Fight against corruption good; what about the method?

April 8, 2011

Even as Anna Hazare’s protest demanding an anti-draft bill gains nationwide momentum and nears a solution, there has been some criticism of the methods the veteran social activist has adopted in his crusade.

While everyone seems to agree with demands of more transparency in the system and more accountability in governance, Hazare’s fasting to force the government to accept his demands has led to some calling his tactics as being unconstitutional and unreasonable.

The primary argument is, if a single man can launch a protest, and within four days can virtually force the government to come up with a tweaked version of a legislative bill, does it augur well for a democracy?

Anna Hazare“The movement behind the Jan Lokpal Bill is crossing the lines of reasonableness. It is premised on an institutional imagination that is at best naïve; at worst subversive of representative democracy,” wrote political analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express.

In a column titled “Of the few, by the few,” Mehta says the claim that the “people” are not represented by elected representatives, but are represented by their self-appointed guardians is disturbing.

“Most of us sharply disagree with elected government on matters even more important than corruption. But no matter how cogent our arguments, it does not give us the right to say that our virtue entitles us to dictate policy to a representative process,” he wrote.

Also, many others have pointed out that the government is not against the anti-corruption legislation, or the so-called Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill. The government has in fact promised such a bill.

But Hazare and his supporters have demanded the bill be strengthened to give the ombudsman police-like powers to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats, including judges and members of the prime minister’s office.

Hazare’s supporters, however, say that the Lokpal bill, if implemented the way the protesters have demanded, will only bring more accountability to the system without being the solitary decision-making body on corruption.

“Don’t think the Lokpal will become all powerful. The people will be watching. The media will be watching and there is the court above the Lokpal,” said former Justice Santosh Hegde, who is one of the protesters’ nominees to head the panel against corruption.

The Open magazine, on Thursday, argued that television coverage has made Anna’s protests a bigger event than what it actually is, comparing it to “an absolute farce” like the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square.

The fact that Hazare and his supporters demand participation of common people in the decision-making process, despite the presence of elected leaders, is termed by some as undemocratic in itself.

“Civil society activists must realise that in democracy, laws have 2b made by elected legislators,” Shashi Tharoor, former U.N. Under-Secretary General and a member of parliament, wrote on his Twitter page.

“The cause is a good one, in the sense that everyone is opposed to corruption. The public opinion is strong,” said B.G. Verghese, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research.

“But the method is completely wrong and some of the demands are quite unacceptable…it will be totally unconstitutional,” he said.


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What I (and I’m sure the majority of Indians feel as well) is that all these corrupt politicians who have bought their seats by dangling money and liquor to the rural poor who cannot refuse are now preaching about how Anna Hazare’s methods are “unconstitutional” and “unacceptable”. If Anna Hazare’s movement is “unconstitutional” then the constitution itself is “undemocratic” as the function of the will of the people takes precedence over the form of the order of governance. These shysters and quibblers hide behind their “paper” democracy while blind to the most basic principles of a democratic state- the rule of law and the will of the people. That is exactly what Anna Hazare’s movement is trying to bring about. People don’t really care how it is really done, call it fascist or anarchy or whatever you wish but you cannot deny that this is the will of the people – that the institution of corruption be brought down, not later but now.

A 100 corrupt politicians quibbling over semantics and posturing for their own political advantage is not “the rule of the people”! THAT is the real farce and that is what the people of India are tired of. To hell with the idea of some “paper” democracy when the will of the people cannot be enforced due to petty and venal politicians. Why hold “democracy” as some sacred covenant if it is inept and incapable of redressing the desires of people ?

The only people who find this “unacceptable” are the politicians and their paid shysters who have a vested interest in perpetuating this cancer of Indian polity. For them, a assertive civil society that demands the rule of law, that demands good governance and that gives no quarter for political sophistry or bargaining is a mortal threat. When the entire body has been corrupted, it needs to be purged, lest it taint the soul.

Posted by IAF101 | Report as abusive

i think the bill needs some amendments……………..CJI should be excluded from the “maybe-an-accuse-list” and should be made the head of all Lokpals along with the President himself. This will make some more sense/ the bill “pass-able”…

Posted by shikhar_gupta | Report as abusive

Even Gandhi was considered doing un-constitutional and blackmailing the then British government, and now we give him the status of Father of nation. We all know what kind of background most of our elected leaders have.

Posted by Reshab | Report as abusive

I strongly suggest that the so-called eminent personalities commenting on the constitutionality of Hazare’s method kindly shut up and listen to the people. The people of India have silently borne all the corruption assuming the leaders of the country would do something about. Instead they are the corrupt! If Gandhi had used the logic suggested by these eminent personalities nothing that the British also had a democracy, we would never have got independence.. These so-called eminent personalities are immersed in books and do no good for the public when they need it most. Before I completely lose my temper, I strongly suggest these book-worms to shut their traps and go on to own cocoons and hibernate for ever….

Posted by dbhatt | Report as abusive

Thanks for putting different views on this bill. I agree that Anna’s request is un-democratic on the surface but don’t forget that people want change in the system. It does not matter whether is a democratic or not but it matters to all of us to get rid of complete system or corruption. Many of us lost hopes in Indian democracy and all politicians.

Posted by indian_man | Report as abusive

I respect all the opinions as above. They are good to implement in clean democracy.

As an Indian Citizen I support Anna Hazare methods. When the Bill making mechanism it self is corrupted and needs cleaning and change, they try to make a bill for eye wash and make the bill to protect corruption, then this is the only way.

People may say elect clean people, which is not possible in the present circumstances in India.

Even for that we need this type of bill or Act.
The Anna Hajera, Jan Lokdal bill paves the way to clean India in all walks of life. After independence this is the greatest event In India to take place.

Soon once bill is passes as per Anna and peoples wish, India will become in 5 years, reaches number one position as a corruption free country.

Posted by ssnraju | Report as abusive

finally some perspective on an issue that is going beyond the lines of unreasonable thanks to the hyperventilating electronic media!

Posted by sbhk | Report as abusive

There should be a democratic methods in civil society. But our leaders have stopped believing in social welfare. So we people who has elected leaders can stand against them. The rules are made by some people, if needed it can be broken by people. Keeping the rules above the urgent need to address corruption, doesnt make any sense. All it tries to draw some more years of comfort for corrupt leaders. I believe Anna has done right thing.

Posted by N.ikhar | Report as abusive

If the elected representatives had done the work then why would an individual lead himself to death. The argument presented here are baseless and lethargic by commentators. Instead of commenting had they volunteered to pass this bill then it would have not required one individual. So does that mean a citizen of India will always have to beg in front of elected representative. Are these commentators or elected representatives are in want of curbing the freedom of speech.

The individual was not alone. He was with an organization. Citizens were him. How can you make the individual distinct?

Remember that only individual in India started non-cooperation movement for independence. What is wrong in individuals outbursting for community?

People who are against such outbursts are puppets or with no voice of their own. They are ignorant of the power individuals have and how they lead from front. These puppets are backbenchers always with no insight of future. They are inauthentic and inefficient to cause the good where ever they are. It reflects the model on which they work. Let these puppets look at themselves before commenting.

Posted by Radhesh | Report as abusive

it is not 4 days but nearly 4 decades that the talk and to and fro on this bill has been going on. Every method has its pros and cons but at least here the purpose is quite noble. Let us not cast aspersions on the method. If nothing admire the guts of a man and many others who brave threats to take up public causes. We may be a democracy but our setup is only for a few.

Lets hope and support a favourable and objective outcome. If it does not happen people will devise better methods.

Jai Hind.


Posted by BHARGAVANOIDA | Report as abusive

I don’t get it. A single man may have launched a protest (no he didn’t), but anything that gathers tens of thousands or possibly a few hundred thousand supporters all over the country, deserves to be listened to. Common sense is clearly against opposition to such issues.

Today, for people to be “elected” representatives, there are many more things than just votes required. There’s a massive amount of money involved. Rarely does anyone come into an authoritative post without lobbying with people already in power (that is to be willing to offer them something in return), all that while fighting suppression from the same folk. It is a failed mechanism if vast majority of “elected” leaders converge and stand with their backs to the people of India.

I see no other solution to get their attention than to gather in a crowd and shout. It is a fundamental right, and I do not see anything unconstitutional about it.

Heck, who amends the constitution? And who is getting disturbed for having to do what they were supposed to in the first place?

The very people who I suspect have egged on the Indian Express column.

Posted by Cursor | Report as abusive

Thank GOD that all these so called intellectuals were not alive when Mahatma Gandhi fauught the British Empire.
They would have argued that the independance movement was not proper and it is better to have British Rule.
That is exactly what they are saying. ACCEPT CORRUPTION .
If they have a better method than Anna let tehm come out and state it. If not do shut up

Posted by RRC | Report as abusive

“Also, many others have pointed out that the government is not against the anti-corruption legislation, or the so-called Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill. The government has in fact promised such a bill.”

This is the farce behind this whole upheaval. What does one do about government which cannot deliver on its promise for 42 years? Wait another 42?

Those who oppose the methods, may have a point, but they seem to think that having voted someone to represent them, the people or ‘civil society’ as they so derisively call it, must simply stand and stare for another 5 years or till an election comes up. What do you do when those you elect to uphold democracy and democratic values are themselves busy subverting the instrument of democracy from within? 42 years!

If the suggested bill is flawed in parts, then make it workable, just because there are problems with certain suggestions. That does not mean that there is not an urgent need for such a bill and that government has been playing ducks and drakes with it for 4 decades.

Bhanu Pratap and others who fear the means being followed, may be eloquent and have many strong arguments, but they want to throw the baby out with the bath water. There is a need for a strong anti corruption body, why don’t they suggest an alternate way of getting that instead of simply following the tried and failed path of elected representatives and being ‘part of the system’ as against ‘civil society’. Peoples representatives have failed, so what is the alternative? None of them even touched this point. They simply ignore it.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Indian Democracy is not as matured as the ones in western countries. So in this scenario terming elected politicians as the only people with right to draft laws is not correct. As rightly said by one of the activist “What is wrong if they include common people to form laws to govern common people”.

Posted by Pravinraje | Report as abusive

Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty\'(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space\'(Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

Posted by siddharthamithu | Report as abusive

Every freedom needs some blood in its foundations, corruption hato movement is daily gaining the momentum, but who will execute” hato”. ANNA jee no one will listen to this, because in parliament all are united (except one or two) under slogan na tu muje chor kahi na main thuj pai ungli uthaungo, yai sari janta to bavkuf hai, jindgi ke char din ki hai moj manai ja moj manai ja……. But what is the solution to this, remove these from parliament,by democratic tool,make amendments in the law of land according to the needs of the present circumstances(rules made before 1832 ..or 35have lost all values) . corruption or corrupted do not have the right of sympathy, recently China punished one under corruption charges to death(complete salvation of its own kind). why we should look towards U.S.A for every crime committed by others towards our nation, what this nonsense to say bhai jee usan muje mara hai tum kuch karo.why do you expect bhai jee will do any thing for you. maximum bhai jee will set one lady who will give one lolipop phir mariga to batana……..and so on precious 65 years have passed. what is the result, we have lost so many lives, but no one is their to care,to evaluate the loss how long we will continue with this? My question to every sensible Indian is are you satisfy with this? if yes i guarantee you no body will come your rescue, your generation to come will curse you for your deeds.

Posted by gaur | Report as abusive

I respect with your opinions..Ya i agree with you…I am not against anti corruption but i don’t support Anna & his hunger strike. isse public mislead hoti hai…aur sbse jada loss public ka hi hota hai.

Posted by Lisa_1 | Report as abusive

Annaji bahut se deshwasi aapke saath hain.Aap hi ne umeed jagai hai aisa rasta dikhaya hai jo corruption free india ki taraf jata hai.annaji aap hi hain jo Manjunath aur Satyender Dube jaise logo ki kurbani bekaar nahi jaane de sakte. ladte rehna aur in corrupt politicians ki naak mein dum kar dena, inko jhuka dena.

Posted by babita1 | Report as abusive