Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lokpal I: Corruption in the Fast track

One of the truisms that always brings out a chuckle even if you have heard it zillion times is “Giving up smoking is very easy, I have given it up several times”.

It reminds me of (I don’t know why; perhaps it could eventually find a place in this blog) what Lord Henry said in Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray” :”Each time one loves is the only time one has ever loved, each time with increasing intensity” modifying a bit Lord Henry's addition “Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it.” So when some one, say Bertram Wooster, professes love for someone and she says “you must have loved a million girls before” or something like that Bertram Wooster could have said “But Darling! The intensity of love is a million times more than that for my first love”. I do not know whether Wooster actually said it, but I would have loved to have said it to my favorite woman in my life if I had the opportunity?

What Lord Henry may have said now, after the recent upheavals due to threats of fasting unto death is perhaps “each time one fasts unto death is the only time one has fasted unto death each time with increasing intensity”.

The intensity of corruption in India (and elsewhere, I guess) is such that the intensity of fast undertaken against corruption by an individual has to promise a lot, the extreme being a fast unto death by somebody who has a believable reputation. It does not actually mean that the faster has to die, although that would be a spectacle that the public could secretly enjoy as they did, so they say, watching gladiators being killed when the thumb went down.

Its easier said than done?

Before Anna Hazare's movement took over this anti-corruption movement, the Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade (GSB) had started their own fasts-unto-death in January 2011 on a very small scale. The GSB consisisted of "true" (whatever that may mean) Gandhians and being mainly octagenrians and nonagenerians, all senior Gandhians compared to Anna Hazare.

This movement must have been extended (I wont say hijacked) to larger proportions within a period of a few months, by would-be saints such as Kiran Bedi (a TV reality show under her belt) and Swami Agnivesh who takes the effort to wear a dress that symbolises the fire that he says is within him, and who represents people who dont believe in a democratic character for their self-professed revolutions. Revolutionaries don't have to account to the public for their funding. They will never come under a Lok pal or a Lok ayukta or a Central Vigilance committee. Something like the Board of Control of Cricket of India.

These aspiring saints, such as Kiran Bedi or Agnivesh, prop up Anna Hazare with the help of desperate TRP-seeking TV channels to a fever demanding a Lok Pal who would be a protector of the people against corruption. They do not explain how the Lok Pal would function and under what authority. They claim the support of 1.2 billion people just like the cricket team. It may not seem even frivolous to some if Sachin Tendulkar was made a popular Lok Pal!

One of the less frivolous and certainly more dangerous signal from the Anna Hazare movement is their insistence that the representative democracy should be done away with. This is reminiscent of the Jaiprakash Narayan Movement of 1977, a movement that set the country back several years without raising its moral standards or even changing for long enough times the political leadership. Indeed, Indira Gandhi's re-election showed the futility of the JP movement even if it had a validity. The JP movement has so far provided only one genuine politically trustworthy leader, Nitish Kumar.

Believe it or not, one of the successes of the JP movement is the introduction of the Double-7 Cola, which was meant to fight the imperialism of Coca-Cola. Judging by the way Coca-Cola and Pepsi now dominate the Indian advertising landscape, they must thank Double 7.

It is difficult to imagine how one Lok Pal could bring out a corruption-free society by just passing a bill. It could only be a beginning, at best. There is a real danger in having unbridled janata rule that Anna Hazare said is required to replace representative democracy.

The Democratic State has now a great democratic weapon of mass media to exercise their Big Brother control, without the wasteful nuisance of a representative democracy. When democracy is used as a spontaneous conquering religious movement without the wisdom of a restraining parliament, one can easily self implode. One may imagine a Lok Pal unleashing a "Lok Pal" zouth brigade without taking extreme care that it would not degenerate into something like a Hitler Youth Brigade.

The television channels would love it to be a reality show sponsored by multinational companies and Coca Cola advertisements with contenders asking/answering questions and winners being declared based on number of SMSs without a genuine-ness guarantee and softwares that generate SMSs.

This new Indian Lok Pal reality show could chose a genuine leader by the sacrifice the candidate could make, excluding perhaps actual fasts unto deaths. This could generate more sincere activists. As Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche famously said "One never dives into the water to save a drowning man more eagerly than when there are others present who dare not take the risk."

"There is an old illusion - it is called good and evil." --- Nietzsche

While it is easy to point to corruption as an all pervasive evil, there does not seem to be a strict criterion as to what kind of corruption should be tackled at what level and who is to benefit from the elimination of corruption?

The so-called 2G scam is an example of confusion over what constitutes corruption. Kapil Sibal would argue that the 2G policy has benefited the common man and the loss of revenue is made up by the several increase in revenue by the increase in tele density. I think that is a perfectly valid argument.

The CAG like all banking clerks only looks at the revenues lost by not having an auction. They did not bother about the benefits of the aam aadmi. Thats not their concern´nor has it ever been.

One should always be aware of a Bank clerk, Lewis Carroll has probably experiEnced THIS when he writes in his poem "The Mad Gardner's song"
He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
‘If this should stay to dine,’ he said,
‘There won’t be much for us!’

It is only now after the row between Kapil Sibal and the CAG that I really understood what was meant. The Banker's clerk like good orthodox people from Tanjore and elsewhere in the purely Academic communities follow rules strictly and leave nothing for experimentation.

We will not be worried about Anna Hazare's intentions. We do not know need to worry also whether he has Gandhi's sense of humour. We need to be worried about those who surround him. Two of the more conspicuous credit-baggers are Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh. The latter will be dismissed because he has already committed himself to a non-representative parliamentary democracy and has championed an anarchic revolution of the people.

Kiran Bedi, who would have loved to have been nominated as a Chief Vigilance Commissioner, does not now leave Hazare's side exploiting all photo-opportunities. She must have loved being the only one jumping with as much joy she could put on for the cameras. She also literally forces a very uncomfortable and perhaps reluctant but very sweet little girl to give a glass of juice to Anna Hazare to break his fast (

I happened to listen to Kiran Bedi on you tube speaking to a packed medium-sized Hall of middle class american women audience. The talk was full of self praise ( It was the kind of talk that most impresses foreigners who would love to have one, who they can identify with, telling them the great things they have doen for a horrible country. She got the applause for giving the Prime Minsiter's car a parking ticket. She did not mention that Indira Gandhi was not in India and she did not mention how the car came to be parked wherever it was in the first place. Her taking credit for this incident is something like the donkey taking credit for chasing a tiger simply because the donkey happened to be running behind a running tiger.

She does not mention what others have done for prison workers.
It was all about her self.
A comment on the video would read: It's all about her, about how great she is, how couragious and smart she handles stuff.... I hear very little about the prisoners. They prayed and had lessons (and she became holy??) .

Kiran Bedi has the horrible mistinction (if that is the word describing the opposite of distinction) of being the host and TV judge of a TV series "Aapki Kacheri" (see, for instance,, broadcast on the Indian TV channel, Star Plus. One cannot imagine how a civilised country can have such a lady advising any one of who or what a Lok Pal should be!

More ominously, Kiran Bedi also predicted in this talk that she is working on an ombudsman bill against corruption about which they will hear a lot about. This was more than three months ago! "Daal mein kuch kaala hain?".

Just as an exercise I looked up the memebers of the India Against Corruption movement. It is a motley crowd including many so-called spiritual leaders with probably good management and marketing skills if they are not successful con men. The group is led by Swami Ramdev (Bharat Swahiman Trust; Akhada Parishad Baba Hat Yogi, said of the Swami: " A decade ago, Ramdev used to move on a bicycle. He even had to struggle to find money to fix his punctured cycle. Now he flies on a chopper. …." ) , Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Art of Living: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar … has repackaged a well-known breathing technique and commercialized it. See http://; see also The The great great Sri Sri NGO NGO scam scam ---
see also ), Kiran Bedi (we know about her), Swami Agnivesh (Bonded Labour Liberation Front!!! among others), Anna Hazare (simple man), Arvind Kejriwalh (IIT Mechanical engineer, joined Indian Revenue Service with his eyes open) J. M. Lyngdoh (good man), Justice Tewatia (litigation for amount of pension he could receive since he was Chief Justice for only six months, this was crucial since he could call himself chief justice), Mallika Sarabhai (Peter Brooks fame), Facebook personalities Maulana Mufti Shamoom Kashmi and Maulana Kalbe Rizvi , Arch Bishop Vincent M Concessao (of Delhi wears wooden cross instead of silver cross to identify with poor), Prashant Bhushan (500 PILs) , Devinder Sharma (interviewed Dr Borlaug), Subhash Chandra Aggarwal (4000 letters to editors, guiness book of records), Pradeep Gupta (Pan IIT), B. D. Lall (could not find anything about him, a non-entity?) and Sunita Godara (marathon Arjuna award winner, ran 200 international marathons, Director with Population Control Society - an International NGO!!! how come?) among others.

It is possible that these "spiritual" leaders mobilised the support through facebook and the to make it look massive. The fast has exploited the polling exigencies well to achieve what it wanted to do:- to extract a promise from the Government. The real game will begin after the results are known.

One silver lining among this crowd of spiritual leaders is that they are not innocent and they must be having a good experience of corruption that has allowed them to become the leaders they have become.

Requirements for a Lokpal

The least important of the issues is perhaps what the Lok Pal would actually look like.

It has to be rememebered that the Lok Pal is based on the institute of the Swedish Ombudsman whose purpose was to look after the affiars of the king (Charles) when he was recovering from a military defeat in Turkey. The Ombudsman has different interpretations in different countries. The French have one who is supposed to be a protector of the people just as our Lok pal is supposed to be.

There is no ombudsman in USA at the national level. This is for the information of the vocal NRIs in USA in case they did not know.

The Ombudsman of Phillipines, a lady, has been impeached by parliament.

The actual function of the ombudsman is difficult to visualize and seemingly cannot be solved by an unilateral fast unto death by a public movement, if only because of different perceptions of corruption in different societies or different value systems.

As per a description on the net (see "The classical ombudsman has to be (1) legally established, (2) functionally autonomous, (3) external to the administration, (4) operationally independent of both the legislature and the executive, (5) specialist, (6) expert, (7) nonpartisan, (8) normatively universalistic, (9) client-centred but not anti-administration, and (10) both popularly accessible and visible." That sort of disqualifies all those public figures we know for or against the Lok Pal?

The problem with ombudsmen is that they can investigate only government agencies.

A mischievous private body with adequate financial resources can easily make the function of the Lok Pal hopelessly innocuous and ineffective serving only the purpose of crippling the government.
We have enough of such mischievous men, especially with multinationals who really would like to handle the way we are corrupt for their advantage.

So we wait.