Tag Archives: corruption

Statement on the Martyrdom of Shehla Masood

To add your name to this statement write to Akhlak Ahmad – syed.akhlak at gmail dot com

16 August, 2011

“I am proud to be an Indian. Happy Independence Day.”
– Shehla Masood, 15 August, 2011

Gandhi “the purpose of civil resistance is provocation”. Anna has succeeded in provoking the Govt and the Opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2 pm Boat Club Bhopal”
– Shehla Masood, 16 August, 2011 few minutes before her martyrdom

Shehla Masood, a Madhya Pradesh based civil rights and environmental rights activist was was shot dead by an unidentified person in front of her residence in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal around 11 AM on 16th August, 2011.

We the undersigned aghast at the irony that tigers, tribals, trees and civil rights and environmental rights activists are being hunted and killed in the same manner. Continue reading Statement on the Martyrdom of Shehla Masood

Onwards to the Independence of the Corrupt!

Let us pledge this 15th of August, that we will tirelessly work towards the independence – nay dictatorship – of the corrupt. We must tirelessly fight every attempt to raise  corruption as an issue – by gullible people who do not understand that corruption is not a real issue. We will not allow such people to be misled by demagogues and fascists who are  interested only in power – even if they do not show their hunger for power by contesting elections. Indeed, precisely because they do not contest elections.

Is the new mantra of democracy? How else do we understand the deafening silence on the series of dictatorial measures adopted by the government, on the part of all those who have been vocal, indeed strident, in their attack on the Anna Hazare movement? It is one thing to be opposed to the Anna Hazare movement but the silence – from parties as well as intellectuals, democratic rights groups and self-righteous editorial commentators of the Indian Express – on the desperate measures being adopted by one of the most corrupt governments ever, is inexplicable. It is as if the only threat to democracy today comes from a group of people who want to raise their voice in civil disobedience against public money being looted by elected representatives acting at the behest of powerful corporate interests.

First the Delhi Police simply refused permission to Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption fast. Then they asked them to hold their protest in Burari! That is to say on the border of Haryana. This was but another way of disallowing it. Then they came out with a novel idea – a set of preconditions that include an undertaking that there will not be more than 5000 people and that the fast will be wound up in three days. Clearly, no self-respecting set of protestors will agree to such conditions and so ‘Team Anna’ refused to sign the undertaking.

Continue reading Onwards to the Independence of the Corrupt!

Parliamentary Sovereignty or an Active Citizenry? V. Krishna Ananth

Guest post by V. KRISHNA ANANTH*

The political class, cutting across the spectrum, is now being haunted by a spectre. Anna Hazare has captured the imagination of a cross section of the people and his campaign is certainly gathering support. It remains to be seen if this support translates into a movement on the streets and more so against the state machinery that is threatening to pull all the stops. The people have shown such courage in the past. That is another matter.

Team Anna’s decision to go ahead with protests against the draft Lok Pal Bill, as approved by the Union cabinet, has spurred a debate. The proponents of the draft bill as well as sections in the political arena who claim to oppose the Government are united against another round of fast by Anna Hazare; they call it blackmail and an attempt to usurp Parliament’s power to legislate. They also claim that the principles of democracy shall not be sacrificed.

A number of them are on record that the draft proposals are subject to amendments and that the power to propose amendments and decide on them shall rest with the elected representatives of the people. It is another matter that the Prime Minister, who heads the cabinet, qualifies as a representative of the people only because membership of the Rajya Sabha is considered as good as being a member of the Lok Sabha to remain a minister under Article 75(5) of the Constitution. In any case, the fact is that Dr. Manmohan Singh has claimed, in an affidavit, that he is ordinarily a resident of Assam! We all know the truth but that too is besides the point.

Continue reading Parliamentary Sovereignty or an Active Citizenry? V. Krishna Ananth

Democracy, Populism and the ‘Middle Class’: The Return of ‘Anna Hazare’

[This is a considerably expanded version of an article that was published in Himal May 2011. It is being re-published, elaborated and updated, in the context of the farcical draft of the Lokpal Bill roduced by parliament and the threatened round 2 of the movement. – AN]

Corruption – a Systemic Affair?

Let me start with an ’emperor’s new clothes’ kind of question: What is a systemic understanding of ‘corruption’? What is a political understanding about corruption as opposed to say, a touchy-feely ‘moral’ problem? Yes, some of these phrases are straight from Arundhati Roy’s ‘When Corruption is Viewed Fuzzily’, published in the Indian Express on 30 April. But my question is not directed only at her. She represents – at least on this issue – a much wider consensus among sections of the radical intelligentsia.

Roy herself has left nothing to the imagination as to what she means:

“Among the millions of understandably furious people who thronged to Jantar Mantar to support Anna Hazare and his team, corruption was presented as a moral issue, not a political one, or a systemic one — not as a symptom of the disease but the disease itself. There were no calls to change or dismantle a system that was causing the corruption. Perhaps this was not surprising because many of those middle-class people who flocked to Jantar Mantar and much of the corporate-sponsored media who broadcast the gathering, calling it a “revolution” — India’s Tahrir Square — had benefited greatly from the economic reforms that have led to corruption on this scale.”

To her, the system that lies at the root of corruption is embodied in the ‘economic reforms’, which have led to corruption on this scale. I have no way of measuring the scale – though I might be inclined to agree with her that in my living memory, I have not seen so much compressed into such little time-space – from CWG to l’affaire Niira Radia to Adarsh Housing scam and the Bellary brothers – not to speak of the daily corruption in land acquisitions that dot the landscape of the country. Nonetheless, I do remember that something like the Bofors scandal or the ‘irresistible rise’ of Dhirubhai Ambani – all predate the ‘economic reforms’. And of course, I will not even try to mention the innumerable cases of corruption from Nagarwala onwards – including political corruption that led to big mass movements in Gujarat and Bihar in the 1970s. Those were the days when Mrs G proclaimed that ‘corruption is a global phenomenon’. To me saying corruption is systemic and must be analyzed ‘politically’ (whatever that means), sounds pretty much the same.  So, if neo-liberalism is responsible for corruption, how do we explain the instances mentioned above? How do we understand the great socialist states which secreted corruption from every pore? What does a ‘systemic analysis’ of corruption really tell us?

However, Arundhati Roy was making this point, it seems to me, not in order to analyze the phenomenon of corruption but to comment on the Anna Hazare movement and its ‘character’:

“When corruption is viewed fuzzily, as just a touchy-feely “moral” problem then everybody can happily rally to the cause — fascists, democrats, anarchists, god-squadders, day-trippers, the right, the left and even the deeply corrupt, who are usually the most enthusiastic demonstrators.”

Continue reading Democracy, Populism and the ‘Middle Class’: The Return of ‘Anna Hazare’

Corruption, the New Caste: Thomas Crowley

Guest post by THOMAS CROWLEY

In the mainstream coverage of the Ramdev hullabaloo, there has been, unsurprisingly, little substantive discussion about corruption itself: its fundamental causes; its widespread effects; the viability of different plans to combat it. Who would want a dry, intellectual discussion of the root causes of corruption when we can stare uneasily at pictures of Baba Ramdev holding a sword and wait with bated breath for his holy army to congregate?

But let’s – for the moment – take seriously Ramdev’s proposal that the death sentence be meted out to India’s corrupt. If the press is to be believed – especially the foreign press – this may just mean killing every Indian. For, implicit in many media reports is the assertion that corruption is part of the Indian psyche, an essential component of what it means to be Indian. In this sense, corruption serves the same conceptual role as caste: it essentializes an ever-changing historical phenomenon, freezing it in time and obscuring its economic and political roots. Much as the British taught Indians and foreigners alike to understand India predominantly in terms of caste, modern commentators are encouraging both desis and firangis to conceptualize India as the land of unending corruption. (Of course corruption has not replaced caste as a mode of understanding India; the fascination with caste still runs deep.)

Continue reading Corruption, the New Caste: Thomas Crowley

Pranayam was Never so Painful

(Please see an update made at the end of this post.)

I am watching the fog of tear gas shells descend on Ramlila Maidan on the live television feed on my computer. What was supposed to be a ‘yoga camp’ led by Baba Ramdev, and the fully-funded-free circus of his so-called ‘indefinite hunger strike’ against ‘Black Money’ has now turned into a tear-gas purgatory. It is midsummer, but inside that big tent it looks like a particularly foggy-smoggy night in a Delhi midwinter. It must hurt like hell, in the nostrils, in the lungs. With every breath that Ramdev’s disciples take (and how well they know the art and science of heavy breathing) their eyes must sting. Pranayam was never so painful. I hold my insomniac breath as I sit watching, riveted. Continue reading Pranayam was Never so Painful

‘Anna Hazare’, Democracy and Politics: A Response to Shuddhabrata Sengupta

In an earlier post, (hits to which have broken all records on Kafila), Shuddhabrata Sengupta has raised some extremely important points in the context of the media-simulated coverage and celebrations around the ‘Anna Hazare’ movement. I agree with the central argument made by Shuddha – which is about the authoritarian, indeed totalitarian implications of the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill (though, as many commentators to the post have pointed out, the Bill really remains to be drafted and passed in parliament).

I have no doubt whatsoever that any demand that simply seeks a law of the sort that has been raised by the movement (even in the proposed form), is completely counterproductive. Indeed, it is naive. Matters like corruption or communalism cannot simply be legislated out of existence through tougher laws. Inevitably, they will lead us up to China type situations where you will end up demanding summary trials and executions. Even in the best of cases, a law and state-dependent mode of addressing such problems, adds to the powers of a corrupt bureaucracy. I also agree with his (and Bobby Kunhu’s) criticisms of some aspects of what they have both chosen to designate as ‘mass hysteria’ of sorts – I certainly do not agree with this description but that need not detain us here. I am  interested in something else here and that has to do with the way the movement has struck a chord among unprecedentedly large numbers of people – mainly middle class people I am sure, but the support for it is not just confined to them. In fact, on the third day of the dharna at Jantar Mantar I received an excited call from a CPM leader who works among the peasants in villages of northern India in the Kisan Sabha, about the response to the movement he had encountered in his constituency. I doubt that this was a support simulated either by the government or by the electronic media. Continue reading ‘Anna Hazare’, Democracy and Politics: A Response to Shuddhabrata Sengupta

At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare

At the risk of heresy, let me express my profound unease at the crescendo of euphoria surrounding the ‘Anna Hazare + Jan Lokpal Bill’ phenomenon as it has unfolded on Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and across several hysterical TV stations over the last few days.

This time around, I have to say that the print media has acted (upto now) with a degree of restraint that I think is commendable. Partly, this has to do with the different natures of the two media. If you have to write even five hundred words about the Jan Lokpal bill, you run out of platitudes against corruption in the first sentence (and who can speak ‘for’ corruption anyway?) and after that you have to begin thinking about what the bill actually says, and the moment you do that, you cannot but help consider the actual provisions and their implications. On television on the other hand, you never have to speak for more than a sound-byte, (and the anchor can just keep repeating himself or herself, because that is the anchor’s job) and the accumulation of pious vox-pop sound bytes ‘against corruption’ leads to a tsunami of ‘sentiment’ that brooks no dissent. Continue reading At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare

Corruption, CPI(M) and Neoliberalism: Sankar Ray

Guest post by SANKAR RAY

Prasenjit Bose, chief of research cell, central committee of CPI(M) deserves kudos for his article Corruption and Forbearance under Neoliberalism, published in the journal of The Centre for Policy Analysis, and reproduced in pragoti.org. However, corruption is not an exclusive phenomenon under the capitalist system. Socialist countries – I mean the social orders encouraged by the Third International – were also afflicted by corruption, not to speak of People’s Republic of China (both in Mao and post-Mao years). Even the CPI(M)-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal never waged a principled war against corruption.  Hence Bose’s inference that “the state under the neoliberal regime has increasingly become a vehicle for capital accumulation and also a site for primitive accumulation, by the established corporate players as well as new entrants to the big business club” – is only half the truth. Continue reading Corruption, CPI(M) and Neoliberalism: Sankar Ray

Unfair Wealth and Fair Elections

Poverty talk is common; wealth is taboo — even when crorepati candidates (millionaires, billionaires) are on the rise in elections today. There is no doubt whatsoever that our elections are conditioned by wealth, and the rich are thriving on the benefits drawn from their money power. Ironically however, in our people’s democracy, no calls for fair elections are considered credible unless they are accompanied by cries for reforms in the role of wealth and wealthy candidates in the elections. Chances are that the Indian elections of 2009 might get caught up in this credibility trap.

In the first phase of elections, data (affidavits) available of 1440 candidates out of a total of 1715, compiled and analysed by the National Election Watch, is revealing: There are 193 crorepatis contesting elections in this phase; they have increased from 9 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2009. Congress has 45, followed by BJP and BSP, with 30 and 22 respectively. All parties, including independents, share this burden. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh have a majority of them. Their total assets go as high as 173, 125, 89, 72, 56, 45, 30 crores. Neither the earth, nor the sky is the limit. And the declared assets may just reveal a partial picture, considering the fact that most of them (979 candidates) do not even bother to have a permanent account number (PAN), which is necessary for filing annual income tax returns.

Continue reading Unfair Wealth and Fair Elections