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It is the day for cute messages and wearing your patriotism on the sleeve. It is a day that has increasingly lost meaning for me. We got independence from the British Raj. That was 68 years ago. Are we free?

What does independence mean? Was really racist enough to think that we needed the white skins out? I don't think so. Many freedom fighters too enaged with the world beyond India, got educated in the west. Indeed most of those we bother to remember as leaders of our freedom struggle were. They have continued the thought, the methods, the dysfunctional laws to keep the natives in line.

But if you take a moment to think about it, was this why the Indian masses fought for freedom? Poor starving masses have no ideology. They resist oppression. Their ideology is survival. Their ideology is their right to thrive. Many places had every home throwing up a satyagrahi or a rebel. They did not do this because of inspiring ideologies. They did this because they could not thrive under the British. They did not like being second class citizens, they did not like their wealth being stolen, their grains feeding far off wars while they died in famines. They fought against the British because the British WRONGED them. At the top, those with fancy ideologies, who were rarely poor enough to worry about whether they could survive formed grand theories about how they were the rightful custodians of India. But the Indian masses supported them for the hope to an end of their , not fancy ideologies or even democracy.

These people are still struggling. They are still being evicted from their homes and roots in the name of development that happens elsewhere. They are still providing cheap food so that the subjects of the Raj don't revolt, even as they the drought with their sweat and blood. They are still demanding their rights. they aren't revolting because they don't know how. There are no elite with their ideologies to tell them how to fight this time, because the elite are busy squabbling over the loot from the last time. Besides, there is a danger in reminding the masses that they didn't fight for freedom because the colonists were British - many invaders have ruled India without uprisings. There is a danger in reminding that they fought the British because they were harmed and humiliated. Because they still are.

The danger in reminding people of this is because very little has changed for those who gave uprisings their power. Their living conditions have very little change. Most freedom fighter stories - it is the season now, check them out - still describe the freedom fighters living in poverty, forgotten. These stories talk of India's lack of gratitude for their contribution. But these stories also stand witness that the conditions that led those people to revolt for their freedom still exist. In effect, they achieved nothing for their own realities.

The that made a career out of hyperbolic patriotism as idolizing soldiers evicted protesting soldiers on the day before Independence Day celebrations. The 68th "Independence Day" and soldiers can't even ask for their rights without being attacked by the state. What were they asking for? Their basic rights. One rank, one pension. . An old age without needing to beg from those they put their lives on the line to defend. The country is dotted with struggles. I doubt if there is a single district in all of India without some struggle still going on. Whether it is desperate slum dwellers fighting for their homes, or farmers fighting for something as pitiful as allowing them the income for survival so that they continue to subsidize the food for this colony. A government that is asking people to give up their LPG subsidies never thinks of asking people who can afford it at least to pay the actual cost of what it takes to grow food and profit from it. We hide the harm to farmers, sneer at any effort to make their lives easier as "handouts", while filling our bellies with the handouts from farmers.

Aren't celebrations a bit premature?

India is STILL bleeding money, draining most of the country for the prosperity of a few. Is it even freedom if criticizing the government means being declared a supporter of India's enemies and jeered at and being asked to leave the country? "Go to Pakistan!" Why? Because this is the country of your colonists. Not yours for you to stay here, right?

We have a  poverty line that is so absurd, it is more like a miracle line - incredible people who can survive on nothing. And we still have about a fourth of us living UNDER it. MAGIC. Perhaps we can earn TRPs if we turn it into a TV series. Oh wait they usually don't survive. They exist starving till something they can't afford to cure takes them down. There is a government hell bent on emptying vast swathes of India for the profit making industries with little regard for the people or the forests. We are now redefining things so that they don't sound so terrible. We tweak statistics to make them sound less terrible. We call the cutting down of age old forests as reforestation because surely, someone plants a few saplings somewhere.... Forest dwellers are now the homeless. Massive displacements "compensate" the development hit masses for the loss of their livelihood, their homes, their sustainable communities that were their support structures and nurtured the environment, their sources of food... with pigeon hole housing - because hey, if we give them a home, we just shifted them for progress and didn't really harm them. Right?

Celebrating 68 70 years of complacency over colonization this IndependenceDay

The drought saw young daughters studied till the 12th class come to Bombay to work as prostitutes and send money home instead of dreaming weddings their families can't afford. Parents gave daughters to bride traffickers to feed the remaining family even as trafficked brides get shared among brothers, discarded if the husband dies or no longer wants her. Parents marrying daughters off with just one consideration - that the boy's home is in a place where there is water. There are men marrying water wives to fetch water for their real families. While resorts boast of swimming pools and cities suck up water from hundreds of kilometers away while people nearby die of heatstroke chasing the scarce water tankers. We saw those accused in the irrigation scam give themselves a clean chit while others condemned them. Not one voice spoke of the need to make reparations to those development-hit people denied water for 10 years.

Today is the deadline for providing feedback on Net Neutrality. The government and internet providers are deperately looking for ways to make massive profit from an unequal internet by finding ways to call it equal. The previous feedback seems to have gone into some blackhole and there is a new, short deadline for providing new feedback if you are still planning to persist on fighting for your internet. Poetically, your chance to have a say ends on independence day. Oh and the government has formally declared in court that you don't have a right to privacy, even as your information torrents into big data for someone's profit. With the government's blessings.

The British jailed journalists and editors who wrote to oppose them. Our government has sent notices to on how they were reported. Crimes against inconvenient natives go unpunished. We are actually diluting the laws for whistleblowers making it illegal to expose wrongdoings that the government doesn't allow you to. Propaganda continues to convince the people that the rulers are their best interest, just like the old days.

Does it sound like these people are independent yet? Can a country with most of its people living hand to mouth - if at all - even call itself free? Can a country that denies dignity and income to those who feed it, serve it, protect it be called free? Can a government that silences people critical of it be called a government of the people? General Dyer merely ordered the firing at Jalianwala Baug. The soldiers were Indian. As Indian as our agencies inventing crimes against people who are opposing wrongs by our colonists against the natives.

Picture abhi baaki hain dost, the freedom struggle is not yet over!

Is this independence? Are Indian people really rulers of their country? I don't think so. Independence day is just a PR game for me. The elites telling people they have something precious, even when people cannot experience it. The freedom struggle is not over yet. The so called Independence Day merely marks a change in colonizers. The freedom struggle is still on, invisible, modest but determined all over India where people are STILL fighting an unjust state that is trampling all over their right to thrive on their land.

Old post. Still valid, so no need to write a new one.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. The common man of India does not care much about corruption. They care about what the bottom line is for them. This is exactly how corrupt - even known corrupt politicians keep getting reelected - they do things people find relevant and useful and keep their corruption irrelevant to the immediate interest of their voters.

It would be folly for Aam Aadmi Party to ignore this aspect while being an anti-corruption party.

The common man has little awareness of National Wealth. How much wealth the country has, how it gets used or looted or who loots it are so distant to him, that they might as well not exist or be the same difference either way. It makes little difference to the common man whether an expose happens or the loot continues unabated in terms of direct relevance to their lives - the money is out of their reach anyway. If the corrupt are doing good things, they will ignore the corruption because either way the money won't reach them, and vote on the basis of the interest satisfied.

Exposes alone will fail to "clean" Indian politics.

What Aam Aadmi Party should do as strategy - and I believe that it is also appropriate justice and accountability - is that it must make an effort to accompany every expose with a desired demand for action that is immediately beneficial to the people. For example, an expose of an electricity scam should demand that the losses suffered by people from undue billing should be recovered and refunded to them. This is beyond the actual demand for justice or PIL that gets filed. Perhaps the demand can also be in the PIL.

Exposing the irrigation scam is not enough when people are losing orchards to drought. the expose should be accompanied by a demand for immediate arrangements of water on an emergency basis by the government - on the establishment of the fact that irrigation paid for has not been delivered for a decade - regardless of who is found guilty or prosecuted and so on. When the guilty are found,the amount the government spends can be recovered with interest from their hide, but the aid to the region must not have to wait for projects to complete or cases to be judged. The PIL itself should include a plea for the government to make immediate arrangements and amends on a war footing and the conclusion of the case will decide who ends up paying for it.

Such actions will also pressure the governments to conclude cases faster to recover own funds and will help citizens understand what corruption did to them and what advantage an accountable government can offer them.

When I suggested this on twitter, several people claimed that AAP cannot do such things if it is not elected with majority. This is not true. Many agitations and protests happen through non political channels too! Let alone political channels with some representation and voice at least.Besides, the demand being stated itself will provide people with a vision of possibilities - that wrongs done to them can be repaired to some degree, not merely relegated to the abyss of newsprint while their lives continue to be the same.

As a side bonus, it will also provide AAP with ready data on exactly how many lives their expose improved.

Hope this makes sense.

 

Comment away, make suggestions to improve this, pick at fallacies, whatever.

Arun Jaitley's advocate, Pratibha Singh has sent a legal notice to blogger Prashant Panday and Arun Jaitley has posted it on his personal website as well. The blogger had made certain accusations about Jaitley's finances.

I think this is a good thing. Not the practice of sending notices to bloggers to shut them up, but the act of a politician challenging accusations of corruption himself without letting them fester and blow up into rumor mills. Of course, exposing corruption runs the risk of angering people, and a legal notice serves nicely as a weapon to try and get a corruption expose taken offline. We saw it on my blog when I got a notice over an expose I had made. So it is not as if I don't understand what happens to the blogger who cannot afford to fight legal battles.

Firstly, I believe that blogging is conversations. It is an important voice for people, but there is no logic in assuming a blogger is always correct or in dismissing the harm done to a person who is on the receiving end of bad publicity. Asserting a blogger's right to say whatever he wants regardless of the consequences to another is not a responsible call, in my opinion. Particularly when the article is published in a newspaper. As the notice states, it was published on the Times of India website as well as getting picked by a newspaper in Tripura. The Times of India piece seems to be taken down, but the Tripura one is still available online. There is no telling where else it has spread, since newspaper content does spread like wildfire.

While I am against the arbitrary imposition of a 48 hour deadline for taking down content that can be imposed by anyone at large, I am not against demanding accountability from content itself. There is no such thing as the right to slander. And inventing it will be dangerous to a country that thrives on polarization, not to mention the overall quality of information where stakes are high. This is a stand I have taken fairly consistently regardless of which political party is accused or doing the accusing.

A whistleblower ought to have documents that back up his accusations, without which it becomes malicious gossip. And the hate between political parties as well as parties basing their entire existence on anticorruption is such that a person with proofs against a politician getting a legal notice cannot be silenced as easily. Worse, the internet smelling injustice has a way of decimating attempts to silence it. The content targetted for removal would get a wider audience instead. Unlike the common man of India, the common netizen of India isn't that easily silenced.

Even in the case where the issue is not as high TRP as a politician, a whistleblower who has proofs can simply present them as proof that he is not defaming. It is not defamation if you can prove it true. My reply to the notice had presented the sources for my claims and the matter ended there. I did take down the original post for fear of legal harrassment, but I believe that if I had the time (which I don't, for personal circumstances), I could also have defended it in court, which is something that is highly unlikely to pan out if your expose is genuine. No one wants to prove themselves corrupt to avoid a blogpost.

Now look at the rest of the scene. Politicians are ganging up to avoid RTI into political parties. Our sources of accurate information are severely restricted. In such a situation, a legal notice such as this actually helps clarify the issue, in my opinion. There are claims the person is making on record. If those can be proved wrong, the whole matter becomes much simpler - in the case of a corrupt politician. If the notice makes explanations that make the sources of the accusation of corruption wrong in some manner, then it is a clarification got at relatively less effort. In any case, the accused person responding to the accusation on record has to be a plus if the objective is against corruption rather than a PR war.

Also, I think given the deteriorating standards of journalism, demanding accountability from content that can make or break the reputation of a politician in the run up to elections is hardly unreasonable. I hope that this sets off a flurry of notices against mass media by politicians who would like to set the record straight. This is also what I thought about the allegations of US citizenship of our new RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. These things must be on record and clear as a matter of transparency. It should not be a matter of either silencing a blogger/journalist or defending a politician.

In my view such actions will be very welcome in today's vile political scenario which thrives on disinformation and mud singing. They will help the common man separate manipulation from facts and empower democracy.

In my view, politicians themselves addressing accusations of corruption with any visibility will go a long way toward getting some answers while we figure out how to get the RTI working.

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The following is the transcript of snippets of P. Sainath's insights on democracy. I think there is much to think of here. Many thanks Atul Hirde for making this video and sharing.

I believe that a democratic political culture is essential for any kind of governance, any kind of social contract, for any kind of society to be together, live together, work together, but the thing is, when you say "Do you agree that democracy is the best form?" You have one concept in your mind, which is not going to be easy for you to articulate. I may have another concept of it in my mind. Which may be completely different.

What is democracy?

Now, when we are talking about Western democracy, let it also be clear that there are many kinds of... there's more than one Western concept of democracy, okay?

One can look at Thomas Paine. He had radical ideas of democracy, but the main people who led the US independence and benefited from it, unlike Thomas Paine, were people like Jefferson, Washington... all of them were slave owners.

We speak of the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy. Thomas Jefferson not only wrote beautiful and exquisite poems, he was also pretty harsh on his slaves and he was willing to sell months old children of slaves. He did not release his slaves in his will - as Washington did for some of them - and Mr. Jefferson also had profoundly racist prejudices.

Democracies that you have in the west in the United Kingdom or the US are based on the enslavements of people, whether in Africa or Iraq or all around the world. In that sense there is continuity and consistency in the approach.

All the founding fathers of the United States, many of the ... you have people from the 17th, 18th century, you have people harking back to Rome, harking back to Greece, writing epics on these nations and the early republics and the democracies... these were democracies based on slave ownership.

When European nations went out and enslaved the world, it was very good to remember Rome and Greece. And it is very good in Greece to remember Plato and Aristotle, because these were guys who justified slavery. They saw the slave as property. Adam Smith writes of the slave as if he is a piece of machinery whereas in ancient Greece. Whether it is ancient greece or more modern England. Adam Smith writes of the slave as a piece of machinery - whose parts wear out. And you have to reinvest.

There's a lot of consistency in this view of human beings.

When you are an imperialist power in the 18th, 19th centuries, conquering people around the world, it is pretty good to restore those elements of the Roman, Greco-Roman, other cultures which support your position, because those were slave owning republics and slave owning democracies and slave owning empires and most of those who founded the United States drew their inspiration from that kind of democracy.

It's on view in Iraq, where everyone of you has sent the token number of troops as well, okay? We're seeing that kind of democracy. A democracy again based on enslavement of people.

You were asking me a question, "Why did Gandhi call Western Democracy a diluted form of fascism?"

Do you know something about Gandhi? All but five months of his life, he lived under British Imperialism. He watched the nation that called itself the mother of all Parliaments and he watched them enslave a hundred nations. All of them completely oppressed and held under the British rule. While the British power practiced democracy at home. To some extent. Even that democracy at home was substantially improved by the radical work and writings and ideas of people like Thomas Paine and others.

Please notice, Gandhi did not say democracy is diluted fascism. He said Western democracy is diluted fascism.

Let me give you an idea. I find it apalling, this Greco-Roman stuff, which is.... I have it coming out of my ears, and then we have a French academic passing through Bombay, who sings the praise of Greco-Roman republics and I think where are... you know... here is a guy coming from France - a nation that has produced far more noble ideas on democracy and egalitarianism than Greece and Rome ever did. Here is the nation that gave the world the slogan, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" - a slogan that Indian freedom fighters took to their graves with them.

Switzerland, oh great. Switzerland. Taught to me in school as the epitome of democracy at every level... when did they give women the right to vote? Some 30 years after India did, because women in India had the right to vote the minute this country was born. I still say it doesn't make India a good democracy in that sense. It makes India a good electoral democracy.

Unlike people of America, people of this country vote, they use their vote, and they use it to change governments and to produce change.

The man who was the main architect of the Constitution of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar, when the constitution was released, when the constitution was launched, in 1950, Ambedkar said, we have built a thriving political democracy, but we have not accompanied it with economic democracy. The tensions of inequality, the tensions of this contradiction will blow us up one day.

Now if you want to believe that the United States and UK and its allies in Europe went into Iraq to promote democracy, if you believe that, then you can believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the rest of it.

Now if Iraq's national product had been onions, there would have been no war. There are two kinds of things why people went into Iraq. One is of course is the natural resources and the other geo-political stuff. Noam Chomsky put it very well when they have said International relations are also organized pretty much on the lines of the Mafia. If the small shopkeeper refuses to pay, you don't really need his money, but you gotta beat the shit out of him, because otherwise other shopkeepers will get ideas.

I think a lot of people make the distinction between democratic behavior and democratic governance, and the imposition of a particular breed of a violent democracy, on these nations by the United States and its western allies, I think people are intelligent enough to make this difference.

Many Western minds are not intelligent enough it seems to understand that people make that distinction. They might want democracy. They may not want your democracy.

The Australian political scientist, Alex Carry. I think he summarized when talking about the 20th century. He summarized - he said, "There were three great developments in the 20th Century. The rise and growth of democracy, the rise and growth of corporate power and The rise and growth of corporate media - to try and strangle the rise and growth of democracy.

 

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There is big attention to corruption these days. People are exhorted to stop supporting corruption, to blow the whistle when they witness corruption, etc. At the same time, after much noise, few are actually doing it.

After much thinking, I concluded that it was because:

  • Corruption provides some advantage.
  • Corruption makes things easier by bypassing lengthier processes.
  • Bribes allow an unfavorable authority to be converted into a more pleasing one. Most people dislike being in the wrong.
  • Fighting corruption is inconvenient at best and can be downright dangerous as stakes get higher. Everything from character assassinations to actual assassinations can become possible in retaliation. There is little motivation for a person to get himself into added work or actual trouble because of what "should" be.

I think that till these fundamental blocks can be addressed, the number of people making an effort against corruption (as opposed to verbally supporting anti-corruption) will always remain low. There is too much deterrent and too little motivation.

In my observation, going against the tide happens for three main reasons - fun, profit and survival. Whether the going against tide is breaking laws, or preventing them from being broken.

Fun

This is important. This includes the thrill of power - of beating odds, of being hero, whatever. It is a psychological high.

Profit

Be it giving bribes or selling National property cheap, profit is another big motivator. Everyone needs money, whether they need it or not.

Survival

People under threat will do anything to destroy the threat. This is less related with corruption and more in the zone of terrorism, security, and such. In a few cases, could be assosicated with going bankrupt, for example, but rare.

To combat corruption, the first two levels must be leveraged effectively to create strong motivation and overcome reluctance.

Some ways I see this easily possible are through media and government policies.

Media

Media has the power to direct attention, to create momentary heroes, to create a feeling of being appreciated and respected. The "fun" factor. There should be media shows making heroes out of whistle blowers, showing "best stings of the week" kind of stuff. Description of two kinds of shows as examples:

Truth seeker of the week

Interview with a whistle blower or RTI activist or such who has helped crack some big wrong doing. Hearing the story from him/her, showing any clips or photographs or graphics applicable, etc. Possibly more than one 2-3 per show, if it turns out footage is not enough (though I don't see how footage can not be enough with an interview 😀 )

Top Ten Stings

A programme that solicits sting videos from the public. Hidden camera footage of bribes, etc. With short commentary of the whole story, and following the count down pattern.. "and this weeks number one sting is the shocking expose of ... blah blah"

Newspapers can do similar stuff with whistle blowing information that leads to arrest, for example. A weekly column of some or the other wrong set right because of a citizen hero. These are just ideas - our media is far better than my limited imagination at creating sensational news 😉

And it is a win win. The bad guy being brought down by the common man is never going to go out of TRPs.

This kind of heroism associated with truth seeking will go a long way to prevent social discrimination against truth seekers for rocking boats, will encourage more people to become heroes when they realize that people respect these actions.

And the reluctance to be the bad guy by challenging wrong doing (which is a sorry truth) will be replaced or at least diminished by knowing that their action will be valued.

Government Policies

Investigating corruption isn't an initiative as is being pimped so loudly. Investigating corruption is enforcing the country's laws. We need initiatives that encourage fighting corruption.

Awards on a National, state, regional level is one possibility, but sadly, there will be fears of corruption in their allocation. We are in an extremely insecure or rather paranoid phase about corruption.

But what can easily be done NOW is to provide a percentage of the money saved or the estimated value of whatever crime is prevented as a direct and confidential deposit into the bank account of the whistle blower. EVERY revealing of wrongdoing/breaking of law should be considered as whistle blowing - without exemption. We also need to consider setting aside a budget for witness protection programmes for people who are in danger as a result of their service to the country. The whistle blower's bill passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday, so that is a good move too. This needs to be done in addition - an amendment might be good.

When corruption comes under attack, all the processes it smoothens for people will become sores, and proper solutions can be created for them where legitimate.

Yeah, that is it. If fighting corruption will lead to fun and profit, like corruption leads to fun and profit, then the ground is level for the challenge and the desire for a better world will empower change rather than frustrated talk.