Saturday, August 20, 2011

Theatre Of The Absurd

We Indians love our theatre. The interminable sitcoms on television are testimony to that. But tastes in theatre are evolving, just like tastes in cinema. The public can no longer be hoped to be satisfied with the hero and heroine dancing around old banyan and peepal trees, with birds chirping away. Awakened tastes today demand something different -- pines and poplar -- to dance around. And to really make the feel-good sink in, the birds chirping away should also be of some endangered species, so that it can be a statement for a 'cause'.

Witness the latest avant garde theatre being played out, starring Anna Hazare and cast. How it has taken the middle classes by storm! Running to packed halls across the country, with more and more threatening to gatecrash if not permitted into the party. The government is all at sea, floundering for breath, as everyone and his grandmother wants to be a part of the crusade that's guaranteed to deliver the coup de grace to knock the monster of corruption once and for all. The iPad-esque formula has been such a hit that copycats have already thrown their hats in, in the form of His Holiness Baba Ramdev and disciplehood. Never mind if the government forcibly brought the shutters down on that one in an act that was widely condemned (and condemnable). So long as one show goes on, it should make the feel-good continue. (India Whining, anyone...?). After all, when it's going to deliver us from this plague which we have nurtured over decades, what's a small sacrifice -- like taking a day off from work wearing black armbands -- to make for it?

You want freedom from the voluntary bribe you paid to get your job done yesterday...? Support Jan Lokpal Bill. You want to reclaim the land in front of your house where you've traditionally dumped your garbage for years -- municipal laws be damned -- which was snatched away by a corrupt Commonwealth Games operator...? Support Jan Lokpal Bill. You are still smarting from the loss you faced due to that traffic cop who caught you - what injustice, only you --when you were jumping the red signal along with so many others, and who simply refused to be put away without being paid half your due fine as his cut...? Support Jan Lokpal Bill. You are outraged by the guy who paid the ticket collector more than you could afford to pay and got the railway berth reserved ahead of you...? Support Jan Lokpal Bill. You want to teach a lesson to the neighborhood pharmacist who keeps demanding more and more to issue you false medical bills to help you save on taxes...? Support Jan Lokpal Bill.

The phenomenon has gathered such TRP ratings that it has forced protesters of all other hues to cool their heels till the event gets over. It has effectively postponed the launch of the latest rounds of agitation that Geelani and company were planning, come this August, to bring Kashmir to a boil once again. Neither are the Maoists killing any policemen while it lasts. Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy too decided to take a welcome break, and keep their next round of agitation and protest on hold, while TV cameras are all busy shuttling between Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar and Tihar Jail (or has that now become Tihar Hotel, from which you check out at your own will...?). The anti-corruption movement in its popularity now threatens to derail every other form of protesting art, much like a mega cricket event swamps out every other sporting event in the country.

Creativity has been lent a fresh new lease of life, thanks to Anna. Supermarkets are stocking up on Anna paraphernalia as the latest hot cake. Depending on your predilections you can pick up an Anna Bhajan, Anna Hard Rock, or Anna Chalisa, which are all being offered free teaser previews on national television. Tee-shirt companies are promising new Anna designs every fortnight, and chances are unless you hurry they'll all be gone before you land up to buy them. Movie stars are making a beeline to sign up for Anna, lest their rivals capture the returning Anna fan base first and their own movies are left high and dry. (Clever folks that they are, they've realized that sex and violence are now passe, it's anti-corruption that sells now!) ShahRukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra have promised to hold a free fundraising show in support of Anna, and have roped in Karim Morani of Cineyug to organize the grand event. Morani has promised to contribute 15% of the loan returned by DMK's Kalaignar TV, and also an additional amount per ticket sold, to the Anna fund. Mammooty and Mohanlal had agreed to lead the march in support of Anna down south, but they got held back at the last moment because of income tax raids on their undeclared properties. Chetan Bhagat has found it an auspicious moment to announce his next novel -- 'One Fortnight @ The Anti-Corruption Center', and has promised not to lift any page from Life of Pi this time, to keep it clean. Last heard, Apple Store has announced the latest set of funky Anna Anti-corruption Apps (AAAs), which are available for immediate download. Gadget makers are scrambling to get their smartphones and other gizmos certified as Anna-compatible, and offering free Anna merchandise with every purchase. Offer valid till stocks last.

Anna-mania has gripped the nation this year with the same virally infectious vehemence as Swine Flu had last August. People are seeing the Jan Lokpal Bill as their last chance of deliverance from corruption, and will not budge without Anna's bill being tabled in Parliament, and getting the government's version being discarded lock, stock and barrel. Anyone drawing attention to the glaring defects of the Anna bill, and the gross unimplementability of his proposals will be consigned to face the firing squad as a cynical cribber at best, and active promoter of corruption at worst. Much like in the heat of the Kashmir stone-throwing frenzy, anyone who spoke about the illogicality of stone-pelting as a device for achieving any goal would have been branded an imperialist tyrant and a traitor to the cause of oppressed Kashmiris. Such is the force of the fashionable hysteria in town that an ear-ring sporting, goatee-brandishing hippie who seems like having spent more of his life in a discotheque than at work can have the cheek to question a social worker who has spent twenty five years of his life among rural masses -- 'What is your credibility?' -- when he points out that we need to examine the merits of the Anna proposals and consider the implications and practicability of a body which's mandated to handle a Prime Minister's corruption together with fifty rupees bribe taken by the village patwari.

When hope rules, reason can't find a place to hide.

Which is why the din for 'Bring on Jan Lokpal' has totally drowned any need to examine the actual proposals made by Team Anna, and to see what will be their implications. Currently, the mood on the street is: 'Let's teach the elected representatives, and especially the government, a lesson and show them who's the boss.' Anna and team have been bandying about results of referendums that they have held privately which apparently show that 95% of the people want their version of the bill. Never mind the results of the survey carried out by CNN-IBN that shows that two-thirds of the people of India have either not heard about Lokpal at all, or have no opinion on it. That 95% of people have understood the differences between the two drafts and have developed a strong opinion in favor of one version (Team Anna's version) is an astonishing claim to make. But it's being peddled day in and day out, presumably because of SMS-happy pollers on television, without so much as raising an eyebrow. Leave alone the question of whether 95% of the masses are qualified enough to arbitrate on matters concerning the finer points of law.

Right now, a mass hysteria has been whipped up, which has simply tried to exploit the frustration of the people with corruption at every level of societal and governmental functioning, as also the TRP-driven media obsession with a 'scam'. People have been given two choices as black and white: either you support corruption(and are for the government-introduced bill) , or you are against corruption (and therefore in support of Anna's bill). Most people have ignored the part in the parenthesis, or have been led to believe that it follows as an inevitable consequence, and simply chosen the second one. There isn't much difference between this and what George Bush propounded as well: either you are for terror (and therefore advise considered action) or you are against terror and for democracy (in which case you allow me to start as many wars as I want). Don't miss out on the overwhelming choice that Americans made, and where it led them to.

Let's check out a couple of the things being proposed by Team Anna in their draft:

  1. Who will come under Lokpal's ambit?

    All central government servants. Government Servant includes "any person who is or was any time appointed to a civil service or post in connection with the affairs of the Central Government or High Courts or Supreme Court either on deputation or permanent or temporary or on contractual employment but would not include the judges." Additionally, any public servant who is or was at any time,-
    (a) the Prime Minister;
    (b) a Minister;
    (c) a Member of Parliament;
    (d) Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court;
    (e) Any member of government instituted corporations, cooperative bodies etc
  2. How big will Lokpal be?

    Lokpal shall consist of one Chairperson and ten members along with its officers and employees.

  3. From the two above, it's clear that an eleven-member Lokpal is supposed to oversee what would easily be hundreds of thousands of employees, given that government servant includes not only serving employees but also all past ones, that too not just permanent employees but all temporary and contractual ones too. In India, even by conservative estimates at least a hundred thousand bribes will be asked for by central government employees every day (half of that could easily be from railway TTEs alone, and another quarter from court clerks).

    Could Team Anna explain what'll need to be the administrative size of the Lokpal? How many officers and employees will it need to even accept so many complaints every day, forget investigation and prosecution of each? What'll be the expenses burden on the government to maintain this behemoth? Are we proposing here that we wind up all vigilance wings which each government department maintains? Will all those people who man those wings be laid off? Or are the same people going to sit all together inside the Lokpal building now?

    Or are we going to limit the number of complaints by issuing a public advisory that 'Guys, please continue with your current practice of not making any written complaints, since you can obviously see that we are in no position to handle all of them. Please send us only those ones which'll create the best media-circus experience for all of us." Or are we proposing to have a lottery system whereby, say, a hundred lucky winners every day will have their complaints investigated?

    Will each complaint be given the investigative approval of the eleven-member team, or will lower level staff decide on it?

  4. What will Lokpal do?

    Lokpal shall be responsible for receiving:
    (a) Complaints where there are allegations of such acts of omission or commission which are punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act
    (b) Complaints where there are allegations of misconduct by a government servant
    (c) Grievances
    (d) Complaints from whistleblowers

  5. So we are saying that citizens of India are free to submit their grievances to Lokpal, regardless of whether corruption is involved or not? I have a grievance against BSNL (which is a central government corporation) for improper broadband billing, which has had no resolution despite escalation to state-level and central-level authorities. Am I encouraged now to post this to Lokpal? Or are citizens supposed to engage a lawyer first, to decide whether or not the grievance that they have can be posted to Lokpal?

    What are your scalability limits? -- how many millions of such grievances can you accept each year before you blow up? And are you really promising to resolve each of these within a month? Anna, are you sober still, or has the hypoglycemia started to take a toll on your thinking capacity...? Or did you never believe that thought really has a place, so long as one is free to raise slogans...?

  6. What will be the Lokpal's powers?

    Here's a sampler:
  7. a)For the purposes of section 36 of Criminal Procedure Code, the Chairperson, members of Lokpal and the officers in investigation wing of Lokpal shall be deemed to be police officers.

    b)For the purpose of any such investigation (including the preliminary inquiry) the Lokpal shall have all the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

    c)In order to get its orders complied with, the Lokpal shall have, and exercise the same jurisdiction powers and authority in respect of contempt of itself as a High court has and may exercise, and, for this purpose, the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

    d)No proceedings of the Lokpal shall be held to be bad for want of form and except on the ground of jurisdiction, no proceedings or decision of the Lokpal shall be liable to be challenged, reviewed, quashed or called in question in any court of ordinary Civil Jurisdiction.

    e)This Act shall override the provisions of all other laws.

    So, the Lokpal will be a police officer, who'll have the powers of a Civil Court for adjudication, powers of a High Court for enforcing contempt of itself, whose verdict shall be final and unchallengeable (making it the Supreme Court), and also the Lokpal Act will supersede the provision of every other law and thus be the ultimate Master Law which'll govern India. Is this really the product of your luminous legal minds Messrs Prashant and Shanti Bhushan...? How come you forgot to put in a clause saying that: 'Lokpal shall be the sole competent authority to act as the defence lawyer for the accused' as well? That would probably complete the full circle -- the circle of laughable nonsense.

    May be China should draw inspiration, take their 'catch and shoot' methodology of eliminating the corrupt, and rechristen it Chinese Lokpal.

  8. What'll Lokpal mean for other government agencies?
  9. Lokpal shall have the powers to choose its own officials. Lokpal may enlist officials on deputation from other government agencies for a fixed tenure or it may enlist officials on permanent basis from other government agencies or it may appoint people from outside on permanent basis or on a fixed tenure basis.

    So, the Lokpal could simply pick any officer from any department it wants, and that department's boss will have no way but to let him go? So, we'll filter out efficient, upright officers from other government agencies and put them into Lokpal, and that'll be the way to ensure that those agencies run in the best, most corruption-free way. I'm getting it Anna, I'm getting it...

    If an officer is given permanent posting in Lokpal, can he expect to get promoted to Cabinet Secretary rank ever? Can he expect to be rotated out to other departments, if he gets bored at some point? Mind you, these gentlemen or ladies can never hope to be promoted to the Team of Eleven, because by definition those who are in government service for the past two years are disqualified.

    And, not just that, Lokpal can appoint officials from anywhere outside the government service too. Great. Will Lokpal now start conducting its own LPSC examination too? (That's Lokpal Service Commission examination, if you didn't get it. Only honest people with no blemish whatsoever will be allowed to sit for it.) For the sake of advance information, will that examination be multiple-choice type or essay-type, Anna...? Will the question papers be set by the Team of Eleven, or will other Lokpal staff do it? Will final appointment interviews at least be conducted by the Team of Eleven? What kind of social-justice principles be applicable to it, that is, what sort of reservation policies will it have...? What sort of other agitations will it spawn, in case some groups feel left out, especially since the Lokpal jobs are supposed to have higher emoluments than other equivalent government jobs...?

  10. What happens to existing vigilance wings of departments?

  11. a)The posts of the Secretary and other Officers and Employees of the Central Vigilance Commission are hereby abolished and they are hereby appointed as the Secretary and other officers and employees of the Lokpal.

    b)All vigilance administration under the control of all Departments of Central Government, Ministries of the Central Government, corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the Central Government shall stand transferred, alongwith its personnel, assets and liabilities to Lokpal for all purposes.

    c)That Department from where any personnel have been transferred to Lokpal under sub-section (5), shall cease to have any control over the administration and functions of transferred personnel.

    d)That part of Delhi Special Police Establishment, in so far as it relates to investigation and prosecution of offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, shall stand transferred, alongwith its employees, assets and liabilities to Lokpal for all purposes. (-- This is the anti-corruption wing of the CBI.)

    This is a stroke of genius! All vigilance wings of all departments are hereafter abolished. In one fell swoop, it absolves any departmental Minister or Principal Secretary of being answerable for the wrong-doings of any other member in their department. It gives them the freedom to show the door of Lokpal whenever any instance of corruption or misconduct is brought to their notice -- with the simple excuse that 'I have no powers to investigate since my investigative wing has been dismantled. Please take your complaint to Lokpal.' If I were any such minister or secretary, I'll throw a celebratory party -- imagine what load it takes off my shoulder, and with how much peace I can go to bed now.

    This is an astounding piece of invention, unbelievable in its glory! What hundreds of departments with thousands of their own dedicated staff could not achieve separately, the Lokpal will now be able to take over all of it single-handed and deliver! And you know what? -- Lokpal will be able to do it with exactly the same personnel as the departments already had over so many years, who'll now be transferred to it. That such a phenomenal transformation can be brought about simply by moving personnel from one building to another, and changing the signboard from one to another, is a discovery which political and administrative scientists should feel ashamed of for not having figured out in all these centuries.

    Thank you for showing us the way, Anna -- thank you very much for this earth-changing insight!

    No, wait. It's not going to be exactly the same people. Only impeccably honest personnel will be allowed into the Lokpal, remember...? I'm sure Anna will install robust 'Dishonesty Detectors' (like metal detectors) at the Lokpal entrance, and ensure that all corrupt folks from the vigilance wings can be stopped right at the door. Don't forget to patent your device Anna -- a number of our inventions are lost because of lack of awareness of the filing process.

  12. Whom will the Lokpal be accountable to?
  13. (1) The Chairperson of Lokpal shall present annually a consolidated report in prescribed format on its performance to the President.

    (2) On receipt of the annual report, the President shall cause a copy thereof together with an explanatory memorandum to be laid before each House of the Parliament.

    (3) The Lokpal shall publish every month on its website the list of cases disposed with brief details of each such case, outcome and action taken or proposed to be taken in that case. It shall also publish lists of all cases received by the Lokpal during the previous month, cases disposed and cases which are pending.

    So, if I read it correctly, we're saying that the Lokpal will be accountable to its own website. I do not see a genuine value-add of the report submitted annually to the President and which is supposed to be tabled in Parliament too. It's a read-only feature, because neither the President nor the Parliament has been entrusted with any power of doing anything with the performance report other than to read it. And since it's already available on the Lokpal website on a monthly basis, by the time it reaches the President/Parliament it's already stale news.

    Wouldn't other bodies too rejoice were they to be allowed this luxury? Imagine, if the government were to be accountable, not to Parliament, but to its own website, on which it'll upload its monthly performance report. Would one ever see a better performing government on this planet?

    Mind-boggling isn't it? -- if appointed apparatchiks, who never have to answer anyone, could be such wonderful performers, why on earth do we have any problem at all...?

  14. Who'll be on the selection committee for Lokpal?

  15. The Chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament
    Two senior most judges of Supreme Court
    Two senior most Chief Justices of High Courts.
    All Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin
    Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission
    Last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin
    Comptroller and Auditor General of India
    Chief Election Commissioner
    Bharat Ratna Award winners
    After the first set of selection process, the outgoing members and Chairperson of Lokpal

    Again, the attempt to play to the gallery is plain enough. All Nobel Laureates of Indian origin, Magsaysay Award winners (only last two, mind you) and Bharat Ratna award winners...? Have these people really expressed any desire to be on such committees? What about Dada Saheb Phalke winners, Sahitya Academy winners, Jnanpeeth Award winners, Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Prize winners, Olympic Medal winners, and World Champion title holders...? Why have they not been offered a pride of place on this august committee...? After all, the flag-waving swarms on the streets could only increase if these too graced the committee, isn't it...?

  16. What'll Lokpal do with public-funded NGOs?

    No mention in the draft. But verbal positions are known from Team Anna -- NGOs shouldn't be touched with a barge pole. Reason? -- the government will victimize NGOs to cover its own corruption. How does that follow, Mr Kejriwal...? Haven't you already built in enough safeguards and penalties against false allegations? The government has already proposed two years' minimum imprisonment for false complaints. If you do believe the government itself will file false complaints with Lokpal to victimize your beloved NGOs, why do you oppose that then? Shouldn't you be all for it?

    The latest report of the RTI activist Shehla Masood who was killed in Bhopal last week shows that she had controversially inquired about the assets accumulated by an MP from the local ruling dispensation who runs an NGO, and she had expressly notified of a threat to her life. Just what makes NGOs so sacrosanct, Mr Kejriwal, and why should they be excluded even though they are receiving public funds? Just because some members of your team may be sitting on them?

Nevertheless, if one is interested in exploring the differences between the government draft and the Team Anna draft one can check this and this. Looking at the two drafts, they look about 85-90% the same to me. The differences are few, some of which are negotiable, and some on which there is a difference in principle. But none of it is such that merits the hullaballoo that is being perpetrated on the streets today in the name of a 'second freedom struggle'.

It's somehow being assumed that the more the number of people that you can assemble, the weightier your argument becomes. That's never true. No Justice Hegde -- you are flat out wrong. The public is not supreme. Only reason is. Never underestimate the capacity of large masses to be completely wrong and delusional in their thinking. If that weren't true, you won't see the Bengal public up in arms against and kicking Nano out, thereby destroying their own economic prospects. If that weren't true, you won't find the millions who swear that Sai Baba's bhabhoot does indeed cure all ills, no matter of what variety. If the subscription of millions were to be justification, then SpeakAsia would have indeed been the money-making opportunity of the millennium. And just because the Taliban can boast of an even bigger and more dedicated, fight-to-death clientele than even you have, doesn't mean that Islamic Fundamentalist Rule is the best form of government.

Like they say of the stock markets -- in the short run it's a popularity contest, but in the long run it's a weighing machine. It's the same of ideas and bills.

To conclude, here are the objectives we must keep in mind:

  1. Have no illusions of removing all corruption with one law and one statutory body, no matter what its name and composition. It's a pipedream.

  2. Don't give too large a mandate to the Lokpal. Let us first concentrate on controlling conspicuous corruption in the higher echelons of power, and only then think of levels further down. A cut-off limit at the level of Joint Secretaries as proposed by the government is a very pragmatic decision. It doesn't amount to declaring open season for all lower levels. It merely focuses the Lokpal on something that it can concentrate on and deliver. Let us eliminate 20% of the corruption first, which is in the higher executive, and then think about the remaining 80%.

  3. Anna's bill is sweepingly ambitious, to the point of being ridiculous. It's unimplementable. It's very easy to ignore that when merely waving flags in a protest carnival. But the reality will come crashing down on you later. Without fail. Please don't invite disaster knowingly -- you'll only end up with disillusionment with one more body when reality dawns. Anna is making huge, huge overpromises. And, guess what, that's a sure recipe for huge, huge underdelivery.

  4. The country doesn't suffer from the corruption of prime ministers. But it sure can cost a lot to the taxpayers' money to destabilize governments through motivated accusations. When Lal Krishna Advani alleges that Sonia Gandhi has Swiss-Bank accounts, he's not whistleblowing. He has merely read Wikipedia -- that's his evidence. Don't bring the country to a boil on a point which has no practical significance. While there is no doubt that not including the sitting PM does indeed reduce the moral weight of the bill, there are still many across the political spectrum who have valid arguments for keeping the PM excluded. Let's just park this debate for a later point and move on. It doesn't merit a standoff of the kind Anna is creating.

  5. On the question of the CBI, even Anna's bill has asked for only one division of the CBI to be brought under its control -- the anti-corruption division. The CBI has six other divisions within its fold -- Economic Offences Division, Special Crimes Division, Directorate of Prosecution, Administration Division, Policy & Coordination Division and Central Forensic Science Laboratory. Those remaining ones continuing to be under government supervision is not under dispute. The government has already proposed a fresh new investigative agency entirely under the Lokpal. Just what is wrong with that? In the worst case, are you ok if you are given the used-car in the form of the existing CBI anti-corruption wing, and the government gets a new car in the form of a freshly constituted one to backfill the outgoing one? It doesn't make any difference to my eyes, but if you are going to keep crying over it, please negotiate with the government and get your lollipop.

  6. And no, there is no question of the judiciary being brought under any kind of non-judicial control. Whatever problems they have, they'll have to be equipped on their own to deal with it. Please provide inputs for the Judicial Administrative Reforms bill, if you have any concrete, substantial proposals.

  7. The Lokpal can only be an investigative and prosecuting agency. It cannot pass any verdicts. Only the independent Special Court designated for the Lokpal will have the power to deliver a verdict. That'll without fail have to be subject to appeal in a higher court. The people of India have no need for any kala kanoons. Please don't mislead them by proposing and advocating such things. The Lokpal will be under the High Court and the Supreme Court, and never the other way round.

  8. You are not doing away with retail corruption till there is limited resources, and innumerable hands to lay demand on those limited resources. Please wake up to the fact. If you want to solve the problem, reduce the hands and increase the resource creation and utilization. There is no other way. The rest is all cheap showmanship.

  9. In the meantime, go for strong bodies but which'll work collaboratively and produce some results instead of needless and time-wasting clashes. Don't root for Greg Chappell-esque solutions. A huge number of people had gloated that Chappell was the right medicine that Indian cricket infested with the so-called cancers of that time needed. Don't forget the outcome. And don't forget the latest to happen.

  10. Think solutions. Not emotions.

Please don't assume that oceans of protesters landing on streets adds even a fig to the real weight of Anna's proposals. They have good company in the form of a convicted murderer like Pappu Yadav who too has started a fast unto death for Anna inside the jail. Kalmadi and Raja too would soon want to join the bandwagon. The multitudes that are descending on the streets are doing so because they've figured out it's a free lunch. There's no cost to it, and they get relieved of corruption automagically. Corruption is not a symptom of the lack of anti-corruption laws. It's an invention that Indians have made in their infinite capacity for jugaad. It emerges from the same wellspring.

The government needs to show spine. It must not buckle down under this blackmail, no matter what the consequences. Fasting to death repeatedly is no manner of democratic dialogue.There is no dialogue here, anyway -- it's a one-way monologue by Anna. Just like when faced with an airplane hijack the best policy is to refuse to engage the hijackers, even if you may incur loss of lives, similarly, if someone wants to hijack the due political and legislative process by threatening endless street agitations, the government must not genuflect. If that means fall of the government, well, then so be it. It's important to retain authority, not merely power. If Anna threatens a further countrywide agitation to bring down the government unless his version of the bill is accepted -- just call his bluff. Let him go ahead. And mobilize for a political counterattack. Not the kind of puerile personal attack that you've recently resorted to, but an organized and massive political counterattack. If fasting is allowed legitimacy today, tomorrow someone may also say that unless his demands are accepted in toto, he'll do indefinite sheershana. Day after somebody may claim his democratic right to indefinitely walk on hot charcoal to get his way. And the next day, somebody will claim his democratic right to commit suicide to get his demands met, like so many Telangana agitators, and earlier anti-reservation agitators. Such things are completely in defiance of democracy and must not be legitimized in any way. By all means negotiate and be accommodative of reasonable demands, but don't capitulate. If you be a wimp, be prepared to forever be run over in the future too.

Corruption isn't there despite 95% being against it, as it's being bandied about. It exists because a very large majority of Indians do want it, and actively promote it. You won't be able to figure that out if you ask the wrong questions. If you ask -- 'Are you in favor of corruption?' -- the answer is a no-brainer. If you really want to know the real story, here's what you should be asking (representative answers included):

  • Do you find it awfully bothersome to face the exceedingly long queues that you have to face in every sphere of life? --Yes.
  • Do you think it wastes a lot of time, creates a lot of trouble, and causes a huge amount of inconvenience? --Yes.
  • Would you appreciate having a way to circumvent this queue so that you can really put the short life that you have to more productive and pleasurable use? --Of course.
  • Would you mind incurring a small, very affordable expense to avail of this facility, if it were to be offered to you? --Think not.

There is a name for a cure for all ills. It's called: snake oil. Anna is selling it by the truckloads on Ramlila Ground at a great price (free). Don't miss out on your share!


  1. Brilliant post, proloy.

    Losing Now

  2. Fantastic! A very keen and brilliant analysis!

  3. Good one.. makes good sense.

  4. A very conscientious effort Proloy. The point is well made. I agree with you for the most part. Wish there were more sane voices like yours. Keep up the good work.

    Balakrishna Ganapathy

  5. Sorry to say, your post is suitably titled for _your_ post, and not for either the movement of the drafts of the bill. Its in our pattern of thought that we choose a reference point from where we can say something to validate our own existence. We neglect the total view. Public support is neither for Anna nor for any of the version of the bills. rather public support is for the movement against corruption. If you read both Anna's and government's bills carefully, you will see that there are provisions to accomodate things as situations arise. Please read the clauses carefully once again. There are glaring deficiencies in both the versions of the bills, but thats how bills are drafted. Ther are not drafted as closed and complete laws. Also, a bill creates compulsurily creates provisions for laws to be framed by the body that is created by the bill. You seem to be under perennial stress to make your voice heard, and that too for a long time.


    Kolkata, West Bengal

  6. @Deb:

    Thank you for reading and posting your comment. (I'm assuming you read it, despite the fact that you referred to nothing in particular from my post.)

    The trouble with posting generalities is that nobody can be quite sure whether you are contradicting yourself or the other guy. I have difficulty understanding statements like:

    1)Its in our pattern of thought that we choose a reference point from where we can say something to validate our own existence.

    2)Public support is neither for Anna nor for any of the version of the bills.

    3)a bill creates compulsurily creates provisions for laws to be framed by the body that is created by the bill.

    especially, if these are meant to be contradictions of something that *I* stated.

    The profundity of these statements is beyond my horizon of grasp.

    If Anna's bill is not what the public supports, then I'm confounded as to what they are doing assembling at Ramlila Grounds and shouting slogans.

    When you say: -- 'a bill creates compulsurily creates provisions for laws to be framed by the body that is created by the bill' -- are you in some way suggesting that Lokpal will have powers to frame laws too...? And which particular version of the bill has said this...?

    With the general good opinion that you seem to have for both versions of the bills, I wonder if your case is that both be enacted as laws -- to keep it balanced, perhaps??

    On the government side, I have evidence that the draft will go through a series of modifications as the Parliament and the Standing Committee deliberate on it and scrutinize it. However, on the Anna draft, my current understanding is that Team Anna has already ordained that the Standing Committee have nothing to do with it, and the rest of the Parliament too act as nothing more than a rubber stamp. Anna's draft is nothing short of an apocalyptical revelation from god which brooks only reverence, and no scrutiny.

    If you have any quotes where Team Anna has said that they are open to review (and possible rejection based on merits) of their proposals by the Standing Committee or Parliament, please show it to me.

    As far as I know, Team Anna has shown the great generosity of saying that Parliament is free to adopt any version of the Lokpal Bill so long as it has the same wordings as Anna's draft.

    And thank you for inquiring after my 'state of stress'. You needn't hazard any guesses -- I've been eating quite well!

  7. proloy, it must have taken a lot of patience for you to study the bill, critically analyze it and to write up a post like this. Very valid points! And you have said it in your own inimitable style. Funny yet it makes one think. You should spread this message around, as far as you can. Implementation of Jan Lokpal is simply a recipe for disaster. Even before its implementation, as you said, and as anyone can see, it has all the elements (centralization of powers, more or less handpicked appointment committee, lack of accountablity, monster power, possible selective application and many such things) to collapse on its own. I'm glad government did not bow to the pressure created by the media around this Anna and team. Middle class tax payers are frustrated and lokpal is definitely needed to control corruption. Personally I would approach the whole bill creation in a much different way to ensure we have a robust bill to deal with corruption. Anyway, goverment version is somewhat OK to start with. Better yet, a national consensus can be sought with points like whatever you say being addressed or taken into consideration in the revised version of the bill. Again, proloy, good job of creating awareness among literate people!

  8. Proloy,

    Good post. But one request - can you please make your future attemptations shorter? :-P I would prefer more frequent shorter pieces to infrequent long ones.

    I am not certain at all that any form of legislation - Lokpal or otherwise - can effectively combat corruption. The fundamental issue has to do with poor personal integrity and any form of legislation is bound to be simply seen as one more hurdle that must be crossed so everybody can go back to doing what we've been doing all along. Lokpal is attractive only so long as it is something that applies to others.

    As you pointed out corruption exists and at the scale that it does because that's what most people want. I wonder if a majority of Anna's supporters would still be around if they are asked to back their fervor with personal accountability.

  9. Thanks Raj and John, and earlier Balakrishna, Srinivas, Sivatheja, and 'losing now' for your comments.


    I agree with you to a very large extent. Legislation, no matter how strong or elaborate or draconian, can never be a substitute for personal integrity. However, where I differ is that I believe having an overseeing body over government functioning is necessary and long overdue. But I'd want to break the problem of corruption into two parts -- the upper level, and the retail level. The retail level corruption -- of the variety of a police constable taking bribe, or a fair price shop owner swindling supplies etc -- is way too rampant for legislation to have any effect on, no matter how well-intentioned. In fact, these exist despite all laws already being present to deal with them, simply because nobody makes any written complaint despite millions cribbing all the time. It's absolutely foolish to think that prosecution can take care of this issue, for no other reason than that prosecution is a costly and time-consuming affair, and ultimately the loss to the public exchequer to carry out these prosecutions would be much higher than what such retail corruption causes.

    The only way out is for victims of retail corruption to stand their ground and refuse to pay bribes, which is assuming that they were somehow coerced to pay it, which I do not believe is true in a large majority of cases. I believe 80-90% of bribe payment is voluntary, with the intention of either getting a benefit, or to ward to off imaginary ghosts of problems to face unless the bribe were paid.

    And that is not going to improve even with a new law coming in. This is despite the fact that the Lokpal Bill is actually no "law" at all -- it's simply a charter for setting up a body to apply the law, where the underlying "law" being still the good old Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988, which the Lokpal Bill refers to in every section.

    I'd want the Lokpal to have a very focused mandate to have any chance of success. It has to limit itself to the upper executive, and exercise very close, hawk-eyed supervision of the functioning of higher bureaucrats, ministers, and other public functionaries. This being a smaller number is a much more achievable target, than the removal of corruption lock, stock and barrel from every nook. But Anna has been mobilizing his support precisely on this false promise that a law is possible to remove all corruption, if only it were draconian enough. If implemented with the scope that Team Anna wants it, the Lokpal will only be recipe for disastrous failure, and degenerate into one more hurdle for ingenious minds to jump over, as you put it.

    If 95% of Indians are against corruption, then they should teach integrity to their own children, through precept and example, and in fifteen years time, when the new generation takes over, corruption would anyway disappear, law or no law. Isn't it...?

  10. @John

    Thanks for your appreciation. However, it's hardly in my power to publicize my blog posts any more than I've already achieved! I neither receive grants, nor have the media chasing me... ;-)

    What worries me is that Anna Hazare is a guy who can't think at all. At 72, his words have the maturity of a teenager -- mindless sloganeering, with no need ever felt for making sense. Almost everything he says is utter nonsense. To give an example, he called for government babus to go on a day's leave to express support for Jan Lokpal Bill, when, funnily, the bill is meant to care of the corruption of these very people, who he alleges to be causing grievous hurt to ordinary citizens. The government babus anyway don't show up for work, and Anna is giving them the excuse for another day off. And that so many people are lining up behind Anna simply shows that they are capable of thinking even less than Anna can. No wonder India remains such a horrific mess.

    Anna succeeded in making his bill land up on the Standing Committee's desk with twelve days of fast. Which is what the Committee has been asking him to do since day one -- that he can come over and present his case, just like any other citizen can. Well unless the objective were to create a Guiness Record of fasting and gather numerous claps in the process, I don't know what he achieved which couldn't have been done without the fasting. It's like Salman Khan beating up the goons to free the heroine, when the goons had voluntarily agreed to free her. It does make for blockbusters, though, and that's what has propelled Anna to Hero No 1. Sense be damned. After all, we go to theatre to relieve ourselves of the need to think.