Saturday, April 9, 2011

WHAT ANNA HAZARE SPELLS FOR DEMOCRACY


On 5th April 2011 something unprecedented happened as a 73 old man clad in khaki white and Nehru cap sat down at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. He had a simple demand, earliest implementation of the LokPal bill and implementation of certain modalities in this regard. India watched as the movement grew from strength to strength. Naysayers and pessimists shaked their heads in disbelief as they quoted this movement as fruitless .However in the end the movement had its way. Now as the dust begins to settle a number of questions are being asked some questioning Anna Hazare’s motive itself.

However in arguing about these movements we have seen two opinions divided and rooted on the basis of two extremities. While one group was pro Anna and in a sense anti Government another group was anti Anna movement and used the personality of Anna Hazare to undermine the choices the people have made. However what was needed was a dispassionate and pragmatic view one which was far removed from the two extremities. And in taking up stand for the two extremities the celebrated authors and intellectuals missed out those points which were to be actual points of discussion.

The first point that needs to be discussed is why the LokPal bill. Many fear that this would become a superimposing agency one that will undermine the democratic structure. In the past 63 years of our independence India has witnessed massive levels of corruption .And the misdeeds of Emergency only reassured the need for a independent agency that would have even the PM under its preview. In recent times the functioning of the Gujarat SIT riots investigation, the Karnataka mining scheme, the 1000 crore scam in Assam, the spectrum band scandal have only reaffirmed the need for a strong LokPal. The idea of a LokPal stems from the Scandinavian concept of Ombudsman which was first institutionalised in Sweden in 1809.

Traditionally the ombudsman is appointed based on unanimity among all political parties supporting the proposal. The incumbent is an independent functionary and reports to the legislature. The Ombudsman can act both on the basis of complaints made by citizens, or suo moto. She/he can look into allegations of corruption as well as mal-administration. The punishments announced by the Ombudsmen vary from country to country. In some countries the Ombudsmen has the power to prosecute while in other it can order prosecution. The strength of the ombudsman lies in the publicity attached to the office, and the negative view that attaches itself to all that the office scrutinizes. In Sweden and Finland, ombudsmen can also supervise the courts. In other countries, their authority is only over the non-judicial public servants. In almost all the cases they deal with complaints relating to both corruption and mal-administration. Thus even in the countries itself, the institution of Ombusdmen has been moulded according to the needs of their own constitution. The same can be done for India constituting Ombudsmen which align with our own Constitutional structure while not becoming a super imposing structure.

The second point that is to be discussed whether the present structure of governance is enough to check corruption. The basic idea for this thought stems from the fact that if we strengthen the four estates of democracy then we will have a vibrant structure that discourages corruption. The answer to this utopian thought is a no in the present context. First of all the system of departmental enquiries by administrative officials against one another has rarely yielded results. Very often the officers have a departmental fraternity which makes it impossible for them to be prosecuted. In so many states so many IAS/IPS officers have pending cases against them and yet they continue to thrive because of departmental fraternity. On the legislative side the accountability of politicians in today’s context has become a farce. The politicians continue unabated corruption and when charged speak of peoples response. And very often that people’s response is in the form of a 5 year fair called election which they win again on the basis of false hopes promises coercion and money power.

The institution of Judiciary has proved to be the most credible till now in protecting individual rights. Yet the inherent problems in the judiciary right from the procedural complexities to the lack of awareness, act as denial of justice in the end. The recent charges of corruption against the High Court judges, the case of ‘uncle judges’ in Allahabad High Court which earned the rebuke of Supreme Court, have tarnished the judiciary image. The other existing devices of checking corruption have been less than successful. The Central Vigilance Commission is designed to inquire into allegations of corruption by administrative officials only. The role of CBI if anything can be best summed up by the repeated number of rebuke it has won from the Supreme Court. Hence there is a need for an agency like LokPal which can act for the wishes of the people and can only take the movement of strengthening democracy forward.

The third point that has been discussed by some sections is the timing of the movement. According to them the Anna Hazare movement was specifically timed after the world cup to attract the media attention. What they fail to understand is that every movement follows a strategy. Our Indian national freedom too followed a strategy many a times convenience of the people was out foremost while deciding the timing of a movement. Gandhiji knew when to start a movement and when to end it. Strategy is always the hallmark of a successful campaign. If the Anna Hazare campaign followed a particular strategy it was not merely to raise media bytes it was the choice to be made heard by the maximum number of people. If the idea is to garner public support for the right cause then timing is of utmost importance else the cause gets lost. And Anna Hazare is not a leader he is merely espousing what this country has been expressing for sometime now, apathy and anger. Otherwise nothing else could explain why the political leaders were hounded away from the meetings or professionals, doctors, engineers all took part in this movement.

The detractors of Anna Hazare have also questioned his motives. They have called him politically motivated and standing up for a meaningless cause. They have accused him of playing to a coterie which wants their own place in the seats of power. The NGO’s, who want to rise as partners in governance of this country. Yet all these fears are unfounded for the simple fact that people are getting aware. The detractors fail to realize that India is waking up. The people are becoming aware if there is any problem with the institution of LokPal in the future then we can be pretty sure that another Anna Hazare will rise to voice against those misdeeds that undermine the office of LokPal.

On the other side of the fence very few media organization has applauded the role of the government in this regard. True that the LokPal bill has been lying in apathy for many years however there were many constraints in implementing this bill. The pushing and pulling of the Bill in the Parliament killed the Bill every time. Yet once Anna Hazare raised the issue the government was quick to take action. Now many question the need for 5 days in reaching to a decision. However we must understand that it makes no sense if we agree to something which cannot be worked out later. In the present context the government had to carefully evaluate all options before making a move. And such decisions take time. The media which always wants 24*7 analysis or rather over-analysis of every issue ranted about 5 days, what they failed to comprehend that in those 5 days much of the time was spent in actual discussion of the proposed demands and how it spelt out in the future. In the end in accepting all the demands of Anna Hazare the government not only showed political maturity but a sense of understanding the prevalent public mood. That after 5 days they accepted all demands also augers well for the future course since every demand must have been discusses and assessed before being agreed upon. That increases the chance for a smooth passage in the monsoon session. Anna Hazare gave government that much needed push to see the bill making some actual progress. It was a victory for all the people and the government alike.

Yet in the end we must understand that democracy is a evolving process which challenges us everyday. Its meanings and connotations change every few years. As we further align ourselves with the global world we will experience other major changes in our democratic framework as well. While we must be vigilant as to how the LokPal operates history has taught us that we must also be ready for further changes in the future. A day will surely come when in India too we will demand for recalling of an elected candidate midway if he does not perform. Maybe that’s the reason why our Constitution is ‘rigid as well as flexible’ .Our forefathers while framing the constitution realized that the Constitution is very much like the population of the young nation. It grows and evolves, similar is the state of our Indian democracy –growing and evolving-and the institution of LokPal is merely a part of the evolving process.



5 comments:

  1. One of the best post I saw on this subject. I have been in many arguments and discussions regarding Anna. And as you rightly said, people were divided into two groups: Pro and Anti-Anna.
    Only point I wanted to make was that whether you support Anna or not, support his cause.
    http://animeshkmishra.blogspot.com/2011/04/corruption-is-addiction.html

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  2. rightly analysis. But do you think, Lokpal Bill will eradicate corruption. I don't think so. India is a country where ppl are happy to vote for Rs. 100 then how change will come. who will make complain against the corrupt politicians. Think think again. www.maibolunga.blogspot.com

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  3. Thank you all.

    Animesh- Thanks and I went thorugh your blog and I think you summed it up quite well.

    Ram A singh- I agree corruption is a social problem however what we must understand is that LokPal bill is one of the many tools to combat it

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  4. "Yet all these fears are unfounded for the simple fact that people are getting aware."

    Thank you for pointing this out. More skeptic rebuttals on my blog.

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