Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mr. Ashish Gupta wrote an article titled "Why I don't support Anna Hazare" today. The original article can be found here.
Here is my response to him:

Mr. Gupta,

I beg to differ with most of what you have written in your article "Why I don't support Anna Hazare" in the 28th August 2011 issue of the Hindu.

You write:
> If Parliament is not reflecting and acting as per the interest
> of voters, we need to elect candidates and parties which will
> meet our aspirations and directions.
While you are partially correct, there is a theoretical flaw in any sort of government. If a constituency chooses a candidate, he belongs their elected representative, and he has the sole authority to speak for his electorate. After he is chosen, the candidate may choose not to voice the opinion of his electorate, rather voice his own opinions, which are different from that of an electorate. As of now, there is no system of check to ensure that what he voices are the opinions of his electorate, until the next elections.
Another problem in a country like India is that unless we achieve greater education levels (not literacy) people will always be swayed by demagogues.
And what about poverty levels and cash for votes?
And what about booth capturing.
While what you write sounds very spic and span, there are many other factors which are not taken into consideration by the theory of elected representation. (I'm not saying democracy is wrong, I'm only saying that democracy should have more checks.)

> We cannot destroy the Parliamentary system,
> just as we cannot destroy the judiciary, the rule of law,
> the bureaucracy and a free press.
No one asked for the parliamentary system to be destroyed. If the parliamentary system is not working, as clearly it is not, then it needs to be amended. Every once in a while, in a democracy, people do protest against their own parliament. Henry David Thoreau and Gandhi saw the people's rights to protest against their administrators as an essential component. Why, weren't there protests in France against their own government - the very country which started the idea of democracy? Didn't Martin Luther King protest?

> He also says the electorate do not know how to elect,
> that elections are a sham and that Parliament does
> not represent people.
I will agree with him. Illiteracy. Lack of education. Poverty. Cash for votes. Booth Capture. What else would you expect. I myself don't vote, because I can't find a single party that should have my vote. I am waiting for the day the null vote is implemented, and I'll start voting from that day.

> An imperfect democracy is far better than a perfect dictatorship.
Really? Nothing could be more divorced from the truth. A government is a means to keep the people happy, meet their aspirations, strive for their prosperity. The form of the government is second to the objectives. That being said, I'm not supporting dictatorship. I'm just saying that I will support any form of government that gives better results, be it a democracy, or a meritocracy or any other form. Democracy itself can be implemented differently. I'm all for the results, not the form of government.

> The claim of Anna and half a dozen people that they
> represent the Indian public is nothing but dictatorial.
How so? Millions of people expressed their solidarity with the movement, without any force. Millions of people attended his rallies, that too, without being bought, without any sort of monetary gains. Just look at the rallies BJP or Congress organize, you won't find half the number of people there, and the people who are there are there because they have been given a bottle of liquor or five hundred rupees. Yet, they are entitled to say that they represent the Indian public, but not Anna and his team. Is it because that they have won elections by getting 30% of the votes of people, (assuming 40% don't vote, and the other 30% is divided amongst 6 other parties, 30% is a winning margin).
Wasn't there a referendum in one constituency which showed that 85% of the people favour Anna. Why doesn't the government order a formal referendum organized by the EC then?
Of course, Mr. Sibal said that since 15% of the people didn't support Anna, he was was not a legitimate speaker for the people. Ironical.

> For many, it is a picnic, fun and getting a chance to be on national TV.
How wrong can you be?

> Some of these issues are recognised as desirable in the
> Directive Principles of our Constitution and have been
> dormant since 1950.
By design, they are "directive principles". The governments are free to disregard them, which they have done. It is our constitution baba. In 1950s people wrote a set of rules called the constitution. At that time they didn't know that it would not work. After 60 years, we have seen that it is not working. So what do we need to do, as a logical step? Figure out why it is not working, and write a new set of rules or modify the existing set of rules. But we are not going to do that. Because the constitution is a holy book like the bible or Koran, and modifying it would be blasphemy.
Of course, there are amendments once in a while. Drops of water in a ocean.

> What will happen when someone goes on a fast unto
> death at Jantar Mantar asking “total independence” for
> Kashmir and someone else sits on a similar fast demanding
> abolition of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir?
The government didn't bow because of Anna's fast, but because of the immense support his movement had. In the hypothetical situation you cite, the government will not bother a dime. Look at Irom Sharmila Devi. Look at the fast by Baba Ramdev. In one case, the government hasn't bothered in 11 years. And in the second, they broke it up. Why? Because they lacked the scale of support Anna had. Irom had support in her state, and nowhere else in the country. Baba Ramdev had support from only a small section of his followers.
As far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, personally, I would support their independence. After-all, Mountbatten and Jinnah wanted Kashmir to go to Pakistan, as logically, it should have since it had an almost total Muslim population, which, by the principles of partition, should have gone to Pakistan. Hari Singh, at that time wanted to retain his independence, and didn't want to join with either India and Pakistan. It is only when Pakistan sent Pashtun tribals to conquer it, and Hari Singh, unwillingly agreed to the Indian presence in Kashmir, did this entire mess of a place unfold.

> Will the Jan Lokpal bill stop all corruption?
No one claims that it will stop all corruption, but even if it stops a large majority of them, it is worth a try. I think we are looking ahead at questions we are not prepared to answer till the bill is enforced.

> They are not going to complain to anyone.
You are assuming things.

> I believe a major part of the bribe given to government
> servants is in this category and a smaller part is where
> government servants harass and demand bribe.
You are talking about your personal experience as a government service, and they may or may not be the larger trend. I don't think you have established statistics here to claim anything in a national newspaper.

> Do not NGOs and private enterprises indulge in corruption?
Yes, but let us take one step at a time. Clean the government first, the funding agency first. I also have my opinions about where the corruption in NGOs start, but I'll not go into that, because I don't have established statistics to support my beliefs, so I'll keep them personal and not put them through in a public forum.

> Corruption has to be attacked with systemic changes,
> using information technology, reducing discretionary powers,
> reducing personal interface with government servants, and such measures.
Some of what you are saying is true. However, IT will not solve the problem.

> Dictatorial methods of agitation saying that
> “this is the bill, pass it or else” will not do.
Again, its not a dictatorial method. It is because that the bill is the will of the people, that Anna is able to make such statements. If the will of the people was not with him, and Anna made such a statement, the government wouldn't have given a dime about him. They would have treated him the way they treated Irom Sharmila Devi or Baba Ramdev.

> and he should now give Parliament and the government
> time to come up with their solution and keep up the
> awareness campaign till the next election.
Let the thieves draft the next anti-felony law. Hilarious.

> He should contest the next election with his
> followers or force the political parties to adopt his
> solution in their manifesto and then canvass for them.
Talk realistically.

Before concluding this harangue, I feel I must point you to read Gandhi's and Henry David Thoreau's views on the constitution, democracy and civil disobedience. Sometimes, the laws of the country and the constitution themselves become a problem, not the remedy. Yesterday, I saw the movie "V for Vendetta". I would highly recommend that movie. Nations can be wrong. Constitutions can be inadequate (I'm not saying that our constitution was written with malicious intent, I'm just saying that people writing a new constitution in 1950, for a newly independent nation, for a future which changed so soon, couldn't possibly have the foresight to write something which would be relevant in its entirety 60 years later. They would have had to be God to do that.).

Thanks and regards,
Rajbir Bhattacharjee

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