Monday, August 15, 2011

The Grammar of Reform

Something surely is rotten in the state of India.

Why else would Anna Hazare, a virtual unknown to many outside Maharashtra, vault into national consciousness and force our democratic Government on the defensive?

Much ink has been spilt discussing his agenda and his methods. Much mud has been slung on all sides. After all this, we have now reached a stalemate where an increasingly belligerent Government is in a staring match with an increasingly intransigent Anna Hazare.

As Indians debate this grammar of anarchy, we should separate out several threads mixed in this mire.

First, there is a real crisis of governance in India. Our existing political systems have proven incapable of checking rampant corruption at petty and epic levels. The high cost of our sprawling democracy has created a patronage state to pay for it. The vast reach of our patronizing Government has created opportunity for corruption at a continental scale. The subservience and incompetence of our investigative bodies has created near immunity for corruption. Our parliamentary system has failed to provide sufficient checks and balances on the Government of the day. Our overburdened and, sometimes corruptible, judiciary has been unable to dispense speedy justice. Even our clamorous fourth estate has been compromised in its mortal competition for audience.

Second, our people are smart enough to sense that this state of governance anarchy is not self-correcting. This is why the upsurge in support for Anna Hazare, who people may not know but see as being a potential force for change. That Indians have less faith in their Government than a man most of them do not know and whose ideas they do not understand is telling in itself.

Third, the response of Government of India to this frontal assault has been self-defeating. Its initial defensive crouch has evolved into an increasingly menacing posture. Unable to make a case for its agenda or counter the reality of its inherent corruption, the Government is attacking Mr Hazare in personal terms and his movement by use of force. In so doing, it reaffirms the negative view Indians hold of their political system. If the institution of democratic Government is under siege, it is at the hands of the Government herself - not of Mr Hazare. The many commentators who cite Ambedkar's grammar of anarchy notion to attack Mr Hazare also fall into the same trap. Grammar of anarchy is only problematic in a self-correcting political system. India doesn't have that alas and change here takes way too long to be meaningful. To attack Mr Hazare's protest on the grounds that it sows anarchy misses this obvious point and makes Indians regretfully suspect the credibility of these commentators.

Finally, it is self-evident that Mr Hazare's prescriptions are profoundly dangerous. In the best of circumstances, they will create deep levels of risk aversion among even honest Government servants fearful of painfully intrusive investigations. In the worst of circumstances, they will create a super-Government that is above the democratic process - which would be a major retreat from freedom in India.

So, what is to be done?

This is a moment of perilous opportunity for India. Thoughtful Indians should seize upon the nationwide desire for structural reform in our political system. Yes, the country must reject the fascistic ideas that Mr Hazare offers, but at the same time must embrace the change that he demands. Political and civil society leaders must begin leveling with the people and outlining their visions for a self-correcting political system. We cannot be so rigidly wedded to the current system and so harshly averse to Mr Hazare's ideas that we miss the forest for the trees. Our need for political reforms is perhaps even greater than our need for economic reform. The economic superpower that India can become is being thwarted by the political subpower that it unfortunately is. This has to change - and starting immediately.

The current moment is a cry for help from the Indian people. Using police tactics or lofty rhetoric to smother this cry would be a Himalyan blunder.


Herman said...

So well written Red, i almost cried -hey you stole my byline !

Primary_red said...

Wow! Thank you :-)

narendra shenoy said...

Well said!

Mihir said...

Very articulate.

shailesh sharma said...

Sorry but i think Anna is not a fascist!!! If u think imposing strict corrective measures at all level will be anarchy I must say "If u r right u won't fear anything". And about talks i must say "we r talking since 65 years and we got Anna like situation after much talks (for solution)"

Anonymous said...

Do you think a govt steeped in corruption bring about electoral reforms like you are suggesting??

If it were true, Anna would not have been fasting & neither you would have been writing this article.

Anna knows this is not possible, hence doing all he can...He is being realistic

And you like most writers are far away from reality

Anonymous said...

Either you are disconnected with reality or you are one of the lobbyist against jan lokpal. You have not bothered to read the jan lokpal recommendations. Anyone with basic english comprehension can figure out that the idea of parallel government or sub power is a way by politicians to evade the bill.

Let me ask you, is Supreme Court a sub power or a parallel govt. ? Is lokayukta or CBi or so many committees (some with judicial powers), CIC, PAC etc. a form of sub power or parallel govt. ? The answer is "NO". So what makes you think that jan lokpal is a form of parrallel govt or sub power ?

This is an idea floated by a lawyer minister who represents the tyrant attitude of current ministers.

Apert from this, what makes you think, millions of people who are protesting against govt. right now and supporting jan lokpal are idiots ?

Primary Grey said...

This piece managed to piss off both sides; that's an amazing feat sir!

Tin Man said...

Finally someone to give a voice to us people in between, who want to change the system, but don't see any other way. The power of the day only gives in to pressure. Dismayed, yes. Disillusioned, no.

fazal said...

Sir, well grammar-ed piece of words

PaddyPal said...

I do agree with your observations on the mood of the country and the lack of governance. However,request you to understand the JLP bill completely before jumping into conclusion. Regarding the current crisis, as you said, it is the lack of governance and the arrogance of particular individuals in the govt. brought this country out there to Ramlila Maidan. More over, this protest is not just against corruption, but predominantly against the political class and their ignorance towards the people, by & large middle class of India. They are alienated to quite an extent in the election as our constitution doesn't provide option to reject the candidate.And as an addition, the politicians & current reps in the entire parliament of ppl boast of support of 70+ crores of support.But the fact of the matter is that if you give the above said constitutional provision to reject candidature,80 to 90% would not have been there. This is a fact that no more our reps really are inclusive of all classes...! So politicians shd understand the ire of the people and amend their ways to be more accountable & transparent. I thank Anna for channelizing the ire of the ppl in the most peaceful manner and saving the democracy of our country from any extreme outbursts. Specifically, in the recent past, how many agitations led by political outfits & vote bank groups (Take Telangana, Gujjar, etc.) were violence free? Crores of public/ private properties were destroyed. When the govt. responds to such protests and does not respond to peaceful protests, they are setting a wrong precedence...!