With anti-corruption fervour reaching a crescendo,
unfortunately has a lot of its usual naysayers come out of the woodwork. This is not surprising as there is a mentality of certain people who enjoy taking a contrarian stance, not out of conviction but out of habit (more often than not, these creatures lack the ability or the desire to understand the issues to form a conviction either way). Perhaps psychologists have already identified this as a condition emanating from the inability to garner attention in their lives, I don’t know. Or perhaps I am mistaken in considering myself the biggest cynic around, and it is these people who really deserve the title who are so afraid of expecting anything good in their lives lest they cant handle disappointment afterwards. Even if it were to end in disappointment, I believe in trying to give my all to the present and to such people I can only say, you cannot not go to a party tonight because you are scared of a hangover tomorrow. India
Most of the arguments against the ongoing ‘Team Anna’ movement are focussed on the peripheries given that having substance to arguments takes efforts and intelligence. Since I know most people form views and then shut their minds tight (if they exist) from any information that is contra to what they believe, I have chosen to call my discussion facile points and my indulgence of those facile points rather than questions and answers:
Facile point 1: Once a government is elected, it is wrong to blackmail them
Indulgence 1: Weak minds like buzzwords, like ‘blackmail’. Another good one is ‘fake’. These words, to them, are arguments in themselves not requiring any further corroboration. “Once I call someone ‘fake’, that will seal the case” seems to be the refrain. Have you noticed very bad salespeople using a lot of buzz words? I remember Barkha Dutt keeping on harping about “Khabar” when she was caught red handed allegedly passing messages in what appears to be a horse trading transaction.
While clearly buzzwords carry weight among equally weak minds (it must, else it would not have been advanced as an argument anywhere), it really doesn’t hold any water. It is the constitutional right of everyone to protest and to brand that right is blackmail is to take someones right away. It is similar to taking away the right to freedom or right to free speech. If the protest is wrong or useless it will die down. Sometimes the protest is valid but does not capture public imagination and dies down, harshly. An example is the 73-day fast of Swami Nigamananda against mining near the Ganges which ended with his death. Notably, here the BJP was in power in that state (Uttarakhand). No one cried ‘blackmail’ then! In fact I am sure that most people reading this article will only have a passing knowledge of this incident. So what these people are calling blackmail is actually the governments surprise on seeing mass support, as can be gleaned from the Ganga mining case, a person fasting to death alone is not ‘blackmail’ this government!
Facile point 2: People get the government they deserve, so live with corruption
Indulgence 2: Though I partially agree with the point, thankfully the Einsteins who make this argument blindly did not write
’s constitution. It is a sign of a mock democracy (covert dictatorship) if people elected parties but were then kept away from participative process of running the country. That’s a quasi dictatorship. If it was not, then the Indian constitution would have banned protests! Why it would have banned an opposition or even the holding of assembly sessions! India
But that’s going too far, if this argument was true then several countries would not have been free and South Africa, U.S and most of the European world would have had legalised racial discrimination.
If this argument was really believed in by its proponents, then they should have protested against the National Advisory Commission which is also a self styled civil society body (though headed by Sonia Gandhi) which suggests ridiculous (in my reading) pieces of legislation such as the Communal Violence Bill, 2011.
But I know, no protests were forthcoming because the resistance of this fringe idiocracy was not due to ideological opposition to the concept of a vibrant democracy (which India did not appear to be till a few weeks back) but solely to make up for attention deficit in their personal or professional lives.
Facile point 3: Anna is corrupt/ he doesn’t represent the people/ he should stand for elections and then get his Bill
Indulgence 3: This logic is so far up the ridiculous scale that even its proponents believe that it’s a good argument.
The most striking feature of this argument is that from very general objections, this one is more specific, more personal. But again, specific arguments against the Jan Lokpal Bill itself (the real issue) are not advanced, because that would require a thorough reading of both the government and Anna’s draft, and that would mean efforts and bring into question the debaters mental abilities. We cant have that!
To this my rebuttal is simple. Maybe Anna is corrupt, so are you saying he is bringing an Act that will make it easier to arrest him? So you are saying he is smart enough to create a media circus, draft an actual bill, fight with an government and be corrupt at the same time but he is stupid enough to commit political suicide? Pick one guys, either decide he is smart and non-corrupt or decide he is stupid and corrupt. Perhaps that is too much effort? But that is the long form version of my answer, my personal view is, I don’t care either way. Show me what you find objectionable in the Bill. I too have my reservations on the Jan Lokpal but that is to be debated in the parliament and revised, but the governments Jokepal is so atrocious that I am willing to live with my reservations on Jan Lokpal not being considered rather than facing a Jokepal.
Anna does actually represent the people, he was appointed by a notification in the official gazette as a part of the team that represented the civil society. If the government did not think he was representative then were they so incompetent/ stupid to let him in anyway with a official gazette notification? If it is so, then do we want a incompetent/ stupid government at the helm or are we better off holding elections? That is my question back to these newtons. Anna does not need to stand for elections to get his Bill discussed as he was already part of the joint drafting committee. Also, if one were to wait for someone to get near 300 seats in elections before doing anything then nothing would happen in this country!
Facile point 4: Anna wants his copy of the bill to be passed.
Indulgence 4: This argument was completely wrong till a few days back but now its only partially wrong. The original demand of Anna was only that his bill be tabled along with the government’s draft in parliament for debate and voting. However, from what I see in the media Anna is now demanding his Bill be passed. However, Anna is also willing to concede to things like removing judiciary from its ambit. So in fact Anna was always willing to reconsider some of his view on the bill and that’s why he wanted it to be debated in parliament. Such debate would have also shown the country which party supports stringent anti corruption laws and which doesn’t!
Facile point 5: Everyone/ most who is protesting are corrupt themselves or have paid bribes
Indulgence 5: While this is a factual statement to a degree, it is hardly an argument for someone not to protest. The people protesting against corruption have been victims of corruption at some point, so should they not protest? This is like saying a rape victim should not ask for stringent punishment for rapists! It sounds illogical but this is exactly the argument that is being advanced. The proponents of this logic are somehow arguing that the poor bribe payer enjoyed giving the money away so he cant protest against it (why else would there be a moral issue in bribe payers fighting the corrupt?!), so are they also saying the rape victim enjoyed the act, hence cant fight for justice?! How preposterous is that!
It is also worthwhile to discuss what exactly one means by corruption as well. Subramanian Swamy has given us a ‘demand-side’ definition, ie. If anyone makes gains by the misuse of public office, then that is corruption. So if a husband demands dowry it is not corruption, its extortion, since no ‘public office’ was misused. So even if Baba Ramdev may have received donations (as the Congress alleges to try and discredit him) from black money pools, he cant be called corrupt (Swamy gives a good taxi driver analogy to make his point), since he has not used a public office for illegal gain. Moreover, his books are clean and available for examination so appears to have not been any cheating on the way the money was spent.
I propose to look at corruption from the ‘supply-side’. I divide it into two categories: a) corruption for undeserved benefit and b) Corruption in the nature of extortion. The first type is the one of the kind telecom companies allegedly indulged in, they were not qualified for legal and technical reasons to gain 2G spectrum but they bribed the telecom minister who misused public office and conferred undeserved gain. This type of corruption would seldom be complained against by its parties since both have gotten something out of it which they didn’t deserve. A telecom company got a scarce national resource for peanuts and the minister allegedly got billions and billions of dollars.
The second type of corruption affects common man (though arguably it’s the first type that’s worse for the country financially). Indians pay bribes for driving licenses, for almost every other sort of license, to get into colleges, to get passports done and what not. In poor areas people may be paying bribes to get government sponsored scheme benefits, to get out of jail, to get into government hospital, to get into public schools, to get food, to get water, to get anything. I think it’s a cruel joke, in very bad taste and a reflection of the uncouth culture of the person who equates both types of corruption knowingly.
So yes, most people protesting have paid bribes but they are the victims of the second type of corruption. Yes, a lot of them could have avoided (though sometimes that is not possible!) paying a bribe but people have lives, they cant afford to (not that they don’t want to) keep circling government offices for decades for something that should take 48 hours. This is like saying Mumbaikars go to work the day after serial blasts due to some sort of an ‘Mumbai spirit’ that only politicians seem to be able to see. People go, fearing for their life and limb, because they have no choice! They go because, unlike leaders, they don’t have money stashed away in swiss bank accounts to allow them to stay indefinitely at home without work. If anything a bribe payer of the second type has the most locus standi to protest!
I have endeavoured to answer all the facile arguments I have seen made on various social media mostly by people who are not doing anything in this fight and want to ride on Anna’s fame by deriding him. Deride him all you want, just tell me….what do you think is wrong with the Jan Lokpal Bill!