Anna Hazare and the “Deathly Hallows”

Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

History was made today. The great Indian democracy had another shining mantelpiece up its wall of fame of self-professed greatness. Anna Hazare and his thousands/millions/billion supporters (real number is unknown so choose your favorite approximation) made the JanLokPal bill a distinct possibility. Raise your glasses to a corruption free India folks- we did it.

As thousands gathered at India Gate to celebrate the historic turn of events in their stonewashed/gunshot denims, holding the tricolor in their manicured hands and getting a tricolor tattoo on their moisturized cheeks and shouting slogans hailing the victory, Mahender a 26 year old was busy logging the hours of the 100 odd laborers who toiled in muddy fields of the construction zone of super luxury apartments just a few tens of miles away from the great Indian Democracy’s victory orgy.

Earning 5500 rupees ($130) a month with zero holidays, zero benefits, zero raises and 12 hours of duty and a verbal employment contract, his job is to log the hours of laborers who earn 4300 rupees ($100) a month for 8 hours’ daily job (rupees 3500 for women = the lowest minimum wage, BTW) with zero holidays, zero raises and zero benefits and of course the ubiquitous verbal contract, Mahender has to support his family back in some god forsaken district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

I asked him, what does he reckon of Anna’s movement and more importantly his own future and he stared at me as if I asked him about his opinion on string theory and if the LHC experiment in the Alps would create a micro black hole. “I don’t know, but I think it will be good in the long run”. Here is a citizen of the greatest democracy of the world unsure about it’s second freedom movement and his own future. May be he is not important at all and his opinion should not serve as a dampener in the newfound atmosphere of celebration.

But then, I tend to be dumb and pause and think a little. The JanLokPal and government’s version of LokPal is silent on corporate corruption and now it is clear that the judiciary is also given its much-needed long rope. That should be a good news if you were a CEO looking to mine Bauxites or build an expressway- too bad Steve Jobs quit a day before this wonderful 2nd windfall, err…. independence day!

Indian middle class and upper class and the elite lives in a comfortable denial cocoon of what we subject our “lowly” unskilled, untalented, uneducated citizens to. Mahender and millions of laborers work with zeros (holidays, benefits, raises and even employment contract) each day to make the expressways on which our cars can use cruise control, malls where we can shop till we drop, plush marbled floor apartments with video door phones etc etc. This is the lowest denomination of corporate corruption- direct exploitation of humans (if they are regarded as one in the first place).

Then we have the unquestionable judiciary that always seems to be in congruence with the corporate urge of “development” and routinely finds it absolutely convenient to displace millions with the tiny flick of their mighty pen. In fact India has the world’s largest internally displaced population, that India leads the tally of industrial deaths in the world, that India leads the world tally of unresolved court cases (about 15 million) should speak for its undisputed champion status of corporate malpractices and judicial callousness.

And surprise-surprise, the LokPal bill of any flavor has left these two guys alone. They can’t be bad guys, right? This is the highest common factor of Indian corruption story, while the corporates are free to exploit the human capital, the judiciary is free (as it should be in a democracy) to be acquiescent about creating a Petri-dish where Mahenders can be trans-mutated into indoor heated swimming pools, tolled expressways, large dams, iron mines etc.

What are we celebrating for? For Anna Hazare has finally awakened the nation? Which nation? The nation that holds mombattis as if to taunt the millions of villages’ un-electrified status? The nation that celebrates one homegrown saint’s eating habits where 60% citizens of the same nation eat as much as Africa’s poorest countries?

Are we celebrating that we short circuited the democratic process of creating a bill, just as we like to short circuit the law’s course when caught for a traffic violation and blatantly offer bribes to traffic constables to do an on the spot settlement- you know a fast track justice, something our judiciary loves too – the fast track courts? Look we made great progress, now we have a fast track bill!

The Prime Minister of the world’s greatest democracy says he has no magic wand to cure corruption- may be he is reading Harry Potter a little too much – would explain his invisibility splendidly for he may have been wearing the cloak of invisibility after all!

Everyone, including the PM, agrees that the “whatever” LokPal (prefix, Jan or Dalit or whatever dish you like) bill be, if it does not cure corruption completely- would at the very least halt the juggernaut.

Now, if you are a Harry Potter fan you would know what does not die completely leaves Horcruxes (images of self, protected by black magic) which are extremely hard to find and even harder to destroy. We stand to leave the Corporate Corruption and the Judicial mess as two horcruxes that would forever crush Mahenders and millions others.

I don’t know should I also go to India Gate with a mombatti or should I start looking for the magic wand that the PM has lost, for the Deathly Hallows of corruption are still upon us. The Lord Voldemort, aka great Indian democracy’s corruption will be back.

You are hereby warned!

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16 Responses to “Anna Hazare and the “Deathly Hallows””

  1. Rajarshi Ghosh Says:

    Brilliantly written, loved each word..thank you.. 🙂

  2. Ratan Kumar Says:

    Analogy is weak. Even during Independence movement, many like Mahender would have been unsure of what/how it will benefit him directly. Even Anna is not saying that any bill will make us corruption free (60-65% he says). It will definitely help in saving some of those mind boggling numbers that we got to know (thanks to another landmark bill RTI just few years old) from 2G, CWG etc….One more thing Anna did was definitely showing that apolitical direct democracy may not be such an impossible idea after all.

  3. Ratan Kumar Says:

    Regarding corporates, they have to work with bureaucracy and people representatives which are covered.

  4. manasij Says:

    Ratan,

    the analogy of the 2nd freedom struggle was coined by team Anna and not me- it is an absurd statement and so is the 60-65% cure promise. The corporate corruption is the source for the the scams of the latest times and any anti-graft bill that overlooks it is surely missing it biggest mark.

  5. Ratan Kumar Says:

    Read again, I gave example of independence movement for reasoning only. Since your brought this topic, even if team Anna thinks that they are working to be free of corruption, it is perfectly logical. Also, 60-65% is symbolic and not a statistical challenge. (just like Rahiv Gandhi’s statement on corruption, something like that only 1/10 paise reaches to poor for 1 rupee spent by government).

    Also, government is an agency of people at democracy. If people want, there can be any department (Like Lokpal) created or eliminated. Brain-storming is required for how to do this with least side-effects. Corporates are not liable for people. And they are managed by normal rules. So if you see anything being done by anybody (including coprorate), you submit an FIR (earlier corrupt police will not even note that or later suppress the matter) and next legal proceedings will happen. Anna’s team wants judiciary under Lokpal too which is contentious. I am here more in favor of what Sushma Swaraj proposed to have a separate body to oversee judiciary alone.

    Again corporates remain free-bird but without bueraucracy and political class as its vehicle, I think almost all of the recent (and even old) scandals would have been avoided.

  6. Arnab Says:

    I think we are missing the real issue here. The politicians, bureaucrats or corporate bosses are corrupt because we ourselves are corrupt. They are like us, they just have more power. Hence the scale of corruption is higher. Most of the people standing with Anna are themselves corrupt. How many of them can claim to have never bribed a policeman, never used pirated software, never downloaded music from the net? For that matter, I bet many of these “corruption haters” use illegally unlocked iPhones! There was a statistic the other day in TOI – the citizens of Delhi owed Rs. 700 crores to the government in form of property tax till January 2011. The Delhi government had served all of them notices, after which they have been able to recover Rs. 100 crore till July 2011. And these same defaulters cry foul when the politicians play the same game. If we want to remove corruption, the lokpal in any form is toothless. It is we who must change first.

  7. manasij Says:

    Arnab,

    you have hit the nail on the head. In my last blog I had said that the corruption’s root cause is the retail corruption that we all carry on a day to day basis and find it great to turn to others and call them sluts.
    Alas, the biggest and most difficult horcruxes to get rid of are the Indian citizens, we, ourselves.

  8. Prashant Says:

    Mansij Sir,

    Anna clearly said that this not the victory, we need to cover a long distance yet and the fight is not over, I don’t know why people are thinking of immediate results. This is a process and I guess we will be able comment on it better once the so called “Second war of Independecne” is over. Anywys superb writing skills.

  9. Neha Says:

    Today I find one more reason to feel proud as an Indian. A social reformer, through complete non-violent means has been able to bring about nothing short of a revolution. The movement has manifested the power of democracy, Gandhian principle of non-violence and ushered a new dawn of mass enlightenment.

    If a movement for a similar goal had started in countries like Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan or even China, there would been at least 2000 people killed and thousands wounded. And that’s why this movement is even more remarkable – a revolution succeeded without any bloodshed! I feel proud to be an Indian today – it proves that we are definitely more civilized than those failed states.

    • manasij Says:

      Neha,

      India is a democracy and can not be compared with Libya (Autocracy) , China (Single Party Rule but not a failed state by any stretch of imagination), Pakistan (quasi pluto-auto-dictatorship).
      This movement may be non-violent but sets a very disturbing precedent in a democracy where the threat of a narcissistic self harm hold the highest elected body of the country to ransom. The end result never justifies the means.

  10. Neil Says:

    Very interesting piece, Manasij. Its also commendable that you have looked into the plight of Mahendras of our country.

    IMHO, this world and also our country is a very divided one. There are different classes, each fighting for their own survival. Chances of survival of a class depends on its own strength. Strength of a class mostly comes from money, guns, diplomacy, lobbying and all other forms of conventional power that is there in this society.

    In this fight for survival the Mahendras, as you have pointed out do not have any resource to fight. The only bargaining power that they have is their own labor and the total number of Mahendras in this world which is phenomenal. But the unfortunate thing is that the Mahendras of this world are very much disunited. They are so much engulfed by the daily struggle to get their basic livelihood that all forms of hitting out at the other classes to earn their rights is not a priority for them.

    The middle class is one which gets whatever they have from the corporate or eilites. They are fully dependent on the eiltes for job etc. The elites need the middle class as they are their marching soldiers, the pawns who fight for them against everyone. The middle class is the army which goes out there and helps them to evict the poor from their land so that nuclear power plants or auto factories can be built so that the middle class get more jobs and prosper.

    The politicians are no good. They seemingly represent the downtrodden (Mahendras). They give rich promises to the poor and represent them and create problems for the business class. But in the end they are there for the cut-money which goes straight to their swiss accounts from the business owners. Once the deal is done, there will be some riots either police killing the poor strikers or a riot based on religious sentiments instigated by the politicians. The detail is not important, the important thing is there will be some distractions created to break down the poor and in the end the business will go forward.

    This movement of Anna-ji is nothing but a fight between these politicians and the corporate class. The corporate class is fed up of having to pay off the politicians time and again. Instead why not have a weakened political base, then isn’t it easier for the corporate to do whatever they want ? Who will question them if we can weaken the democratic process ? The corporates see in Anna a potential to weaken the democratic process. They see in Anna authoritarian ambitions. This is the very reason the media (controlled by the elite) is bombarding us with Anna’s movements whereas more pertinent movements such as Sharmila Irom or the numerous dam related movements are not brought into focus. The media is used to spike up uproar in the middle class which is also irritated by the “corrupt” politicians who cause trouble to industries and business to develop.

    Thus this movement of the corporate with their followers, the middle class comes from a more stronger foundation with more powers. It is obvious that such a movement will have more power and will definitely be more successful than any movement of the poor. And this movement is also not about safeguarding the poor or for their benefits. This is a fight of the elites backed by the middle class against the politicians so that the elites can have much easier access to exploit the resources of our motherland to their utmost benefit.

    • manasij Says:

      Neil,

      It indeed is a witch hunt of the Indian politico from all corners and when you ask the very simple question that why despite so many protests, so many hunger strikes- it was this movement that gathered so much steam. One reason of course is the general disgust of Indian middle class with its politico and the retail corruption that we see each day. However, the most pertinent reason is the fact that this movement is a great addition to the business interests of the large corporates who has paid for the ineptitude of the politico far too often in recent times. It was a great vehicle to support and feed in the mass media for the bill is mum on the organized and institutionalized corporate corruption under the benevolent umbrella of our unquestionable judiciary. It is probably not as much of an interest to see the democracy getting weakened as much as the interest to reduce the arbitration of business by the politico that made the corporate backed media houses go all out in support for this “non-violent” movement.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Agreeing with you Manasij, on each and every point … very well written. You have highlighted points which people celebrating with a mombatti in hands would never understand…

  12. Ashish Bhatia Says:

    Agreeing with you Manasij, on each and every point … very well written. You have highlighted points which people celebrating with a mombatti in hands would never understand…

  13. Darth Midnightmare Says:

    Just one thought (since I’m in office and short of time). The system is not corrupt because of the common man. The common man gets corrupt because of the people at the top! In every system, the rot always, ALWAYS starts at the top. That’s also why, if the top man is good, the system works.

    Simple example. In Western India, Maharashtra (courtesy Mumbai) had an enormous headstart in economic and infrastructure development. In less than a decade, Narendra Modi has led Gujarat past on every single socio-economic indicator (apart from GDP – once again thanks to the inertia provided by Mumbai).

    In Gujarat, things happen, the system functions, work gets done without inducements and industry is flocking there. People are happy with the employment levels and rising prosperity.

    Oh and yes, infant mortality is the lowest, electrification has happened everywhere in even remote areas.

    In Maharashtra, even in years of record crop production, farmers are committing suicide, electricity outside Mumbai is a pain and infrastructure everywhere (specially Mumbai) is crumbling faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

    The system is the same in both places. The people are also the same. The top man is what has made the difference…

  14. Kartikeya Khanna Says:

    I hope you have watched “Shanghai”…….if not watch it ….and pay special attention in the last 10 minutes of the movie…….that is the kind of corruption we are in……..and that kind of corruption has brought up issues like Bodo extremist, Naxals, hap hazard development, dirtiest politics (dirty would have been a consolation), leakages……politicians sitting on piles of cash, farm houses stacked with briefcases full of Gandhiji………..who is to tackle all this? You have a complete u-turn viewpoint on Anna and his movement and as we discussed, we shall talk sometime

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