Friday, August 19, 2011

The Anna Circus

The Indian media if not India has way too much sound bytes on Anna Hazare and amidst all this noise lot of real issues get buried. Few sensible voices (guess i find them sensible since they are akin to my beliefs) exist, not sure how much of it gets heard. Tavleen Singh is one and a recent interview of Nadan Nilekani had lot of sense in it. (Nadan Nilekani interview). No single law ever has solved any problem, there needs to be at all times a multi-pronged strategy to rectify any social malice and laws are surely a critical part of that strategy.

Primarily I see two broad types of corruption which i choose to call the micro level and the macro level. The micro level is what effects you and me on a daily basis - Bribing a traffic cop, bribing to push papers, the extra buck to get you gas cylinder, paying a tout money for your bus tickets, buying movie tickets in black and many such situation most of us face in our daily lives when interacting with both govt and private enterprise. Then we have the macro level corruption, where I would put in the 2G, CWG, Bofors,Fodder and all such scams. Both have its negative effects on society and economy, with significantly different solutions. All countries and societies have corruption in them, but what many have successfully eliminated or reduced is the micro-level kind of corruption. Bringing a sense of relief. As for the Macro that is a different story all together.

Micro level corruption - Cure: Systems, automation and competition
Now lot of the incidents i mentioned on the micro level corruption is already on the down. Movie tickets, bus tickets and such which many of us have started purchasing online has sure led to reduction in the black market. the traffic fine I pay, I could choose to pay online ensuring the money ends up at the rightful place. Same goes for many other services, be it a reorder of a gas cylinder which goes through and IVRS,  telephone connection and many of the govt levies as well. So what is making the difference? One- automation,systems and processes - they eliminate or reduce human touch points / interference.
Two-Competition / lack of monopoly - there is no debating the fact that Govt run enterprises be it in telecom or else where have improved leaps and bounds when they have had competition enter the field. So has the corruption at the service delivery point. There are risks, which can be mitigated and is beginning to happen too.(As has been seen recently with investigation initiated against Airtel, DLF and few others for their unfair practices towards their customers given their domination in their verticals) though this might be an area where significant work is required in India

Macro level corruption - laws, watchdogs and enforcement of laws
This is where the Lokpal kind of solution come into play. Here again we would need to differentiate between the existence of a law and the enforcement of the same. There are many with far higher competency and understanding than I, who feel the requirement of the hour is more the enforcement of the existing law than a new law. An autonomous body or position in lines with a CEC (chief election commissioner) would help without doubt, since the time the CEC (courtesy T N Seshan) realized that the position did not necessarily report to the govt and was autonomous and had powers of its own - the elections have progressively gotten better. One could hope for the same from a lokpal.. Then what is wrong with what Anna Hazare wants??

Anna Hazare - the good and the not so good....
Lets get the Good done with - Anna has sure managed to capture the imagination of India - urban India at the least. He seems to tapped into the pent up frustration of a large section of the Indian society who have so far felt helpless. He has garnered onto his side very many popular personalities who form a large sphere of influence. The cause - fighting corruption is noble and has broad base of approval...
well then what are the not so good bits???? Sadly quite a few
  1. The whole movement has been so packaged, that if you are seen opposing Anna, you are for corruption. which is far from the truth, many who disagree with Anna do not necessarily support corruption. 
  2. Anna is operating with ultimatums - the attitude being my way or the high way - (His team's solution don't have to be perfect or flawless - acceptance of that would help)
  3. Anna is operating on the assumption that he represents the Indian civil society, again far from the truth - He has no mandate, except all the noise that is being generated by urbane India - in electronic media  and social media be it the twitter or FB
  4. The JanLokpal bill has its own flaws and omissions as the Lokpal bill has. Yet Anna sees the JLP as absolute and perfect.
  5. Anna's team believes that root of all corruption has been the opening up of the economy and that pre-91 was not as corrupt. which is as absurd as it can get.
Corruption in India existed at all times, micro-level corruption has reduced with opening up of the economy. At the macro level opportunities have increased to some extent and the beneficiaries are many not a few as it used to be. Further with the opening of the economy we have a more belligerent and active media (as many a faults as they may have - give the devil its due) which has provided wide exposure to many a scams. so the leftist call to go back to the license-raj to eliminate corruption is a sure non starter.
If Anna felt so strongly he might want to explore possibilities of entering the system and working the changes from within - again very unlikely

So what could he do?
Anna has quite a few things going for him, using the momentum he has generated he could apply pressure,lobby,(using the spheres of influence he has created) work with other bodies fighting corruption,standing commission of parliament and ensure that the Lokpal bill gets past parliament (even a half decent bill would do) - If nothing, it would serve as a starting point. Surely a bad law is better then no law - once the bill is passed, in time cleaner and stronger politicians will hopefully see reason to amend it and strengthen it (not that the reverse is not possible). 

The movement has sure thrown up a lot of interest and energy to get things done and this might be a time for both  Anna and the govt/politicians to find middle ground.

1) This by no means is supporting the political fraternity and their corrupt ways, nor the high handedness with which the govt has handled either the Anna or Baba Ramdev movements. Our country and constitution gives us a right to protest and be heard (how ever unacceptable or how ever minor the voice maybe) that at all times has to be protected, else we fall into anarchy..
2) Here we are talking of corruption in the financial sense only


  1. I am in concurrence with you that Anna's ultimatum to the givernemnt for reform is not exactly practical, nor is the idea that his version of the Jan Lakpal will solve all of the corruption that affects India. On a broader note, I feel that each one of us is responsible in a way for corruption becoming so rampant as we also in our microway cave in to this because we are not ready to take a stand based on principle. If each one of us would take a stand that we will not pay a bribe, half the battle would be won.

  2. Very well written article dealing with what corruption means to common man.. I agree that a new system to help clear an old corrupt system is not the soln, none the less Jan lokpal needs to passed the right way conforming with the norms that already exists.
    India has suffered corruption for a long time that people are indeed agitated. So whether Anna or no Anna, ppl where ready to protest.. Now since there is a Gandhi figure, the protest seems like an Independence thingy..
    All in all change has started and will come in larger proportions soon..

  3. lol "Anna's team believes that root of all corruption has been the opening up of the economy and that pre-91 was not as corrupt. which is as absurd as it can get." and probably this set of team was born post 1991! :D

    dude... who told you about this? where did you read? who proclaimed it from the Anna Team? posting such things is surely absurd! correct me if I'm wrong but never have I heard Anna saying it only started after 1991! this bill was introduced in 1968! Before Anna, there were many eminent people fighting for passing a strong bill. Anna has been fighting for a strong lokpal bill for the past 20 years! its only now with the help of the media and social forums that we get to know who he is and what his objective is.

    different people have different perceptions... Kiran Bedi calls Anna is India and India is Anna! So, does it mean what you understand at the first go? She meant something else... any way good blog with some misconceptions of the facts.

  4. @Sandeep The Bushans who are a significant cog of the Anna team and who were nominated by Anna to represent his team/civil society to work along with the govt in drafting the lokpal bill - Have clearly stated what i mentioned - for you ref para two

  5. @Sandeep thanks anyways...and if there are mistaken facts will be more then ready to rectify them.

  6. fantastic post. very well written. the flow of narration, words chosen are superb.

    on the content.....

    a bold, deeper and thoughtful thought provoking article.

    you have rightly mentioned that his noise has some amount of positivity.

    unless anna tries to use this new formed popularity to his own benefit, even the decibels of noise can be tolerated.... we always possessed tolerance...

    when we can tolerate corruption, we by all means will tolerate anti corruption ... too....

  7. the new template is great.

    the word verification in the comments section can be removed.

    comment moderation can be enabled... not for anything else, but for knowing the receipt of an comment. please do so...

    enjoy blogging.... and the society needs to know and learn from your thoughts....