Posts Tagged ‘NGO’s’

Lokpal Movement: Unanswered Questions (Gautam Navlakha)

In Perspective on November 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

From: The Economic and Political Weekly, VOL 46 No. 44 and 45 November 05 – November 11, 2011

Why is it that the Anna Hazare-led movement against corruption does not seek to have the Lokpal cover NGOs, corporate houses and the corporate media?

Full Text at: http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/16712.pdf


A tale of two movements (Amita Baviskar)

In Perspective on September 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

From: The Times of India

A tale of two movements

by Amita Baviskar

September 6, 2011

The agitation for the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) is being hailed as ‘unprecedented’ and as a ‘second freedom struggle’. More grounded analysts have likened it to the Navanirman movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s. However, a more apt comparison lies closer at hand.

Less than six years ago, Parliament enacted a national Right to Information Act. This was a major victory for the RTI campaign which aimed to empower people to fight corruption and malgovernance. It mobilised a nationwide network of support, bringing together activists, NGOs and ordinary citizens, and effectively using media and middle-class interlocutors. India Against Corruption (IAC), the coalition leading the present campaign, shares the goals and the networking strategy of the earlier campaign, and its leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Anna Hazare were closely associated with it.

Yet, the differences between the two campaigns are striking as well as instructive. The RTI campaign and the JLB campaign both strive for greater government accountability, but their ideologies, modes of organisation, support base and strategies diverge in important ways. Understanding these differences is crucial if the Lokpal Bill, once enacted, is to achieve its stated goal.

The RTI campaign grew out of the experiences of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), the jan sangathan (people’s organisation) in rural Rajasthan which had, for two decades, fought corruption in village development works. The MKSS pioneered the use of jan sunvai or public hearings as a technique to empower villagers to ‘speak truth to power’, challenging an opaque, oppressive and corrupt system of governance. The jan sunvai’s success depended on systematic preparation to mobilise people to testify, collect information and check its accuracy. The groundswell of public anger against abuse of public funds was harnessed to create a coordinated campaign led by trained local activists.

From the villages, MKSS took its campaign to the district and state level, staging determined demonstrations that attracted the middle classes and intellectuals, before leading the national RTI campaign. The national network was more eclectic; it included not only jan sangathans like the MKSS, but also individual anti-corruption activists like Anna Hazare and Shailesh Gandhi. Notably, the RTI campaign aligned itself with the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, sangathans of the rural and urban poor fighting against dispossession. This organisational base gave the RTI campaign a solid political credibility.

The JLB campaign shows a distinctly different trajectory. Even though Kejriwal’s Parivartan, which battled corruption in ration shops in two Delhi slums, was a jan sangathan, its base was too limited to launch a nationwide campaign. The other campaign leaders – Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Hazare – also cannot muster a trained cadre of activists. The JLB campaign has mobilised participants in two ways: through social networking and the media; and via regional chapters of Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s congregations.

The coming together of a predominantly young, white-collar constituency that communicates through text messages and Facebook, lower-middle-class followers of Baba Ramdev, and the professional classes that practise the Art of Living gives the JLB campaign the strength of numbers as well as the image of appearing all-inclusive. However, this strength may dissipate once the Bill is passed. Mobilising crowds for a successful agitation is one thing; having a committed and trained activist base to convert that success into long-term institutional change is quite another.

If the RTI campaign embraced sangathans with an Independent Left ideology, the political beliefs of the participants in the JLB campaign are harder to pin down. Eight of the 20 founders of India Against Corruption are religious figures, of whom only Swami Agnivesh can be described as a champion of jan sangathans. The rest voice patriotic sentiments and anti-government hostility without a clear analysis of how the systemic problems that plague public affairs will be tackled. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s previous social initiatives have been of doubtful value (cleaning the sewage-laden Yamuna by picking up garbage from the riverfront) and marked by dubious claims (11,000 Naxalites ‘converted’ to the Art of Living).

While other founders like Hazare and Bedi have a reputation for personal probity and courage, they endorse a form of individualist authoritarian action that’s applauded by a public hungry for vigilante heroes. The JLB thus represents a shift in the political spectrum: from the left-of-centre democratic decentralisation of the RTI campaign, to the right-of-centre legal-technical-fix of India Against Corruption.

The test of any law lies in its implementation. Much disquiet has already been expressed about the overly-centralised design of the JLB and the impracticability of the mammoth bureaucratic machinery it demands. However, making a law work also requires a mobilised public, a dedicated and organised network at every level that will keep up the pressure on public institutions. The ideologies, organisational structure and support base of the JLB campaign do not indicate that it is capable of such long-term and systematic social action.

The RTI campaign’s activist base has allowed it to sustain an arduous struggle against corruption, but the challenges have been formidable. It remains to be seen how the JLB campaign will equip itself to walk the talk, and translate strident demands into effective action.

The writer is a sociologist at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.

Why I don't support Anna Hazare (Ashish Gupta)

In Perspective on August 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm

From: The Hindu

Open Page
Published: August 28, 2011 01:53 IST | Updated: September 2, 2011 12:01 IST

Why I don’t support Anna Hazare

by Ashish Gupta

What will happen if people start similar agitations seeking to get their demands passed as law within a given time?

While I support all possible measures to stop all forms of corruption and black money, I do not support the method adopted by the team led by Anna Hazare. I do not want to destroy the constitutional mechanism and institutions of which I am proud of, notwithstanding their shortcomings. If Parliament is not reflecting and acting as per the interest of voters, we need to elect candidates and parties which will meet our aspirations and directions. We cannot destroy the Parliamentary system, just as we cannot destroy the judiciary, the rule of law, the bureaucracy and a free press. While many other countries which got freedom from colonial rules during the last few decades could not organise such constitutions and institutions like ours, this is a matter of pride for us. Could we throw the baby out with the bath water?

Comparisons with Gandhian struggle are not correct. Gandhiji was fighting a foreign ruler and his mission was to send out the foreigners and get Independence. He mobilised the common people as well as the educated and, often, his fast was against his own people when there was communal flare-up, or when his people killed Britishers. I will not belittle or ridicule our Independence by saying that “we have no independence, just the goras (whites) have gone and kalas (blacks) have come,” as Anna has declared. I felt sad to hear that comment from someone who claims to follow Gandhiji. He also says the electorate do not know how to elect, that elections are a sham and that Parliament does not represent people. One of his followers, who was also a senior central service officer, declares that “Anna is India and India is Anna.” Yet another says the notification of the standing committee inviting comment from the public at large on the Lokpal is eyewash and a diversionary tactic.

Anna says he will fast till death unless “his” bill is passed by August 30. All these make one terribly worried about the democratic path we have chosen and of which we are all very proud. An imperfect democracy is far better than a perfect dictatorship. The claim of Anna and half a dozen people that they represent the Indian public is nothing but dictatorial. We cannot be fooled by the few thousand people who are gathering on the Ramlila grounds. They are angry with corruption, but do not understand the nuances of democratic institutions. For many, it is a picnic, fun and getting a chance to be on national TV.

There are several issues that can be pushed by similar individuals and groups who can draw a much bigger crowd. Some of these issues are recognised as desirable in the Directive Principles of our Constitution and have been dormant since 1950. The women’s reservation bill appears to have the backing of all major political parties with a two-thirds majority in Parliament but it is yet to come up before the Lok Sabha and far from becoming a law. What will happen if some people start similar agitations seeking to get these measures passed as law within a given time? What will happen when someone goes on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar asking “total independence” for Kashmir and someone else sits on a similar fast demanding abolition of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir?

Will the Jan Lokpal bill stop all corruption? It is only a mechanism to punish the guilty who are caught. What about those who are not caught and where there is mutual approval of giving and taking bribe? Remember that a large part of bribe-givers are happy and willing to chase officials privately with money to escape lawful punishment, avoid paying taxes and dues or to jump the queue to get benefits not due to them or to get ahead of those who are waiting. They are not going to complain to anyone. I believe a major part of the bribe given to government servants is in this category and a smaller part is where government servants harass and demand bribe. I was in government service for long and the bribe “offer” is higher than the bribe “demand.” How will a highly placed institution like Lokpal stop such cases?

Do not NGOs and private enterprises indulge in corruption? Companies take bribe and even individual entrepreneurs demand bribe from their suppliers and contractors to create black money. A company gets a supply or work done for Rs. 1 lakh and asks the supplier or contractor to give a bill for Rs.1.1 lakh, give him a cheque for 1.10 lakh and take back Rs. 10,000 in cash, or else he will not get work. This money is pooled as black money to be used for a luxurious life, holiday abroad and to buy liquor. What about those who do not pay tax? Is it not corruption? What about private schools taking money on the pretext of donations and other funds without issuing any bill and asking small children to collect unaccounted donations from their locality? What about advocates, doctors, and professionals taking a huge fee in cash, and not paying their full taxes? Most of the advocates including seniors take astronomical figures as fees.

Corruption has to be attacked with systemic changes, using information technology, reducing discretionary powers, reducing personal interface with government servants, and such measures. Simultaneously, we should have a strong legal framework to quickly punish the guilty. And under no circumstance, can we ridicule the freedom struggle and our achievement of building institutions. We need to strengthen the institutions by electing capable people and educating voters. Dictatorial methods of agitation saying that “this is the bill, pass it or else” will not do.

What Hazare has achieved is to awaken a large number of urban populace to the urgency of curbing corruption, and he should now give Parliament and the government time to come up with their solution and keep up the awareness campaign till the next election. He should contest the next election with his followers or force the political parties to adopt his solution in their manifesto and then canvass for them.

(The writer’s email id is ashishgupta.061990@gmail.com)

Sangh Parivar's support to Anna's agitation

In News links on August 29, 2011 at 7:28 pm

From: The Times of India

Ashok Singhal flays Team Anna

Aug 29, 2011, 06.44AM IST TNN

LUCKNOW: In a ‘rare gesture’, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international president Ashok Singhal on Sunday joined chorus with adversaries like Lalu Yadav in criticising the members of Team Anna for ridiculing politicians. He also raised question over the ‘genuineness’ of NGOs which were part of Anna’s anti-corruption movement. However, Singhal praised Anna’s efforts but went on to claim that over 20,000 RSS and VHP volunteers worked without revealing their identity at Ramlila Maidan for the success of the event.

Singhal was in the city on Sunday to take part in a VHP programme. While addressing a press conference, he said that it was wrong on the part of the so-called Civil Society members to mock politicians and members of parliament. He also criticised Team Anna for targeting and trying to mount pressure on the parliament.

He said that he was shocked at the language and gestures of the Civil Society members. He, however, applauded Anna for awakening the consciousness of people and make them come out of their homes to join the movement against corruption.
Replying to a query about Sangh Parivar’s support to Anna’s agitation, Singhal said that RSS had officially announced that it was supporting Anna’s movement. “Around 20,000 RSS and VHP volunteers distributed free food to the people who came to support Anna at Ramlila Maidan. The movement reflected people’s anger against rampant corruption under UPA government,” he added.

Referring to the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill which UPA government is planning to bring in the coming days, Singhal alleged that the bill is anti-Hindu and heavily tilted in favour of minorities. The bill, he claimed, would make Hindus, second class citizens in India.

The bill allows enormous protection to the minorities and would be used to target Hindus. He announced that the VHP will soon launch a campaign against the proposed bill.

o o o

From: India Today

VHP supplied ration to Anna Hazare’s supporters at Ramlila Maidan: Singhal

Piyush Srivastava Lucknow, August 29, 2011 | UPDATED 09:45

Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal on Sunday declared that the cadre of the right-wing organisation was involved in Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption.

The assertion only confirmed speculation that the Sangh Parivar was supporting Anna.

Singhal praised VHP members for having done an “extremely good job” in making Anna’s movement a success.

“Members of the Dharma Yatra Mahasangh, a wing of the VHP, had opened stalls at Ramlila Maidan to offer food to over 20,000 people every day,” Singhal said.

He said it was routine work for the VHP, dismissing suggestions that the organisation was trying to ride piggyback on the unprecedented support to Anna.

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/anna-hazare-ramlila-maidan-vishwa-hindu-parishad/1/149404.html?cp

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