Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why I believe Anna Hazare is wrong in his means (and not the ends)...

At the outset, holding the democratic process to ransom through political blackmail is wrong. Going on fast-unto-death is illegal (equivalent to homicide) and any person indulging in it should be arrested – doesn’t matter if that person has the backing of a billion Indians (and the remaining million are only the “corrupt” law enforcement agencies).

Now coming to the issue of a Lokpal bill…

I would be going against popular sentiment but dare I say – WE DO NOT NEED A LOKPAL BILL – Neither the “Civil Society” version nor the government version. Here are my reasons for the same:

  1. Too few cooks make poison not broth: Our constitution – the Raison d'ĂȘtre of all law agencies – is a brilliant piece of applied thought. It creates three bodies – the executive, the judiciary and the legislative – all of which are independent but completely dependent. What one does can be checked and annulled by the other through justified action. The problem arises when these come together – the exact thing that the Jan Lokpal proposes to do! Hand over power to one person/institution and make him absolute… to make law, decide violations and ensure execution - and what you have is a perfect broth - the only problem being that the recipe being perfect is of 'disaster'...

  2. The RTI, the CVC, the CAG – all these are bodies designed to curb corruption – but do they work? So now we create another one – and then five years down the line – another one to supervise the Lokpal... When does it end! The problem is not existence of no control or supervision – its too many controls.

  3. The reform process – if taken to its logical conclusion – will remove the necessity of any such bill. I wrote earlier about this – the reforms have created a less corrupt society already (imagine getting phone connections, paying electricity bills, paying taxes, getting a stamp paper without paying bribes even ten years earlier) – the corruption has been pushed up the ladder… Yes, I’m worried when my tax is gobbled up (supposedly) by corrupt (again, supposedly) ministers… But thankfully my day-to-day jobs have fewer hassles now. By slowly making more things transparent, the corruption will be pushed up the ladder – and then out! By adding the Lokpal – we just add a wrung to the ladder which the corruption can climb!

I’ll not go into the problems of the Jan Lokpal Bill – there are far too many that even a noob like me can see (for eg: the concentration of power, the selection panel, the age limits etc. etc.) because I know the end is justified – lesser corruption… In its current form the Jan Lokpal Bill is a situation where (as mentioned in a debate on TV) – If there is a theft in my house, I’ll worry about locking up my house later – I’ll first go to fast to force the commissioner to provide me more police force!!!

Now people say, OK you are just writing blogs – at least we are out here protesting against the government and their corrupt practices! Well I say, at least I’m doing my job right… In the last full year, I can vow to have never paid a bribe -no single rupee. How many of you can vouch for that? I agree I never voted. How many of you accept that? If not, did you or did you not vote for the “right” candidate from the local level right to the MP! We all expect our rights to be honoured but forget the duties that the constitution also mentions…!!!

I’m a firm believer in democracy – I’ve been part of School and college politics myself – no matter how much the elections were rigged – the best people, more often than not, get elected if everyone participates. So once the democratic process is set right, everything comes in place... Here are the electoral reforms I propose:

  1. You want a strong Jan Lokpal Bill. Bring a strong “Vote Karo” bill. How about sentencing people who do not vote to 5 years rigorous imprisonment... would you be ready for that? How about giving a tax rebate to people who voted in the last general election?

  2. Ok, I want to vote but who do I vote for... So ban people who have been convicted (not accused) of any law breaking/tax evasion from elections. Yes today very few will pass/fail, slowly more will... finally one day (probably 100 yrs from now) we’ll have an unblemished candidate list!

  3. Use RTI more. You find some problem – please take the trouble of filing an RTI application. Instead of asking for more governance mechanisms, learn to use the ones that exist!

  4. Our courts (and nationalised banks) work for less than half the year – how about extending that? Have more fast-track courts to settle small disputes in a speedy manner... You might not agree to it, the courts (including the lawyers and judges) are highly overburdened for now!!!
Of course, I’m no expert – just another “Aam Aadmi” who fails to see reason for using undemocratic coercive solutions for perfectly legitimate causes. And what is most of all, I do not want to put the blame of my lethargy on a weak system...!!!


Rahul said...

wanted to mention a few points:
a. why exactly u call anna hazare's means wrong is beyond my comprehension...if people of this country want tougher laws against corruption (which by no means is a wrong thing to ask)and government of day is not willing to come up with such laws...wht is wrong in protest....nd tht too a peacuful one.... morever he has never used term "fast unto death"
b. judiciary, legislative and executive are designed by constitution to work independently but people in each one of them are human beings who would collude for their benefits. jan lokpal bills does exactly wht is needed to be done to have supervisory power (which are not unlimited) over them.
c. RTI, CVC, CAG wud have definitly worked if they were not to be directly controlled by the people who r to be investigated. Case in point wud be CVC - who is appointed by politicians (committee includes PM, Home minister and Leader of opposition). now somebody who is appointed by the government itself (because 2/3 majority in tht committee is enuf to appoint a cvc) how can u expect him to keep a "vigil" on the govt. another example is RTI - gives you information but nothing more thn that. have no power to take action against anyone.
d. corruption has not been pushed up the ladder. it has engulfed the roots more badly. talk to any body who uses his ration card to buy ration from govt authorised Public distribution shops. nobody gets the allocated ration without paying the bribe. People get not more thn 50% of allocated kerosene oil. This is the kind of corruption today common man is facing. His day to day life is so much engulfed in corruption. Paying taxes and electricity bills come much later.
e. democracy gives me right to vote for candidates in the election - but it doesnt give me right to reject these candidates. this movement is a way for people to show dissatisfaction against complete political system and the way democracy functions. Democracy needs to be more inclusive and till the time there is no such way, people have democratic right to protest against wht they think is unjust.
i dont know we need a lok pal bill or abc bill or a xyz bill. but people down there need freedom from corruption. Anna has given them some hope of fighting it. People atleast have courage now to come in open and support fight against corruption.

PP said...

a. Tough to the point of Draconian?
b. U mean the Lokpal will not be a human?
c. If RTI can give you Info, isn't sufficient to launch an investigation and then prosecute? Also, Lokpal will be "selected" by the same people who will be investigated (ok the bill mentions a 5* military officer and we have only one alive - we can exclude him if you so wish)
d. Ah PDS - corruption always existed. It has not increased. Just that new reforms have excluded 'people who can pay more' from PDS. And u mean to say Lokpal will investigate PDS frauds?
e. U mean get rid of democracy? Agreed. Let Hitler govern us - or in the case of Lokpal - Big Brother (Ref: Orwell's 1984) And anyways, heard of Rule 49-O - the "Right to reject candidates"

Chicky said...

Regarding point c mentioned by Rahul, isn't it possible to modify these existing systems of CVC, CAG etc to make them more effective? Why create another body of Lokpal? Isn't there no way of modifying the existing systems?

PP said...

@Rahul: Refer to any press statement of Anna from April 4th and you shall see the term "Fast unto death" or similar being used... At least you agree that "fast unto death" is wrong... that is a begining...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing and to a greater extent i agree on what PP said. But the fact remains the same. WE all trying to get in picture by supporting Anna ji, but i dont think that will improve the conditions of the poor that accounts 60% of India's population. I wont support any such activity which will concentrate on something that could be handled if each one see through their heart and try to help people. You cant make everyone corrupt free and if you have that set of mind then you already on a losing side. Best is to see and work on ground level. We dont need anyone if we really want to do something. Its only a hype worth of nothing but i am looking forward to have the "Jan Lokpal Bill" in reality and then will see how effective it will solve the problem of corruption...

In case of personal remarks or hurting comments i Apologise...

PP said...

@Anon: No need for apologies... I dint actually get your point. Are you saying that you are not sure how much the Lokpal will be effective but want it to come to effect nevertheless? Or that Lokpal will be the solution for the poor?

Dipanwita said...

I believe that whatever change we desire to see in our society, it has to start from OURSELVES. There is no doubt about it.

Those who are burning candles endlessly and have hoarse throat by shouting slogans, how many of them can actually say that they have NEVEr indulged in d process of bribing? If not by accepting bribe then by offering? There are corrupt people who won’t even lift a pen without getting bribe but how many of these are now corrupt because of someone offering them bakshish for the first time??? No one can justify their actions but almost all of us, due to scarcity of time and energy, have indulged in this practice sometime or the other.

It has become such a common routine that now we have started giving 'bakshish' to the guy installing the telephone, verifying for passports e.t.c without their asking. How many of us don’t try and locate some source in order to have some 'jugaar' while getting things from abroad at much less amount? The truth is that all of us (except a minuscule population that is on the verge of extinction!!) start looking for some 'connection' much before even buying the product. It’s strange but the fact is that even those millionaire for whom thousands are like change, try to get their extra luggage cleared without paying a rupee for the excess baggage.

It’s all a part of corruption only. While trying to evade the rules or bending them for our own benefit we ourselves are stepping in the wrong side. It’s not only government officials who are corrupt but it’s equally rampant in the private sector also. The executives submitting the bills for the petrol spent while on duty in reality tries to tag along with others. what about taking 'clients' out for dinner in order to 'discuss' the work?? The list is unending and it wont bring about any change.
If we really consider ourselves to be of 'righteous' character then we should be wise enough to know what is right and wrong. No one will ever admit about their role in spreading this plague. but one can help not by taking out rallies or burning candles but by not getting involved in the bribery. It takes time to spread its roots and it is going to take more time and effort to get it eradicated also. Bringing about the changes in order to get rid of this practice completely are not that simple but at least we can try and do whatever we can.

If we are determined enough to wait and not start looking for easy way out and if we can be firm and decide not to align with the ‘wrong’ side and take a stand against corruption then this practice cant prosper. Do we really think that having a specific bill adopted will make corruption vanish into thin air??? We know deep down that unless we are determined to be among those whose conscious is not clouded and who deep down think and believe in doing the right thing then nothing is ever going to change. We can see people protesting without caring about heat, thirst or discomfort for hours but will they show the same determination while getting work done through the proper channel? One can keep on saying lots of things on this issue but it’s not going to bring about any change. For bringing about the real change we have change our attitude first and then the rest will follow on its own..... We just need to understand that it’s our own attitude and action that has brought about this practice and now it’s us only who can help in improving the situation also.

Prashant said...

Oh absolutely fantastically written! In fact, most people who understand law and adhere to democratic prinicples will have to agree with your views.

My minor difference with you would be that I would not force anything. Not even voting. The better way to ensure more participation is through better citizen involvement. Fortunately, the people who don't vote are the ones who can be reached through media and other means. They should be relatively easier to cajole. We need to simplify the process of voting. Long queues, missing names, poor choice of candidates etc dont encourage the high rollers to come out and vote! Prashant

PP said...

@Prashant: Absolutely true - Forced voting may not yield the best results. Iraq claimed more than 90% voting! But to get this started - till it becomes a habit - you might have to do it. Even if Govt makes it online, people will assume the govt cant do a good job and not vote (a simple look at govt websites might prove them right - though irctc is a great exception)