Annanomics – An analysis of India’s Hunger Strike Industry

 

There is a lot of debate surrounding the support & reputation of India’s Civil Society which is starving itself these days to pressurize the Government of India. Here we compare  Civil Society with the Government through  various parameters. Some of them defy logic. But that’s just the world of hunger strikes for you.

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The entire debate started when a committee to draft the Jan Lokpal Bill was created. This committee has 2 camps in it:

(i) Government of India – Pranab Mukherjee, P.Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid

(ii) Civil Society – Shanti Bhushan, Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhushan, N.Santosh Hegde, Arvind Kejriwal

I. 1,000 > 1,00,000

India’s civil society is confident that the ‘masses’ are completely behind it. This was proven by synchronous meetings and lighting of candles in India’s major cities during Anna’s strike. This in turn validated trusting civil society more than the government because of the sheer mass of people supporting the cause. To put this in perspective, Wah Sarkar decided to look at the number of people who in May 2009, went out and voted1 for the 5 members of the government who are a part of the Jan Lokpal Bill drafting committee.

Name

Constituency

Number of Votes Received

Pranab Mukherjee

Jangipur – West Bengal

5,06,749

P. Chidambaram

Sivaganga-Tamil Nadu

3,34,348

Veerappa Moily

Chikkballapur-Karnataka

3,90,500

Kapil Sibal

Chandni Chowk -Delhi

4,65,713

Salman Khursheed

Farukkhabad- UP

1,69,351

Just 5 of India’s Lok Sabha Members managed to get the support of more than 18.6 lakh Indians. This figure can be multiplied roughly by at least 100 to get the number of votes received by MPs in the Lok Sabha during the last general elections. Thus there can be no argument in terms of numbers to prove that the ‘masses’ of the country prefer Anna or Ramdev over the government. Civil Society’s ‘masses’ are in reality negligible when looking at the larger picture. It may be said that a lot of Indian voters are ignorant and bought by politicians. This is true but most of the people who came out & supported the Jan Lokpal were equally unaware of what the bill is and how it would rid India of corruption (quite frankly, few are aware of this).

However it cannot be ignored that the backing received by civil society today is only for the cause of anti-corruption while the votes for political candidates in elections  are based on numerous varying factors.

II. My Corruption < Your Corruption

We aren’t even getting into the several corruption charges against the Bhushans. They are now common knowledge but surprisingly even Anna Hazare has proven charges of corruption against him. Here are some quotes from The Justice P.B.Sawant Commission of Enquiry (Govt. Of Maharahstra) Report2 from Feb 2005 :- “The expenditure of Rs. 2.20 lakhs from the funds of the Hind Swaraj Trust for the birthday celebrations of Shri Hajare was clearly illegal & amounted to a corrupt practice”(p365)

“..even those activists who were nearer to Shri Hajare were indulging in corruption and demanding money from the supplicants who came for relief from Shri Hajare.” (p359-60)

“There is no doubt that the trust, and therefore, the trustees of the trust committed illegalities.” (p281)

Discussing Lunch

However Anna Hazare is different from the average politician in the sense that he has openly accepted his fault, apologized and looked ahead. In fact Anna’s charge is much lesser in degree when compared to criminals thronging the Lok Sabha. 162 out of 543 MPs have pending criminal cases against them and many of them include crimes as heinous as murder, dacoity & kidnapping.

But Baba Ramdev presents a completely different challenge. The estimated net worth of his assets is in excess of 1100 crores and he has accumulated this wealth in less than a decade. There are also media reports that allege Baba Ramdev   bought a Scottish island for around 2 million pounds a few years ago. Hence it seems ironic that such a man is set to go on a fast against illegal money.

III. 2/5 = 40% ≠Nepotism

It was very casually assumed that Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Santosh Hegde and Anna Hazare are the most deserving and the best suited people in the country for drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill. Never mind if they all come from the same alliance. In fact with great difficulty did the government manage to convince Anna Hazare to allow Pranab Mukherjee to co-chair the committee. Within days of the committee being announced  Mr. Baba Ramdev was extremely disappointed. For days he had brought with him to Anna’s hunger strike, massive support in the form of thousands of followers. Unfortunately he found out that he had been omitted from the committee to draft the bill. This prompted him to take a dig at the Bhushan father and son duo who made  it to the committee. Baba (a highly politically motivated man) actually made a very valid point. Whenever similar situations occur in Indian politics, it is termed as nepotism. However amazingly 2 out of 5 civil society members were from the same family. Anna initially supported the Bhushans inclusion. But with increasing reports everyday linking the Bhushan’s to corruption, Anna issued a statement in which he said that he is unaware of who the Bhushans are and only met them for the first time in Delhi.

IV. Political Party = NGO

The political parties in India are maligned for being non-transparent and corrupt. This is completely and absolutely true. There are 1200+ political parties in India, out of which 700 odd parties do not contest any elections. They only exist for the tax benefits and nefarious activities.

But let’s take a look at civil society/NGOs. According to the most conservative government estimates, our country has more than 3.3 million NGOs. This means that there is an NGO for every 400 people in India. There are more NGOs than primary schools and primary health centres in the country.

NGOs are often viewed as sources of money making and tax evasion. In fact they are often established purely for such purposes. However just as all politicians are not corrupt and evil, neither are all NGOs fronts for illegal activities. But more importantly, just because one belongs to or supports an NGO, does not mean that the person is noble and incorruptible.

In fact civil society workers can often get away with zero accountability just by stating that they are part of a ‘mass movement’ thereby avoiding  any answerability. These days Baba Ramdev is randomly collecting money from people in New Delhi to fund his hunger strike. What is the source of this money & what will be done with it are questions that will remain unanswered.

1 – As per Election Commission of India.
2 – Click here for full report.
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  • http://profiles.google.com/sabhlok Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I have less of a problem with Baba Ramdev’s fast since he is (apparently) a politician, and will ultimately seek a vote for his idea from the people. This fasting stunt is perhaps part of his strategy to popularise his ideas. In a pluralist society like India if someone makes use of a fast-unto-death to promote his political interests, I’m willing to tolerate (not condone) that. (He should first explain why public suicide is acceptable, but let me park that issue for now.)

    What bothers me far more are people like Anna Hazare – who with their half-baked anarchist ideas,  try to impose THEIR way of the world on the whole of India. Let them contest elections and change the laws. 

    • Ganesh Balasubramanian

      Interesting thought. Although, sometimes it is necessary to take issues such as corruption head on outside the political realm. At some point of time, common man needs to be involved and, in my opinion, this cannot happen only by entering politics.

      But I have an issue with the approach of “fasting” to achieve something. Life cannot be used as a bargaining chip in these matters. It is almost equivalent to putting a gun to one’s or someone else’s head to get something done.

    • rahul singh

      I agree with whatever u said on ramdev. But the thing is that people are so fed up of everything, be it massive corruption, excessive inflation that they have been waiting for someone to show up so that they could support them.
      I dont see any point in making a mockery out of this whole fasting issue. At least they started something , whether he’s doing with any agenda or not, but the issues being raised are what concern the common poeple most.Government raises the price of sugar from 25/kg to 40/kg and after agitation from people they bring it down to 35/kg ….and our stupidity is all praises.
      Today digvijay singh said that first u get the stats about the black money right,as if implying that only then he would draft something against black money.What is this!!!!!
      Anyone had to just follow the news since last 6 months or so. I mean theres been billions of money scavenged in scams wherever possible. A point worth noting is that they arent fighting over any reservation,religion,hindu-muslim.Its simply against unrooting corruption,as simple as that.
      Anarchy or whatever ,but a common man fed up of everything is giving full hearted support to these people.
      When ploiticians throw money n booze in the air during elections taking sides is never questioned, and when these poeple are simply fasting (and not doing anything else) taking sides is being questioned.
      The trend is not fasting but agitation against the corrupt and its all over the world.

       

      • Anonymous

        @google-a63a0c1d7483cf5ab43cee92ad8bbb6b:disqus  - We too agree that peaceful protests are just fine. However we feel that ”civil society”  should atleast themselves uphold the principles that they preach. Otherwise there is no difference between them and the politicians. In that case  the core issues would remain the same i.e. corrupt/immoral individuals dictating everything.  Also there is a danger of hunger strikes being held for absolutely everything & anything and hence subverting democracy completely. Numerous issues may be even more critical than those of corruption. For instance people in the North East often have issues simply living because of the prevalence of AFSPA. Unfortunately for them, they are yet to find the means needed to hold a successful hunger strike. http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/04/the-art-of-hunger-strikes/In Ramdev’s case it may well be a politically motivated fast. However if his background is the same as all politicians(as it appears right now), then we may well have just another addition to the already criminalized parliament. Also we feel that just crying REVOLUTION won’t really bring it. A number of Ramdev’s requests are absurd and not really feasible overnight as he imagines them to be. We on our part try to ”make a mockery” of absolutely anything we find wrong with the government, opposition or civil society. You would be able to see evidence of that if you browse through our posts. 

    • rahul singh

       ”Let them contest elections and change the laws.”  — Im just fed up of listening this statement just around everywhere.
      First of all they are not anarchist at all,the rules they are trying to bring are exactly the same as followed in hongkong since 1997 (search for ICAC hongkong).Moreover they have created a website where everyone can post their suggestions on lokpal bill. U my friend ,read it very very carefully,before hee hawing “anarchy,anarchy” all over.
      Secondly why are u asking them to contest for elections to change everything.If someday police slams u u’ll say–”hey dont protest ,join police to make it better”,” then the other day u’d say join municipality to make our city clean”,,….W.T.F. !!!!! Why cant we protest peacefully ?????
      When all these people have forgotten their responsibility then cant we even protest.They are not taking bribes,they arent killing innocents,making fools ,,,,Just Just Just protesting against those who have forgotten their duties.
      I really dont understand that when somebody is saying that ok ill die fasting for u all then we from our side cant even support him.If we could put up our strength again as we did during the jessica lal case then they’ll surely have to bend again.

      • Anonymous

        @google-a63a0c1d7483cf5ab43cee92ad8bbb6b:disqus  We are a country of 1.2 billion. Unfortunately to govern a country of this size you need formal procedures & processes. To claim to be  a ”representative” of the people based on a few thousand lit candles is juvenile. If there is such confidence in superiority in thought, action & mass support – there should be no issue in ”civil society” toppling the government through elections. Moreover by going on  a hunger strike at the drop of a hat (despite when the government is directly engaging with you) is in a sense anarchism. We are lucky that Anna is relatively sensible. We have already seen the buffoonery of Ramdev & his strike. 
        Anna & Co want direct say (w/o compromise; else they will fast) in formulation of rules & processes however without any responsibility. If the Lokpal turns out to be a monster, Anna will have no headache & be back in Maharashtra & no one will question him because at the end of the day he was just self appointed ”civil society”.
        On a related point, “Civil Society” have pushed the agenda of JanLokpal with the same rhetoric that any political party pushes its agenda. People are being led to believe that Lokpal is a superhero that will boot corruption out of every corner of the country. There are elementary questions like how can it be assumed that the LokPal itself can be incorruptible in a country where we do not even trust the PM & Chief Justice?  The 20,000 odd employees working under the LokPal will come from the existing “corrupt” system. How is it assumed that they will be incorruptible? Janlokpal says our judicial sys is corrupt BUT citizens can complain about Lokpal in SC & all lokpal orders are subject to judicial review. It thus maybe prudent to have detailed discussions on every aspect of the bill rather than being convinced by whatever Anna & Co say albeit if something similar made HongKong a utopia. 

  • http://ruhisonal.wordpress.com/ Ruhi Sonal

    I am planning to start a hunger strike against hunger strikes… any supporters?
    On a more serious note, a dangerous trend has taken off in our country. Instead of closely examining issues like corruption and the underlying parallel economy that is thriving, people are satisfying their sense of being socially responsible by falling for zero analysis, absolute exhibitionist methods adopted first by Hazare, now by Ramdev. Just by fasting, or by “expressing solidarity”, such problems cannot be wished away. We need more debates on the probable solutions, I am highly unconvinced by Ramdev’s bouquet of supposed “solutions” (they r more of demands).
     Wake up people, be the change, don’t just scream revolution and think you’ve done your part.

    • rahul singh

       Have you really seen hazare talking on t.v. (before calling him an exhibitionist) about the issues or have u been following those c grade news channels ??
      Do u know that they have put up a website where anybody can put up suggestions .
      That they wanted an open debate for evrybody to participate in and look into.
      As u suggested that we should start close examination n not fall for zero analysis,ok then lets wait for close examination,,so who’s starting it,,and who’s protesting it ?????
      There will always be people who will support n protest each n every idea.And the next day the sibbal is laughing it away and manmohan is smirking.
      The government has been doing all the shit since decades ,we give them chance everytime to improve but in vain. THEN CANT WE TRY OUR LUCK ONCE WITH HAZARE BY SUPPORTING HIM ????

  • Anonymous

    Not presumed guilty but neither can he be presumed to be a saviour.

  • vini bee

    MUST SEE —–
    This is what lokpal bill will do to india once passed, as pointed by arvind kejriwal
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I

    • Anonymous

      @google-ee916ad01592fe2bbbd80c0eca335013:disqus The link is not working. 

  • vini bee

    If u want to put up something in the lokpal bill then visit this
    http://www.lokpalbillconsultation.org
    Wahsarkar should rather post his invaluable comments on this website. Or shall I say wahsarkar should write a blog on what else he wants in the lokpal bill. Even if its anarchy of anna ji ,we accept it . As we know it wud be far better than whats hapening now. Please unite people , dont fall for blogs like these. 

    • Anonymous

      @google-ee916ad01592fe2bbbd80c0eca335013:disqus Thank you for your invaluable suggestions. We will form a committee which includes you to discuss all future posts. 

  • rahul singh

    This is just broggadocio !!!!!!!!!
    These 640 people shud follow anna coz its the right time to bring out some change. Dont follow this wahsarkaar mudslinging. You all love your 9-5 job,suits n ties,laptops n mobiles and corruption just dissapears over a cup of coffee or a puff of cigarete. But when somebody is trying to to something, anything we should suport or else never indulge in debates over coruption or any attrocities by government for that matter. What are u trying to prove here wahsarkar ????? Are u really mature enough to write this all, coz u dont seem to be so. The calling of time is to UNITE. 

    • Anonymous

      @google-a63a0c1d7483cf5ab43cee92ad8bbb6b:disqus   We should also engage in debates over anything that the civil society does.. Oops.. so sorry, we forgot that civil society’s integrity is beyond any doubt and they are above the law. Hope we don’t burn in hell for this. How “immature” of us.

  • Krish

    I think these are arguments just to derail the fight to make India less corrupt. If the elected representatives did their job sincerely and did not amass illegal wealth, there would have been no need for Lok Pal or Hazare or Ramdev.You are assuming that the donations that a Swamy gets are all illegally gained money in the same category as Raja’s money.You are also wrongly assuming that all NGO’s are funded by only illegal money. These are juvenile arguments.

    • Anonymous

      @Krish —
      - The arguments are not to derail any movement but to try and understand all elements involved in this great movement better. Even civil society should be measured with the same yardstick as the political parties.

      - If it is possible to amass 1100 crores legally in less than a decade then Ramdev should have no issues in declaring his assets. Infact a simple google search will give you enough evidence of the kind of questions asked about his assets from all sorts of people including those from his own fraternity. Even the civil society members of the Lokpal declared their assets. We find it hypocritical when the apparent leader of masses himself has many questions about his assets but is assumed perfect to head a campaign against ill gotten money. Infact we find it juvenile.

      - Nowhere have we mentioned that all NGOs are funded by illegal money. Infact this is explicitly clarified in the article.

      • Krish

        Ramdev has declared his assets today. He says all the details are also available on his website. 
        In the same meeting he has asked those who criticize him with motives that are anything but honorable, to declare the assets held by their(the critic’s) trusts.
        PM has urged his colleagues to declare their assets also.I hope you will question them also. I am sure they are going to take shelter behind the argument that Trusts are not required by law to declare their assets but you and I can see thru this specious argument.  

        • Anonymous

          @05113836579aa19921477dc0a0bf9771:disqus  This is a good development. In our opinion it should have been done before. These are the kinds of questions which have been asked of Ramdev http://www.tehelka.com/story_main49.asp?filename=Ws080611BabaRamdev.asp 
          He should now have no issues in facing up to any of this. Unfortunately since he is someone who is leading a national campaign against ill-gotten money it is only natural for him to face the same questions he asks others. 

          We agree with what you say regarding the ministers. They are obliged by law to declare their assets when they contest elections and also once a year while in power (for LS MPs). However these are personal assets and not those of any trusts they maybe associated with. It maybe impossible to link the funds of trusts that they are associated with to them. 

          Here are some posts in which we have questioned the assets/financial misuse of the government. 
          http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/04/the-forgotten-wikileaks/
          http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/03/behenji-%E2%80%93-india%E2%80%99s-most-eligible-bachelorette/

    • Anonymous

      @05113836579aa19921477dc0a0bf9771:disqus - The arguments are not to derail any movement but to try and understand all elements involved in this great movement better. Even civil society should be measured with the same yardstick as the political parties.- If it is possible to amass 1100 crores legally in less than a decade then Ramdev should have no issues in declaring his assets. Infact a simple google search will give you enough evidence of the kind of questions asked about his assets from all sorts of people including those from his own fraternity. Even the civil society members of the Lokpal declared their assets. We find it hypocritical when the apparent leader of masses himself has many questions about his assets but is assumed perfect to head a campaign against ill gotten money. Infact we find it juvenile.- Nowhere have we mentioned that all NGOs are funded by illegal money. Infact this is explicitly clarified in the article

  • vini bee

    MUST SEE —– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I
    Lokpal
    bill is influenced by
    Independent_Commission_Against_Corruption_(Hong_Kong) [as pointed by
    arvind kejriwal] . ICAC helped Hong Kong unroot corruption.

  • Ramnikmamik

    I am glad somebody has called a spade a spade!These self appointed civil society claim they have mass support!Anna is a senile old man who has gotten carried away by the MEDIA attention!The BHUSHANS are also a bunch of crooks!Kejrival is a sincere man but he is out of his depth.The day the MEDIA finds a new subject t6hey will all be forgotten!

  • Student

    Wah Sarkar is a member of Congress, I think..
     1.  If Anna forms a government he will have to look after all the problems of the country and itwill take much longer time to eradicate corruption. Since corruption is one of the biggest problems and is being competely ignored by the UPA , let Anna fight against it peacefully. DO NOT mislead others..2. Even if Anna really participated in some corrupt activity at some point of time, is he not eligible to fight against corruption now? (You know most of the corrupt and criminal people are eligible to contest elections in India and it is known that they would continue their evil activities after winning the elections. )

    3. If the 5 people in the committee from society want to do something for the country, let us support them. Do you want to make them choose representatives by contesting elections? (bullshit)

    We have voted to form the governments for 60 years. And they have ruined the lives of common man. Can’t you support Anna’s team for 1 or 2 years?

    • Wah Sarkar

      @d6e2d52fbfe8bd67dfdd0d0a449e725b:disqus  – If Wah Sarkar is a member of Congress then it is quite a pathetic member one else it would not post articles like http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/05/saare-jaha-se-accha-gandhistan-humara/ and http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/04/the-forgotten-wikileaks/

      - Just because someone is self appointed ”civil society” it doesn’t mean that he is beyond question. Atleast the parliamentarians are elected by a formal procedure. This bunch is self appointed, wants an active/primary role in policy making but without any accountability. 

      - You are free to support Anna based on ”civil society”s whims similar to how we are free to NOT support him. 

      - Nowhere have we said that Anna should NOT sustain his anti corruption campaign just because he has proven charges of corruption against him. Infact if you read the post, we clearly say that Anna’s charges are very minor compared to those in the parliament. 

      - We do not say that the civil society members MUST contest elections however if they want to function as a body that cries FAST whenever they don’t get their way then they’d might is well stop their half baked anarchist ideas and take on the government where it counts since they are so confident of their superiority in thought, action & public support.  

      - You calling the electoral process bull**** is unfortunate. A country of 1.2 billion can not function based on the arbitrary whims of self appointed anarchist vigilantes. Formal processes are needed. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GPX3BUZ4UGJ4W223IMSJ24B6VU rameshwar

    You are either a blind or prefer to be a blind. You should be knowing how elections are won in india. Spending 5000 for each vote is more than enough.

    • Wah Sarkar

      @yahoo-GPX3BUZ4UGJ4W223IMSJ24B6VU:disqus  Yes, there are massive reforms needed in electoral politics. You can read some of our other posts. Have written extensively about it. However this is supposed to be an anti-corruption strike & not ”an alternate for electoral politics” strike.