By Chandra Bhan Prasad
It is true that corruption is a menace that must be uprooted and a new law enacted in the changing circumstances. India has seen an explosion of wealth post 1990 which has resulted in rampant loot.
But who will make the new law? Members of Parliament or the Anna Hazare-led battery of NGO operatives? And where will the new law be drafted — on the streets or inside Parliament? What is the experience in democracies around the world? Can India as a democracy be an exception?!
I agree with Team Anna that politicians are corrupt and hence can’t be trusted to make a tough law against corruption. I agree with Team Anna that the government bureaucracy is corrupt and hence all — from bottom to top — ought to be brought under one large agency.
But is India’s underclass also as corrupt and morally fallen whose judgment of electing leaders can’t be trusted and hence Team Anna of the pure has taken on the mantle of carrying this task!
In April Anna was fasting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for his Jan Lok Pal. “Why don’t you fight the election and enter Parliament to promote your anti-corruption agenda?” the media asked him. In his response which was telecast live, he declared that he couldn’t win elections because voters barter their votes for a bottle of liquor or money.
Is this assessment of Anna Hazare correct? Governments have changed as a result of the dynamic electoral process in India. Are these changes brought about by bottles of liquor and money power?
To Anna Hazare all politicians are corrupt, all government officials are corrupt, all government employees are corrupt — and all voters are corrupt too.
Thankfully, for Anna, NGOs are incorruptible and there is no need to bring them under the Jan Lok Pal. A peep into Anna’s larger persona shows his instinctive hatred towards representative democracy, Parliament, politicians, voters, and instruments of the State.
True, Anna, the new Gandhi, has transformed his village Ralegaon Siddhi radically. He has made his village hunger free. In the process, he has turned Ralegaon Siddhi into a tiny Taliban-like republic.
In this new Gandhi’s republic drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited. Vegetarianism is practiced strictly. No one can sell or consume paan/bidi cigarettes or gutka.
In his republic, no one can watch films except religious ones. All forms of music, except bhajans, are prohibited. Even in a wedding procession, only religious songs are permitted. He says women should guard their virginity till wedlock and produce brave soldiers. What if a resident violates the above codes? Get tied to a pole in the centre of the village; public flogging is the norm.
To the new Gandhi, patriotism is the reason all Indians are born. Strict moral codes regulate everyday life in Anna’s republic. His word is the law that all residents must obey. He, in fact, is a law unto himself. He would accept no authority other than the authority of the Almighty. In Delhi’s Tihar prison, he broke the rules of all the prison manuals that came his way.
Anna has now stepped out of his republic and wants to transform the whole of India into Ralegaon Siddhi.
In a billion plus India, millions of Indians — mainly the middle strata amongst the upper castes, were waiting for an Anna to descend on them with an Indian edition of Talibanism. All societies possess conservatives and India can’t be an exception. The difference, however, is that when the upper castes display their conservatism, they turn into a Taliban. Anna has come to harvest that social constituency.
Would any esteemed readers like to reside in an India Anna Hazare is threatening to build?