In the last week or so, several people have questioned my stand in support for Team Anna. Some have said that it isn’t consistent with my non-authoritarian beliefs (I have also been writing to questioning excessive policing). Still others have said that on one hand I recommend that the laws we have should be halved, on another, I am supporting the passing of a big law. Still others have pointed out my agreements with some of what critics say, but refusal to deny support to Team Anna. All this seems inconsistent to them, and as people following my thoughts for a long time, they deserve answers.
The answer is what I say all the time. I have no parties and lobbies including Team Anna. I support team Anna because I believe what is happening is healthy for the country – for the people to own their country and for the government to do with force what it will not do with responsibility – acknowledge that their citizens are routinely hurt and their interests damaged with their selfish choices.
Corruption has become such a keyword now, that I hesitate to use it because of all its baggage, but in the absence of a better alternative, I use it with its meaning as a word, rather than the implications of a movement.
People are saying all over that everyone wants to fight corruption. Actually, my priorities with this movement are different, which possibly explains my stand – I want government misconduct challenged – fixed or not, forcing the government to toe an ethical line in such a public fashion, and so many times is a much needed slap to the high handedness and utter lack of concern for the citizen’s interest that we see all over. People in cities and towns protest, people in less visible areas die quietly, but the government doesn’t even hiccup – THIS in my eyes is far more dangerous than corruption, and an old man is twisting the collective ears of those who served the country he helped free by publicly standing tall against increasingly hideous methods which seem to expose that the government doesn’t seem to have any kind of human understanding of people. Marvelous imagery. Does wonders for my mood. Corruption is one part of it. Maybe it will happen, maybe it will not. But these protests themselves are exposing and confronting the government’s methods of dealing with citizens. They are a much needed lesson on manners – for lack of a better word.
I agree with some objections raised, particularly one point in Arundhati Roy’s essay on the subject (though not the rest). The concern that corporates providing vital public services like Electricity, gas or mobile phones, for example don’t come under the Lokpal in any bill version is something I have been voicing for a while now. I had also submitted it at one of the sites collecting suggestions, but it doesn’t seem to have made it to the revision. I think this is vital, and sooner or later it will either need to be added, or prove to be a weak area of the bill. Arundhati most rightly points out that in many scams, corporates were indeed party to the scams.
There are other concerns on ethics – for example, a difference in how they see corruption and how I do. As usual, not pointing out ones already in the public space, so try this. To me, Arvind Kejriwal taking two years of paid leave for education to begin his work in activism is corruption of a kind. It is dishonest. It is using funds provided for human resource development to take a paid leave and indulge in interests in order to keep hanging on to a government job and salary he had no intention of continuing.
But while he has a massive role in the movement coming into being, he is small fish to me. What is happening is massive, and his kind of corruption is going to be an eternal fight. I don’t see the personal evaluation of any of the people as relevant to the points it raises. It is a different battleground in my eyes. Mentioned this only as a “proof” that I am not supporting blindly, nor even excusing corruption, but that to me this movement is in the dynamics of the country, even if a few people are the face. A person without an official role in the country is, to me not as important as what is happening in the country – which is overwhelmingly useful for what I want to see happening.
However, I support “Team Anna” and encourage others to support till such a point as their demands force their version of the bill on the Parliament (unlikely – openly admitted, and support will drop massively even if attempted) or the government finds a more respectful tone about citizens (can’t begin to say how needed this is).
If we consider Team Anna misguided, the government is still more dangerous because of the power it wields. To me, if Anna is a tool for confronting them, I am all for it. I doubt any of the doom and gloom stories are possible in a democracy just because Anna’s personal views are authoritarian. Certainly not in such a critical fashion as nothing can be done to resist them, if indeed they seek to impose them on the country.
Nor do I believe the stories of an all powerful super-entity. NONE of the various versions have a Lokpal with unlimited power. However, interestingly, it is only the IAC (Team Anna) version that gives an ordinary civilian to initiate an investigation into a Lokpal too. The government version neither gives the civilians that power, AND the government chooses the Lokpal – which in today’s political landscape means no more than a puppet, for one that doesn’t toe the govt line can simply be fired.
I also think that the PM and judiciary ought to come under the Lokpal because not elected. Politicians are elected, not judges, not CBI, not any of the many functions a country needs to run. No reason why a Lokpal should not exist because not elected. Particularly if we see the current situation, where our PM himself has not won any election. He was nominated. It is a matter of debate if a leader elected by elected representatives can or cannot be considered elected, but the fact remains that out of the elected leaders, no one seemed suitable for PM? Under these circumstances, I cannot hold such a dubious figure in blind faith. Particularly when the elected leaders electing him are open for scrutiny anyway.
The rest of it is not an issue for me. How the Lokpal gets elected – as long as it is not government or anyone else it investigates. I don’t care about officers lower down in the governement food chain who can be taken action against with regular newspaper stings and police complaints. In fact, I think they shouldn’t come under the Lokpal, because too much confusion on who deals with a certain issue. Or possibly there can be an investigation of police who refuse to investigate them. I don’t know.
I definitely think that the corporates and all who offer essential public services to be open to scrutiny. Particularly at top levels of policy making because the country is shaped by their decisions [changed mind on this since – read below]. It is a kind of political power too to control essentials to people – government or corporate. And again, it is a power that has provably been misused in collusion with government employed leaders. How do you investigate, say a 2G scam for instance, without the power to investigate corporate leaders? Or will they have separate trials and multiple convictions because of multiple charges? So these are blurred boundaries that need to be investigated better.
But these things are secondary. What is more important right now is that the government lives up to the spirit of its word even if it definitely was a big mistake to form a Joint Committee. It cannot agree to collaborate and then run smear campaigns against the people it collaborates with. I mean, it can, but it shouldn’t be allowed to troll such an important issue.
Which is where I will support Team Anna and insist that the government should grow up fast and work its way out of this mess or make way for someone who will, but sabotaging people’s movements through attacks or fear mongering. Because Team Anna is a protest, but the government, as Karan Thapar most helpfully pointed out is elected and officially represents the country.
Update: I have revised my thinking since I wrote this. I think our existing system has the power to address misconduct in corporate sector at all levels, and that it shouldn’t come under the Lokpal. I should have updated here, earlier, doing so now.