Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill Movement: Lessons For India's Middle & Ruling Classes

`Supercop' Kiran Bedi learnt the hard way (or so we hope) how not to hold fort when she resorted to somewhat unusual theatrics to drive home a point about elected representatives. She was on stage as Gandhian Anna Hazare fasted to get the Indian Government to agree to pass the Jan LokPal Bill, a strong anti-corruption bill. His fast ended on 28 August 2011, 12 days after it started.

The fast (and the strategy thereof) has attracted kudos and criticism alike. The critics call the fast and the accompanying protests blackmail. The supporters say politicians are not known to respond to the usual greet, meet and review process. As they have not in the past. Moreover, the country has lived with unprecedented levels of corruption for decades and across all walks of life. And cannot tolerate it any longer. Extreme conditions call for extreme responses. Both sides however agree that the issue of corruption in public life must be addressed, with some urgency.

I see it a little differently. Without getting into the merits of the Bill itself and the methodology adoped, lets look at what this movement has done.

1.It's brought India's slumbering middle class and youth together on an issue (corruption) they should have united on a few decades ago. Not that its only the middle class that's out on the streets.
2. Equally, its given India's middle class a sense of `real-politik' for the first time. The protestors and the country at large quite quickly realised the Government was being indifferent to them simply because it concluded the SMS/Twitter/Facebook fuelled gatherings lacked the support and momentum of India's masses. Never mind that the hundreds of thousands marched on their volition as opposed to being paid and carted in by the truckloads. Politician Mani Shankar Aiyar said in a television discussion two days ago that he called up his constituency in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to find out how many people were protesting on this issue. "Only 30," he was told. Mani's point: its an important issue alright but not everyone is jumping to support it.
3. Its showed that a bunch of smart thinking individuals with some public support can outsmart a government which, for all its might, demonstrated that it did not think in a calm and controlled manner. Its not that the Government does not have smart people, but the lack of an effective strategy or counter-strategy was glaring.
4. The same bunch of people had a working and evolving strategy at all times, notwithstanding Ms Bedi's theatrics. When Anna Hazare broke his fast on Sunday the 28th of August, he did so with a speech which laid out out a forward looking agenda, one that encompassed education, elections and the environment. In contrast, except for a few very notable exceptions, most Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha rambled on without making any specific points. So while Ms Bedi's antics must be frowned upon and dismissed as that of a political novice, the veterans didn't exactly cover themselves in oratorical glory. Though to be fair, the quality of debate was much higher than the median.
5.The movement created the first stirrings of a political identity for the middle classes. And one of some muscle as well. For deacades, the middle classes have watched silently and in fear as various quasi-political parties have wreaked havoc on the streets. Mumbai is no stranger to it. Time and again, the city has been warned by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray that his boys would take to the streets if a certain issue was not addressed in his favour. And there are the infamous `voluntary-involuntary' bandhs in once Communist Party ruled states like West Bengal and Kerala. For once, the middle class can feel comfortable about getting down to the streets. Hopefully, it will maintain the peaceful and non-violent nature,as originally propogated by Mahatma Gandhi and as espoused by the leaders of the current India Against Corruption movement.

The challenge obviously is larger now. Showing consistency is more difficult than flash protests. Anna Hazare and his team have pulled through for an admirable period. More importantly, agree or not, they have laid out a vision and a direction. They seem to be cognizant of the criticism that they have hijacked parliamentary democracy. Of course they deny the charge. They also recognise that there are much dotting of the i's and crossing of the t's involved before any real legislation is passed. To that extent they are aware of the precise challenges ahead. Obviously, it helps to have at least two constitutional heavy weights on your side - former Law Minister & Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan .

The Government and its many constituents are obviously smarting. Unusually, this includes all sides of the house. And they will want to settle scores where they can. A few members of parliament will advocate greater control on media. Better still they will insist (as a few already have) that the media too be brought under the ambit of an anticorruption law. There will be other such missiles that will be fired in coming days. Some might well be justified.

But the Government can convert this into an opportunity too, by working with the prime movers of the movement more closely. It can take up prickly issues like corruption and be seen to be involving more people in fixing it rather than getting adversorial. By taking firm ownership of the issue rather than seen to be on the defensive. By doing a more broad-based, mass engagement for solutions that will fix the processes that create corruption, particularly `retail' corruption. While there has to be nitpicking on the law, there has to be greater nitpicking on the processes that lead to corruption in the first place. Particularly of the kind that involves the poor and helpless.


anju gupta on 9:23 pm said...

stumbled onto your blog when surfing for SOP do's and don'ts for LSE.The Jan Lokpal bill blog is written very well -well away from the normal rabid, rousing comments.
This is also an invite for you to visit my and read my blog on the same. It is-There is a hole in the story.

Islam on 9:10 am said...

Thank your for sharing
Messenger of Allah

Maxi on 10:07 pm said...

Its a full flop show...
Get Some Fun

valeria on 11:07 pm said... is a social friendly Insta Doc website for sharing Documents and presentation with friends everywhere. You have been on slideshare, seen youtube and had a feel of Facebook. Now have a look so as to create your own documents, graph stats and presentations go live worldwide on hi2friends. Imagine sharing your clips in the form of Document and presentation throughout the world to your friends and business associates instantly.
Insta Doc is for sharing Documents and presentation in a unique approach on hi2friends. Well that’s Insta Doc for quick share.
What’s more, you can create your own page, events and your own apps.
share your experience in pledge section on against harassment and corruption.

maxsamuel on 6:36 pm said...

This is a an excellent review, All your reviews are great but here you reach closer, as you progress, to discovering the gem in the book. Your observations on writing are top-class, your descriptions subtle.
Business Transformation

Priyarajan on 11:46 am said...

hello sir/madam
i read your post interesting and informative. i am doing research on bloggers who use effectively blog for disseminate information.i glad if u wish to participate in my research. if you are interested please contact me through mail. thank u

Bloggingbooks on 7:30 pm said...

Dear Govindraj Ethiraj,

I am hereby contacting you, following a visit of your blog, which I find very appropriate for a publication.

I am an employee of Bloggingbooks publishing house, which is the new publishing brand of the well-established scientific publishing house, known as SVH Verlag. We are currently actively looking for new authors.

Bloggingbooks would like to broaden its publication's portfolio and in this respect, comes my question: would you have any interest in publishing your blog posts into book format?

You will find information about bloggingbooks on our homepage ( The best way to get in touch with me will be per e-mail.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

contact email: m [dot] gorbulea [at] bloggingbooks [dot] de

Mary Lewin on 4:17 pm said...

hi i love your website and cheak it everyday please see my site and say your idea

Ravi Kumar on 5:19 pm said...

shivaashubhra Classified: apartments, personals, for sale, services, community, Matrimonials, Health/Beauty, Web Hosting, Forums/Classifieds/Directories, and events Shivaa Shubhra Classified is a free classifieds online ads site where you can post free ads & can get targeted traffic and high response for your advertisement.

vibhavsharma on 2:31 pm said...

shivaashubhra Classified: apartments, personals, for sale, services, community, Matrimonials, Health/Beauty, Web Hosting, Forums/Classifieds/Directories, and events Shivaa Shubhra Classified is a free classifieds online ads site where you can post free ads & can get targeted traffic and high response for your advertisement.

Mahi Kashyap on 3:12 pm said...

This is really an amazing piece of work from your side. I have read your some of other blogs they are also good but this one is really outstanding.

Ellen Paul on 10:44 am said...

The Blog you are running is just awesome. The stuff and theme of the blog is so impressive. The actual match, like your blog, is found on very rare places. This blog is so clear and simple, there is no useless content you have added just to show a fake knowledge about the topic. I am new to blogging and picking lot from your blog. Here is my blog if you want to take a look and do suggest me if any problem or something missing.
Thanks a lot!!!

pune properties on 3:11 pm said...

Get your Dream Home, 2bhk flat in Pune, shops information available here.

Sweet Ana on 3:27 pm said...

Nice Efforts done. Useful Blog
Thanks & Regards

Watch Live IPL6 Matches from Pepsi VIP Box for Free

Rajdeep on 6:07 pm said...

well said.. Keep writing this type of article...

حجز فنادق السعودية on 11:21 pm said...

i love your blog a lot.

nitu mishra on 8:21 pm said...

Get free five page personalized Website, FREE WEBSITE

Simsononline Simson on 3:55 pm said...

Software for Insurance Brokers and Software for Reinsurance brokers is key to our business. Software for Insurance Brokers SAIBA is capable of consolidating all the activities of an Insurance Brokers.SAIBA is an insurance broking management software which covers almost all the aspects of Insurance broking industry.

subasish biswal on 11:50 am said...

Get your Summer Collections with over 50% discounts now!!!

Shirisha on 3:19 pm said...

Narrated very nicely..Thanks for sharing!!!

Hackdeals Gurgaon on 6:01 am said...

Its a lesson because the work done half is worse than the work not done at all.

Vadhiya on 12:10 pm said...

Nice article Dear, I love to read this types of articles. Thanks a lot to share with us...... Click here for Gadgets, Tech news, Free Software, Money Making Tips and more....


Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved Revolution Two Church theme by Brian Gardner Converted into Blogger Template by Bloganol dot com