Tag Archive | Anna Hazare

Cats–o’–Nine Tails–n–Nine Lives

(This was supposed to be a tribute to that doughty dame Sheila D, but then Anna stole her thunder.)

Anna Hazare’s at it again – cracking his whip and Sheila Dixit has nine lives.

I can’t help but mention them in the same breathe given the penchant that they have for courting trouble.

But the thing that draws me to them is that they’re both on mercy missions. While one is out to save the country from the corrupt Congress led UPA, let alone the fact that a lot of those who’ve jumped on his bandwagon aren’t exactly painted white… The other lets a podgy faced murderer out on parole… because Tihar doesn’t stock his brand of Scotch?

Talk of magnanimity.

Speaking of which, I’m compelled to take another look at these two beacons… One, whose claim to fame has been linked on and off to several politicians of varying political affiliations, including a certain heavyweight of the Maratha clan. And the other, equally diminutive in size and as hard-nosed as they come, who readily courts controversies like they’re best friends, and then wipes her slate clean… Poof!

I recall her saying that girls in Delhi should stay home if they don’t want to be attacked!

Never a thought about tightening security or making the police force accountable, huh… Sheila?

But Sheila’s got enough on her plate, and apart from fending off insulting references to her name from a land far away, she had work to do, like playing proud hostess to the CWG in 2010. Now, you can’t really grudge her for wanting to be house-proud, can you? So what if she over-stretched her budget a bit and some of her decisions came under the scanner. It was all in a day’s work, until that Puneri loud-mouth messed things up and turned the spotlight on everyone, forcing that gentle and honest Manmohan to institute a Committee to probe into all those allegations of corruption against his buddies.

So in the name of transparency, the Shunglu Committee socks one to Sheila… But the old girl sticks on, her posse, honest Manmohan included, firmly behind her. As one of her party-men later said, at least she was smart enough not to leave a paper trail. Which takes me back to the time when I was little and when even kindergarten kids knew that leaving a trail meant that you could find your way back home… as could everyone else who followed it.

So while Kalmadi sits in Tihar, pouring over ‘The Dummies Guide to Alibi’s’, rolling out the red carpet for our anti-corruption crusader who happened to drop by, and making plans to sign up for a lesson or two from that great man himself, Sheila stays, firmly entrenched to hoist another tricolor, on another Independence Day.

Does the woman have luck on her side or is it the company she keeps?

They say politicians have tough hides… if you haven’t got one when you’re elected, pick one up on the way out of your first session of parliament. But even that luck runs a bit thin at times and you’re compelled to call in for reinforcements, the kind that scratches your back if you scratch theirs. The kind that helps you out of sticky situations, like the time when the Auditor General of India went on record stating that the dear lady was involved in bungling crores of rupees in power privatization (apparently close to twelve thousand five hundred crore… no small amount that) and the Public Accounts Committee of the Delhi Legislative Assembly proposed a CBI inquiry into the allegation, which died a very quiet death even after being approved by the Assembly. Or the time when as the Chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board, she was held guilty of corruption by the Loyayukta, in the awarding of contracts, with a recommendation that the PMO take action…

We’re still waiting Mr. Prime Minister.

But talking of Lokayukta’s and corruption and the penchant that our politicians have for wiggling out of sticky situations I wonder if Anna Hazare is wasting his time and ours. After all the man does claim to be the voice of civil society, ergo, my representative, so I have a right to question, criticize and appreciate, in equal measure or as I will. So… while I’m glad Anna’s doing his bit to stir up the unconscious masses, shaking them out of their apathy and giving them a purpose, I would like to state that it would have been better for him to have pursued his agenda in a more legitimate way, by following the law, ensuring that we work within the legal framework, instead of exhorting the masses to break the law, and sanctioning what can be termed as sedition by some of his coterie.

How about following due process, or as we Indians prefer to call it – ‘Procedure established by law’ – the law to which we are subject, or haven’t you heard of it Mr. Hazare?

Which prompts me to inquire whether Anna Hazare is the sole repository of all that is moral or is his brand of tough-speak tinged with autocracy that pillories and stifles all those who oppose his methods? Is there space in his politics and I term it such deliberately, for those who have a contrary view?

I am no admirer of the UPA government, and have strongly voiced my opinion against them repeatedly, but they are at the end of the day a democratically elected government, one that has remained in power through successive elections… and can very well fall out of power in the next. But there is a process, a mechanism by which governments come into existence, and fall out of favour. It would take the loss of support in Parliament, perhaps some cash-for-votes orchestrated by some of your new found allies Mr. Hazare, and an unwanted and very expensive mid-term election to give the people a fresh opportunity to choose the next government – unless you Mr. Hazare and your band of merry men and women plan to come forth as dictators to the teeming masses.

Maybe that’s what people want.

Someone informed me today that the autorickshaw-wallah’s in Delhi have joined the anti-corruption crusade. This barely a day after one of them insisted I pay him fifty rupees when my fare came to thirty, all because there weren’t too many autos on the street on August 15th. Which makes me wonder if people really know what they’re fighting for, or is it the mob syndrome, like what happened in London recently. One person picks up a stone, soon its five, then ten, and finally the whole street… and we descend into anarchy.

The newspapers the other day carried an article about Mayawati crying about her inability to proceed with various development projects in the State of U.P. because the Centre has not released its promised funds to her cash-strapped state. So, what about the new bungalow you’re constructing Maya, because the old one was ‘unlucky’, or would you like to talk about the colossal waste of funds on all those statues and monuments of self-glorification… Oh, wait a minute I forget you have a word for that kind of ostentatious spend. It’s called ‘gifts’.

Mr. Hazare it seems does prefer to take sides, keeping his guns trained on the office of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary, targeting the UPA while he side-steps all that’s going on around the country, even the Karnataka sham, which makes me question his political intentions, and marvel at the audacity with which he stays steadfast on course, while the mob he has whipped up into a frenzy hysterically follows, insulated by numbers, threatening to crush the voices of dissent that rise up against them.

As for Sheila, all she can do is count her many lives and hope that she hasn’t run out of them.


Purging at the alter of Anna

As Heidi Klum puts it… “either you’re in or you’re out”.

While some throng the refuse laden waters of the Ganges or the Sangam at Allahabad and others sit in confessionals before tainted priests in an attempt to cleanse their souls, a new breed of Indians have found another mode of dry-cleaning their conscience and it costs… nothing. It doesn’t matter what your sin…. come one, come all…for one week only, or at least till our Chantilli soaked brains can sustain it… Jump on to the bandwagon, the circus is in town.

Don’t get me wrong and it doesn’t matter even if you do but I like Anna Hazare and I’m all for people’s movements just as I’m okay with vigilantism at times if that’s what it takes to make a difference, even though we try and sanitise it by calling it citizen justice…. Boo hah! Which brings me to intent and I ask myself whether it’s okay today to cheat, defraud, defame someone we don’t like, squirrel away all that cash we tried so hard to hide from the IT department and ask for favours from this ‘Uncle’ or that, as long as after we’re done, we can sit back, knock down a few, glue together our Gandhi caps made from today’s edition of the Times, and haul our beery or wine soaked butts on to the street to rabble rouse. Newsprint has suddenly got a new purpose…the rad-rag, if you must….we want to read it and wear it, but only the glossy pages please… I just conditioned my hair. And since Bollywood just jumped on the bandwagon, albeit after the main show was over, we’ll soon see Manish Malhotra’s line of newsprinted pretty boys hit the runway… Remember… You got it from here dude! So out we go, distributing the tricolour to bemused urchins who dump it in the gutter, because they’d rather have a tenner, lustily belt out anti-corruption slogans and songs and suddenly we’re in.

A friend showed me photographs over the weekend, posted on someone’s facebook page of one of those slogan ranting, newsprint topi wearing rallies. Regular pictures taken on one of those little Kodak digital cameras, of a motley bunch, mostly friends of the organisers I guess, all tagged just in case you couldn’t recognise them in their conscientious avatars, and among them a picture of two women standing on the sidelines, passers-by, watching the procession. One of them taking a picture on her cellphone while the other looked on confused… but hey what the heck, it’s her face and her prerogative and I thought we were a democracy… and the photo was captioned… “Politicians! These ladies stood by and took photos on their mobile fones (sic)”.

Which brings me right back to Heidi….”Auf Wiedersehen!”

Candles and Consciousness

I respect Anna Hazare and I wish I had half or perhaps just an iota of the courage, fortitude and drive he possesses.

I’m a good citizen. I love my country despite its corrupt politicians, quite a few of who rise from rags to riches on the strength of the brute force of threat votes and a television set or two thrown in for good measure. I’m patriotic. I cheer at cricket matches and curse and swear at the opposition especially if it’s Pakistan or Australia. But I’m a bit thrown, confused at this sudden consciousness that my fellow countrymen and women have developed almost overnight.

Oh yeah I saw the police out in full force today, the traffic cops pulling people over, then haggling and smiling and… “hey” I’m tempted to shout “you forgot to kiss him goodbye when you left, you seemed like such old pals… what with all that surreptitious hand holding”.

Perhaps I’m naïve because I’m no saint. I have bribed a cop… once… many years ago. My first car and perhaps I had stepped too hard on the accelerator and I thought the light was orange. Seriously! But he was there, the Pandu at the signal, hiding behind a truck like they used to in the old days. And the haggling started… New car… Young girl. Two hundred he said, we settled on fifty. That was it, never again. Not because I’m a good person but inflation hits us all and I have better use for that note.

So what’s with this sudden conscience that people seem to have developed and their eagerness to jump on the anti-corruption bandwagon. A friend called me yesterday to say that today is “wear black for Anna day” and then I get a message from another that to wear white. Another wants me to light a candle… and I’ve lost count of the protest marches and discussions  groups sprouting everywhere.

I suppose its a good thing that we’re all so interested in the rooting out corruption and that we want to be partake in framing the Lokpal bill and see it come to light. That we want to take a stand for something good for once in our lives. I agree with that cause… even though I do know that some of the most vociferous of them who are heading off sprinting to Cotton World and FabIndia as I type, to stock up on their Black n Whites, won’t give a damn once the government agrees to some of the good man’s demands.

It will all be forgotten.

To all these good people everywhere all I want to say is… take a moment… take a stand against atrocities and corruption every day…Don’t bribe the cop who catches you when you break a light and for starters don’t break the light. Don’t pay the guy at the MHADA office when you want your form pushed up and on second thought don’t you have two flats in your name already and these were low income units… But I suppose your one crore a month take home, perquisites extra, kinda puts you right there doesn’t it?

So yeah I’m a bit overwhelmed and I’m a bit irritated too at this pseudo consciousness that’s doing the rounds. Right now I’m not buying too much of it except from those who are at the front-line of struggles against injustice, inequality and corruption everyday.

So power to Anna and I’m glad the government relented so he can break his fast.

But on second thought a fortnight of attempting to show the world how honest we all are won’t really hurt. Will it?

Perhaps I should just wear purple for Anna.