The change we seek

28th December 2013 will go down in India’s history as the day when a common man rose to become chief minister of its capital.
Arvind kejriwal’s isn’t a story of someone who shot into the limelight out of nowhere. He’s one of those people who has dedicated his life to the cause of the nation. A man who, like many of us, was fed up with the menace of corruption and took it upon himself to rid India of it. Long before the much publicised Lokpal agitation, he was involved in pushing for another anti corruption tool. The right to information. He’s a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award for emergent leadership for his contribution to the enactment of that law.

Along with Anna Hazare, he led one of India’s largest post-independence movements to get the Lokpal bill enacted. Two years hence, that bill is a theoretical reality. But like all laws, its success lies in its enforcement.
But that movement was the beginning of a meteoric rise to power. Armed with nothing but good intentions, Arvind broke away from Anna’s principle of staying outside the political system and took the plunge into the dirty world of Indian politics. It’s been anything but easy for the man, but he’s handled it all with grace. The people of Delhi loved his ideas. Who wouldn’t. Electricity at half price, 700 litres of free water, legalising illegal colonies and a corruption free reign. His Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats of the 70. A close second to the BJP with 31.

On being offered outside support by the congress party, Arvind in one of the most refreshing thoughts of recent times, went back to the voters  to seek their opinion on whether he should accept that support and form the government. An overwhe

lming majority gave him the go ahead. Everybody wanted to live in the city of their dreams and he had promised them that.

Is there anything wrong in what Arvind kejriwal is doing? Can you find fault in any of his promises?
Is it wrong to promise free water and cheap electricity?
Is it wrong to promise safety for women and a house for the homeless?
No. Nothing wrong at all. But that’s the reason populism is hard to beat. The majority opinion isn’t always the right opinion.

A lot of people might find it ridiculous but the “The great Indian Middle class” is an unnecessarily pampered majority. True, we’re burdened by price rise, harassed by corruption and bogged down by poverty. Why would anyone call that pampering?
Here’s why.
A precious minority really does anything for the poor. Everyone talks about the poor, no one actually helps them. Beggars are ignored, homeless girls are forced into prostitution. If society doesn’t care for the poor, who will?
Everyone is corrupt. You break the rule, you should face the consequences and not bribe your way past the law. It could be something as small as riding without a helmet or a much more serious crime. But that doesn’t actually mean anything in India, does it? Where you flash the cash and get away with anything. “I’m fed up with bribing government employees for every small thing. I can’t afford to spend so much on bribes”. THEN DON’T! We have 120 crore people in this country. Let’s say we have 20 crore government employes (an extremely exaggerated number. A 2001 census put the number at roughly 2 crore.) Say all 20 crore of those are corrupt. What in the world are the other 100 crore people doing?! Wake up India! Stop giving bribes! If the giving stops, the taking will too!

Nothing comes free in life. Someone needs to pay for the electricity you use. Either you or the government. The government gets its money from you. In the end, you’ll either pay more taxes or more electricity bills. But you’ll pay. Or it has to borrow money. And it puts the finances of the state through a shredder if those debts are too high.

We’ve all been taught our fundamental rights over and over again. When was the last time somebody reminded you of your fundamental duties? When have these been followed? Don’t spit on public property, don’t disfigure monuments and so on.
But the beauty of our constitution is, it enforces your fundament rights and makes sure you have them but doesn’t force you to perform your duties. That’s why we’re pampered. Nobody ever has the guts to tell the people of this nation what they are doing wrong.

Where does Arvind kejriwal feature in all of this?
He’s won an election on the back of extreme public anger against the political class by promising things that people want to hear. By promising to pamper people more. Not once in his campaign has he, or anyone else, reminded people of their role in this process of change. Until the people of this country change, excuse the cynicism, nothing will change.

This isn’t to say that he won’t fulfil his promises. He obviously has a plan that gets all that to work.
But this nation has pinned all its hope on this new brand of politics. Everyone is waiting for the Aam Aadmi party to change the nation. Everyone is watching. Praying.
But suppose he falls short, this nation must not lose hope. Its all we have.
What will change this country is its society. Is the people. Is us.
Jai Hind. 

NOTA : Complete the story please.

With much hype and celebration, our news channels reported a landmark Supreme Court decision recently.

NOTA.

NOTA or None Of The Above has been made one of the options for a voter in an election. Basically, if you’re not happy with any of the candidates being presented to you, you can register your protest by voting for ” none of the above”. It’s a landmark judgement, no doubt. But does it deserve the kind of applause it is getting?
But first, let me give credit where it’s due. The option to register your protest isn’t something new. We’ve always had it but for three reasons it wasn’t very effective.
1) Not everyone knew about it.
2) To exercise it, you’d have to go to the presiding election officer and register your protest vote there. An unnecessarily tedious process and, more importantly, one that compromised your right to a secret ballot.
3) It had no effect on the outcome of the election whatsoever.

Now, what makes this verdict so important is that it solves the first two problems. By putting the NOTA option on the voting machine, people will automatically see it when they stand to vote. And since no one will know what button you pressed, secrecy is preserved.

But the real issue is, that it doesn’t solve the most important problem. The thought behind a vote of protest is that if a majority of the voters in a constituency feel that all the candidates presented to them are undeserving, the parties concerned must change the candidates and present new ones for a re-election.
Hence, giving people the option to reject incompetent candidates who hope to win by calculated, divisive political tricks.
As of now, even if 80% of the voters were to press the NOTA option, the election would be decided by the remaining 20%. That gives the candidates more reason to manipulate the gullible 20% by offering money, clothes, alcohol and other incentives. That also gives the cynical bunch who rarely vote the chance to say that they’d anyway vote NOTA and so it makes no difference whether or not they actually vote.
One of the major arguments doing the rounds praising the NOTA button in it’s present form, is that if the majority of a constituency were to “register their protest” against the list of candidates, the party hotshots will have some bollywood-esque guilt trip and that’ll “shake up” the political class.
Umm. Sure. Remember how we “shook up” the political class with the Anna movement when lakhs of people gathered on the streets and registered their collective protest? I wonder in which government office that lokpal bill is currently gathering dust.

These shake ups are utterly useless. The only way to improve our electoral process is to change it. Take NOTA to its logical conclusion. Make an election in which a majority rejects all candidates, null and void. Conduct a re-election in which a new set of candidates are presented.

People aren’t stupid. If they get a chance to reject a convicted criminal from standing for the election, they will do it. NOTA in its present form won’t let them do that. The other Supreme Court judgement that disqualifies an MP if he’s convicted will help. But a modified NOTA will make sure that such criminals don’t see the corridors of power in the first place.
No punishment in the history of mankind has ever deterred anyone from committing the same crime again.
The solution to corruption lies not in punishing the corrupt but in not allowing them to engage in it at all or to take it a step further and select people who won’t engage in it.

“Be the change you want to see “

India is one Huge country . We are a country of argumentative indians . Everyone has an opinion on everything . And because of that argumentativeness , what finally comes out of a debate in this country is generally the right choice .
We have an imperfect , yet beautiful democracy . We elect our representatives who make laws for us and who run the country on a daily basis . We gave them certain privileges because running a country of 1.2 billion is not an easy task . They come back to us (atleast) every 5 years to seek our permission to carry on in office . We have the choice of giving them that permission or denying them that permisson .

 We have a constitution .  It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 450  articles in 24 parts, 12 schedules and 96 amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version. Our constitution gave us ,among other things , the right to freedom of speech and expression and that to protest against something we don’t like . It gave us certain duties to perform for the betterment of the nation as a whole and consequently for our own welfare . These duties are mere moral obligations , not legally enforceable . Which means , even if you didn’t do any of them , no one can take you to court . That is the beauty of our constitution . It gives us all our rights and leaves it to you whether or not you want to do something in return for the country .

We have a system of parliamentary demcracy . We set up a loksabha and a rajya sabha . Our Loksabha and our Rajya sabha . Inside , our representatives debate laws , amend laws , make laws and basically run our country for us . Contrary to popular belief , chair hurling and abuse exchanging is not what happens inside parliament . The proceedings in parliament are telecast live on Loksabha TV so that people know what is happening inside the walls of parliament . Nowhere else in the world is such a facility available for citizens . The debates that happen are of high quality , of substance , of grit and determination to get the best possible solution to whatever the subject . The critics will call all debates politically motivated and biased,  but , if out of that political motivation something good comes out , is it bad ?

There are corrupt politicians . True . But there are those who genuinely concerned for the nation and who are doing great work . How did the corrupt ones get there ? Somebody voted for them . Somebody gave them the numbers to get there . I hear SO much talk about money power winning elections . Ask yourselves one question . When these corrupt people bribe voters into voting for them , shouldn’t the voter reject the bribe and vote for the right person ? Isn’t that bribery ? If the voter took a bribe , shouldn’t he go to jail for it ? That voter is as guilty as the passport office clerk who wants money to clear your file . Infact more so because the passport clerk asking for a bribe is harrassing only one person , the voter’s vote on the other hand ,sends that candidate to parliament , where he will then decide the nation’s future .

Corruption is a menace . Think about it . If you were patient enough , better still if everyone was patient enough , can we get our work done in a government office without paying a bribe ? The reason you paid a bribe was because you felt , in your wisdom , that too much time was being taken to get a simple file passed . Say we were all patient enough . How long will they hold your file ? How long will they hold all our files ? If you showed up everyday at that office and waited patiently for your turn , eventually it will get done . If everyone did that , it would become the norm . Overtime , the waiting time will reduce once the clerk realises that no matter how long he made everyone wait , NO ONE will pay him a bribe . But those words are crucial . No one should pay a bribe . The Gandhian way of protest is not hiring a posh Mumbai ground for 7lakh rupees and making a 74 year old man fast for 3 days . The heart of the Gandhian way of protest was non-violence and patience . That virtue called patience is the most rarely found trait in people nowadays .

” Be the change you want to see in the world ” . It’s the most important message the father of our nation left us . Try getting some work done without paying a bribe . It’s not easy . It’s a struggle . But that is what our fight is against . The sense of satisfaction you get when you know that you did not pay a bribe is extraordinary !

The point of this post is simple . The current system is bad , probably rotten , destroyed ,mutilated . The easy way out is to run away from it and call for a “participatory democracy “and what not. But what we must do is to make the system work . Force it to work . Clean up the system . Years of corrosion has made the system the way it is today . No one ever said that this fight against corruption was going to be easy . It is going to be a struggle but if 1.2 billion join hands , nothing is impossible .
The lokpal bill will be a useful tool in this fight . But let us not make it our trump card . Lets us not overestimate the lokpal and understate our own roles in the process .

We must be thankful for the democracy we have , for the constitution we have ,for the rights we have, for the freedoms we enjoy .At the same time, we must be aware of  the duties and the responsibilties  that come with that . Let us not be naive and think of the lokpal as the game-changer or think of a group of 5 people to be the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 proud indians are the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 are the ones who will make a difference . That is our trump card . The power of the indian people . That inherently indian trait of a strong will power to make a change , that single-minded determination that brought the british empire to it’s knees . That is our trump card . That should be our trump card !

The right ( way ) to protest ?


Corruption is a menace in everybody’s life . That is the reason the anti-corruption movement in the country over the last few months has gained so much popularity among the masses . A bill that has been waiting for 42 years to be passed became the main issue of contention . It was important that people knew and the government was reminded that such a bill existed. Today the name od that bill is common knowledge. The lokpal bill has been getting the attention it so badly needed.And for that we need to thank anna hazare.Crowds gathered at various locations across the nation to support the cause.To wake a government who for the last seven years did not bother about the bill , needed that kind of jolt . People needed a platform to vent their anger at the government for not acting against corruption even after scam behind scam defamed UPA II .That anger is the strength of this movement.
Led by Team Anna , this movement gained strength over 3-4 months . The movement attracted the attention of the government , the common man and the media .
What happened after that is well known .
Team Anna wanted parliament to pass the lokpal bill and only the their version of it , with “minor amendments” and without going through the standing commitee of parliament , and do it by the 30th of august .

Why go through the standing commitee you ask ?
The standing commitee is the one , the only place where a common citizen can give his inputs about a particular bill while it is being finally drafted . If your views are backed with arguments and it can convince the commitee , it will be included in the draft , subject to cabinet approval . If the points of veiw are acceptable , the cabinet will accept it . The RTI act ,for example , was amended a 153 times in the standing commitee ! And it did not have the backing of 10,000 people on the streets and a 74 year old person on a fast unto death ! It just required a group of people who had the will to make a rotting system work , not bypass it and condemn it .
Team Anna has not just bypassed a step in law making but also snatched away the legal right of many individuals and organisations who wanted to have their voices heard , democratically !

It’s a democracy . You have the right to speech and so does everyone else . Just because you gather as a crowd of 10,000 and drown my voice , does not mean that I do not have the right to be heard !
There was an advertisement in all newspapers inviting suggestions from the public on the bill . For people like Aruna Roy and JayPrakash Narayan , who have different opininons to that of team anna , this was the chance to be heard . Team Anna claimed that they had consulted lots of people on the issue and were convinced that they had everyone’s opinion on board . Clearly , they did not and clearly they still do not care .
First of all , a law is not the answer to corruption ! If it was , the prevention of corruption act would have done something more . This huge movement for one bill is a waste of people’s energies ! If this movement was directed towards a larger systemic change ,then I would have been optimistic of getting rid of corruption  ! Getting parliament to pass this jan lokpal bill should not be considered as a great victory of people’s power ! And anyone who has ever paid a bribe in his life does not have the moral right to be part of an anticorruption protest ! The attitude that ” I paid a bribe because there is no other way out ” is ruining this country ! That is the reason we are so corrupt a people ! That is where you need to be the change u wanna see ! Not by claiming moral victory over the govt simply because u got them to pass a bill with a 74 year old on a fast unto death and without thinking that there are people who have different opinions on the bill !

Team Anna has basically said ” You are either with us , or you are with them ” . Anyone who opposes the movement is pro corruption , anti national and what not . Hell , I’ve been called an armchair critic and neckdeep in corruption for not going on the streets and supporting anna !

Anna Hazare is no Mahatma Gandhi . This movement is not Gandhian . It is non violent  , not Gandhian .

The great Mahatma resorted to fasts 28 times in his life . None of which  were fasts unto death . Further , only one of those was against the government . The rest were for communal peace and things like that .

Yes , the system is rotting but jumping over it is not the answer. There are procedures in lawmaking and they take time . Take time because our’s is a large nation and to get a large number of opinions and to arrive at a consensus takes time ! When you accept that the Lokpal is an important bill , also acknowledge that you should give it time to be debated in parliament after it is tabled . Team Anna might have debated with thousands and possibly lakhs of people . But then you need to give the other thousands and lakhs of people a chance to voice their opinion ! That is what parliament does .

Today , the govt agreed to a debate in parliament . The debate is  on even as I type . Anna is still on fast . The debate so far has made every party’s stand on the lokpal bill clear . Then Team Anna comes out and says “we want a resolution , we want a vote ” . The parliament is debating the lokpal bill today not only to satisfy anna’s demand and get him to break his fast . There is a larger point , a more significant point everyone is missing . Its a debate to find the best of the jan lokpal bill and modify some other points and give the standing commitee a reference to base their own debates ! And finally out of all this will emerge a strong lokpal bill !
 Now what is the need here to read the wordings of some resolution and ask for votes before anna breaks his fast ?  Unlike the previous 8 times this bill has been brought to parliament ,this time people and the media are not only aware but also keeping a close eye on proceedings . Anna’s latest fast is totally uncalledfor and unjustified . Team Anna had the nation galvanised but by focussing the entire crowd’s attention on only the lokpal bill , has scored a self goal . By not calling off anna’s fast even after the entire loksabha and the prime minister no less made appeals , has also overplayed that trumpcard they had .
When the Lokpal debate eventually ends , this movement is in the risk of thinning out simply because not enough attention has been paid in getting people to really ” be the change they want to see ” . This movement should go beyond the lokpal bill . This movement should not just be standing at ramlila maidan and freedom park and shouting slogans . That is noless “armchair critisism” as some may call this blog . Get people to clean the system ! Get them to not be bribe-givers . It’s very similar to illegal poaching. If there are people to buy snake skin bags , poachers will kill for it . My Environmental education book taught me that if the buying stops , the selling will stop too . If the selling stops , the killing will stop . It’s no different here ! As long as there are people to pay bribes , people will take bribes. If the giving stops , the taking will stop too . But in this largely hypocritical society , people will dismiss this suggestion as impractical . The implementation of an institution that will have to handle the complaints and grievances of 1.2 billion indians is more practical  is it ?

Any movement that finds itself to be on a higher moralground than everyone else will never succeed . If Team Anna feels that civil society is the highly exagerated figure of 25 lakhs on the streets of india in the name of anticorruption and anna hazare , they are wrong . There are scores of other honest indians who support your cause , not your method . Respect their views . Let them be heard , not on your ramlila maidan platform . On the platform where they have been given the constitutional right to be heard , in front of the parliamentary commitees . Don’t restrict their rights by exercising yours .

Lokpal Bill : The whole solution or just a part of it ?

Starting from where I left off in my previous post ( http://dudurudh.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-have-not-so-far-blogged-my-opinion.html#more ) , there has to be some way to tackle corruption and if the lokpal is not the complete answer to that , what is ?

The problem with this agitation led by Anna Hazare has been the creation of this notion that if you don’t support Anna and the Lokpal bill , you must be pro-corruption , anti-development , and neck deep in corruption yourself , which is why you are afraid of the lokpal bill . That is not the case and the sooner more people realise that , the more answers we will get to the question of how to stop corruption . The lokpal bill is not the last straw in the battle against corruption . It’s not that the lokpal is not going to help . The mass agitation for it is a significant step, a crucial step  that has shaken the government and told them that the people are angry , fed up and disgusted by corruption and the inabilty of this government to do anything to counter corruption has fueled that anger further .

Tell me . What is it that affects the common man more? The fact that he has to pay a bribe to get his passport , driver’s license , railway ticket , ration card and all that or the extremely large amount of money wasted at the commonwealth games and so on ? Let me be clear . Both are equally bad . But the former affects every one of us more directly . Is punishing the guy who asked for a bribe  more important or is it more important that you don’t have to pay a bribe at all ? Yes the bribe taker should be punished but is’nt prevention better than cure? The major argument is that a strict law will deter the wrong doers. There are stern punishments for murder and rape too. That has not stopped murders and rapes, has it?

That is where we need to think beyond the lokpal . Look at the root of the issue and solve it . Why do we have to pay a bribe ? To get some work done fast .A certain process that otherwise takes weeks gets done in days or hours when a bribe is paid . That tells me something .That it is infact possible for that process to get done that fast . Why does it not happen  ? 
Well , the officer at the office will take his own time to work on it . Be patient enough and weeks , months later, you’ll find your work is done . Like in courts around the country , government offices have a lot of backlog . Files are simply not cleared fast enough to be able to clear new ones . Efficiency therefore is poor .
When you go to a government office , you are in a line . You are way behind the poor farmer who was there 2 weeks ago to get his land registered . Now by the time his file gets cleared , its going to be 2 more weeks . Consequently , yours will be cleared only months later . That is the reason for the delay.

But say you bribe the guy at the counter . He’ll clear your file ahead of the others . Basically you cut the line . Infact , there is no line at all . You bypass the line ! Sadly , the poor farmer is still stuck there because he can’t afford a bribe . And he has to wait for longer because there are more people who will get their files cleared by paying bribes .

It’s what they call a gap in supply and demand . The solution therefore , lies in recruiting more officers who will inturn clear more files , which will inturn reduce the backlog which will inturn reduce the time you need to wait for your passport or driver’s licence  and inturn make the whole process a lot more efficient and someday , hopefully , that farmer will get his work done too .

Now where does the lokpal get involved in all this ? It does not actually . Where the lokpal really needs to create an impact is at the higher levels . Things like the 2G scam and CWG scam . Let the lokpal investigate and prosecute the guilty in those sort of high profile cases . It reduces the burden of the lokpal , maximising it’s efficiency too . And instead of recruiting more people to work under the lokpal , you can simply add them to existing offices and make the whole system more efficient .

And what happens to bribe takers that will exist after all this ? The lokayukta at the state level is more than capable of handling those cases . The Lokpal does not need to bother about it .

This is just an opinion . It’s what I feel really has to be done . To implement this , it takes a strong will to counter graft . The government may have the will , it has failed to show it . And that is where I will be critical of this government . For not showing that will .

 I don’t have the support of 5000 people at some ground and thousands others everywhere else . So this opinion like the many, many others  will just vanish into  miniscule nothingness infront of the pseudo greatness the lokpal has acheived before even having been tried , tested and proven  .

Team Anna – A critique’s view

I have not , so far , blogged my opinion about any major national issue that’s been in the news . I always wanted my blog to stay politically correct !

But this issue of corruption , how to fight it , who should fight it and the lokpal bill and everything associated to it has become a matter of a great number of national debates . Kisan Baburao Hazare , the man known by the name Anna Hazare and his method of protest and the sheer number of people supporting him , and his recent confrontations with the government . All , initially appealed to me . Someone has decided to take it upon himself to clean up the mess that corruption has created and the people of the country were rightfully putting their might
behind him . I was behind him too .

That , however , has changed.

The media calls them Team Anna : Kisan Baburao Hazare , Arvind Kejhriwal , Kiran Bedi ,Prashanth and Shanthi Bhushan .

They took up the issue of a certain bill that was waiting to be passed for a very very long time . The Lokpal Bill . To set up an authority to look into allegations of corruption against government officials . The government agreed to table the lokpal bill . But Team Anna claimed , probably rightly so , that the government draft was inept , toothless , and outright useless in tackling corruption . They demanded that a joint commitee be created with members of civil society and government to draft an effective lokpal bill . 9 meetings later 34 out of 40 suggestions put forth by team Anna were accepted . Since I am no expert , I’ll reserve comment on the rights and wrongs.

By now Team Anna has a large following . Thousands of Indians , fed up with the menace of corruption , came out on the street in support of Anna Hazare . Most of them , like me , with no knowledge of the fine details of the lokpal bill . All , just happy that the fight against corruption , now had a face . Anna Hazare . The second Mahatma Gandhi . The modern day freedom fighter . The man leading India’s “Second War for freedom ” . But what Anna was crusading for now was , the acceptance of his draft bill and his alone . He and his supporters forgot one very important rule of democracy . It’s a country of 1.2 Billion , you simply can’t assume that all of them agree with everything you do ! There were other NGOs , social activists trying to bring their version of the lokpal to the government much before Team Anna .  Their opinion is as valuable as Anna’s . He , his team and his supporters have not thought about that . Is that fair ? Is that democracy ? Is a hue and cry in the name of a protest in public more democratic in anyway than a silent opinion expressed directly to the government ? No .

The bill was then , tabled in the parliament . The parliament inturn , as is procedure , sent the draft to a standing commitee of the parliament . That is where it stands . That is where the matter should end .
It did’nt . Kisan Baburao Hazare declared that if the Bill was not passed by the parliament by the 15th of August , he would go on a fast unto death .
Seriously ? I can understand setting deadlines for issuing passports and ration cards . But for parliament to pass a bill ? A serious bill ! It has to be discussed . It has to be framed and it has to be passed . The parliament also , incase everyone forgot , has to discuss a whole host of other issues . Price rise for example . And as if all that work was not enough , there was a debate in parliament about Anna Hazare .

Everyone has an opinion on this sudden outburst of public emotion . I have one as well . I am certain not everyone agrees with me .

 Is there a solution that can effectively end corruption ? Absolutely ! Is the Lokpal bill or the Jan Lokpal bill that solution ? Well , not really .

What is the solution then? More on that next time !