On The Jan Lok Pal Bill

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I have been deliberating whether to write about the Jan LokPal Bill for some time. The reason why I have dallied somewhat is because I am more than a bit conflicted on this issue.

Here though is what I am sure about. The “revolution” we just saw, started right after the World Cup and completed right before the IPL, was not India’s Tahrir Square. Not that I am belittling the revolutionary temper of those who starved on Twitter or took an hour off from their busy schedules to show their patriotism or those who made more missed calls than a heavy-duty stalker or  those who flooded my Facebook inbox with invitations for “anti-corruption events” or those who turned up at the site of the struggle as if it was a Roadies roadshow or created “Picbadges” for their Facebook profiles or lit more protest candles than there are on A K Hangal’s birthday cake. When Bipasha Basu, Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra make moving 140 character oratory orgasms over Twitter,  far be it for humble me to even hint that this is not something like the “Rang De Basanti Be the Change” revolution of a few years ago. Even then, comparing this to the mass uprising in Libya and Egypt or making a connection between the Indian government, moribund as it is, with the regimes that are there, is a bit like comparing Sachin Tendulkar to, let’s see. Sujith Somasunder.

Here is what I am also sure about. Anyone who is not supportive of Anna Hazare’s agitation is not automatically a 1) a Congress stooge 2) A supporter of corruption 3) An evil cynic who has trouble passing stool in the morning 4) attacker of Anna Hazare’s personal integrity. It is ironic that be it for Rang de Basanti or for Anna Hazare, that some of their most passionate supporters have to be so zombie-like that anyone not drinking the Kool aid of the season is automatically tagged and bagged as being in league with the system, in an echo of the Bushian “You are either for us or against us” simple-mindedness. Also just because Anna Hazare has nice things to say about Modi, which in politically correct India is like eating hearts of little kittens, soaked in atmospheric ozone and served on a ivory plate made from tusks yanked out of still-alive baby elephants, does not mean he is a RSS-BJP stooge and has specific political ambitions in that section of the political spectrum. A look at his record of going after every party on account of corruption (including Shiv Sena-BJP for which he had to go to jail) should be testimony to his bi-partisanship.

Now here is where things start getting murkier.  According to some of Anna’s critics, his Gandhian mode of  “starve-to-death” protest is a form of  blackmail, a method of agitation that by appealing to emotion and creating a “ticking clock”,  essentially subverts the democratic process. They also argue that such “You do what I want or I will kill myself” type of protests  might create a chain-reaction of copycats  on different causes throughout the country. Once we accept this as a legitimate form of protest, we have to also, on principle, accept other coercive extra-democratic agitation instruments including bandhs, terrorism and violence. A long time ago, one of my criticisms of “Rang De Basanti” had been precisely that. The way I saw it, the movie endorsed violent retribution as an acceptable form of political expression with a cop-out rider that went along the lines of “This is not right but given the state of affairs this was the only way to get heard”. In this case though, I would give Anna Hazare the benefit because his form of protest has not impinged on anyone else’s personal freedom, in the way that terrorism, violence and bandhs do. One can argue that attempted suicide and self-torture through denial is a form of violence but I would like to believe that that falls under the purview of individual choice where the only one being inconvenienced is the self.

And to be honest, hunger strikes by themselves are not potent weapons for protest. It is only because of Hazare’s popularity and the resonance of his cause in the consciousness of the chatterati that the government has been somewhat arm-twisted. If you are not that fortunate or your cause is not popular, you can be thrown in jail or meet the fate of Irom Sharmila.

It’s when I look at the draft Bill and talk to a few of its supporters that my sense of disquiet increases. From what I gather, there is this species called “politicians”, a conceptualization of the “Kafanchor Neta” from Gunda sipping on “Dilli se Billi ka doodh”, evidently mutants from outer space who mysteriously have seized power without our knowledge. And that a body of exalted humans, jurm se nafrat karne waala, shaitoon ka liye jwala, the Shankars of the world should be deputed to act as judge, jury and executioner of these “politicians”, preferably in a black cloak with chains with “Rishtein Mein Hum Tumhare Baap Hote Hain, Naam Shahenshah Aur Mere Paas Magsaysay Bhi Hai” on their lips. It’s slightly puzzling how we, who elect politicians, would do a better job in creating a commission that oversees them and what we do when, to carry the Gunda analogy further, our Shankars won’t become Auto Shankars once they get a taste of pure power. Another Jan Lok Pal to watch over this one?

Of course once you think about it, you realize why it is not puzzling. Urban middle class India feels (not that they would say it out aloud) that they did not elect these politicians. Uneducated “poor” India ,with its massive population advantage, did. (A similar point is made here) This explains why politicians in India don’t really care about corruption, because though it  does get a lot of press and causes some cursory embarrassment in the halls of Delhi, come election time all that matters are caste and religious alliances, canny seat-sharing, sops like cheap rice, TV sets and, must not forget, desi daroo. The “poor” vote as a block in a “corruption”-agnostic manner because their expectations from the political process are not ideals like “freedom from corruption” or “strong national defense”—they are fighting for something more tangible like a few more hours of power in their villages, legalization of slums, writing off of loans, more days of guaranteed work. Which is why election after election, the same set of uncouth sleazeball politicians are elected without fail.

In this context, the JanLok Pal Bill become an attempt by the marginalized urban English-educated classes to take back their country. Its evident in way public feedback is sought, as per the draft Bill, through a website, something that the “poor” don’t really have access to. It’s evident in the qualification criteria for the committee (Magsaysay Award winners, Nobel prize winners, Bharat Ratnas) that the urban middle class wants what we Bengalis call “bhodrolok” in charge. Though it is never made clear how achievement in various fields would immediately make less prone to influence than someone picked off the street or why bloggers who know everything or twitter Gods with more than 10K followers are not included in this list of the exalted.

It is this “some people are better than the rest” assumption at the heart of everything and the sweeping power that they are being given over “those elected by the unwashed masses” that strikes me as essentially undemocratic. Not to be alarmist, but most of the world’s dictatorships have their origins in a few good men (or one good man) promising to bring order out of chaos, if only the people give him some “liberty” to do what must be done without the constricting restrictions imposed by the rotten system he is trying to clean.

You would be thinking right now that I am against the Bill. Which to an extent I am, on a matter of principle. But this is where the internal conflict lies. I do not have an alternative constructive solution for controlling corruption, since eradication is obviously impossible. Yes of course I can say “We need to change as a people” or “We should reduce red-tape” but those kind of vague statements are better left for the Senior Bachchans and Celina Jetleys. I can point to the Tea Party as an example of a powerful movement in a democratic society, spearheaded by an “angry” constituency which rightfully or wrongfully has felt left out of mainstream politics, who within the space of a few years have organized a democratic pressure group that has fundamentally changed US politics, to the extent of recently bringing the federal government, to a budgetary stand-still,through their influence in the Republican party, until some of their agenda items were addressed. But then again, unlike those who drafted the Jan Lok Pal, I cannot provide to you a written manifesto as to how that kind of Tea-party like mobilization would be achieved or how “issue-centric voting blocs” could be created in India. All I can do is say “Yep it should be done” before I watch KKR play the Royals.

In other words, I cannot think of a fundamentally democratic prescriptive solution to Indian corruption. And the people who drafted the Jan Lok Pal at least have thought up of something concrete, which is far better than I have.

Because if there has ever been a time to take a decisive step against corruption it is now.

This is because the last few years have seen corruption on an epic scale, unprecedented in its scope and the shamelessness arrogance of those involved.

In computer security, we are taught that it is impossible to fully secure a secret (just as it is impossible to get rid of corruption) and what one can do is make things so prohibitively expensive for an attacker  that there is no longer an incentive to execute a hack. For instance, if it takes 20,000 years for an attacker to break the encryption and get to your credit card number, it may reasonably be assumed that information wont be of much use to him by then. Which means he won’t even try. So maybe constituting a Lok Pal now and then a Lok-Square Pal to monitor the Lok Pal (once that becomes corrupt) and then a Lok-Cube Pal would ultimately create so many mouths “to feed” that corruption might become too expensive, so that at least in some cases, playing by the rules might be the cheaper alternative than it is now. And this might be the reason why our rulers have been so loathe to pass the Lok Pal for decades and why it has been diluted to the point of insignificance.

Of course there is the other side of the same argument, possibly the more realistic one. Because of the Lok Pal, the share of the pie for each powerful party would become smaller per transaction, with the share becoming progressively slimmer as each layer of oversight is added. This would then be compensated for by the interested parties through sheer volume of corrupt practices. A chilling possibility.

So it comes down to this. Given the scale of corruption extant in our country and how stifling it has been to our development,  is a non-democratic, patently imperfect attempt at a solution, with a bleak worst-case scenario (that of more corruption)  better than the definitely democratic but utterly rotten status quo?

Every time I think I know the answer, I realize I don’t.

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165 thoughts on “On The Jan Lok Pal Bill

  1. Totally correct GB on the middle class angst to ‘take back the country’ from the masses. The lok-pal bill is our version of Ayub Khan’s ‘basic democracy’ or Mushy’s ruling that only those with degrees can aspire to sit in parliament.

  2. What we need is a better understanding of the ramifications of the bill. Which is what the India media failed to bring out over all the feverish rhetoric.
    This kind of authoritarian body led by a group of people who are not accountable to the people is a recipe for even more corruption.Some aspects like the public grievance forum seem promising.

  3. “why bloggers who know everything or twitter Gods with more than 10K followers are not included in this list of the exalted.”

    😉

  4. Very well put. The Lok Pal bill, while very welcome is based on assumption that the occurrence of corruption itself cannot be prevented. Hence all we can do is discourage it by increasing the chances of its perpetrators being caught and punished. We already have that mechanism – the parliament, the executive and the judiciary are supposed to be A check on each other but it is the beauty of Indian ingenuity that we have twisted that Westminster model so that the 3 branches of government have their hands in the till together! What is the proviso that 5 years down the line this extra layer of morality that will be Lokpal does not join the others? (The fourth column – free press – is an oxymoron!)

    I feel the only solution is to have more transparent governance and take away the current power of netas and babus to have subjective decisions. Money is paid to them so have them take decisions in your favour – it becomes competitive corruption when there are multiple wannabees. Before decisions are taken, the options and the pros and cons of each needs to be put into the public domain. Even if it is only the chatterti who follow it it is still throw some light on the decision making mechanism.!

  5. @Greatbong:Absolutely super duper article.However one thing became clear through this entire movement.India needs to wake up.See the point is barely 10% or lesser person is actively taking part.Maybe 30% more is passively Supporting.However there still remains 60% large who really dont care who wins.If I look at the glass half empty it surely does disappoints me but instead if I look it half full i.e a whole 40% of Indian population is concerned that we are facing the ill effects of corruption and decides to contribute to the demise of it.

    I believe its atleast better to take a step forward and try to do something that rather waiting for the next election.

  6. I am desparately looking for a Magsasayayayay.

    Then I will go on a week long fast, get the ruling Party coalition (responsible for 90% of the corruption for the 90% of the time it ruled the country) to sacrifice a few pawns, while keeping their “born to rule” elites free from the mudslinging. In fact the “born to rule” elites of the ruling Party will suddenly develop conscience and will even support me. After that, the ruling Party would “bow” down to me and appoint me to some position, thus showing that it is actually removing corruption.

    The people will re-elect the ruling Party to power again to do more corruption.

    I will eat well in the meantime to prepare for my next weeklong fast.

  7. Excellent nuanced piece. You’ve captured most of the issues. It is a very hard thing to evaluate indeed! Being as cynical as I am, I can’t help but think that simply adding another institution will not do much to curb corruption. After all, all the other institutions have failed. But the positive energy of the mass movement is to be celebrated. Now, if only they agitated towards wholesale privatization of state-owned enterprises, re-establishment of private property rights, and freedom to the farmer (get rid of corporatist agricultural regulations), then movement towards these things would DEFINITELY reduce corruption.
    But I’m afraid even the educated middle class is too dumb to think in a systemic manner about the vast web of incentives, laws and regulations that results in corruption and what to do about it

  8. GB said: “In this context, the JanLok Pal Bill become an attempt by the marginalized urban English-educated classes to take back their country.” I wouldn’t make too much of the ‘English-educated’ bit – one look at the written material in the Facebook page of India against corruption dot org (especially the About page) sufficed to form such an opinion.

    But kudos to GB for pointing out the elephant in the room. Given the sweeping powers the Jan Lokpal is proposed to be invested, there is a very real possibility that this will create problems in near future for the democratic process, because – as we all know – power corrupts.

    The Jan Lokpal is to be appointed by a body of people of which, only one person is a democratically elected person. That means, no other person on this collegium is accountable to the public in any way. It creates a privileged elite class without any necessary restraint. In case of wrongdoings and problems, the Lokpal is not to be removed by a democratic process, but by a panel of supreme court judges.

    Frankly, it worries me.

  9. Spot on Great Bong…..great work as usual.
    Having said that, the constant references to Gunda is getting a bit rote (and this is coming from a Prabhuji bhakt)

    Agree with you on pretty much every front, but at some point there has to be a candle lit beneath some of the politician’s ass. Still wishing that the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament should have taken some of these scumbags instead of the policemen and the civilian. Atleast then they could have felt the brunt of terrorism first hand.

  10. W.r.t your point about LP, LP^2, LP^3, …, it is very true (meaning an established result) that once you need to have supervision you really need to have infinite layers! In firm theory, this is taken to mean that you cannot really have a finite size for the firm, but in practice cost considerations prevent this from happening, as you intuitively hint.

    Second, globalization has caused inequality to increase while at the same time adding more people to middle class. Higher inequality causes higher corruption. So it’ll be harder to weed out as India continues to “emerge/shine”.

    Although I understand the symbolism that they are trying to impart by using award-winners and social activists (very subtle, of course), the whole thing seems out of place. Why can’t we use regular govt. servants? Because they will become corrupt and these award winners will not. Pinky swear. Hmm. Some pinky, I guess.

  11. Very well articulated, GB. Thanks for brining this issue to the fore.

    In ‘Rang De Basanti’ isshtyle, ‘koi bhi des perfect nahi hota, use perfect banana padta hai’..so as you say despite Lok Pal bill being ‘imperfect attempt at a solution’, it’s worth attempting it.

  12. Well said GB, I am also one of those who have some reservations about this bill, but then what is the alternative, does anyone else have any other “actionable” alternative.

    The “actionable” part is of the utmost importance here, we have plenty of “thinktanks” and “political theorists” whose solution is the equivalent of string theory.

    If you can read hindi ravish makes an interesting point here,

    http://naisadak.blogspot.com/

  13. @Debipriya: Given that we’d given enough chances to govt servants, symbolism, although they may be imparting it, but why not give it a chance avoiding cynisim atleast some times?

  14. Well articulated and nuanced view; my sentiments exactly. However, I am (irrationally) more optimistic than you on the outcomes of this “movement”; some good will come out of it for sure. And you may be wrong in assuming that Anna’s anshan resonated amongst the urban middle class only; I for one was pushed by our cab driver in going to jantar-mantar.

  15. I wrote a post 2 days back.
    Some observations are strikingly the same as above.

    My personal opinion: A conspiracy theory, Congress was behind the scenes to get the bill on the table and they’ll pass it to whitewash their corrupt image.

  16. I vacillate on this topic too, but what they’re asking for is a overseeing body which has the right to arrest, file FIRs and pretty much do most of the stuff that the police does. That we haven’t got a better solution is not reason enough to condone it. The levels of corruption have been rampant and embarrassing for all Indians though. So something needs to be done. Having an advisory body, which is the government’s proposal might be a good idea. If there is an organization which can collect information on corruption and give to the right sources in the media, and spread the information virally through facebook, twitter and other channels, it might be enough to put sufficient pressure on the powers that be to take action.

    The bhodrolok point you made about why this movement is getting so much traction was very insightful. I must admit I did not think of that at all!

  17. @knightTemplar, I am all for doing something, anything, to get things under control. But I was just trying to understand why we need to resort to symbolism in the first place. Not all govt. servants are corrupt and many have been killed just because they were trying to be honest. Why did they not steal? What goes on in their minds/hearts? These are valid questions to which symbolism is an ad hoc answer. Cynicism was from skepticism, not for cynicism’s sake.

  18. Haven’t had the patience to read through the comments so I don’t know if this was brought up. While a fast-unto-death is technically only an “inconvenience to the self”, the reason why it is threat of violence is because, if Anna Hazare has any understanding of these things (which I’m very sure he does), his death will result in very severe rioting across the country. That is shows that his cause is a popular one cannot be denied. However, saying that a fast-unto-death of this sort is not a threat of violence is naive at best.

  19. “his death will result in very severe rioting across the country”

    Really?? Is he Rajkumar? I am sorry I cannot but disagree more strongly about this. None of Hazare’s fans are of the violent kind, he isnt Bal Thackeray or as I said Rajkumar in any way.

  20. @ Knight Templar

    I’m afraid the supporters are falling for the civil service syllogism (courtsey Yes Minister) wrt to Jan lok Pal. It goes something like the following:

    Step 1: ‘We must do something’
    Step 2: ‘This is something’
    Step 3: ‘Therefore we must do this’

  21. Absoloutely spot on with respect to Lok Pal Square and lok pal cube.

    But then being the true indian I am, i have reconciled myself to something being better than nothing. The only fear is the likes of Ms Roy getting on that panel. Now that would be something!

  22. This feeling of guilt about not having a concrete alternative proposal to the Jan Lok Pal bill is, IMO, unjustified. Just because we don’t have a good solution does not mean we should adopt an obviously bad one. This sort of thinking is immortalized in an episode of Yes Minister (Party Games). “We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it.”

  23. @Debipriya: By no way, I’m not suggesting all govt. staff is corrupt. I’ve due respect for those who’ve sacrificed their lives while guarding the nation’s interest.

    If we’ve to build something effective, can we, at the desing stage, be foolproof by avoiding the ‘govt’ element (which doesn’t mean to neglect the honest ‘least common denominator’ fraction of staff but to isolate it from the major ‘corrupt’ chunk). And we can’t write off some worthy people just because they’re ‘award winners’ and ‘social activists’..

  24. Ah. Silly me. Didn’t look at the Arnie’s comment above. Except, arnie, that is the logic of a politician, not a civil servant :).

  25. @GreatBong: Perhaps you’re right. His supporters are the “English-speaking Urban Middle Class”. The most violence they can inflict on this country is a flurry of 140-character tweets on how India is lost forever. But its not the supporters that will erupt into spontaneous violence. Well-tipped ring-leaders will be needed to do that. Do you doubt, though, that they will be available aplenty?

  26. Why cant the Lokpal work like the Indian judiciary does? AFAIK, the judiciary is largely free of corruption. At least news of corruption in judiciary doesnt make the press- which must mean that it is on a much smaller scale than that of our “leaders”.
    I understand that there would be a lot more money available for the potentially corrupt in the Lokpal as compared to the judiciary (so more incentive to be corrupted), but special measures can be taken to see that everyone involved the Lokpal are not making any money through graft.

  27. Ooooo I wrote a funny line therefore I win the argument. The bill is not final I believe there are going to be discussion and modifications. Powerful ombudsman exist in a lot of better governed countries in the world. Go and read up on those its not tough, quoting sit-coms and indulging in Yo-momma contests doesn’t add anything positive to the debate.

  28. My view

    Media Created Bill
    All Corrupt people Supports it
    Useless bill that can do more harm than good
    Anna’s stance on death penalty and prohibition – stone age type

    Someone from Govt + Media did a deal with Anna – ” a fake revolution
    to fool the general people. People see, watch,believe what they see
    on TV. First they elect corrupt people and now they fake this revolution”

    I know lot of people who supported this. All of them produce fake medical
    bills and fake rent bills.

    Enough said 🙂

  29. I appreciate the underlying concern about the activist siege mentality behind the entire issue. But Arnab , my point is how many times has one been able to get a passport/driving license without paying a buck in bribe and that too on time??? I fully agree with you when you mean that the politicians aren’t aliens from outerspace but people like us who have power. Very true. And as Indians you me and everybody is responsible for putting him/her on the throne. The whole RDB mentality is popular because it is seemingly more easier to take to violence and kill than go on a crusade against corruption by refusing to pay a bribe and register complaints. I reckon the problem is the illusion that the LokPal will give the public a panacea against all forms of corruption and mismanagment. But how to stop the robbing tribe?? Inner conflict continues..

  30. In Maharastra its not just urban middle class though as Anna has following in rural parts to some extent. And urban poor class is most hit by price rise that’s why they are also supporting this movement.

  31. We did not participate in making of the constitution. Some few people drafted it. Most just accepted it on the good intentions. All of us, in this generation, just inherited it. Our agreement to the whole of constitution was assumed.

    If you feel some part of the constitution was not fair, would you fight it from within its rules, or outside it ? That is the paradox.

  32. The only way to get rid of corruption is more liberty and less power in the hands of the few. For example you can get a driving license without giving any driving tests for Rs.500 aprox.

    If we abolish licensing to drive the vehicle totally, there would be no corruption. It is not the case that only if we are issued license, only then can one become perfect driver.

    And in any case, licenses are issued just for money without any verification process. So what is the use of driving license?

    So if we eliminate the power of government, to issue licenses or tax public (tax money anyways ends in the hands of corrupt babus), there would be zero corruption.

  33. @pkr Would appreciate a short list of countries having such bodies. I’d genuinely like to know and read. I (lazily) promote a forum which makes the argument that the citizenry must be well-informed to make a useful contribution to societal debates.

    As for the quote from Yes Minister – the intention was not to say that the Jan Lok Pal bill is a waste etc. It was to point out that the reason to do something should not be that you do not have a better alternative. Any action should be judged on its own merits. Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something wrong. Also, sitcoms are not necessarily rubbish and Yes Minister is a much more serious work, although it is couched in satire. It is fairly easy to read/watch it and it will give you some insight into the internal workings of Governments/Bureaucracies (it is not spun out of thin air).

  34. @Harshal You seem to be a Libertarian/Austrian in the making. Head over to Sauvik’s blog (http://sauvik-antidote.blogspot.com) to see an extreme version of what you’re saying (removal of all regulation, amongst other things). You may or may not like it, but it will be educative.

    @GB Sorry for spamming your comments section. It’s like a honey-trap for me today 🙂

  35. Quite nuanced analysis as others have already commented!

    A certain section of society seeks to assume power ‘sideways’ without becoming a part of the political process. I don’t FOR ONE SECOND buy their argument that the existing system has so much structural inertia that you can’t change it from inside and thus this sort of coup is required. It’s simply that they find out that the overwhelming rest of India (yes, it exists!) has priorities different to theirrs….. Among them those who simply don’t want to rigorously, honestly push the views of their demographic (which is a very valid and just line of action) in the midst of all the functional chaos simply take the easy way out.

    Except select few like Annaji himself and Kiran Bedi who have done stellar work in their fields and have a history of being real stand-up folk, I am extremely cynical of the twitteratti and NGO b00bs and windbags like Swami Agniwaste who fronted this action. Yeah, the now very political Swami Ramdev too. BTW, half these media-waalahs and Magsasssys (sic) JNU Jholawaalahs have tried to enter mainstream politics or join the Iron Frame (UPSC) but simply couldn’t make it. (We have seen their likes bend over backwards once they get rajya Sabha seats or plump postings in corporations/govt committies also.) Now they team up in the guise of “civil society” and try to weasel into the state structure.
    F#$@ them and the BMW they drove into town!

  36. I completely agree with every one of your words and thoughts. I have been pretty vociferous in arguing with all and sundry mindless followers of every media-hyped crusade..with little effect! I really am unable to understand why educated, well-to-do people suddenly lose all logic and sense and pick up candles converting their town squares into veritable Tahrir Squares. How would that help solve this, or any problem.
    The root of the corruption problem lies in a people who suddenly found themselves gifted with Independence, without the necessary equipment to handle it. There was lack of education, awareness and the aftermath of decades of blind following of one movement, one man. The systems that sprang into place had their shortfalls and thus evolved any-which-way.
    As we grew, the problems too expanded. The selfish ends of greedy leaders added to the woes.
    Today- the scenario has developed into an unsurmoutable one. Corruption is as much part of the heritage of free India as is the Taj Mahal!Whether we approve of it or not. Yes-a crusade IS required. But not one led by blackmailing the nation nor one based on firing up of false patriotism in the hearts and souls of the non-thinkers. Because, they will retreat back into their own lives as the next media-hype comes along. Or the next cricket match.
    The crusade that may be able to uproot this deeply entrenched evil, has to begin in each home, each person’s life. Whether is means complying with the laws of the land (paying taxes, following traffic rules, not paying to have female foetuses removed, saying NO to dowry, to polythene, to pollution…)or actively spreading awareness and education amongst the deprived… This is our only hope. I just pray that We, The People of the world’s largest democracy, learn to honour and uphold our very identity.
    Seema Tyagi

  37. Agree that “cynic is the new pseudo-secular label”.

    On the issue of hunger fasts, my take is that it’s coercion (at best) and blackmail (at worst). I elaborate on this (points #7 and #8) in my post – largely drawn from Atanu Dey’s blog and Mihir Sharma’s Indian Express piece.

    http://ulaar.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/the-curious-and-unexpected-affair-of-anna-the-hazare/

    Also, just because YOU’VE been unable to come up with something concrete to fix India’s corruption morass and the Jan Lok Pal appears to be something ‘concrete’, it doesn’t make it right. We don’t need no consolation prizes (best case scenario) nor do we need something that can make matters worse. I believe there are only 2 answers (neither of which are short-term or populist/silver-bullet’ish in nature):

    1. We need more economic liberalization (what Nitin Pai refers to as “Reforms 2.0”) and reduce the amount of “discretionary powers” that today’s politicians have. How else does one explain state govts funding the crores of grants to World Cup winning cricketers from “education” budgets?
    http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2010/12/reforms20/

    2. The urban middle class needs to get more involved in democracy. Yeah – we’ve all heard this before. Need to vote more (but that’s not all). We need to familiarize ourselves with policies (think PRS Legislative Services). We need to support really worthy urban middle class candidates. And I also think Atanu Dey’s idea of “voting as blocs” may not be such a crazy idea. And continue to put pressure (through influentials, organized forums, etc.) on the govt to push for Reforms 2.0. None of this is an overnight affair. Sorry – no short-cuts here.

    Vishy

  38. GB,

    There is corruption everywhere. It is not just an India problem, it is a global problem. In the US, there is the crony capitalistic version of corruption — where there is complete deregulation, utter fraud within the banking and financial sector and has lead the entire global economy to chaos. (See Inside Job documentary for further details). In Argentina for example, there is the socialistic version of corruption.

    As long as the world runs on a fiat monetary system (doesn’t matter what currency, all currencies in the world are by decree of respective governments/central banks), the problem of corruption will continue to exist. When the private central banks (such as the Federal Reserve in the USA) can control the money supply and legal tender, they control literally everything.

    I believe putting the monetary system firmly in the control of the people will lead to an end in corruption. A true republic (‘representative of the public’) can exist only if the people have power over what the government can or cannot do. People have this power if people determine what should be the legal tender.

    Fiat money systems make people really lose the true meaning of what money is. Brain research in MIT has shown that money has the same effect like cocaine. Clearly, this is a delusion because you cannot create money out of thin air. Yet that is exactly what central banks all around the world do, and people seem to think that they get richer while in fact they are actually getting poorer due to the stealthy tax called inflation.

    @Parijat above: removal of regulation is definitely not the libertarian or austrian point of view. In a fiat money system, regulation is of paramount importance and all Austrian economic scholars (including Ludwig Von Mises) expressed their worries for the highly radical policies of Alan Greenspan. Low interest rates, complete deregulation and lack of oversight leads to corruption at alarmingly high levels.

  39. @austrian_man So far as I understand (and I may well understand it wrong), the Austrian position is the abolishment of fiat money and complete liberalization of the markets. This second is, in my interpretation, the same as saying that there should be no regulation. Would an Austrian economist say that the SEC must oversee and regulate the derivatives market?

    In any case, let’s not hijack this thread. Any other place we can bicker?

  40. I don’t have a expertise in this matter but as a aam adami let see will this euphoria effect my life and if yes what my contribution in it. The day on which anna went on hunger strike it was known that a corrupt government will bow down to his demand that why this policy of gire to bhi tang uppar. Media Project a honest leader desire, few words exchange between government and anna and a compromise between both the party. People supporting the right cause applauded and who hasn’t they r self centred personalities. In a democracy every one has a right to choose what to do or don’t but to give a gyaan what is right or not is no one business.

    For me the end result is anna became rebel hero, govt. a dejected villain and politicians and other left interest became the charming heroine and as usual janata was the one left for clapping and cheering.

  41. Ok, if i was following it right – Govt was already working on a Lokpal bill (when were they planning to present it, i dont know) and Hazare’s opposition was to the contents of the bill. Hence, “the bunch” created another version and presented to the Government as a ‘Jan’ lokpal bill. The public support happened because people were angry with what was going on in the country and that fuelled the support all across – “kuch to karna hoga”. Since, none of us have an alternate solution, i whole heartedly support this as this is SOMETHING being done about it. By the time elections come, priorities will change. Now atleast we know that a lokpal bill will be passed in the next few months, which didnt happen in last 48 years.

    What i like about Jan Lokpal bill – the fact that it talks about recovering the money back. Otherwise as per today’s law in the country, Raja could get out and enjoy all the money he stole, no question asked.

  42. Sure we can, if GB fears the conversation is going away from the core issue. The core issue is corruption and I think we’re still talking about it, so we’re okay.

    Austrian position is definitely abolishment of fiat money, putting the medium of exchange (what is chosen as the money) and the money supply firmly in control of the people. A free market would automatically exist, if the money was in control of the people. Because money has constant value in the minds of the people, transactions will take place between people only if the goods/services offered are efficient/desirable. Inefficiencies will automatically be removed. Free markets can function in such way, only if government intervention does not exist. Note government intervention is not the same as liberalization. Liberalization is saying that “I have control over something and I’ll let go”. The control is firmly in the hands of the people, so the government should just leave it that way.

    An Austrian economist would say that the SEC should oversee and regulate the derivatives market, if the monetary system is fiat. If the monetary system is with the people, the fancy derivatives market itself will not exist because derivatives is a mountain of debt, you cannot create a mountain of debt if you cannot create money out of thin air.

    Derivatives (Collateralized Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps) were the weapons of financial mass destruction in the US. They were the tools of corruption for private investment banks as well as commercial banks in the United States.

  43. Like in California, if we could “recall” politicians by asking for a special vote, it would definitely keep them in check. “Recall” process should need to gather 60% or 70% of votes in favor of recall. Recalled politician should not be allowed to contest in election organized to replace him/her.

  44. @austrian_man I think I’m more irked by your use of the term “weapons of financial mass destruction” than the fact that you think that derivatives cannot exist in the world of non-fiat money. A derivative is just a bet on a future event and that does not require a fiat currency. A free market (in the Austrian sense) would happily lend money to other people and would even like someone to take over the risk of default (CDS). Similarly, people would also lend money for housing… and hence CDOs could also be created. The reason why we had the mess was because financial institutions flogged these loans etc to unsuspecting people. People who thought they could have something for nothing or people who were otherwise ill-informed. Information asymmetry is not going anywhere and therefore Government regulation of market activity will be required – whether fiat money and fractional reserve banking exist or not.

    I agree with you that the existence of discretionary powers is the biggest source of corruption in any system. However, leaving everything to free markets is likely to be as big a catastrophe as the other.

  45. Dear GreatBong,

    For once I do not agree with you. I do realize that the Lokpal Law suggested by the Anna team is flawed, but the bill that was being considered by our “elected” reps was even more flawed.(BTW, the committee had Sharad Pawar as member which is a bit like having Osama or Hafiz Sayeed as members of a panel framing a Anti-Terror Law!) I am not aware of the Tea-Party activisties, but whatever method Mr Hazare in his considered wisdom thought correct, he took up. Anyway,in spite of having so many distinguished blog writers and “Twitter Gods” in our country, nobody in our country had ever shown the intent of doing anything about- to put it mildly – the rising level of brazen loot in this country. As for our “elected reps”, the less said the better. The electoral system in this ountry is a bit like our film industry. Families whose heads came earlier (and hoarded the maximim money to survice the next few elections) than the rest have monopolized it. And though its wrong to compare Miss Indias and criminals, only the smartest of the lot are given previleged entry in to the film industry and politics. So though ideally while democracy should give people a choice, in reality they have no choice. Anna and team say that the long overdue electoral reforms are next on their agenda. Lets give them a chance and see what they come up with in their discussion with “elected reps”. After all do we have an alternative protest going?

    Thanks,
    Ratheen

  46. I actually agree with the more economic freedom part. Think of the horrible processes we had earlier to get a phone connection. Waiting. Bribing. and Praying. The monopoly of BSNL was lifted and see the ease in getting connections now. Mind you, a lot of STD booth operators did go out of business. But it was good overall and the booth operators also started to do well.

    There are so many places that economic independence could increase. Organized retail and the consequent streamlining of supply chains is one. The middlemen and the small kirana owners would get out of business for a short time but then they would bounce back too.

    Another one is more transparent tendering process. People have the RTI. They could sue the government to open the sealed bids and put it up online. The entire tendering could be done online. Couple of state government (Karnataka, I guess?) are already doing it.

    However, all said and done corruption can not really be entirely removed. And that is not that bad a thing. Even Warren Buffet said that even “America was built on corporate corruption”. I think that giving more freedom and making things more transparent would reduce it significantly.

    And anyway that is better than a draconian extra-constitutional body have the powers to make rules, execute them and pass judgements on that rule. That would be the death knell of our democracy.

  47. I didnt go thru the rest of the comments.
    Your perception is right. Exact thoughts thats in my mind.
    GB, a good write up after a long time from those crappy cricket thesis!!

  48. Well, you must admit that the whole affair has an unusual whiff of fresh air to it- there was relegion sidelined, there were politicians like Uma turned away and even if you may insist on the “middleclassness” of the whole thing, one can hardly consider the chaiwalas and balloonwallas middle class. It had Sonia scurrying from her speech encouraging the corruption king Karuna back to calm the party that was beserk. The primeminister who is already quite tongue tied, was even more so. I dont think the gujjar agitation got this kind of response even from the gujjars. Once in hundred years do we come across a selfless individual and this event is so rare that people had to flock to Jantar mantar to see if it was real. Such an individual seems to be even more rare than milk drinking ganesh idols (that by the way, united india like nothing else)

  49. GB, My friend directed to this site. I read your article and most of the reply.
    It was dis-heartening to know that such a educated class are give lectures or views without knowing what is “Jan Lok Pal” bill. What is difference between “Lok Pal Bill” (Govt sponsored) and “Jan Lok Pal” bill. It seems you have lot of followers which is good. Since you are popular you should be more careful what you write which can have great consequences.

    “Jan Lok Pal” bill gives a organization which will investigate and prosecute the guilty. It will not formulate any policy. Where is the power ?

    Do you know how to launch a complaint against a judge ?
    Do you know if you want to launch a complaint against an IAS or IPS officer what is the procedure ?
    Do you know what is the procedure to launch a complaint against a govt clerk in any department ?
    Do you know what is the procedure to launch a complaint against any govt official and how the complaint is followed. Who is accountable. ?

    You and most of the people who replied in your blog don’t have any IDEA.

    Friendly advice Read “Jan Lok Pal” bill again and understand it correctly.

    In democracy just casting your vote once in 5 years is not enough. Every citizen should be vigilant and protect their freedom everyday. If people think that Govt. is not doing work correctly then they have every right to raise their voice against it.

    Please Please for sake of the country atleast read the Bill carefully and have a understanding why CBI, CVC and ED are all ineffective.

  50. Arnab, your evaluation/observation that this was purely a middle-class phenomenon is not correct. There were autorickshaw pullers, housewives, retired armymen, freedom-fighters, primary teachers and all. Please read the following blog-entry by Ravish Kumar of NDTV-India (known for his reports of “Bharat” vis-a-vis India Shining) on this Jantar-Mantar phenomenon: http://naisadak.blogspot.com/2011/04/blog-post_10.html

  51. @GB – “is a non-democratic, imperfect solution, with a bleak worst-case scenario (that of more corruption) better than the democratic but rotten status quo? Every time I think I know, I realize I don’t”.

    I ‘do’ know the answer Arnabda. And it is a resounding YES.

    The determining factors are
    (a) the extent of the problem &
    (b) the risks associated with the solution.

    It is like asking for an extremely strong pain killer, with possible strong side affects, when one is writhing in agony. The questions are (a) what is the extent of the torment & (b) what are the side effects (& their probabilities).

    If I have mild pain, and the label on the pill says “may cause death”, I should naturally decline. If I am screaming in grizzly distress and the label says “may cause rashes”, I will munch down pills like gujiya.

    And if my spirit is jaay-jaay as I am being disembowelled, even if the label reads “may cause death”, I will still imbibe them, as a high-probable future demise is infinitely better than a definite yet gruelling and imminent horrible death.

    So the questions are :
    (a) has corruption reached that extent?
    (b) what are the risks of ombudsmanship?

    Q1 : HAS CORRUPTION REACHED THAT EXTENT?
    —————————————–
    I don’t think we need to even deliberate the first question. Under the horrid Congress, corruption reached that level over 15 years ago.

    Previously ministers stole millions. Then the Lalloos and A.Rajas came on board, unfettered by any bounds of common decency. And now, as a poor nation, we witness the loot of BILLIONs.

    The body politic is rotten to the core. Criminals are swamping the political arena. Civil services are hanging by a thread.

    Yes, the Congress & chamchas have rotted the nation to the extent that a powerfull pill is not only justified, but long overdue.

    Q2 : WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF OMBUDSMANSHIP?
    —————————————–
    Of course there are risks that the office of ombudsman may itself be corrupted. But this is still firmly ensconced in the realms of “what if”. Should we really be deferring a highly necessary deterrent to a clear and present crime? A crime that has reached unprecedented and intolerable levels? And all under the apprehension of a probable, and certainly future, defect in the deterrent?

    Further, note that the office of ombudsman has the luxury of shedding political constraints. For e.g., to be a true Congressi or one of its chamchas, you HAVE to hate Hindus with seething fury. You HAVE to at least dream to bleed a wounded India dry of its remaining feeble life-force. You HAVE to zealously, vociforously and effectively support at least one inimical group hell-bent on torturing India and ateempting to dismember it.

    The office of ombudsman is under no compulsion to assimilate such traits as second nature.

    And further, the ombudsman’s activities have to be fairly visible and transparent. There are ways and means people can adopt to find the truth. Gone are the days when you could effectively conceal all the rolling heads of your decapitated victims in your closet by entering short term muta “marriages” (sic) with a rotten media and paying them off.

    Remember what happened to PJ Thomas.

    All is not lost. It is not 12 o’clock yet. But it is certainly 10 minutes to 12. And the clock is ticking.

  52. @GB – agreed to most things in your article except the following thought process.
    “is a non-democratic, patently imperfect attempt at a solution, with a bleak worst-case scenario (that of more corruption) better than the definitely democratic but utterly rotten status quo?”

    Although I somewhat agree with regards to the more corruption theory, I am not sure if this movement can be termed “non-democratic”. Also, you would be surprised that Ana Hazare has a much larger recognition in rural India, esp in Maharashtra. The fact that it came into main stream media news made the middle-class sit up and take notice and like you said, got their support for the lack of an alternative solution.
    So I for one am cautiously excited about it, although I am also not very kicked about some of the stalwarts in the “committee”, unless it is non-democratic 😉

  53. Out of the total number of votes cast in all elections, what do you think is the percentage cast because the voter believes that a political representative will actually do some good to his ward / block / circle / state or country? Miniscule. The ‘middle class’ doesn’t vote because it knows nothing’s going to change, the ‘upper class’ gets it’s work done regardless of who’s in power, and the ‘lower class’ would rather take immediate profits than wait for promises of development over a long term.

    Lok Pal Bill combined with the UID might just be the solution. IF UID captures the voting activity of an individual and it is mandated that ONLY a person who has participated in the voting (remember that he / she can vote for ‘nobody’ too) process can register complaints of corruption with the Lok Pal, then what do you think will happen? The middle class, and eventually even the upper class will be forced to participate in the process, which in the long term will lead to change in the corruptocracy!

    But, most importantly, the cost of living with corruption must outweigh the cost of voting and getting your complaint resolved with the Lok Pal. For this, protection of the compliant, quick and effective resolution of the complaint and a functioning democracy are paramount.

    Until this happens, all the twitter feeds and the candle light marches and the hunger strikes won’t stop a laborer in Tamil Nadu from accepting the proferred 500 Rs note, a TV and a bottle of sarraku and vote for whatever symbol the distributor told him to vote for!

    http://in.news.yahoo.com/cash-votes-rains-tamil-nadu-rs-5-11-20110405-012027-866.html

  54. Rather than a lokpal bill, if only we could ensure the independence of the judiciary, PILs and judicial activism is a very effective way to keep a check on the government. The trouble with judiciary off late has been the appointment of retired judges to various parliamentary committees. The present crop of judges (some of them) wish to be on the favourable side of the ruling party so that they’d be appointed to such committees after retirement. This connection between the government and the judiciary needs to be severed. How? This is what Anna Hazare should have probably fasted for.

    The middle class needs to start voting too, but among the voting middle class which used to vote congress because it was involved in lesser evils than the bjp, I’m curious to find out who we’re going to vote into power in the next elections. Where are the alternatives?

    A lot has been said about driving licenses, I underwent the complete process to get mine. Wasn’t very bothersome. Same with passport. But I needed the driving license as a proof for opening a bank account. Some other proof for passport and so on.. let us hope the UID project can help with that. But I don’t see why one needs to pay for licenses/passports etc.

  55. “This is because the last few years have seen corruption on an epic scale, unprecedented in its scope and the shamelessness arrogance of those involved.”

    What do you mean? That corruption has been brought to the public attention more or that even after adjusting for inflation, the years have seen more in the sheer scale of the corruption, esp. with respect with the sums of monies involved.

    Or both?

    i would tend to think that there is a lot more vendetta going around coupled with a self fulfilling feeling of “why not me” than anything else. I think this would hold true of the ousting of Mr. Modi and many other examples. Big problem with this fundamentally is that no one amongst us can really be sure of it. how does one know if A is telling the ‘complete truth and nothing but the complete truth’ versus B who shouts it louder? Who decides who’s truth is mightier?

    Unfortunately, since i inherently agree with “According to some of Anna’s critics, his Gandhian mode of “starve-to-death” protest is a form of blackmail, a method of agitation that by appealing to emotion and creating a “ticking clock”, essentially subverts the democratic process.”, it leaves me too conflicted.

    Though, i was one of those who took an hour off my busy schedule but i can assure i did’nt do any of the rest. 😛

  56. When i started reading this blog, i was thinking..”All this glib talking is fine, but what alternative do you have in mind”…im glad u admitted later in this blog that you have no alternative solution to corrruption. My view is that the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill seems to give overriding powers, but this is only a draft..im sure it will be watered down and necessary checks n balances will be added.

  57. Brilliant article. This confusion as to what i sbetter, status quo or the bill becoming law, is what keeps me from supporting this whole movement.
    Also, if it does become law, implementation is another issue altogether. In India, we have laws for everything (including several anti-corruption provisions), but zero implementation. That is what is most likely to happen in this case, after the whole hoo-haa to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill.

  58. Hello,
    Very well written and honest article. This whole “Anna For India” raises mixed feelings for many people (including yours truly).

  59. Too disappointed with your reasoning this time. We elect the politicians and we should elect better ones if one is corrupt, so far so good, but what about the punishment for corruption while being on the chair with our toothless laws and judicial system. No one has the patience to allow the law to take its own course.
    We are just reforming the system by shifting the burden of corruption cases in govt to Lokpal. Chief justice of India doesn’t need Chief Square Justice to over look him, does he? And neither will Lokpal need it.

    As far as Blackmailing is concerned I guess Kirori Sing Bainsla, MNS, Shiv Sena and RPI are the ones who Blackmail the people and government.

    The most important point is when every party and politician is corrupt whom should we elect. Shouldn’t we then be moving to reform the system where corruption is not the incentive to win elections.

  60. Really well written…
    But what I really wonder is why politicians are singled out for corruption when most of the urban educated engineers submit fake HR and medical bill?

    And isn’t it true that we killed our independent music industry by piracy?

  61. Spot on. Summarizes my feeling towards the whole episode:
    1. Yes, corruption has to be curbed. Duh.
    2. But the proposed Bill may not really be the brightest solution.
    3. Blackmailing the govt into passing the Bill gets you no brownie points.
    4. But then again, if not Jan Lok Pal, then what?

  62. Pingback: Jan Lokpal Bill « I am because I can be

  63. I was a little positive on the process, not the merit of the bill, but the sheer fact that this government was getting arm twisted gave me orgasmic pleasure…till I saw Shabana Azmi supporting there with a weird tri colour cap…

    I switched off the TV…

    As of the media, I wonder what they would say if someone starts a protest against them regarding the Nira Radia tape…

  64. The bill is important. However we also needs to look at electoral reforms. One needs to have easier procedure to vote for no candidate. (49 0). Also we need to have procedure to call back candidate if they do not perform. The government does not have the will. Do we??

  65. To be able to express clarity in thought is a skill. To be able to articulate conflict in thought (and feeling) is a gift. Sir, you are gifted.

  66. 1. GB, spot on with ur very first observation – about politicians coming fro an outer space. This “depoliticisation” or “being apolitical” – practiced by the middle classes is the biggest danger this country is facing. The motley group of people claiming “civilian representation” is precisely this – apolitical. If you have any doubt, check out the video on youtube where mr. arvind kejriwal explains the selection process of Jan Lokpal. check out how many times he uses the word apolitical members. Its a joke – with nobel winners of indian origin also named as members of the panel to choose lokpal. This could mean non-indians can choose who should rule over Indians.

    2. I dont kow what they mean when they say its an Indian wid emovement. I, for sure, know that no body in Kerala or Taminadu gave sh*t about it. I am sure tht people in Karnataka, other than Bangalore, too cared zilch for this. 100, or 1000 people deciding for the entire population what they want ? forget it…

    3. Lokpal bill – how is it supposed to reduce the day to day corruption I face in my life ? like that in the local Electricity board ? RT office ? ration office ? Dont we have enough laws in this country ?

    4. The simple fact is the Indian middle class’ obsession with a dictator – since they have money, freedom and almost everything , which more than 60% of the population dont have, they now want to be ruled by a dictator, like at the time of Indira’s emergency, so that buses and trains run on time, every govt: employee works properly etc. The gross violation of human rights – forced vasectomy operations, arrests without any record, brutal killing of youngsters and then caqlling them naxalites (as if thats a sufficient reason for murdering them in the lockup) etc doesnt matter to the memebrs of this this cra**y middleclas, as long as everyone in their family is safe. Its such rabid individualism which is at work here.

  67. Wonder of wonders !!! India’s ruling party (CON-gress) announces “August 15” as India’s Republic Day (“Prajasattak Din”).

    See this photograph.

    This is a Freudian Slip on the part of the CON-gress because it knows that India never really achieved Independence on August 15, 1947. It is a myth. This day (August 15, 1947) marked a mere “Transfer of Power” from a British autocrat to a like-minded “Englishman at heart”.

    The epoch-making contributions of this “Englishman at heart” are:
    – he turned the Congress as the “Fountainhead of Corruption” and legitimised corruption at all levels of governance.
    – he turned the Congress in a den of nepotism and single-family domination, whose mixed-European descendents have monopolised their control over India even after four generations.
    – he virtually sidelined, expelled or rendered honest Congress leaders persona non grata in their own party Ex: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Dr.Syama Prasad Mookherjee.
    – he appointed Brown-sahibs to render bureaucratic red-tape and stifle private sector growth.
    – he envisioned the re-writing of Indian history by Indophobes and Ignoramuses.
    – he kept Indians poor, hungry, illiterate and divided on caste, creed and language – in order to keep them desperate and get their votes in perpetuity.
    – he gifted vast Indian territories to Pakistan (in 1948) and China (in 1962).
    – he refused to fence India’s borders with Pakistan (both West and East) and China.
    – he gave away India’s UN Security Council seat to China.

    Can anyone guess whose legacy is being referred to here?

  68. Glad you brought up the case of Tea-parties. It is the middle class that prompted the rise of the tea-party towards the end of the Bush era. In India, again its mostly the affluent middle-class that is driving the anti-corruption drive.
    The fundamental problem, as I view, is the mindset of the people. In India, we look upto the government to get things done, we laud nationalization drives, we vote for the party in local elections just so that we can get the job of a school teacher through connections or for free sops, we generally hunt for connections/ relatives to fix an administrative problem without giving any scant regard as to the ethics. Most of our “problems” in my belief is because we like to think of ourselves more as a part of the society than as an individual. Thats why we follow the herd mindset and are more happy than not in sustaining a bloated, corrupt system.
    On the other hand, my outsider’s view of the US has been that of a traditionally conservative nation that puts firm emphasis on the individual freedom. The tea-party movement has been a protest against the government intervention policies. They are protesting govt-run universal health-care, govt take-over of firms like GM. Who in India or even Europe will think its a bad idea to implement such well-intentioned govt schemes sustained through “punishing the working people”? ( Of course, there are lots of loons in the tea party as well, with signs like ” Get the government off my medicare”). But on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised to know there existed a substantial chunk people who are more interested in solving their problems by themselves rather than taking help from the government, the kind of sentiment I will never hear in India.
    “Swades” portrayed this theme of self-reliance against govt-dependence to some extent.

  69. Passing bills like Jan Lokpal is not the solution to the problem of corruption. However, it can serve to aid the cause.

    One hope in phasing out corruption is large scale adoption of technology over a period of time. If we can trace black money and make sure all transactions can be tracked through technology, we might have a solution. The moment we start using credit cards/ ATM cards and cheques for any transaction beyond 500 rupees, we can take a step in the right direction. If we can make black money difficult to be deployed, people will have lesser incentive to be corrupt and accumulate black money. That is probably the simplest solution to the problem.

  70. @Parijat:

    lol You should get irked at Warren Buffet then, he was the one who used the term Financial WMD. I think it was appropriate and he was right in terming it that way.

    Since you think CDOs and CDS are fine, Let me break this down for you: do you understand what leverage means? Let us say for example, that I own a house. Now I need to insure the house against fire, how many times do you think I can insure it? 1:1 is the fair answer, right? Can it be 50:1? As in if my house burns down in fire, I’ll get 50 times its value. Will anyone insure it for me like that?

    However that is exactly what happened with CDO and CDS. While investment firms sold CDO to unsuspecting pension, retiree mutual funds in the United States and even world wide to foreign banks (CDO were AAA rated securities), the investment firms themselves protected against the failure of these CDO using CDS at a leverage of 50:1. Jeez, you say — well then let’s regulate the investment firms so that they won’t take such leverage. I say — well let’s tackle the problem at the root. Why does such leverage come about in the first place? It exists only because there is cheap credit (another fancy word for debt). If you have a finite money supply, the leverage is automatically curtailed by the limited money supply in the system. If the money is also in control of the people, then great — no government intervention is required, as each person can be expected to act towards his own selfish interests.

    I used to be one of the sheeple who thought that there’s no low level corruption in the US, it is only at the highest level, doesn’t affect day to day life etc…Now I am not. I realize that the corruption in the US is so pervasive, yet so obscure that most people don’t even realize it is going on. On every paycheck, every American worker is getting fleeced…you ask how? Social Security and Medicare…you really think a bankrupt government will be able to pay for your Social Security and Medicare in another 30 years?

    GB’s comment on the Tea Party movement shows his superficial understanding on American politics. All this Tea party noise is just that, noise. Nothing meaningful has come out of it. The country will still have a fiscal deficit of more than 1.5 trillion dollars next year, wait and watch. The US government shutdown was a huge political farce and the government will continue to spend beyond its means…of course, that can’t go on forever. They will dance until the music stops.

  71. Speaking of dividing Indians on caste, can India get rid of caste by the CON-gress making it mandatory for everyone to be identified by his or her caste (even if we don’t wish to)?

    Think about it … The CON-gress wishes to harden casteist identities of each and every person by etching it in stone, instead of uniting Indians by minimising caste.

    1) The CON-gress made it mandatory for all students’ caste to be written down in school registers, starting from the primary school onwards. Why?

    2) The recent 2010 census highlighting the castes of Indian citizens is another example. Why was the “caste-based census” done now by the CON-gress when the previous decades’ census procedures did not require it?

    3) Here is more proof. Yesterday, the CON-gress mouthpiece put out a casteist advertisement on Indian freedom fighters: Bhagat Singh as a Jat; Sukhdev and Rajguru as Brahmins … and now, the Con-gress spokesperson justifies it by calling Gandhiji a Bania.

    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/cong-calls-freedom-fighter-bhagat-singh-a-jat/149021-37-64.html

  72. Maybe the question should have been– do we actually want to see end to corruption, or just the corruption that does not make my life easier?

  73. @ D
    “Maybe the question should have been– do we actually want to see end to corruption, or just the corruption that does not make my life easier?”

    Thats a very good observation D.
    The reason Congress and later the tagalongs could legitimize corruption to this level over the last 60 years, is because people in India are not against corruption to begin with.

    The person who has the chance to swindle a 100 rupees, swindles the 100 rupees & the person who has the chance to swindle a 100000 crores, swindles the 100000 crores.

    The only complain that the one who swindles the 100 has, is that he wants to be the one who swindles 100000 crores.

    That is the reason, we have elected one coterie led Congress to rule India for most of its Independent history.

    @ Eswami,
    I have to agree with you about the original motivators and controllers behind this “movement”. Very smart move by the Congress and probably they have taken a unassailable advantage with this Hazare misdirection. What a masterstroke.
    But Modi, Ramdev, and Sri Sri Ravishankar, with their counter-moves, may just be able do to a hailmary pass on the coterie and save the day.

    Just hoping for the best.

  74. Excellent analysis.

    I think most of us do not know the exact details of Lokpal bill, but showed support to Hazare, just because somebody was there to stand up against the government. But until we do not make an effort to change ourselves, we cannot expect the society to change.

    Your point about the selection criteria for committee reminds me of “Simpsons” episode, where the elites of Springfield took over the city hall, only to find themselves bickering over trivial matters.

  75. Excellent post, well written. Such discussion often reminds me of the story where commoners have gone mad after drinking from a well and the only way the royal family can retain their place is by drinking from the same well themselves. Thanks !

  76. Blog of an unknown indian – ” I went for the Anna hazare protest march today. It felt so good-I feel great participating in this great movement. We will root out corruption and tell these dastardly politicians thatthey can’t mess with us any more.
    On the way back from the march-traffic was bad-so I ended up taking a shorter route-and got caught by the cops for speeding. Thankfully I was able to Get off by paying rs 200 to the cop(clear saving of 800 rs). I was in a rush to get home as I have an early day tomorrow-I have to submit my passport application-usually takes 3 months but my dad knows the the passport officer’s brother-he said I would get it in 7 days. It might take a case of black label whiskey but worth it. Who wants to wait.
    Anyway-reached home-though late-thankfully i had my music to keep me company-I have a big collection o MP3s downloaded from all over-i remember the days we had to PAY for music.
    Also need to upgrade my excel for preparing mytaxes before I leave. My friend should have left his copy of office on my desk-he ripped one from his office-smart guy that.
    Speaking of taxes-I also need to go to the estate office tomorrow to get my fake rental slip done. I will get a big tax break-though I stay with my parents-showing some rental expenditure helps save taxes. Not a dime t those damn politicians.
    Finally I cannot wait to watch the agitation on my new tv.Bought the latest model in gray market-all cash-saved a Ton on sales taxes. Yeah.
    I will go for the movement again tomorrow. We need to teach the politicians a lesson in accountability”

  77. aha …. another reason why you delayed this article this long ! Vir’s article was only put up this Sunday !!!

    Caught !

    Now that you are in the realm of popular authors sir you have no right to be unoriginal in your articles …You have GOT to have original thoughts no matter how many of them sensical original thoughts are out there …

    Otherwise this is just another Radia-like case …I am sorry …you-lost-respect there….:)

  78. Honestly I did not copy from Veer. I do not read him after Radia. And I dont think I agree that something “big has happened”. Not does he have my concerns about the authoritarian angles to the Jan Lok Pal nor is he as opposed to it on principle as I am. Kafila and many others (not just Vir) have expressed concerns at how middle class this is. He says is that the agitation is not an event AS big as what happened in Egypt. That actually many others have also said. Finally, what defines my post is me ruing my inability to come up with a concrete solution for corruption which is something that Vir does not concern himself with. So maybe before accusing me of plagiarism you would need to read both articles fully and also the myriad others written in different newspapers. No?

    Finally if I had to copy I would not copy from big-fries now would I?

  79. Well written & does provoke thought. However, I differ with you on the statement that the lokpal could become hedonistic. I look at the new agency as something on the lines of the election commission. Will it be totally clean of corruption? Of course not..no agency in the world is. But will it, in the larger scheme of things, be able to instill fear in the minds of the corrupt? I think so. Anyways, as a 1st step, I see the current committee created to just draft the proposal. Just like the constitution was drafted by ’eminent’ personalities. It will have flaws..hell, it does have flaws. But those flaws will get rectified over a period of time as long as everyone involved has noble intentions.

    But yes..i agree. What happened can never be compared with Tahrir square. We will never have a tahrir square of our own ‘cos all said & done, i do believe that we are a vibrant democracy (look at the polling percentages in Kerala today). Anna Hazare is just a manifestation of our democracy. I also agree with your distinction between Anna Hazare & Irom Sharmila (with all due respect to the iron lady of Manipur, I dont agree with her cause).

  80. @GB
    Great Post!

    What really concerns me is the composition and process of the committee.

    1. Where are the representatives from the opposition to the ruling regime?

    With the free hand that the bill provides the committee with (reminds me of another dictatorship), investigator-enforcer-judge-jury-hangman all rolled into one and with the CBI having the authority to conduct search and seizure based merely on “Suspicion” of said committee, Mr. Advani would be going to jail A LOT! :p The NDA needs to be present on this committee!

    2. Why is there nepotism?

    A father and son sharing differing views on a choice of girlfriends seems more likely than them differing their views on a high level committee conducting ‘Witch Hunts’. With our ‘Indian Values’ of respecting our elders deeply imbibed in us, I doubt if the Bhushan father-son duo have any need to be on the committee to offer independent, differing views.

    3. Independent voices?

    We all know that the 4 Union Ministers on this committee are probably the biggest proponents of Sonia-ism. What “Madam / High Command” says, goes. On the other side, you have a bunch of Do-Gooders who’s only claim to fame is their ‘perceived’ incorruptibility and their ‘public-service’ mindset. Here, what Anna says, goes. Where are the alternative voices? Where is the representation of the techies who are tired of paying bribes to the traffic cops on their way back home at night? Where are the farmers who according to records have 12 government sponsored wells on their farms when they have none? Where are the business czars who are given ultimatums such as “If you don’t pay a bribe for spectrum / mining rights / government favors / tenders / etc. I will give it to your competitor who is paying”? Who’s going to break the deadlock between the sides? Is Anna going to go on hunger strikes over the deadlocks? AGAIN?

    4. Do we really need another reality show?

    Why air dirty laundry in public? Why video and stream the deliberations of the committee? “Based on an anonymous tip, we SUSPECT Shri. X of ABC Ministry of taking a bribe. Kya kiya jaye.” Imagine the TRP ratings on that show! Shri. X may even be innocent and could be a victim of a jealous neighbor yet his career and reputation is destroyed forever! The general reality show viewing public loves to feed on peoples humiliation (hence the success of Daadagiri and Roadies Auditions). They might even get sponsors! Coke presents the lynching of SUSPECTED corrupt IAS officer tonight at 9. Prime Time!

    ====

    The LokPal bill is just a weak tool meant to assuage the growing concerns of the middle and lower middle class keyboard warriors and does not necessarily reflect the mood of the nation.

    I am totally against such a bill. What we need is constitutional reform.

    The President should be elected by and for the people and serve no more than 2 consecutive terms. Additionally, the president must have no party affiliations whatsoever.

    Similar to the Election Commission, a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau must be set up reporting only to the independently elected President. Reporting is only in terms of salaries and general management NOT case management or prosecution. Hire more judges. Institute fast track corruption courts within the grounds of regional high court grounds and a special appeals tribunal at the supreme court. Fine heavily. Imprisonment is mandatory on a guilty verdict. Bring corporate corruption within the ambit and force companies into dissolution for giving (or taking) bribes.

    Singapore is a role-model when it comes to tackling corruption. Transparency International ranks it as the least corrupt nation in the world. Unlike our weak and pathetic Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Singaporean Act is far more stringent. The Prevention of Corruption Act and amendments thereof should be looked into in detail: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_retrieve.pl?actno=REVED-241

    The LokPal bill in it’s current draft is not just weak, but is focused on prosecution in accordance with a weaker PC Act!

    Besides, Anna Hazare or RTI Kejriwal do not represent me.

    At the end of the day, it is all just a Bollywood Star studded sham.

  81. Many years ago, I remember someone comparing the CPM rule and that of Congress in the state. With Congress, the top guys in the ministry and the second tier netas grab the whole loot. CPM is more socialist in the way that the money trickles down to the lowest one in the food-chain, albeit in disproportionate amounts.

  82. D, I think I had mentioned that in one of my old posts myself a few years ago. Now let me say that before I am accused of plagiarism.

    https://greatbong.net/2006/05/09/buddha-bar/

    The secret of the CPM’s success, they opine, stems from its realization that people hate corruption as long as they are not a part of it. Which is why the CPM has democratized corruption by letting a large section of people benefit from it. Each section of the party down to the lowest foot-soldier is given some privilege in proportion to his/her influence unlike in other parties where the leaders eat up everything leaving only the empty plate for their underlings. Similarly, under the guise of land reforms, the CPM government took land from one and distributed it to hundreds of party men (basically illegal encroachers) thus creating vote banks in all perpetuity.

  83. Arnab,
    There are already so many “mouths to feed” in india that it ranks 38 in economic dynamism (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/15/interactive-infographic-of-the-worlds-best-countries.html). Does it really seem probable that increasing the mouths would provide a solution sooner than the current one? Also, why dont the hazares who are able to gather so much support themselves enter electoral politics? Why is it that system-bashers want democracy,free speech but never want to get their hands dirty by working in the same system that provides them these rights? And its not as if a handful of such MPs cant do significant work because of their small number, after all a govt can be and has been brought down by just one seat.

  84. Even if Lokpal bill accepted, ultimately it will be responsiblity of the judicial system to punish the guilty and that’s where the rot lies. Reform Judiciary …
    I dont think with this ombudsman will the have capacity to tackle cases from pan India…it will require a manpower equivalent to police force…perhaps not practical..

  85. Hello Arnab,

    I am a retired man watching news, reading books and doing prayers all day. I have seen 62 years of politics in this nation. But the kind of hypocrisy and slanted news reporting that happens these days, I haven’t seen before. And at my age, one starts feeling disheartened that this is the world our generation is leaving behind for our children and grand children.

    My daughter introduced me to your blog a few months back. She would read out articles voluntarily. But after listening to your opinions on Nandigram, Babri, and Kashmir, I usually ask her these days if Arnab has anything to say.

    I have been reading articles on the Jan Lok Pal Bill wondering why nobody addresses the other side to this matter. Our media as usual have been chugging with the hysteria and youngsters today are under the impression that this is going to change things.

    You are one rarity who has looked at the issue in all its complexity and understood its implications for a hitherto democratic society.

    I strongly feel that one solution to the issue is responsible writing and orating by the intellectuals of the country. People need to be educated and ushered into the right direction. Unfortunately, not one of our media people or authors have come forward.

    It makes me emotional to see one person like you dedicated to this kind of writing. Your articles can change opinions or make people think, in the least. If you look at history (Indian Independence story or any other in the world), words have made massive contribution in bringing about revolutions. Thought provoking writings by great freedom fighting writers like Tagore and Bharati had triggered mass movements. They were fearless writers with conviction.

    It wouldn’t be wrong to equate you to such great, honest writers. In fact, the need for the Tagores in today’s times, is much more than was in the past. I am glad my daughter introduced me to your writings.

    God bless you.
    Raghunathan

  86. Very well written GB and the point driven home clearly. Couldn’t agree more….especially the bit – Anna hazare is not Rajkumar!

  87. I am disappointed by your lack of
    Support for JLP bill. If you don’t have an
    Alt solution why all the talk. Your main concerns seem to b
    1. It does not have wide support among all levels of society
    2. It isn’t democratic

    I think you are wrong about both.
    The poor in India supported this movement, but it was not
    as visible as the upper class bcos they cannot afford
    To miss work and go on hunger strike.

    On the second point that you have raised,
    There is nothing undemocratic about having a powerful
    Lokpal. It is this fear of creating powercenters
    That gives us lameduck PMs through the parliamentary
    System, where even the PM is appointed by the all powerful Sonia Gandhi making a mockery of democracy. Giving the right powers
    To the lokpal system can make it function
    Smoothly. Ofcourse this alone is not the solution but will
    Have to go hand in hand with other reforms such as electoral.
    I will leave with one question. I
    How long will the democracy last if there is corruption
    Even in building of border roads?

  88. Before i comment upon this article, I must say GB, you have mastered Webster dictionary. Lovely usage of words.
    Now coming to the contents of this article. I am not going to argue. I will just put forward some questions for you.

    1. You started by saying “I am more than a conflicted on this issue”
    Why could possibly be the reason behind such opening remarks. Are you not comfortable with the change for good. I guess you were happy with the babu style of working. nvm

    2. Then you said “…this revolution wasn’t anywhere near to Tahrir Square…”
    What are you expecting? do you want even our country to burn like libya, egypt? do you even know the condition of people in those countries. They have no access to basics.
    Considering what you said is true..that intensity was missing..i want to ask you …will you leave everything and go out there in streets like people in tahrir square did…?? ask yourself once

    3. Then you said “His mode is kind of blackmail.”
    If his style is blackmail..what is the best method to oppose govt?
    Without loss of even one ruppe of national property..govt has agreed to our valid demands..what else do you want? i guess you were expecting some drama in that…may be when crores of national property would have burned..it would have been a more legitimate form of protest

    4. Then you said “..might create a chain-reaction of copycats on different causes..”
    My dear friend whole country is burning with issues and if this tool has won us victory..whats harm in adapting this technique?
    We all know there is problem in country…Anna Hazare has come up with solution…

    5. Then you remarked..”..another lokpall bill to watch over this ..?”
    No country is corruption free. Everyone is corrupt. It is just your inner conscience which can keep you clean. So there is no guarantee that lokpall will function without any corruption but does it mean we should all the activities and just wait. We have to act to let it happen and then we have to put checks which i am sure committee members will put.

    6. Then you said..”we are the one who select govt..poor select and middle class dont bother much. This is an attempt by such class to get back their nation..”
    Given a choice between devegowda and yedurappa, who will you select?
    Given a choice between mayawati and mulayam yadav, who will you select?
    do you really think voters have choice.
    we selected BJP first, they gave us coffin scams, and many more
    then we selected congress, they gave us 2G, commonwealth scam, and many more
    who will you select next ????
    people from stars…you stand in election i will select you pal..

    7. Lastly you said…”why committee for drafting bill should have bharat ratna’s and other such intellectual people..who gave them right to decide upon this without even consulting poor …”
    Yes i know consensus of poor has not been taken on this…do you think anna hazare should have taken opinion of 121 crore people before sitting on hunger strike? or do you think he should include some illeterate selling pan on streets in committee for this ?? What does he even know about all this ??

    Most unfortunate thing about india is..everyone thinks he is a great thinker but if he is asked to do some work…he will be last person to do anything.
    These people you see fasting for us have given their life for us and we sitting in AC and Internet access are commenting upon it.
    Fast for a day and then talk.
    Do something for poor around you and then talk.
    Help someone without asking for any favour in return and then talk..

    Jai Hind..

  89. This fast unto death act creates a murderer without a murder (the most heinous of crimes). The politicians steal from us through corruption but they cannot be tried for murder, even if it is in the minds of people and not a court of law.
    Had they allowed Hazare to die I would have held them responsible for his death, and rightfully so because it would have been their (in)action that would have led to it. But they never asked for it. All they wanted to do was steal but now they have become murderers- this is simply unjust and immoral, even if it is done to our politicians.

  90. GB, though you cant help it, I need to tell you with each passing day, ur personal blog’s commensts ection start resembling the rediff comment board :).

    One man calls CON-gress, and fixes the responsibility on 1 single party alone, hoping tht the people have forgotten AB Vajpayee’s rule from 1999 to 2004 – in which specimens like Pramod Mahajan were openly campaigning for Ambanis in all the cabinet meetings and were even seen cheating public sector institutions like BSNL out of thousands of crores. They were recklessly selling off all sorts of govt: land at throwawat prices, and lived up to the reputration of they are just a Hindi-heartland centred, traders’ party with no regard and respect for the non-hindi populace and their culture.

    In all the radiagate and wikileaks discussions, the name of foster-son-in-law of an “unmarried” (not bachelor, as J Jayalalitha correctly clarified) ex-Prime Minister of India consistently crops up.

    A corrupt, compromised, commercialised media exhorting people to be up in arms against “out-of-India”aliens called politicians should be the joke of the year. Instead the same cabals dub it as “India’s Egypt”.

    Let me say aloud one fact which no one is saying – Anna Hazare is a well meaning fool who makes a dangerous propaganda that only source of corruption is our leaders and bureaucrats. hes the biggest hypocrite in India who, with one single lash of his tongue, bad mouths the entire voting public saying they are all corrupt – coz Anna Hazare cant win an election. No Sir, Anna hazare has never tried contesting an election but thats what he FEELS.

    I REFUSE TO EVEN LOOK AT SUCH SPECIMENS, LEAVE ALONE ACCEPTING THEM AS THE CHANGE AGENTS.

    About his motley group of self-serving supporters – mention about bringing the NGOs of all hues under the lokpal bill, u can see all of them suddenly going silent.

  91. // Yes i know consensus of poor has not been taken on this…do you think anna hazare should have taken opinion of 121 crore people before sitting on hunger strike? or do you think he should include some illeterate selling pan on streets in committee for this ?? What does he even know about all this ?? //

    Joke of the year…

    No my dear Sir, the illiterate panwallah votes religiously year after year – he knows his country was up for sale and hence he voted out BJP in 2004. But WE, the middle class and affluent class, who never bother to stand in a queue infront of polling booth, know very well that we can subvert the poll verdict and make the govt: continue the same policies which have been rejected by the people. hence, the corruption continues..

    btw, 100 people like you assume the responsibility to talk for 10 crore people in every city ? what an affront !!! Mind ur business, U dont represent me !! Ask Anna hazare to stand in an election and let me see how many vote s hes able to poll. he wont get ur vote coz u wont go to the polling booth that day.

  92. YOU : “All those who vote, do so for free liquor and money !!! Hence I wont contest an election – and I will have my way by threatening to kill myself and I will nominate myself and my cronies into important committees to draft legislations. The legislations I draft would have provisions to nominate my friend and people of my ilk to further nominate poeple to important positions. In short, I will rule you by stealth ! All bcoz u dont vote for me”

    My middle finger to YOU!!

  93. @Rags,

    Why is winning an election such a big deal for having an important and valuable opinion? Just curious, because that has been a primary argument of every politician during this Jan Lokpal Bill discussion, on TV, in newspapers, on blogs, everywhere?

  94. @Rags,

    Why is winning an election such a big deal for having an important and valuable opinion? Just curious, because that has been a primary argument of every politician during this Jan Lokpal Bill discussion, on TV, in newspapers, on blogs, everywhere.

  95. Sometimes, you do leave aside your movie reviewer tendencies (wherien you just want to bash everyone up with overused Gunda jokes) and make complete sense. And for those some times, I keep coming back to your blog again and again.

    I think, the problem in fighting corruption comes from the fact that the politicians and everyone in government service who is corrupt, do so without fear because they know they can get away with it. They know that nobody has ever been convicted and even if they are caught, they can again, buy their way out of it.

    So definitely, the laws need to be made stronger. And the Jan Lokpal Bill might be a step in that direction since it involves people outside the political and government establishment, the some who are better than the rest, as you call them, who might get some control over making corruption cases count. I am definitely not cribbing or sad about this aspect of the bill. The misuse of this bill which you are wary of would mean “The righteous social activists will gang up against a good politician and put him behind bars”… well, I think, is really very farfetched.

    But will that solve the problem of corruption? It seriously seems to be a step in the right direction. And I’m hopeful, as like most of you, that I’ll see the day when we have a high profile conviction as a result of this bill.

    However, what about the other basic problem with corruption? The attitude of the people? India being the vast country it is, there are always things that are scarce and in that case, everyone feels that if they have the financial power to buy their way into a scarce resource, they don’t see any wrong in doing so. If you’re ready to pay, you will get a place in the train despite it being always full. These very same people who root for Anna Hazare wouldn’t mind paying small bribes to get their work done. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, we all have and what’s our excuse for doing so?

    This is what is still scary. But good on the good ol’ Anna ji. Let’s take baby steps and then we’ll find a way to run!

  96. Welcome Rags…i guess you belong to same bong class..i can smell your mentality…

    1. You made few statements above. You contradicted your own statement twice buddy..
    “No my dear Sir, the illiterate panwallah votes religiously year after year – he knows his country was up for sale and hence he voted out BJP in 2004.”

    and next thing you say is
    “All those who vote, do so for free liquor and money !!! Hence I wont contest an election”

    Come on rags ..get above your rag comments and talk some sense…

    we all know votes are up for sale in this country. then why are you even talking about that…
    paanwallas vote because they get 1 bottle of rum and a free lunch.
    I must add that i have voted in each and every election.

    2. you said “REFUSE TO EVEN LOOK AT SUCH SPECIMENS, LEAVE ALONE ACCEPTING THEM AS THE CHANGE AGENTS”

    No one even cares for your opinion boss..you can keep crying like a baby in cradle and show your own middle finger to your image in mirror…no one really cares…because everyone knows that for every good thing there will be bad…
    so you see Anna Hazare will just smile at your comments..and will say “O! lord Rags is so innocent…hehe”
    i can see your red face dude…

    3. Dude ..why don’t you volunteer urself for tahrir square like revolution in india..i have choosen you leader for this…come on man…gather 10 people and go and stone pelt parliament…let me also see how much guts do you have in your middle finger…lol…and i promise you i will join with 20 more people…

  97. At least this movement has given the arrogant politicians a rhetorical kick on their corrupt backsides, something for them to remember for some time — that itself is great!

  98. Well written article. On two accounts, I like your arguments:

    1.) It was a purely middle class- who are net savvy and well traveled now- driven movement. Totally disconnected with voting population.

    2.) Argument of economic incentive(benefit)

    If you look at evolution of societies. Socio-economic benefits shape them. And, in the long run the economic benefits supersede everything. But social angle plays an important role of instigating the change, which is then sustained by economic benefit.

    I think an ombudsman like entity (Lokpal) can work. As we already have seen a test case of election commission(EC) being successful in establishing fair election process. Like Lokpal, EC had a choice of colluding with ruling parties, but it still worked. The risk of Lokpal becoming draconian is offset partially by democratic setup. The ruling parties eventually will find a way around it. But, by that time things have moved on too- and it is difficult to go back to an old system in democracies. For example- at the expense of repeating myself- it will be difficult now in India to hold an unfair election.

  99. Agree on all points. I think appa has said most of what I wanted to 🙂 Me too am conflicted on the issue mostly. But what I do understand after reading the bill is that its surely not democratic in nature and definitely I doubt if these award winning “elites” can take us through. And like you rightly pointed out, the question of course is who then will check on them??

    Brilliant post, Arnab. Always a pleasure to read you.

  100. @ Rags
    brother, howver hard you try to muddle the pool, but the Vajpayee rule was relatively the least corrupt rule in India since the days of Nehru.

    Yes…get real .

  101. Modern India as we know it is built on corruption. One could even look back at how the English accomplished their “divide and rule” conquest of the subcontinent by spreading the wealth around a bit. I think these bills are of no use. The Indian government is a joke. I advocate total capitalism. Let me give you an example, the family of our maid was offered Rs. 7K for 6 votes in the last cycle. She was able to negotiate it up to Rs. 10K. The money was used to buy two cows. Best use of resources. Nothing will change at the state level but let’s hope Indians figure out how to deal with it the best. Jai Hind!

  102. Mr. Pushpam, you dont even know what ur leader Mr. Anna Hazare has said. So read up the crap he talks !!!

    // Dude ..why don’t you volunteer urself for tahrir square like revolution in india..i have choosen you leader for this…come on man…gather 10 people and go and stone pelt parliament…let me also see how much guts do you have in your middle finger…lol…and i promise you i will join with 20 more people…//

    what a joke !!! Dude, no one volunteers for a revolution. No one organises it thro’ SMS.. nor is it something organised by TV Channels for 5 days between worlc up and IPL. Nor would a revolution be declared “finished” once IPL starts.. and a revolution would happen in a society where a dictator or a group of people subvert all the laws and where people live in a regime where no personal freedom and human rights are prevailing. A revolution doesnt happen in a participatory democracy where people vote their representatives to all levels of governance.

    All the best to u and ur group of twittering friends !!!

  103. // Why is winning an election such a big deal for having an important and valuable opinion? Just curious, because that has been a primary argument of every politician during this Jan Lokpal Bill discussion, on TV, in newspapers, on blogs, everywhere? //

    @ Tejas : Mr Hazare said tht he cant win an election coz people dont vote for him and they vote for others coz others provide them money and booze. So the issue si the level of disdain for elected representatives of people.
    Thats shocking. Any person who doesnt believe in democratical setup needs to be shunned. and thats my personal opinion.

    There are things one needs to be really proud about India. Our election system is one such – Its the system that has the least no: of flaws and guarantees more power to people, on a comparative basis with other systems of governance. Yes, its an ongoing process to strengthen this system but having disdain for this system and players isnt the way to do anything.

    (Unfortunately “India shining/rising” brigade never feel anything about this greatest achievement of ours as a people – the democratic setup we have. Its in India alone where you can see rich and affluent never vote but the poor and poorest sections of society vote year after year. and they use this weapon in the most effective manner. Thats why Chandrababu Naidu – who systematically dismantled all protective measures and instituions for agriculturists and farmers – was thrown out after 10 years of his rule. Thats whay YSR, inspite of being corrupt, was able to win a 2nd term coz he put all thsoe systems back religiously, coz people still havent forgotten how the CEO of AP, the poster boy of world bank played havoc with their lives).

    Seriously, the level of disdain Mr. Hazare has for the people, who religiously use the most potent weapon they have in any democratic society, makes me go speechless. In one single stroke, he dubs the entire electorate as corrupt. Its not an important and valuable opinion – Its plain insulting ! Mr. Hazare and his cronies (all well meaning, fine gentlemen but who have drafted yet another draconian rule, with some of the most dangerous and ridiculous provisions ever heard) arent the sole representatives of what they call “Civil Society”. There are many other people and organisations who have been working tirelessly for a long time towards all these issues – Lokpal bill, Electoral reforms etc – None of them have ever insulted the common Indian citizen and public this way. Organisations like PUCL, people like Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, etc work a lot towards these goals. These guys have systematically excluded all these people and usurped all the positions to themselves. In short, these guys also never tolerate any dissent. Whats new about these guys, then ?

  104. According to Jan Lokpal bill, appointments to Lokpal commission would be selected by a group of eminent people – that too apolitical – people that include Bharat Ratna awardees, Magsaysay awardees, Nobel prize winners etc. The nobel prize winners neednt be Indians even – People of Indian origin would do. I mean, waht the heck is this ?
    Salman Rushdie or some X, who gets a nobel but is an american citizen, would select people to what would be one of the highest offices in India ?

    Is this a joke or something ? What next ? Adult franchise would be limited to people who hold a post grauduate degree from any of the premier engineering colleges in India ?

  105. And Mr. Pushpam, why the hell would I go and stone parliament ? I respect that institution man – unlike u for whom its always a simplistic black or white. There isnt nothing grey in between.

  106. @Rags…this is my last post…

    FYI i am not on twitter and neither i am facebook addict…I hate such forms myself but these proved really effective in this whole process of unification which somehow you don’t seem to agree with me.

    Anyways coming to your point “revolution happens where a dictator or a group of people subvert all the laws and where people live in a regime where no personal freedom and human rights are prevailing. A revolution doesn’t happen in a participatory democracy where people vote their representatives to all levels of governance”

    Is there any relation between revolution and democratic set up? I don’t think so. If the people who you voted and elected have become corrupt and are becoming corrupt on regular basis…what’s the way out ??
    Do we have to just wait for next election so that we can democratically elect other candidate, and what’s his guarantee that he not do any corruption??

    @Rags…Anna hazare is just trying to practically solve the problem. He knows every vote is bought. Now you tell me what is the way out of here..Still should he fight election and just because he doesnt hv black money to offer to voters he should loose..what absurb ??
    You yourself are agreeing to fact that votes are bought here, if votes are sold then where is the integrity of soul in this whole process …
    To beat this system this is the way…

    I told you before…YOU CAN NEVER DO ANYTHING…YOU WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING …BUT IF SOMEONE TRIES TO DO SOMETHING YOU WILL DEFINITELY WRITE A BEAUTIFUL BLOG TO GET MILEAGE AND LIKE ALL HIPPOCRATES YOU WILL BLAME TWITTER AND FACEBOOK AND WILL FIND A LOOPHOLE IN THE PROPOSAL..

    Wake up man…propose something…then we shall evaluate…
    You have written 1000 words and every word is contradicting each other…
    Jai Hind and Happy Blogging..

    BTW dont blame twitter users…you yourself are a heavy blogger…which too is a form of twitting…

  107. The solutions are more likely to lie in the way the elections are held. Solutions already exist in various countries. Instead of first past the post, a second round runoff, so that politicians are forced to gather a coalition to get past the 50 pc mark, term limits, etc. Under the current system no way will any political party introduce these themselves. So any driver for change will come from outside. In that aspect there is no real alternative to the process Hazare has employed. In many ways the current politician – civil service nexus resembles the way the Raj operated. So the same methods can work.

    Hazare has said he intends to continue his struggle and focus on the electoral process next. So this success with the Lok Pal bill is important in the sense that civil society is able to put pressure on the government to carry out reforms that no political party would voluntarily introduce. The coercive aspect is unpleasant, but it is difficult to imagine a approach with fewer downsides in India today.

  108. Very nuanced point, and well made, GB!

    But I think there is another related issue that has no easy answer. Governance (and indeed any management) requires subjective decisions to be taken. In hindsight, some of these decisions may turn out to be wrong, and may cost the exchequer. A Lokpal commission or any other, however, should verify that it is a malafide judgment (not just a wrong decision) before harassing the officers concerned. Otherwise, we will have an administration that simply refuses to take decisions. In fact, even today, a non-decision-taker does well in government service, while a quick decision maker, even if honest, could be harassed anytime.

    Some people here have expressed need to make things ‘objective’. This is wishful thinking at best, stupidity at worst. A simple decision of which shirt you buy is subjective – how are you ever going to make governance of a country possible through purely objective decisions?

    Subjectivity is going to be there, and decisions are going to go wrong. You need to take care to punish (or harass) only people deciding with wrong intentions; not people who acted in good faith but went wrong in judgment

  109. @austrian_man I agree that one shouldn’t be allowed to be insured for more than 1:1 for risks. On the question of whether CDSes should be allowed/not-allowed, I’m on your side. On your explanation of how this comes about because of cheap credit, I do not. Leverage is not necessarily debt. If put on a bet with you that the DareDevils will with the IPL and we agree on a sum of Rs. 1000, you don’t need fiat money to do that. A CDO is just a bunch of mortgages/loans. Can’t loans be made in a non-fiat system? Sure they can.. otherwise we’re screwed anyway.

    That the housing bubble in the US was caused by easy money, courtesy of Greenspan, I am not contesting. That inflation is a tax and that many Governments have systematically robbed their citizens by profligate money-printing is also believable. That derivatives will cease to exist in a non-fiat system is naive at best. Regulations will be needed even in a fully gold-backed system.

    As for regulations in general, there are aspects of life and society quite independent of money. A pure ‘caveat emptor’ approach to businesses, for instance, is unlikely to work as most free market proponents argue. Information asymmetry (lemons and oranges, and much more over the last several decades) clearly demonstrates that Government regulation is necessary. And where you have regulation, you have discretionary powers. And where you have discretionary powers, you have possibility for corruption.

  110. Thanks GB. But I was not plagiarising you, believe it or not. I heard that line in ’98 or ’97. 😀
    Anyway, same opinion from two sources just gives more credence to the claims , I guess.

    PS: Most of your readers dont always share your views , but we do respect you enough to know that you are not the plagiarizing types. Dont dwell on the outliers.

  111. Just a thought: corruption happens because of you have handed over power to the people against whom you cant take any action, like in a monopoly. Should not cutting down on bueracracy and a larege-scale privatising drive throwing out all regulations solve the problem?

  112. Arun (an unknown indian) is absolutely right. Everyone has contributed to or has partaken from corruption , especially the urban population. It is the poor agrarian villager or day labourer who is bleeding. I have paid bribes…to get my work done at municipal and govt. offices…which could have taken years to getting in done in days. I am “principled” enough to have not taken any….if you can say so…… but then again….if i had been a babu at a govt. office with 3-4 mouths to feed, clothe and educate in the inflationary environment, who knows !

  113. @D

    “Just a thought: corruption happens because of you have handed over power to the people against whom you cant take any action, like in a monopoly. Should not cutting down on bueracracy and a larege-scale privatising drive throwing out all regulations solve the problem?”

    You said it, mate. This is it. Corruption can go away only when there is equity of power. I don’t blame netas, babus, corporate honchos or tax evading aam aadmi. We will be corrupt when we can. Solution is not in earnest appeals to be good or chest thumping (specially on social networks) at netas. We need better enforcement of existing laws, more stringent deterrents and less monopoly. This includes taking the government out of areas it has no business to be in the first place.

  114. We are historically a corrupt nation where every man puts his personal gains above that of the country and those who do otherwise suffer terribly. So corruption is in our blood. When the likes of rajat gupta can get caught in fraud, what better do you expect from illiterate indians. We dont need a mindset change we need a genetic re engineering

  115. Don’t you think Lokpal bill is another American/British conspiracy to fool Indian people as ususl?They’re just trying to set up another puppet group who would easily manipulate government decisions like they’re doing now in Africa and middle east.

  116. It is a joke, we are all corrupt, from fake medical bills to common wealth games to Raja ka baja…it is just a matter of scale. I am against Raja and Kalmadi not because of what they did, but because I didn’t get a penny out of it. And greatbong are you any better than those 140 character twitteratis? Seriously man, if you think so you take yourself way too seriously.
    Let the one who never sinned throw the first stone…..at me 🙂

  117. I seriously doubt the manner in which Chidu was elected in the last elections. Definitely EC with it’s vast powers had colluded and helped Mr.Chidu. Ofcourse all I can do is just assume and will never know what exactly happened or happens with people who has such enormous powers.
    Btw…AH is already old and those Bushans, Babas etc who are with him know very well that this is their last chance to seize power in the most effortless way using a lone standing man who has atleast some credibility.

  118. Btw, why is no one worried about Irom Sharmila’s fast? Is it because Manipur just has 2 parliamentary seats that their views should not get a coverage?

  119. In one single stroke, he dubs the entire electorate as corrupt. Its not an important and valuable opinion – Its plain insulting!

    You’re damn right, it IS insulting. Now let’s look at the facts, shall we?

    Fact 1: Indian voters have established a track record of electing and re-electing corrupt leaders like MK, Jaya, Yeddy, Deve Gowda, HDK, Mayawati, the Gandhis, Sharad Pawar etc etc.

    Fact 2: Parties regularly bribe voters with booze, money and as seen in the TN elections mixer grinders and Tata Nanos as well.

    Fact 3: Parties would not be wasting their money on these bribes if they didn’t work

    These are not opinions, they are facts. You’re welcome to point out the ones that are wrong and why. Based on the above three facts, the obvious conclusion one can draw is voters are corrupt. Is it insulting? You bet.

    The problem is that this insult also happens to be demonstrably, verifiably true.

    Now, you say: Yes, its an ongoing process to strengthen this system but having disdain for this system and players isnt the way to do anything.

    Considering that the problem has been identified as the fact that the “players” can get away with anything, having disdain for it is warranted. Having said that, the solution offered by Hazare and co is rife with the Politician’s fallacy (we must do something, this is something, let’s do it). It’s a dangerous body precisely because of the reason you alluded to: the criteria suggested for the LokPal panel are Hazare’s idea of incorruptible people, but there is no reason these people will be incorruptible or concerned about India’s future.

    Ideally, the ombudsman should have been somebody chosen by popular vote – but that puts us in the same problem we are in now. There are no easy “just add water” solutions. Lokpal is one solution that sounds good till one thinks about all that it entails.

  120. // Should not cutting down on bueracracy and a larege-scale privatising drive throwing out all regulations solve the problem? //

    @ D :
    The answer, my friend, lies in an article in Today’s HINDU by Prashant Bhushan. he has written about what kind of privatisation happens in this country.
    Have u ever been to Bangalore airport ? Thats a govt: sponsored private monopoly – the official reason to close down the erstwhile HAL airport , according to the govt order, is security aspects. But is still used for all VVIP and Important flights. A simple plain dosa costs Rs 130/- isnide this airport – whereas a much better and tasty dosa in Changi aiport costs rs 40/- less. They have erected a private toll booth just before one enters the airport, thereby having 35000 captive vehicles everyday – by throwing away all rules to wind. This is how privatisation happens in this country. I am ready to give my money to govt: agencies but not tothese crony capitalist sharks.

  121. I am also one of the Indians from the politician loathing urban middle class, who has gotten tired of corruption. And yet quite like you Great Bong, I seem to be puzzled if Lok Pal is the solution to our corrupt practices.

    But really the question I want to ask is if it is just the Babus n the Netas who are corrupt. What about the vast swathe of the same urban middle class (the same ones sending the FB requests), who don’t bat an eyelid when someone in their vicinity takes to corruption. The moot point is that for us the Middle Class Indians, Money seems to rule the roost over Values. An example is how if you step out into the society, people prefer a Merc far more than their value honesty and integrity. So, are the Babus really at fault or is it that as a society we have started worshiping money (not a bad thing, unless offcourse the idea is to make quick money without effort, which is what leads to corruption)?

    PS: The Urban Middle Class Indians who crib at the corruption, are also people who wouldn’t mind paying the Taxmen a few lakhs, to avoid the tax net. Which is another form of corruption, if we expand the sphere a little.

  122. i agree with utsav and arun.we have no right to talk about corruption becoz every citizen is guilty.why blame politicians alone?we submit fake rental slips ,while buying or selling houses,we pay or accept money in half black and half white,donot ask for bills while buying ornaments etc.i could go on and on.all of those who gathered at india gate,i want to ask them,will u stop doing the above things?i think coruption is a worldwide phenomenon.sukhram was electerd by a thumping majority,nobody cared how corrupt he was.this was just a media circus.and talking about media,how honest are they?today i feel sad that middle class india thinks what the media tells them to.i am reminded of a hindi saying is hamam me sabhi nange hain.it is just a case of coal calling the kettle black.if we r serious about tackling corruption,we musy in our lives not succcumb to corruption.some people say that young people should be in charge.i do not agree.young people are also corrupt.our society worships money and the people who have it in loads,whether they got it through fair or foul means does not matter.we have to change this mentality otherwise we can shout from the rooftops nothing is going to change.

  123. With your grassroot understanding of the problems faced by poor, you will one day rule the land of krishna and bring glory and prosperity to the land of vrja. Haribol.

  124. Here’s the deal: I’ve never been a big fan of yours, in terms of style of writing as well as your stance on some issues which I disagree with.

    But this is probably the most eloquent and well-reasoned posts on this issue that I have come across yet (and captures my own thoughts on this issue perfectly). Good stuff.

  125. at the end of the day we are to blame for the govt we elected – we did not know who we are electing cannot be an excuse – but whne tyhe govt is in place they have to uphold the constitution in the way the constitution demands – not by individuals threatening to become martyrs !

  126. HI Arnab,

    I think you are my candidate for our lokayukta. And I am serious about it. I trust your judgement and your erudition completely on these matters as is evidenced by your several posts. The new Jan lokpal bill states that any person can be nominated for the position. Would you like a nomination? At the least it would increase your readership:)))

  127. Pingback: Our National Guilt Pleasure | Centre Right India

  128. There’s nothing wrong with an undemocratic solution, provided the committee itself doesn’t have excessive powers. The problem with dictatorships is unchecked power, not the fact that they are not democratic.

    Democracy itself is a form of tyranny, which inevitably leads to corruption, and requires undemocratic institutions to correct its course. As an example, in the US, it is the undemocratic institution of the Supreme Court and the undemocratic document – the Bill of Rights – that has protected people’s personal liberties and checked government power. A power balance is far, far more important than a democratic process.

    “A good politician under democracy is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” – H.L. Mencken

    I encourage you to read Mencken’s views on the matter:
    http://www.bigeye.com/mencken.htm

  129. To add to the above, I am in favor of Jan Lokpal provided the institution only has power to regulate government, and not to regulate any other institution, at which point it would be a power overreach.

  130. I share quite a few of your doubts on the LP bill, and I also regard this as fundamentally undemocratic. Over time, such institutions render a society impervious to course correction through democratic means. I am fundamentally a pessimist about human nature, and belive that in a country like ours, where poverty creates necessity, and where there are significant sections of the wealth creating economy which is “grey” – the bigger and more intrusive the Government, the larger the levels of corruption we will have, as those who are supposed to whiten this grey economy, will squeeze it using their Government given powers to regulate.My thoughts on how to approach this (and like you, I too do not have any ready made easily implementable solutions): To reduce corruption, we need to reduce the ability of the Government and the bureacracy to regulate economic activity. At the same time, we need to massively invest in infrastructure, which will reduce the need to look for alternative fixes (make enough electricity available – theft of electricity will go down, make enough commercial sites available, with proper amenieties and infratrusture – use of home properties for commercial use will go down – simplistic I know, but it has worked in areas like PCs, ACs, etc). We need to simplify procedures and rules for operating businesses, and make it easier to run manpower intensive businesses (simplify labour laws – reduce legally available options of unions to operate in businesses having below a certain turnover) – this will encourage small scale industries, and provide jobs, which will help people invest in upgrading their economic and social capital (by which I mean things like education, health, support of their relatives, etc). Encourage investing (by subsidizing) in primary & secondary education, with focus on what Swami Vivekananda used to call a “man making” education. Over time, with an economic future to aspire to, the next generation will aspire to a life where less short cuts will have to be taken for financial security, and where people can then aspire to do the “right thing” (the kind of stuff which could ultimately get you noble prizes for peace). Around all this, we need to enforce law and order – which means investing in the judiciary and policing. The problems which the LP bill seeks to address, can be addressed by the judiciary, provided we simplify our processes, simplify our laws, and update our legal processes.

  131. Congress is scared of 85 yrs old man Shanti Bhusan. Indira GANDHI lost legal battle to him and had to call Emergency. He knows the system inside out and is among people who commands respect and power in the judiciary. He introduced the Lokpal Bill first in 1977.

    What next ? Sonia has called in trouble shooters. But takes no responsibility for their ‘democratic methods’.

    And first attempt of BJP through Uma bharti was also stopped.

    Bhusan + Anna + Kiran Bedi + Kejriwal +Internet Activism= Another Emergency ?

    So far it seems they are prepared for a long fight.

  132. One more layer of bureaucracy will cripple India further. A better approach is to remove ‘undemocratic’ controls government has on Indian citizens. Faster and complete liberalization is the only solution.

    Did you just neglect this economy argument?

  133. People have poured out on the streets in favor of Anna. There are literally lakhs of tweets, fb updates, bb messenger statuses in favor of Anna.

    Where is this great public outrage when a ridiculously corrupt MLC / political representative is getting elected from your own ward / circle / etc? Ideally, if this rage had been expressed at the level of voting, ultimately we would have elected honest representatives, and these representatives would have made sure the Lok Pal Bill wassn’t a joke.

    The problem is, pressing a ‘Like’ Button, or even joining a fast / protest march for a day is much, much more easier than getting your own Voter ID. Especialy for the India which tweets and fbs. We move around all our lives. We do not have ‘permanent residence’ and address proofs! Will any of us travel to our native places (or the place in whatever proof is used for creating your voter ID) to cast your vote?

    The solution is not just UID. Technology has made possible the most impressive of feats. Is e-Voting really that impossible to implement?

    The concept of democracy we have in our country is solid. But, until we make the practice more conducive to a young, savvy, impatient India, WE will never be represented.

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