I have no doubt in saying now that its ‘mainly’ the political class which is responsible for all the violence, exodus, insurgency, or religious clashes, for those who can’t restrict themselves from violence and vulgarity during the time of discussion, debate and talks on the platform which they term ‘supreme’ (mind you in India, Parliament isn’t supreme rather its the Constitution that is by ‘We the people’).Its highly unlikely that they would not do much more behind the walls of Lutyens bungalows.

As it the delays of coalition weren’t enough to explain the inaction of the government, as if the government hasn’t already done much loss, as if our proud image isn’t already blotted, opposition doesn’t understand the most important role it has and can play in the democratic structure to bring the government to accountability, that’s because everyone is busy either dreaming for the ‘Gaddi’ or too busy making potential dialogues for the Bollywood. Thanks to our bureaucracy which has become too subservient, influenced by patriarchal values, and too elite that mo more the recklessness of their leaders bothers them.

What’s the way to restrict these blunders being committed openly? Its likely that such events will encourage violent elements to disturb peace, for if the people symbolizing the ideals in the constitution can do so, without any shame, without feeling sorry and without any apologies.

When we can arrest people who try to create awareness through cartoons for the charge of ‘sedition’, its no less than ‘death sentence’ we should award to those destroying the reputation of our democracy and its symbol, those who are using communal comments to destroy the social fabric of brotherhood and ethnic tolerance without any restraint on their boorish voices and barbaric actions.

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Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder

Yesterday I received a call from my cousin sister asking if you are free or not and I answered that in yes as I answer to everyone else! She asked me if you will come to ‘Lal-Quila’ to support Anna Hazare. My straight answer was NO[As I do not support his way to get work done]! Later in the evening I was out to buy some fruits I came back and she was at our house, as I saw some rallies in support of him in our locality I asked her to join them as she was interested to join Anna on Ramlila Maidan, I thought she would be really supporting him in his fight for his cause but the answer I got was “Yaar, Yaha Maja nahi aayega !!!”. And I felt so sorry on the so called youth who are gathering in large numbers at the site of protest and elsewhere without knowing what implications and scars it will leave on the pages on Indian Democracy and its processes. As memory is still fresh of the world cup victory this was not the emotion of nationalism we all had when India lifted the world cup trophy and we all resorted to the streets with our National Flag. Even as the game was going the dream of the Sachin Tendulkar was in fact the dream every Indian, and that’s the level of emotion we are capable of. “Leaving aside props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna’s Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the Bollywood culture. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.’”[-Quoted from an editorial]

I am not in any way denying anyone their right to protest, nor questioning it. My question on the current state of affairs going on today in country is that, is it only the goal that matters and not the means? Without going into the debates of ‘Jan Lokpal’ and the other versions which I am sure every news channel had already conducted and established so many difference between them, that my version won’t be comprehensive enough !

I don’t think any Indian today will be unaware of the cause of corruption for which Anna Hazare is fasting(may be only poorest of the poor in some of the remotest villages are amongst them). This cause of eliminating ‘corruption’ which everyone who knows the word firstly relates to ‘money and politician’ is in no way wrong, and every countrymen be it poor, rich, middle class or poorest of the poor, wants to get rid of it, and that is the single reason we are seeing masses of people on the streets and supporting the face that represents them [Anna Hazare] ( I really appreciate the efforts of all of them and their will to do something for the country, but more on them below !). Even the rest who are not present in these rallies want to fight for the removal of corruption but where they fall behind is the way these people want to fight against the corruption. Thus reaching to a definite, clear and scientific conclusion that it is not the goal people differ in, rather it’s the means, ways, methods and most importantly the demands.

While his means of ‘fast-unto-death’ is in all way ‘Gandhian’, non-violent, and pro-democracy but the reasons he gives to adopt to these methods are not so [I am talking about deadlines and demands].

  • Starting with the first reason that members of the civil society popularly known as ‘Team Anna’ gives is that they have waited 42 years for the parliament to pass the bill, but I don’t think that the present parliament can be blamed for the sins of its past, just as we cannot be blamed for the sins of our ancestors. It all started in December 2010 that this UPA govt. planned to prepare and bring Lokpal bill in parliament when Mr. Anna started writing letters to Prime Minister to consider his bill, and when the PM didn’t respond to this letter he started saying that please listen to our demands or we will resort to ‘fast-unto-death’. Tell me one thing here, it may be possible that PM may not have responded at that time because to democratic procedure any bill is open for suggestions from outside only when it is drafted and thus he may have thought that it will be appropriate if we can ask him for his suggestions at that time, as he’s there to follow the constitutional provisions. But no one wants to see the picture from another angle as we are very convinced with the idea of ‘Saale sab chor hain’.[This mentality one more reason why we seeing so many people with Gandhi topi on streets to support Anna Hazare].

Second justification that Team Anna gives for their means and methods is that we have tried everything in our limits to convey our viewpoint to the govt. and there is no other way left through which a common man can send his suggestions to the govt. Here the situation is like this:

  • Lokpal bill was sent to the standing committee for in-depth scrutiny on 8th August (This was the bill drafted by the govt. and not the civil society version). But civil society members met the standing committee and standing committee after a discussion asked for a copy of janlokpal bill to discuss and scrutinize it. Now when this time team Anna was following a democratic procedure healthily they didn’t have sufficient patience to wait for the standing committee’s final draft rather they wanted to resort back to their strike. But this time the govt. collaborates in declining the democratic procedures by doing everything possible to overthrow itself ! [Anna’s arrest and devouring him his right]. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament [govt. version], a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.
  • And now with people support they need not do anything as they believe that what they say will be the first thing any govt. officer will do for them. On people’s support I would just quote Arundhati Roy as I already feel sorry and pity for the blind and ‘dude’ like mentality of those Indian youth who are supporting him just to click some cool pics to put on Facebook, fun and to show that they are concerned.
  • “If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.” – Arundhati Roy.

Now is it justified that without resorting to the democratic procedures, without valuing any of its processes, and even breaking them [There’s no provision of joint drafting committee in constitution] civil society members consider their efforts to be enough to convey their points to the govt. I just think that they may not have done enough as is clearly indicated by the impatience they display in the world’s biggest democracy.

Note: The above two reasons that I mentioned above were given by Arvind Kejriwal, one of the lieutenant of Anna Hazare.

Now even if we consider the blackmailing procedures and methods [Leaving beside the demands as those need to be discussed in too great detail] of the brand Tean Anna to be legitimate, let’s see how will it leave scars on the face of Indian Democracy. Let’s for a moment suppose that the way civil society is protesting is justified [mind here that I am not questioning the protest only the way it is being conducted i.e. want of concrete demands and deadlines]. Now if we consider this ‘goal oriented’ way of protest which is even attracting popular support, tell me if you will support this:

  • Will you also consider similar protest legitimate by all the general category people in India who are against reservation [Reservation which is done to protect and promote the interest of the marginalized and help them come in level with others]?
  • Or will you support the ‘Rail Roko’ andolans by Gujjars to claim reservations [Will you support mainly their means] ?
  • Or the Maoists method who wants to overthrow Indian state to protect and promote its interest? [“For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State” – Arundhati Roy ]
  • Or is doping justified just because we don’t have appropriate sports infrastructure and we want to earn fame and medals for the country?[Here we all want to achieve this goal, my question is on the means all the way].
  • Or is it justified to cut innumerable trees just to make way for development. [Again means-goal relation]

Leaving beside these, won’t use of such methods delegitimize the protests of those small groups who resort to the established political and democratic norms to get their interest protected, take for example:-

  • Thousands of villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant.
  • Thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur.
  • Nor the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley.

Not going into further discussion I leave you all with some of these questions that provide a completely different viewpoint into the current political status-quo of the country, I here will make some things clear to make clear my stand and escape the criticism of some.

  • I am neither against the methods of ‘fast-unto-death’ of Anna hazare, nor against most the provisions of the Jan Lokpal but only against his demands to pass the bill by his deadlines without giving time to the ‘current’ parliamentary which to me seems dedicated to it.
  • I am nor against any of the civil society member or his views indeed here I criticize govt. for his arrest of Anna Hazare.
  • I do support the fight for corruption but with democratic measures, as fastening the process which is deadline driven will only leave pits and loopholes in this draconian legislature.

I request you to comment but please don’t comment on things that need discussions as this is all a comprehensive and subjective things, but I do welcome your comment. 🙂

Present Lokpal Bill (An Eyewash) vs Jan Lokpal Bill (Protector of the people)

“Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it: and the public can as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court, or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinize their conduct, as it likes.” -Mahatma Gandhi (1928)

-Brief history and requests form Shri Anna Hazare.

Indians from across the world join their hands and support to Shri Anna Hazare against corruption, with a demand to enact Jan Lokpal Bill. To give a brief history, Lokpal Bill was first introduced in parliament in 1968. It has been brought in parliament,  eight times before first being in 1969, but has never been passed by the parliament. The Lokpal Bill drafted by the government has languished in the Rajya Sabha for 42 years. It is a bill that is supposed to give powers to citizens to sue the people responsible for corruption. Jan Lokpal Bill is designed to create an effective anti-corruption and grievance redressal systems at centre and to assure that effective deterrent is created against corruption and to provide effective protection to whistleblowers.

Need

India is one of the top three economies in the world, but looking at corruption, India sinks to number 87, in other words it means 86 other nations have less corruption than India. Corruption plays a significant role in keeping poverty, illiteracy and other social ills in place. The menace of corruption is such that even with enough plans and services to deal with the problems of the nation, nothing seems to reach the people they are bulid for.

Current anti-corruption laws are precieved as weak and anti-corruption agencies are unable to penalize those found to be corrupt.

The government is again thinking of introducing a Lokpal Bill in parliament this year, and the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Sonia Gandhi is considering it. But as it stands today, the bill is riddled with loopholes, defeating its very purpose. Social activists have remarked it to be a toothless bill and not at all acceptable. An alternative bill, the Jan Lokpal Bill has been drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal after series of consultations with public and social activists. This bill is supported by Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan, Anna Hazare, etc.

The present systems to fight corruption in India and their shortcomings  –

  1. The Anti Corruption Branch and CBI comes under the government. Despite having evidence, it is very difficult to convict people as they have to take permission from the same bosses, against whom the case has to be investigated.
  2. No corrupt officer is dismissed from the job because Central Vigilance Commission, which is supposed to dismiss corrupt officers, is only an advisory body. Whenever it advises government to dismiss any senior corrupt officer, its advice is never implemented.
  3. No action is taken against corrupt judges because permission is required from the Chief Justice of India to even register an FIR against corrupt judges
  4. The functioning of CBI and vigilance departments is secret and hence it promotes corruption.
  5. Citizens face harassment in government offices. Sometimes they are forced to pay bribes. One can only complaint to senior officers. No action is taken on complaints because senior officers also get their cut.
  6. Nothing in law to recover ill gotten wealth. A corrupt person can come out of jail and enjoy that money.
  7. Small punishment for corruption- Punishment for corruption is minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years.
  8. Weak and corrupt people are appointed as heads of these institutions by the government.

Salient features of proposed Jan Lokpal Bill

  1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
  2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
  3. Cases against corrupt people thus will not linger on for years. Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
  4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
  5. Help to common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
  6. One could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
  7. Government appointing corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
  8. The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
  9. The existing anti-corruption agencies CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
  10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.

More at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Lokpal_Bill