Friday, August 19, 2011

And Now, A Conspiracy Theory

One thing that is always interesting is the way political parties start looking for conspiracy theories when all options run out. After trying to find many ways to dissuade Anna Hazare, a spokesman for the Congress gave a statement yesterday that they were probing where the movement was getting its support from. The US? How come there were so many SMSs and stuff going around the place? Who was behind this campaign? For years it was Pakistan. Now it is the US. Or the opposition. "How is it possible that the people of India support anything like this. They are incapable of doing anything for their own good" - seems to be the premise that he is basing his argument on.

My friend, dear spokesman, there are plenty of people in India who own mobile phones. All of them, or most of them, know how to send SMSs. Most of these are also the people who have suffered from payments towards corruption out of their meagre earnings. Most of these try to make two ends meet, or are always in debt. This should cover over 90% of the population - maybe upwards of 95%. It is the sudden, unexplained affluence of some of the 5% that chokes the life out of these other 95% who keep paying more and more for basic necessities, bad governance while the 5% seems to be skimming the cream off the top easily without any accountability.

While the 95% is struggling with price hikes, pollution, health bills, bad infrastruture, rising costs, taxes in various forms that we don't even understand them anymore including credit cards use which is also debt - the other 5% is always in the news with their unexplained hundreds of crores, their luxury cars, their nexus with politicians, their illegitimate deals that are not being allowed to be investigated, their land grabbing stories, their misuse of power stories, their tax evasion stories, their palatial houses (I hope someone just makes a compilation of pictures of some of the houses these people live in with their valuations and sources of income), their shameless methods of clinging to power to protect themselves and their own.

Most Chief Ministers are in the red or were - Maharashtra (Chavan for the Aadarsh scam), Andhra (Jagan under the scanner), Karnataka (Yeddyyurappa indicted by the Lok Ayukta), Delhi (Sheila Dixit)...and the list goes on and on and includes many politicians who are already in the dock. Most businessman are in the news for the wrong reasons. All scams are now in the tune of thousands of crores, lakhs of crores, sums that are so big that most of the population cannot even conceive it. One the other hand a few hundred rupee increase in domestic items like fuel, electricity and gas, can strangle most middle class households.

Typically bribes are paid everywhere. From birth - getting admitted to a government hospital which may include bribes, getting operated properly, getting a birth certificate, buying a plot of land, getting permission to build a house, getting loans, to get their salaries (especially in the government), to get certificates, medical fitness tests, driving licenses, starting a business, getting a job, getting promotions and transfers, getting phone, gas connections (in the earlier days), getting passports, moving files in government offices, getting due payments from government offices, getting police assistance even if one is the victim (possibly more if one is the victim), escaping traffic challans, escaping police action preventively (most illegal stuff from petty crimes to murder goes on with the tacit approval of the police), for government contracts, for inside information, for votes from the electorate, for votes in the parliament, for illegal mining, for illegal construction, for awards, for pensions, for getting favorable verdicts, for favorable newspaper reports, for policy changes, for college admissions, for death certificates, for releasing bodies from the mortuary, for reducing tax burden by negotiating with tax men from various tax departments - income, sales, service, property etc etc. These are some I can think of off hand. If you are a businessman then you can add political parties, religious parties, mafia, extremists, local politicians, slum lords and the like to the above list.

All of the above are not done voluntarily by the one who is paying the bribe. They are forced to pay by the people in authority who think that it is their right to recover the money since they have paid for their jobs. What was the odd such incident is now the norm. The bribe takers now demand their share else you can run around their offices for ever. The poor and the illiterate have no go and pay up because they see no other way out and every extra moment costs them more. And they are already in debt.

Most Indians have been subjected to some or most of the above forms of bribery. The one who has not been, I would love to meet and find out what kind of a protected existence he has had that he has not met reality yet. I assume at a minimum each Indian has paid a bribe of Rs. 1000 (really low estimates) in their life. Assuming a billion people that is 1000 billion rupees. The real figures are far more surely.

"Anna is alone. He has no organization. Then how did this movement start and grow? Who are these people spreading the word on internet and telephones; the way video message was recorded prior to arrest. The US had never spoken about any movement in India. This is the first time that it did. We show the path of democracy to others, what was the need for the US to say it. This has created suspicion."

Why Mr. Spokesman, does the US or any other source need to support or send SMSs to support Anna Hazare? Do you think the people of India need more reason to support this movement? Do you really think they can be pushed further without any reaction? What does it take for you to see what the people want? Who they are?

The people out there supporting Anna are real people, Mr. Spokesman, people who have left their families, jobs, work behind - who have all sacrificed something, paid for their travel to get to the venue. Not people who are paid to attend rallies. It must have been too long since you might have seen real people at rallies - no wonder you don't recognise them. They, Mr. Spokesman, are the people of this country.


Prasanna Kumar said...

Hi Hari Sir,

Very good article again.

My 2 cents:

USA right now going thru tons of problems already, they don’t have time to cover what’s happening in India so far at least, but when the most stupid thing of arresting Mr. Anna happened, even USA had to look and comment "What the hell is happening in India?" apparently Mr. Spokesman got no clue about it and just reacting to the incident.

Regarding corruption:
We don’t or do things for lack of fear or in fear. All these politicians and businessman doesn’t have any kind of fear that they will get punished if they do any illegal things. Best example is fire, we won’t touch it because we know it hurts. So my idea is we, as a system, needs to create this fear in them. I know LOCPAL bill they are proposing will do this very thing, but I am not sure how practical it is. What guarantee we have that once this LOCPAL gets all power, eventually the people who are operating won’t become corrupted in one way or other? The reason I pose this question was due to the fact that corruption is in the very blood veins of our society.

I understand that I am talking against non-violence and etc that we are so use to, but may be it is a better approach? Something like when we are standing in-front of a wild animal we just can’t beg or start a fasting or do peaceful protest’s, they just don’t work, we have to fight back violently with all our energy.

I use to watch Sakshi TV that directly supports YSR and his party. So this time as soon as the CBI started the investigation 2 days back, I went back and started watching again, just to see what they can say now, seriously try to watch for 15 minutes and that would be more than enough to show where our society stands.

Your article made me write back too much  sorry about very lengthy comment.


Harimohan said...

Hi Prasanna,
Thanks for writing. I understand your views. Most feel the same way. Would the Lok Pal go the same way as many other institutions that the government has at its disposal and serve the people in power? Personally I think this Bill is an outcome of several years of frustration that the government has not been able to use these institutions (CBI, CVC) well! So it makes sense that we try this route to make the people who are accountable, really accountable, to those they need to account for! The people rule this country.
Big responsibilities comes with big accountability. The government, the parliament are only the representatives of the people. But once they get to a position of making laws they seem to think they have been elevated to some other God like, law-making status, and make laws that suit them only. This is not acceptable. The law must be the same to everyone - the highest and the lowest.
The Lok Pal Bill is not the end obviously. The path is long before corruption gets rooted out because the corrupt have lined the path with their own people. But if anything this movement has shown that people of all levels are aware and are now against corruption because it is now pinching them.
But what we cannot forget is that the government represents us. Is this the kind of government we elected? Do we want the government to be more people-centric? If so how do we ensure that? All we have is a vote. It is the smallest thing and the biggest thing. The way it should be used, the way information about the right candidates can be brought to the people so they make considered decisions is what could follow. True empowerment of the people, true representation of what the people want - and not what a few parliamentarians want. We as the people need to be more aware of the process and seek to gain true empowerment.
We really can't blame anyone else - the government is what we elected, it reflects us, our aspirations, our hopes, our corruption, our inability to do anything. Just as Anna Hazare also represents our will to seek a cleaner and more accountable society.

Anonymous said...

Im glad to Im not the only one that has doubts about this bill.


Harimohan said...

There are many who oppose the Bill too. The latest is Ms. Arundhati Roy who has opined that this will only create another oligarchy. But I see no one coming out with any other solutions to the one question that plagues everyone - are elected representatives allowed to take undue advantage of their power without any accountability and transparency?