My civil society, not yours

In a typically hard-hitting column, Sainath says –

…Both were self-selected groups claiming primacy over the elected government. Both asserted they knew what was best for the nation. (Rather than an electorate they scorned as sold on a bottle of liquor or a hundred-rupee note). Both had no qualms about breaking down the walls between the institutions of state. Never mind the Constitution, they sought a body whose members they would largely appoint. A super organ above the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Take the government notification on the drafting body for the Lokpal bill. It uses the words: “The five nominees of Anna Hazare [including himself] are as under…” When have such vital national appointments been made by and in the name of one individual, however noble?…

This, about Anna Hazare and gang; and Baba Ramdev – both self-appointed guardians of India’s civil society. Sadly, this movement against corruption and the corrupt is not only vulnerable to moral corruption, it also sets a bad example of placing individuals above institutions. Analysts have already pointed out how Anna’s Lokpal (ombudsman) and the process they recommend for its selection is in violation of reasonable democratic principles – I say ‘reasonable’, taking into account the compromises that are today inherent in our democratic system.

Having been in India for a week now, I have also had to endure Anna and team on television, making ridiculous arguments that basically reveal how little they trust electoral politics and broadly, the democratic system. They want to impress the nation with their impatience – a trait that’s not really conducive to constructive dialogue and policymaking processes. What would I like to see is Anna and team mobilising thousands of volunteers/professionals to launch mass movements in say, every district in the country who in turn will spread the word far and wide. Instead, with a self-serving and self-righteous definition to civil society, Anna and gang are not contributing anything to strengthening governance in the country – in fact, they are not just of nuisance value, they might actually be doing harm.

Whatever Ramdev stood for ceased to matter the moment he talked of an armed army of 11,000. Thanks.

All of this is not to say that the government is clean or that it is serious about dealing with corruption. Sure, these movements have shaken the government out of its inertia. But is this going to lead to anything concrete? Doesn’t look likely at the moment.


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