Defending Anna Hazare and the Jan Lok Pal

They say you can wake up one who is sleeping, but not one who pretends to sleep.

Beginning with the disclaimer – I am not particularly a supporter of the bill. Nor am I supporting for any ideological reasons or in expectation of miracle cures. I support the movement in the sense that the people demanded what they wanted, got the agreements out of the government, and are now fighting for the government to fulfill them. I don’t understand law, and I don’t like predicting outcomes even more. I have no comment on either bill. I think our parliament is well capable of debating it.

My main stand is from  the realities I see, experience and more than that, I find the stand taken by many intellectuals on this issue very unscientific. This is yet another post poking holes at currently prevailing disinformation and other arguments.

Challenging an elected government is no way, people should vote.

Let me get this right. Even if and that is a mega IF voting were indeed capable of changing ethics of power hungry politicians, it would take at least one election for them to feel the sting, and the next for their new and improved avatar to be available.

While this may be acceptable to those who got the bright idea and are living comfortably off enough to wait long periods before any results are seen, the health of the country is deteriorating rapidly. It is unfair to expect a person living in hardship to show a minimum of 6 years patience for results that may or may not deliver.

People have no right to protest against government corruption as long as there are bribes, etc.

Actually, most research shows that corruption in regular life has dropped drastically. You no longer need to pay bribes to get phones, as @acorn very helpfully pointed out in another article. And other things. This has had no reducing influence on scams at the levels of power over national resources.

Massive amounts of National resources have been outright looted, misused or gifted to someone without the ordinary citizen ever knowing, let alone being able to fix or influence. These are separate things. One arises from a system that is complex and intimidating with stagnating processes, making it profitable for middlemen to get jobs done for a fee. The other is misuse of authority over national resources for personal profit.

Not defending either, but the actors, the environment, the impact, and actions that can fix are entirely different. Saying that as long as one exists, people can’t challenge the other is…. bizarre. What is more, there are plenty of initiatives for whistle blowing, institutional reforms, etc and they are showing results. So it is really strange to talk about the problem as though it is one created by civilians or one that can be fixed by fixing civilians.

These are people you have elected.

And these are people we are taking to task. At the end of the day, we are a democracy and the people have the power.

The Bill is not correct because A B C

So who was stopping people who saw problems from contributing to making it better? Suggestions were solicited, so why didn’t these people make them? Then the bill would have had less problems. Or if they were refused, they would have still been refused after considering carefully. It certainly can’t be claimed that a few things make the entire document invalid, and we do have a parliament capable of debating these things. If it is so impractical, it will hang. Or it may get improved. We don’t know. But for it not to reach the Parliament is a breach of faith with the entire country, critics included. A government must live up to its promises.

Anna is wrong with this fast

I think it is the government that is wrong in going back on its word. It agreed to the Joint Committee. So why is the output of the Joint Committee used only selectively? Why does it have to come down to an aged man starving himself to see what is already agreed upon happen? If the government had no intention of using the inputs, it should have had the principles to stick to its stand. A word once given doesn’t last a couple of months?

This is blackmail

Actually, it is not blackmail. The way I see this, these issues had reached a point where they couldn’t be avoided. The people backed the option they got. If the government hadn’t angered the entire country, Anna could merrily starve to death, and few would have cared. Certainly not enough to force the government into anything. In fact, the government could have done many things to bring the anger down, but it chose not to. The attack on Baba Ramdev’s protest is an example. Broken promises all through. Anna decides to fast again, and 12 year old dirt is found. It was not found when he was not fasting. Selective dirt. Hmm.

Actually, I see it as blackmail to threaten people with the law when they are doing something that is not illegal in the country. The restrictions put on Anna’s protests, the misinformation, outright lies and slander, threats of police action (particularly after we see examples of how legal or gentle it is). What part of this is not blackmail? Why is 144 being applied? Why was there no permission for a gathering of thousands to use speakers or other restrictions that were illogical for the size of the group like 50 vehicles? What does it mean to give permissions for vastly inadequate resources when the previous protest that “exceeded resources” got attacked in the middle of the night and sleeping protesters lathi charged? Is this not use of government power to obstruct and threaten the protest? Is this not a threat of harm?

Saying that the government action is not a threat of harm or blackmail is like saying that a knife pointed at your neck is not a threat, because if you don’t move, it won’t hurt you at all. Surprising that we don’t expect legal behaviour from leaders, but are out in force to criticize those who challenge it.

Anna himself is corrupt and other versions of accusation and other members etc

Even a criminal in India has rights. The movement is about reform, not naming Anna the president. If the idea is sound, every person leading it being corrupt makes no difference to the people who are helped by it.

The Lok Pal itself is a bad idea, unnecessary, etc.

You have missed that bus. The government is now committed to passing the bill. You should have convinced people of your idea earlier. Right now, it is important that the people’s interests are represented when the bill is debated. Attacking the Jan Lok Pal at this stage simply means facilitating the flawed government version to get through.

If you think it is a good idea, I seriously recommend you read Kapil April Fool Sibal’s last masterpiece – the RTE with profound wisdom like each class having at least two teachers, and each teacher having her own classroom. Compute that. It has created more problems than it solved, particularly among innovative schools doing exceptional work and homeschoolers. When asked about the status of homeschoolers, the man had said that the bill would not be revised, but homeschoolers could find ways around it. Yep. Advocating the bypass of his own creation. Primary school admissions have DROPPED since the RTE was passed.

So, really. If this is the damage Sherlock does to the country with nothing personal at stake, imagine the havoc he will wreak when he has his own hide on stake.

To put it bluntly, I have no trust in the recent flood of laws these guys are churning out, and something that is important to the entire country still evading the input of representatives of the civil society sounds ominous to me, regardless of what the bill is. With the government committed to passing the bill, I think every sane person in the country should be rooting for the ideas that brought the country to its feet at least being presented for consideration.

Crowd psychology.

Sachin Kalbag of Midday shared an interesting article on crowd psychology which supports what some intellectuals speak of, but puts it in more scientific language. The article speaks of the greater accuracy of collective wisdom, and how that accuracy becomes worse if the crowd is influenced by an idea. This is a good point, and while the data isn’t in a verifiable format, it seems plausible. However, there is little evidence that the stand of the crowd has changed. However, these things are very difficult to estimate live. In any case, this is a caution, and thinking minds must remain thinking. I suppose thoughtful choices is the best one can do, when caught in a process you have no way of getting a overview or alternative view of.

But yes, most definitely a danger of the “herd mentality” that we all must keep in mind, regardless of which side of the debate we are on. I don’t see this “idea infecting group opinion” necessarily as a risk limited to the supporters. Very easily possible with the opposers too – more, in fact, since the opposition seems to be evolving, unlike the supporters constant stand. However, rather than use this as a point to discredit either side, I would look at this as something we must remain aware of as a possibility, so that the best of thinking may be available to the country, regardless of what it is.

There are more things, but I’ll leave them for a later article, since the thought process is at a much nicer place of thinking our best for the country rather than support/oppose divide.

Want to state once more, that my support is for the movement. I see many people coming together in unprecedented numbers, so to me, what they want is important, whether right or wrong, and they must be heard and their concerns must be accommodated. If there is a compromise that denoted lower quality to some, it is a consideration that they see it as the price of complacency so far, rather than deliberate evil inflicted on the country.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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