Anna Fallout–India on a high wire

I am sure that almost everyone above 5 years of age in India is familiar with Anna Hazare and his team leading the struggle to fight the corruption endemic in Indian context.

While there is no doubt that Anna Hazare did more than most in raising the awareness and more importantly the “will-to-act” among Indian middle class, the recent “victory” is in every danger of becoming a pyrrhic one.

In all the celebratory backslapping and nationalistic fervor, a few contrarian voices that argued against the very public, media spotlit fight, were submerged and in a few cases, even stifled.

  • The point is that Anna Hazare’s struggle to modify the Lok Pal should not result in 2 things:
  • A breakdown of Indian constitutional bodies & a benevolent dictator who can set himself/herself up as an arbiter of honesty and integrity in Indian life.

Seriously, when a constable in Indian Police Service (entry level position) gets (even after PRC increase) barely 5000 INR (~$150) per month, do we expect him to not look for “alternative” sources of income to feed, educate and keep his family in good health?

Gurucharan Das, one of the more respected voices in India, cautions among similar lines:

A year ago, no one in India could have imagined that cabinet ministers, powerful politicians, senior officials and CEOs would be in jail now, awaiting trial for corruption. The credit for this dramatic shift belongs in no small part to the anticorruption movement of a 74-year-old activist, Anna Hazare, supported by determined justices of the Supreme Court, an exceptional auditor general, rival television channels in search of “breaking news” and, crucially, a newly assertive Indian middle class. The long-term impact of this movement is unclear. It could lead to something profoundly good, or it could destabilize the whole system. (emphasis mine)

It would be a shame if Mr. Hazare’s movement contributed to undermining India’s finely crafted constitutional system, which has made its democracy the envy of the developing world. Street protests and hunger strikes can gain attention, but legislation requires working within the system, in the messy details of parliamentary negotiation.

Negotiation does not necessarily mean abdication or even compromise. What we need is a viable, sustainable legislation (with effective enforcement mechanisms) that will address this.

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