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Anna Hazare’s basic flaw - is systemic after all!

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  • Satish Jha
    In the 64 years of freedom from the British, India has made its 90% population breathe increasingly stale air. They do not understand its institutions beyond
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2011
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      In the 64 years of freedom from the British, India has made its 90% population breathe increasingly stale air. They do not understand its institutions beyond an illiterate sense of its governance where the nearest power broker represents what is delivered to them. Its institutions remain opaque to everyone who is not "street smart", does not know how to bribe the system, is cushioned with the middlemen and lubricated by black money. 

      To suggest that laws do not make people more moral is obvious. So we exhort morality for the less literate and there are no laws for the "street smart". They know how to manage the system. They bribe to get the contracts. Use the state forces to shoot at them if they protest. Divide them to keep them under control. Judges reserve the judgment for reasons only those privy to such logic understand. Bureaucrats know which way the political executive tilts and when they can get something out of it too. We get to know a few things when someone goes beyond the accepted norm, tries to play solo or is simply out of line.

      It does not take into account the fact that there are the other 90% people towards whom the state does have obligations. Because the "educated" middle class feels comfortable with the most useless ID card, the state is ready to shell out Rs 150,000 crores! For education that could have made them stand on their own, the state loves to keep them way below the point where they can manage to change their state!

      A law without a mechanism of transparent compliance is useless. And we create compliance mechanism to work to serve those who know how to make things work to their advantage, not for the benefit for those whom we refuse to prepare to become full fledged citizens with the necessary knowledge of their rights and privileges.

      Some have their rights and privileges and the rest of us have duties and dependence on those who rule!
       
      30 August 2011
      Anna Hazare’s basic flaw
      Legislation Cannot Improve Morality Or Performance
      By Rajinder Puri
      Because of his reputation, because of the timing of his agitation, because of the unprecedented corruption exposed in Indian politics, Anna Hazare’s movement has attracted mind-boggling support throughout the nation and across the world. It is nothing less than a tsunami wave. But there is danger that the advantages of the movement might be frittered away. This is because Anna Hazare’s approach betrays the same flaw that has plagued Indian politics for the past six decades.
      Basically the flaw arises from the tendency of Indians to attempt improvement in performance or of morality by adding a new law or an institution. Legislation cannot improve morality or performance when human error and intent are to blame. That is not to say that new laws or amendments are not sometimes required. But generally speaking when existing laws suffice to deliver results, provided there is good administration, to seek a new law or an institution for getting results is an escape route leading to a dead end. Unfortunately a new law is the first option sought by politicians. Unfortunately the Lokpal Bill was the first option sought by Anna Hazare.
      To begin with, I considered the Lokpal Bill superfluous. Subsequently due to the wide public belief in its miracle impact, I modified its concept in order to minimize the upsetting of existing institutions that require only minor amendment to curtail corruption. All that was required was to make the CBI a constitutional body unshackled from the cabinet’s control.
      Consider the Citizens’ Charter proposed to expedite official performance. Is one to conclude that in the normal course officials are not expected to be efficient and deliver results expeditiously? They do not do this perhaps because of corruption and slackness. Will a new law end corruption and their ability to find loopholes that circumvent rules? Why cannot efficiency be extracted from the bureaucracy? To pre-empt the Citizens’ Charter the government is preparing a grievance redressal bill. A new law will make it compulsory for officials to act within thirty days of receiving a complaint. What if a complaint can be addressed within five or ten days? Will officials have the option to delay up to thirty days?
      Consider another example. A new law is proposed to protect minority community victims of riots perpetrated by the majority community. What about majority community victims of riots perpetrated by other members of the majority community? Are they less deserving of justice? This new law is being sought because of the perceived bias against the minority community by the administration? Is it seriously contended that such bias can be ended by making a new law? Cannot better administration be delivered to ensure impartiality? Do not existing laws compel impartiality of the administration? Existing laws do this, but are flouted by malafide performance. What needs to be done therefore is to ensure that bureaucracy performs as dictated by law. How can that be achieved?
      For that, human conduct needs to be improved. I believe that not more than 15 per cent of officials are black sheep actively benefiting from corruption. The rest are passive bystanders who look the other way instead of acting against corruption. It is this permissive attitude that has created a culture of corruption wherein everybody becomes a silent abettor or a minor participant in corruption in order to survive in the system. It is this facet of the Indian psyche that has created the culture of corruption. The silver lining is that the very same Indian psyche induces people to follow the lead of inspiring example. The trickle-down effect of a head of state who cracks down on corruption ruthlessly would be incalculable. This trickle-down effect has been demonstrated before. It is being demonstrated today as people unquestioningly follow Anna Hazare.
      So what Team Hazare needs to do is make a new political party before making new laws. It is a curiously hypocritical trait of Indian character that people stridently protest against joining politics while their actions suggest the opposite. It is only in India that political aspirants for leadership make a huge pretence of not seeking office. When they do become candidates they do so reluctantly claiming to be under pressure of supporters!
      Contrast this with politicians in America. A candidate for President or Governor seeks office by claiming he or she is the best person for the post. In India only Morarji Desai was man enough to bluntly affirm that he was the best man to be Prime Minister. Indian media and elite never forgave him, accusing him of being ambitious. Are the rest like blushing brides too modest to be ambitious? Is ambition and the candid passion to do what one believes would be the best job a bad thing?
      Already some members of Team Hazare are at pains to insist they will never join politics. If they speak the truth they should go home and rest. Much earlier through these columns I had criticized Medha Patkar for voicing grievances only to attempt at the end of it all to seek redressal from the very politicians who created them. I urged her to enter electoral politics. The only honest way to end the huge quantum of corruption is to seize power democratically and deliver results. That is what Team Hazare should focus on. Never since Independence has the youth of the nation been so aroused. With or without Anna Hazare they are not likely to stop. Let Team Hazare chew on that.                   
      The writer is a veteran journalist
      and cartoonist




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      Satish Jha 
      T: 301 841 7422
      F: 301 560 4909 
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