Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Twelve days that Stared the Nation

Twelve days that Shook the Parliament
Ikra , Simran Break Anna's Fast 
People in India celebrated across the country as Anna Hazare ended his hunger strike on the 13th day with a sip of coconut water and honey on Sunday. His village Ralegaon-Siddhi joined the rest of the country in the joyous celebrations. The villagers supported Hazare through various forms of non-violent protests, sang and danced. Soon after Hazare broke his fast, supporters surged to the streets of major cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Allahabad, Lucknow, Bhopal, Jaipur and in the country side. In Jaipur, people named a market after his name. The unprecedented enthusiastic response of the people to Anna’s fast against the corruption has stared the nation and shaken the insensitive the Indian parliament reminded me of  John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World represents one of the 20th Century’s greatest political-literary achievements, being one of the first book length eye-witness accounts of the great Russian October Revolution. 
Legacy of Independence
Anna Leads Young Generations
India saw end of British Raj on 15 August 1947 largely by nonviolence means.  A Constitutional Assembly was elected to draft the Constitution which turned out to be a hybrid version of Western Countries’ system of governance; namely the Parliamentary Democracy and the Presidential form of governments. The Constitution was adopted on the 26 January 1950 and is celebrated as a Republic day every year.  Although none of the founders of the Constitution lived long enough to rejoice their dreams of ‘tryst with dignity’ or new dream with so-called ‘growth story’ under changing face of Indian democracy from the slogan of socialism to neo- liberal crony capitalism that left India with corporate crimes and institutionalised corruption everywhere creating two Indias: Rich and Poor. 
Mass Agitation Against Land Acquisition
In Anna’s language, “Kuch log khane ke liye jee rahe hei and kuch jine ke liye kha rahe hei” and “kuch logo kon yeh chinta ha wo kya  khaynge or kuch log koyeh chinta he wo  kya kya khyen”, i.e.,  “those who live just to eat and others who eat just to live”, i.e., “Rich have many choices so their problem is what to eat and the poor are striving where to how to get something to eat”. The objective conditions are ripe enough and under the circumstances one would have expected a Bolshevik kind of revolution. However, due to highly disappointing and negative role of the left and  betraying  by the right the spirit of the constitution exemplified in the directive principle of State Policy and other feature of the Constitution, ”We the people....”.  Hence, the People have left with no viable alternatives.  Hence, the focus of the discontentment has shifted from real economic issues to more general issues, such as corruption concerns common man in everyday’s walk of life.
Full Anna Team
The above scenario has created a political vacuum which started filling up by the social activists and NGOs which resulted in formation of the Civil Society to voice opinion on behalf of the public.  Further, despite negative effect of the neo-liberal polices a few new things have emerged, such as enactment of the Right to Information Act, activation of the CAG and widespread use of social net working and mass media to expose a number of scams, for examples, G2, Congress on Mr Kalmandi, BJP in illegal mining, etc. These scams involved billions of dollars benefiting the politicians and bureaucracy combined with knowledge about existence of the parallel economy of black money highlighted the issue of corruption.  Although all the political parties continued to provide lip service to people for more than  4 decades they took no steps to eliminate corruption let alone eradicating poverty, unemployment and black money.  Our elected governments, both NDA and UPA formed with the support of right and left respectively let down the people of India. In fact, rather than addressing the common man’s problems some government started using force to suppress the growing popular agitations in the country side ( on the Supreme Court Decision on appointment of SPF by BJP Govt in Chhatishgarh).     
Preamble of the Constitution
Historically, main stream politicians whether left, right or centre never ever rejected the pledge in the Indian Constitution declaring India as a Socialist Republic. In fact until the 1980s everyone used feel proud of being progressive and ashamed of being branded as reactionaries or communal. However, since early 1990s with the inception of neo liberal policies by induction of Dr Manmohan Singh by late Narshima Rao, Prime-Minister of India, then he was, there has been dramatic shift in our foreign as well as domestic economic policies, departing from the goalpost of constructing a Socialist Republic set forth in the preamble of our constitution. This shift in policy created a great deal of wasted corporate interests, both at home and abroad due to foreign private investment. When Rao’s government got into trouble crises, it was a payback time for private interests and corporations as buying and selling of Parliamentarians commenced to make Mr Rao swim and his government survived.  Although corruption has been around for a long time this was for the first time it surfaced and Rao was tried on corruption charges.  Unfortunately, no lessons were learnt and under the neo-liberal policies a new middle-class developed in India which wanted to become rich overnight. The corruption grew in leaps and bounds and according to a conservative estimate, the size of black money increased from 27% to 43% since 1990s. In this context, Anna Hazare's name is being echoed all over India and he is being viewed as the crusader against corruption which is endemic in the society as India being on the list of one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranks at No 70. Corruption scams in India are shaking public confidence in the system suggesting that India may face some short-term upheavals as the issue continues to play out. Eventually, this is what happened.
Anna’s Act I
Anna Hazare age 74, a social activist with Army background who fought in Indo-Pak war in 1965 and 1971. He hails from a small village near Puna and has achieved many milestones in his career. His mission did not stop there he turned into a Gandhian to bring about fundamental changes in the working of Indian democracy, corruption being one of them.  In fact, Anna’s good track record against corruption led to resignation of four ministers in Maharasthra government.  He was the first to start the campaign for RTI which became a reality in the State of Maharashtra in 2004.  Of course, it spread in other parts of India and latter RTI was adopted in Parliament. Some describe Anna as Gandhian and he is perceived that way.  However, he made it clear that if Gandhian methods did not work he would not rule out other methods of struggle pertinent to methods used by Chhatrapathi Shivaji.  In Ganhian sense, he would turn his cheek one time, but if someone takes advantage of this generosity, he would not hesitate to defend himself (Gandhigiri in Munnabhai Lage Raho).           
Anna started his first step towards Jan Lokpal bill on 5th April 2011 in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, where he demanded enactment of an anti-corruption Janlokpal Bill to give wider powers to the Ombudsman by bringing judiciary, the Prime-Minister and lower bureaucracy within its ambit. His first innings of fast attracted a huge support of people from all walks of life. Four days after he launched a fast that caught the feelings across India, iconic Gandhian leader Anna Hazare declared "victory" when the Government accepted his demands of drafting a Lokpal. The drafting committee was formed and an official Lokpal bill was introduced in the Parliament which kept out the Prime-Minister, lower bureaucracy, MPs and the judiciary which were included in the Civil Society’s Jan Lokpal Bill. This raged Team Anna and he declared for a second term of fast to start from 16th August 2011, if the Jan Lokpal Bills was not passed. 
Yoga Guru Ramdeo for Vindication 
Despite the forewarnings by Team Anna and many others UPA Government continued to ignore them. In the intervening period Yoga Guru Ram Deo set on hungers strike with huge support of his followers which was suppressed by surprised use of teargas and Lathi charge on the public. Inexperience Ramdeo Team could not handle the situation and movement collapsed. This gave UPA Govt over confidence and it felt that they could defeat Anna’s impending fast on 16 August too.  
Theatrical Anna Act II  
Kiran's Caricature
The second innings of Anna Hazare crusade against the corruption came with a twist as the Delhi Police denied him a Ram Lila ground for protest instead gave him Jaya Prakash Memorial Park for only 3 days and later arrested him on the premise of apprehension of breach of peace which sent fury all over the country as Anna’s supporters went protesting for his immediate release.  He was taken in Tihar jail on a seven days remand. Thousands of people gathered outside the jail to support Anna Hazare and his team. Some actors of the State, like Kapil Sibal, Chidamberan and Sheila Dixit continued to engage in procedural rhetoric that this was a decision of the Delhi police and being a decision of a statutory body Anna team is free to challenge it in the Court.  However, in view of mounting public pressure and protest soon Govt realized that judicial custody of Anna and his Team for 7 days with Mr Kalmandi, a corrupt govt nominee, has backfired.  Stunned by the People Power, authorities declared him free but the fasting soldier-turned-activist refused to walk out of the jail until he was allowed to hold his hunger strike unfettered. Government officials, students, commuters, taxis, tempo drivers and bystanders everyone was supporting Hazare and finally he was freed on 19th April. His agitation against corruption was termed as “second freedom struggle" by Anna Team. The area was flooded with people shouting slogans, waving the tricolour flags and donning caps and clothes that read 'Me Anna Hazare’, ‘India Against Corruption', ‘Anna Nahi, Doosra Gandhi he’, ‘Inqlab Zindabad’, etc.  The spacious Ramlila grounds in North Delhi emerged as the venue for Anna Hazare to hold his ‘indefinite fast’ for a strong anti-corruption law until 4 September 2011. 
Rhetorical  Act III

Ruling Class Loyal Somnath

Manishankar Aiyar, Cong. MP
Initially, both the Govt opinion led by Salam Khursheed, Law Minister and Kapil Sibal, Communication Minister and the opposition ignored Anna’s hunger strike and engaged into yet another technical wrangling and a procedural rhetoric claiming supremacy of the Parliament. The only sensible voice came from Mr. Manishankar Aiyar, a Rajya Sabha MP who said that main source of corruption is corporate sector which should be part of a strong Lokpal Bill. Despite this, the protest was gathering momentum and public pressure was mounting.  Pranab Mukherjee was called in as a trouble shooter and Anna team members were invited to discuss the Jan Lokpal Bill. A degree of enthusiasm was seen after the meeting and some unresolved issue were left for consideration on the following day.  However, no sooner the enthusiasm of Anna Team turned into a great disappointment.  Kiran Bedi, one of the stanch members of the Anna Team went on to say in public, “Yesterday they were listening to us. Today they were telling us (scolding us).  There was a difference of day and night”.  She was so much disgusted with the dubious conduct of the opposition that she had to make mock gesture about their duplicity. Although Anna was on the 9th day of his fast he stood up and called for a protest in front of houses of MPs calling them, ‘sub lutere hei’, i.e., ‘They all are looters’, and within a moment his message travelled like the electricity and people reached MPs houses to protest.  It was amazing as there was no organisation, no cadre and no telephone communication between the people and the Anna Committee except direct Anna’s word from the stage of Ramlila Maidan. Perhaps, social net working and media was beating the mighty power of the govt.  In the entire Saga, both the Govt and the MPs have shown a lack of sensitivity to a popular anti corruption moment and behaved irresponsibly although Lokpal Bill has been around for more than 40 years and appeared before the Parliament 8 times. Mr. Yechuri, Member of Rajya Sabha & CPM Politburo Member said that in 1996 Lokpal issue was a part of their minimum program with the UPA. He did not explain why he did not pressurise UPA govt for 4 years to take steps to bring a strong Lokpal. Rather, all parties MPs sought to pass a Bill giving them a budget of Rs 20 million (now increased to 50 million) each under the Local Area Development (LAD) which created wasted interests in the parliament. Since the MPs might also fall within the scope of Jan Lokpal Bill, no wonder, the entire parliament got united against one of the most popular movements since the independence. In general, members of the Parliament behaved irresponsibly and in that regard conduct of Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Sarad Yadav, Manish Tiwary, Laloo Prasad Yadav was highly deplorable and conduct of the opposition led by Sushma Swaraj and Mr Yechuri was wavering and far from clear.  Somnath Chatterjee, Ex-Speaker, appeared on NDTV from nowhere and played devil on behalf of the UPA although the attack was not on an individual but institutionalized corruption. i.e., system failed them.  Although people were sympathetic to him when he was expelled from CPM in retrospect it appears Prakash Karat was right in having expelled.  One wonders why he was in CPM at first place. 
People v Parliament  Act IV
Lord Maghnath Deasi, LSE
In course of Anna fast for Jan Lokpal Bill Govt and opposition hung on two things: (i) Members of Parliament are transcendental being and no one could dare criticise them in public domain or else they will be subjected to Parliamentary privilege notice, and (ii) Parliament is supreme and no one should be allowed flout its procedures. Unfortunately, their arguments are not only misplaced but their understanding of the parliamentary procedures and practice also falls short in many respects. As to first matter, those who chose to play a role in public domain are expected to close scrutiny by media and accountability to people even more than the management of a corporation to its shareholders. There are many authorities of law on this, in particular, the President of Ireland, Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd.  Since the comments made by Om Puri and Kiran Bedi were fair and reflexive of general perception of the public at large which she presented in a caricature style.  Anna called them, “Ye sab  Lootere hei”, but MPs could not dare to issue him privilege notice.  They got after Team members to break their morale, which is highest form of desperation. Therefore there is no question of parliamentary privilege. Hence, the privilege notices issued to Om Puri and Kiran Bedi are not only confirms the misperception of MPS that somehow they are above the people, but it also appears retaliatory. Lord Meghnath Desai, Professor at London School rightly said, “If you read newspapers in UK how they ridicules MPs, you will cry”. One of the female panellists also said right at the face of one of the initiators of privilege notice that, “They have lost sense of humour and need psychiatric help”.  She might face privilege notice too. Further, MPs are wrong on the notion of Supremacy of Parliament too as it is based on an old right wing Dicy theory of supremacy of Parliament viz-a-viz the judiciary, but not over the people.

In late 19th century, Gladstone and Disraeli introduced form of government placing limits on the use of child labour or preventing factories from emptying their effluent into rivers or the streets. The justification for such rules came mainly from three sources: (i) ‘just and fair’ insofar as it protects individuals from exploitation, (ii) poor health might adversely affect the productivity, and (iii) it would appear rational for society as a whole, for example the cost of ill health and death which might result from lack of control on pollution. By the 1930s, these rationale underpinned an immense network of government activities; a national health service, millions of publicly owned houses, government control of coal, steel, water, gas, and electricity industries; old age pensions, unemployment benefits; and free schooling for all children until the age of 15.  In Hayekian words, this represents a ‘substantive ideal of redistributive justice’, The Rule of Law in a Welfare State. 

The second theory, ‘social democracy’ emerged from the centre-left school of thought which is well explained by the American jurist Harry Jones in a seminal article in the Columbia Law Review, 1958.  However, social democracy is distinguished from the form of governments like socialism and communism which have their goal in establishing an egalitarian society
Although Indian democracy does not go as far as socialism or communism in the preamble of its Constitution it says as follows:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
Although no theory of Constitution and Administrative Law has ever argued that the Parliament is above the people the preamble of our Constitution is very clear when it asserts, “We the people...” Hence, any suggestion by the MPS to the contrary is an insult to the Constitution.  One should remember that in the absence of people’s supervision over the Parliament democracy was derailed with the declaration of the State of Emergency by Mrs Gandhi in 1975. History has witnessed that a fascist Germany under Hitler emerged in the name of National Socialism with full sanction of the Parliamentary majority. Hence, divorce from technical procedures in public interest is not a dangerous game, but it is conducive to good health of functional democracy.  In fact, sometimes even constitution has to be amended to incorporate inspiration of the people as it was done in the 42nf Amendment by Indira Gandhi. Therefore, one can’t take a straight jacket view of the Constitution either.  
Mediators  Act V
Agnivesh sell out 
Anna single handed galvanized the people against corruption which attracted many religious and non religious dignitaries including Sri Sri, Yoga Guru Ramdeo, Yaddu Maharaj, and Valasrao Desmukh, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra who hold Anna in high esteem and previously amicably resolved his demands.  Govt on the other hand tried to pitch some other Lokpal Bills by Aruna Roy of NCPRI and Jaya Ram who appeared from nowhere to distract attention from Jan Lokpal Bill. Most dubious role played by one of the Anna allies Swami Agnivesh who was caught on the IPod making derogatory remarks about Anna calling him, “A mad elephant who does not listen” to his plea to call off fast unconditionally which would mean complete sell out ( Among all the mediators, Mr Desmukh appeared more credible as he delivered PM’s letter accepting Anna’s three conditions following the face saving unanimous resolution of the Parliament.      
Anna Hazare is currently recouping from his fast, but before leaving for hospital in Gudgaon he addressed public that his fifth is not yet over. It is only half the victory.  He would travel around the country to campaign for Election reforms to make provisions for the Right to Reject and the Right to recall.
Medha Katakar means Business
Jus. Hegde, Kheriwal Youth Icon 
Anna's close aide and social activist Medha Patkar said the passage of resolution by the Parliament over Janlokpal bill marks not the half victory but the first victory of the long struggle to be waged ahead. Talking to media persons, activist hailed the occasion and said it is has changed the equation between Parliament and people. Hazare broke his fast after drinking a glass of coconut water and honey offered to him by two girls, one of them named Ikrah. 
On the other hand Justice Santosh Hegde, one of the key aides of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Sunday said that a major hurdle has been crossed and for the time being he is happy that the parliament unanimously approved the three key demands of Hazare, namely; (i) Citizen Charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy to be included, and (iii) establishment of Lokapal at the State level . Speaking to the media persons, Although Hegde expressed his satisfaction as it was for the first time that the parliament had succumbed to the demands made by an outsider he was cautious against expecting miracle. The Parliament on Saturday backed landmark anti-corruption legislation, meeting Hazare's key demands.

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