Sunday, August 28, 2011

India wins

After 13 days of fasting finally our dear Annaji broke his fast on national television at the Ramlila grounds. Let us now look back at the phenomenon called Anna and attempt to analyze from where it has come and what is its future trajectory.
The man seems to be a rustic villager, simple looking but complex personality who from all accounts seems to have a big ego. He claims to be destiny's child as he considered his escape from the jaws of death, a call to a higher calling in life. The man dedicated his life to rural upliftment of his bretheren and by all accounts Ralegan Siddhi became a model of rural development based on watershed development and social reform. All this was done by Anna in a manner an army man would adopt, a combination of coercion and persuasion more of the former than the latter. His work and his spartan life style won him admiration and acclaim in Maharashtra, India and abroad resulting him getting the Magsaysay award, an asian equivalent of the Nobel prize. His work made him engage with the political class and he like his inspiration Gandhi cut his teeth in agitation politics at the lower levels before taking the might of the Indian state. While self sacrifice and fasting as a symbol of the same was typically his method of protest, he has to the surprise of seasoned politicians mastered the art of symbolism, public speaking and tactical timing and in this he has faithfully emulated Gandhi. His choice of issue was corruption which has peaked in the last few years and has become so brazen, that the people came to a point where they felt "enough is enough", helped him to connect instantly with the masses. However, nothing succeeds without luck and Anna's luck came in the form of a Government run by a bunch of technocrats and lawyers, who knew the rules of law but were not the spirit in which they were framed. They engaged Anna's team in drafting, but only tried their level best to undermine them and discredit them. When they seemed to partially succeed they made the crucial mistake of arresting Anna, on August16 and made him a hero and converted the fence sitters to become his supporters. Coupled with that the opposition was in position to jump on to his bandwagon as they were a discredited lot too. The icing on the cake came in the form of media exposure, which was truly unprecedented. Anna played to the gallery and made his movement a reality show surpassing any event including the cricket world cup. In fact, Dhoni and his boys must thank Anna for diverting the peoples attention from their disastrous showing in England.

On the flip side, Anna's methods, show disturbing trends too. His arrogance, intemperate language, tendency to abuse like in public and dictatorial attitude are not the qualities of his mentor Gandhi. While Anna is not personally corrupt, notwithstanding a ten year old report indicting him of some minor blemishes in NGO account, he is power hungry and wants the attention to himself. Dictating to Parliament, Prime Minister and intolerance of other views are qualities which can destroy him and his movement. While I accept that in the heat of an agitation maximalistic positions are taken as tactical ploys, by both sides, I felt that both sides crossed the limit on more than one occasion. However, better sense seems to have prevailed, the movement remained at least physically non-violent. To my mind, the verbal assaults, by both parties prevent me from calling this a pure non-violent agitation.

On the elected establishment side, parliament acted, finally to accede to some of Anna's demands with some grace, notwithstanding a few MP's who are still riding the high horse, they did so only under the sheer weight and force of public opinion. The realization that they were disconnected from their constituents and ran the danger of becoming irrelevant, made them speak in favor of Anna's demands.

What is the future? Our PM and government must learn that they cannot run a nation state which benefits the top 10% and ignores 90% of the population. A government which cares only for GDP, sensex and market parameters has been told that India cannot become a superpower, if it ignores Bharat. Corporate India, has directly benefited by their cosy relation and collusion with our shameless netas and babus. This movement must take on other issues like electoral reforms, land reforms, unorganized labor issues, health care, education, and many others and we must become a participatory democracy with the village Panchayats and local bodies getting the place Gandhi dreamt of in independent India. But, Anna must shed his arrogance, refine his approach and finally create a political platform where a person of modest means, who is not dynastically connected and who is neither communal or casteist, but who wants to work for people can get elected.

I end my blog by invoking the blessings of the supreme power above through this prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Vispi Jokhi

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anna Hazare: Hero but not flawless

Well in continuity of my blogs, today our PM finally made the grand gesture and the appeal to a great citizen called by a simple name Anna which means brother to call of his fast. If we go back to the beginning, Anna Hazare was an army man who survived a near death experience. The subsequent introspection led him to a path of rural development and uplift. One thing led to another and he started developing the habit of fearlessly taking on the establishment on issues of corruption at the state level. Destiny led him on to greater achievement, and today he stands on the threshold of a revolutionary change in Indian democracy.

While his critics, including myself feel that he has exceeded his brief, by insisting on holding the Government and Parliamentary system to ransom by taking maximalistic positions, even his worst critics will acknowledge, that but for his fast and agitation, the political class would certainly not have acted. Even today there is still a feeling amongst his team and the people at large that the political class is not sincere. However, more than Anna, the people of this nation have through Anna and his movement, scared both the establishment and all parliamentarians, to such an extent that many feel that if they fail to give us a Lokpal with powers and jurisdiction as envisaged by both Jan Lokpal or Aruna Roy's draft bills, they risk losing power and their seats in Parliament. This to my mind is the greatest gain of this agitation. The establishment and many of us, failed to gauge the public anger and disgust at the scale and shamelessness of corruption. The overwhelming public support, enabled Anna to become a hero, who was saluted in Parliament, by our PM just 10 days after ordering his arrest.

To his credit, Anna did write letters to the PM about his intentions and plans and used every democratic forum to appeal to the establishment, they just did not care or bother about him or actually intentionally wanted to wear him out and his movement. However, the main problem with Anna Hazare is that he is unable to realize that the ends and means cannot be divorced. His choice of associates and inability to intellectually grasp the deeper implications of his actions will end up weakening his movement. Anna has done his job of awakening and mobilizing the nation, now he must allow the politicians under sustained public pressure to formulate a strong and effective law.

I hope that saner elements will help Anna Hazare take the correct decisions, leading to a peaceful and amicable solution to this unfortunate impasse.
Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where do I stand on the Lokpal issue a week after?

A week is a long time in politics, but a very short time to take a considered stand on an issue as important as the Lokpal issue. While I was expecting a confrontation between Government and Anna Hazare, I never expected seasoned political figures in Government to blunder so badly as they have done so. Well I can only say that this is the result of making a technocrat with a CEO approach, the Prime Minister of a nation. While we feel comfortable having an honest, sincere, hard working qualified man as PM, we cannot feel inspired by his leadership. In fact, today more than ever before in his career, Dr. ManMohan Singh's deficiencies as a leader have shown up. At the end of the day the buck stops at his desk and he must take responsibility for the series of errors of the UPA2 government.
However, the governments' loss has been team Anna's gain and a predominantly middle-class, urban movement has transformed into one that has captured the imagination and mood of the nation. 24/7 news channels have brought the movements into our drawing rooms, but have also inspired the average Indian to join in the various demonstrations and dharnas across the length and breadth of this nation. Historically, we seem to draw comparisons between this movement and the JP movement of '77 or even our freedom struggle.
My instinct and emotions tell me to come out on the streets and add to the fervor and excitement and become part of this historical revolution. However, I am not there on the streets of Mumbai as I am feeling uncomfortable with the utterances of Anna Hazare and his team. Setting unreasonable deadlines, and his coming across as a simpleton, not able to grasp the complexities of law and law making, refusal to be more self critical are the main weaknesses of the team Anna campaign. The juxtaposition of Gandhi on the stage is also a matter of discomfort to me. Gandhiji was always very careful about the issue, he took up and was completely well informed and aware of intricate details of the issue he took up. His attention to detail and most careful attention to the means adopted was indeed exemplary and worthy of emulation by anybody aspiring to lead any such movement. He considered his adversary as a misguided friend and even at the worst of times never used intemperate language or set unrealistic deadlines. His most important quality was his ability to be brutally self critical, and accept his mistakes and correct his course, when the people and his own conscience led him to the truth. Also. I still feel that team Anna must give the Government an opportunity to correct its course and initiate a debate on this issue and its wider ramifications, in a time bound manner. Speaking for myself, I will try my level best to be the change I desire to see in my country. Cleansing myself, not giving a bribe and obeying the rule of law as a dharmic duty are somethings that I hope to do consistently, before I feel like becoming active part of this campaign.
I still maintain that notwithstanding my reservations, that Mr. Anna and his team deserve praise and appreciation for doing things rather than just mere talk and empty rhetoric. With the help of this foolish incompetent government, today the nation can hope that we will in all probability be able to get a Lokpal, after over four decades of waiting.
Time will tell weather I have made a correct choice in not coming out on the streets of Mumbai or done a disservice and injustice to a great man, a phenomenon called Anna Hazare.
Dr Vispi Jokhi

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jan Lokpal vs Govt. Lokpal

Dear friends,
On the occasion of India's 65th birthday, I was keenly looking forward to a PM who would rise above the pettiness of his government and party and make a grand gesture of reconciliation to the civil society members. This especially after they had demonstrated over the last few months the widespread support their draft had amongst the intelligentsia. I personally am among the few who have read both the drafts and realized the clever game played by Pranabda Sibal Chidambaram cabal. Very cleverly they have defanged every bit of the snake venom an effective Lokpal would have been able to inject into the corrupt system that we have in the name of governance and rule of law.
Our country today has reason to be proud of its democracy, however, we need to understand that our system has many flaws which need correction. Politics and politicians of all parties with exception of perhaps the communists have become a professional exclusive club, where familial lineage, money power, caste and community are the main factors determining electability and in these circumstances no ploitician is ready for a Lokpal which can stop corruption effectively. So in this situation, I am certain that the government and opposition will play a sinister game of "lack of consensus","disagreement on wordings" etc. etc. to defer and put into cold storage any bill, effective or otherwise. I am also of the view that Anna Hazare and his team cannot claim exclusive rights to represent the masses. The complexity of the issues precludes the possibility of a referendum too as the issue is not of a simple yes or no on a single point of reference. On the positive side the members of the civil society drafting group have impeccable credentials and expertise. Besides, they have not just opposed something without attempting to use all democratic means to engage with government. They have offered reasonable solutions. If there is a fault in Anna, it lies in his intemperate language, often bordering on arrogance along with his immaturity. The mud flung on them has not stuck but government is smugly confident on account of their two major strategies. They know that public memory is short, and they only have to wear out the opposition with committees and delays, after which a cynical nation will go about its business as usual attitude. This strategy is time tested and proven to work as in the issue of terrorism or woman's reservation bill.
However, this time i feel that the Government has underestimated the nations determination to root out or at least reduce corruption to tolerable levels. Anna Hazare and his team have shown that Governments can be made to yield to public pressure, but the question is weather they can out last government's delaying tactics? The way forward for both the groups is to have wider consultations and instead of egos coming in the way seek a reasonable middle path. Have a Lokpal, see how it works and amend and improve the institution on the way.
Vispi Jokhi