The rippling effect of revolution may just have whispered words of dissension into the ears of millions of Indians. Recent weeks have seen rallies and marches, riding on waves of a new national fervour against corruption.
The trigger for the movement, which amassed mass support within days, was a series of bribery scandals that lost the central state some $39 billion, in a country where 830 million continue to live on Rs. 20 a day. Pictures being screened on regular bulletins on round the clock news stations, project anger and momentum heavily in favour of change.
…successful grassroots campaigns against corruption…
The figurehead of this movement is not a politician but one Anna Hazare. ‘Team Anna’ has not just risen from the dusty doldrums of nowhere. With a CV that brags successful grassroots campaigns against corruption in his home village and a previous political fast against various ministers in 2003, he and his backroom staff of lawyers have led a strong PR campaign for the ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’.
The bill proposes to create a government watchdog with far reaching powers of investigation and prosecution of both high and low level bureaucrats. Hazare argues that all members of parliament from the Prime Minister downwards should be open to investigation. He also promulgates the extension of the Lokpal structure to the state level, a motion rejected by the central government as a possible infringement on federal jurisdiction. The government has made some concessions, with the Prime Minister declaring an open parliamentary discussion on the final version of the Lokpal Bill but various sticking points remain.
…a greatly polemical figure…
Hazare now into his 11th day of fast threatens to go on until concrete results are produced. The very public fast has catapulted him into hero status in a country already riddled with cult figures. The self-styled ‘Gandhian’ now faces strong calls to break his fast from Manmohan Singh and other leading members of the Congress party such as Rahul Gandhi. Already a greatly polemical figure, he now faces increased criticism for his anti-democratic methods from leading lawyers and from more left field figures such as Arandhuti Roy for his dubious motivations.
Roy does not see the Lokpal as a solution to the structural inequality weaved into the very fibres of Indian society. She questions the collusion of the media and big corporate businesses in the Team Anna campaign, describing the Jan Lokpal Bill as rushed and irresponsible for its omission of the private sector. Roy views the lack of regulation over NGO’s and businesses as all too opportunistic by Roy; posing questions over the concealed aims of Team Anna.
With India currently ranked 87 out of 178 in Transparency International’s Index of Corruption, the nation appears to be united in its call for harsher measures against fraud. For now the midnight meetings and minute-by-minute updates on Hazare’s health continue but the results of this saga are far from clear or predictable.
Images courtesy of Anna Hazare and Rahul Gandhi