Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hunger politics

The Anna Hazare hunger strike and now the subsequent victory as the government accedes to the demands have captured the attention of the nation for the past two weeks and I have watched it all with growing unease.

Let us think about what the Jan Lokpal Bill essentially wants to do:
1. Set up a body of citizens - well-awarded and respected citizens - to oversee charges of corruption levied on public officials
2. This citizens body will oversee ALL current offices that tackle corruption including CBI and CVC

Essentially - it wants to set up a vigilante committee of well-meaning or well-respected citizens to do something that we already have elected officials for. I am not denying that corruption is a very serious problem in our government, but we cannot fix the problem by subverting and minimizing our own elected government. It is ridiculously naive and romantic to assume that all the well-awarded citizens have only the best interests of the nation at heart. It sounds exactly like the ineffective socialist/communist speak that I grew up with in Kolkata that ultimately came to nothing in terms of systems or processes or successful governance.

I have only the utmost respect for the immense courage and conviction that Mr. Hazare showed by undertaking his fast unto death but I will not thank him for blackmailing my government. I believe it was sincere, but once the fast was announced, there really was not going to be any other outcome. I mean - what democratic government willingly allows its citizens to die? It was unfair to both the government and ultimately to the people who deserved an open debate away from emotional blackmail. The entire issue became about the person and not the Bill and the impact it would have on our future as a nation.

My unease was more because I was unable to voice this opinion in front of friends who had undertaken this quest to join in with Anna Hazare. The almost total lack of contrary voices among the public scares me. After all this time will we as a people and a democracy allow this kind of blackmail to force our government into a corner? I really hope not. Despite everything that our naysayers will throw at us - we are essentially a democratic people. This has been hard won and I refuse to accept the subversion of that institution when we haven't even tried to fix things from the inside. We have a long, long way to go - 60 years is nothing in the lifetime of a nation. There are so many changes to make in our processes. We as a people need to fight for those changes to fix the machinery before we bring in a new one.

I hope that now that the hunger politics have died down, real democratic processes will start and the we will get an opportunity to be part of a public debate on what is the right way to tackle corruption.

No comments:

Post a Comment