Hazare - No Saint, But Needed
Image Credit: Ramesh Lalwani

Hazare - No Saint, But Needed


Around the world, the non-violent protests against graft led by Anna Hazare are being watched with enormous interest. From London to New Jersey to Malaysia, expat Indians are holding candlelit vigils in support of the movement. It’s being touted as ‘India’s second freedom struggle.’ In the 65 years since India’s independence, my parents say they haven’t seen anything like this. Is Hazare a frontman for vested interests, or is his heart really in the right place? I offer my two cents.

First, there are a few background points that should be borne in mind:

1) While the best way to prevent bribes is to stop people offering them, this is easier said than done in India. Unless one knows a politician, government official or bureaucrat who can pick up the phone to ‘fast track’ a given process, many feel compelled to pay a bribe to clear the numerous bureaucratic hurdles they face in this country. It’s often a choice between nepotism and corruption, something tens of millions of Indians have been forced to confront.

2) Even though Anna Hazare claims to be a Gandhian, it’s ridiculous to compare him with the ‘Father of the Nation.’

3) As a member of civil society in the world’s largest democracy, I and other Indians haven’t elected Team Anna (consisting of Anna Hazare and his handpicked civil activists) to express opinions and concerns.

4) If Kalmadi (the ex-Commonwealth Games chief and a Congress politician currently in jail on charges of corruption) can be labelled corrupt, so can Yeddyurappa (a politician from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Partywho was forced to resign recently). Yet I haven’t seen any statement against the latter from Anna Hazare or his team. Why the different standards for a Congress politician and a BJP politician?

Yet despite these reservations, I am standing firmly in Hazare’s corner simply because he’s fighting for something that I (and most Indians) care deeply about – a strong Jan Lokpal (Ombudsman).

When the United Progressive Alliance forced Hazare to break his first fast, in April, I believed that the government was serious about its commitment to a potent Lokpal bill. Since then, we have had little progress and another fast by yoga guru Baba Ramdev. But Ramdev’s effort appeared comical, even farcical, and so many have dismissed Hazare’s latest fast as a tired publicity stunt.  

The version of the Lokpal Bill currently supported by the government is a reflection of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s image in the country – weak and toothless. It doesn’t cover the prime minister (or senior judges) and wouldn’t have had any impact on the recent scams unearthed around the country.

Singh did finally make public his stand on corruption in a speech on Independence Day. However, he failed to inspire an ounce of confidence in most people. His message was clear – corruption won’t disappear overnight. But it was left unclear what his party will do to make a start on tackling the problem. Unfortunately for the government, the Indian public has run out of patience.

Anna Hazare is no saint. But the voters are left with the disappointing choice of the UPA or the National Democratic Alliance – a coalition of political parties led by the BJP. Both have their fair share corrupt politicians. To the BJP’s credit, some of its leaders are supporting inclusion of the prime minister in the purview of the Lokpal. But this by no means suggests they are deserving of power.

Eradicating corruption in public life will require the establishment of a series of steps toward transparency that will take more than just the passage of a strong Lokpal bill. Yet without this initial step, the journey can’t begin. And, right now, Team Anna seem to be the only ones that understand this.

Tanuj Khosla is a research analyst at 3 Degrees Asset Management, a fund management firm in Singapore. He can be followed on Twitter @Tanuj_Khosla. Alternatively he can be reached at khosla.tanuj@gmail.com. The views expressed are his own.

August 19, 2011 at 14:59

@Tanuj Interesting that you should make bring up ‘means v/s end’ in the comment and not in the article!
I would have liked if you had titled your article likewise and made your point in the article. Your title looks directed more towards being sensational and attract traffic.
As for the questions you have raised, the fact that you have raised them later in a comment seems they were more like an afterthought than as a basis of starting the article.
As for democratic means, search on Youtube for Kejriwal’s speech in Chennai IIT.
He has given a good account of democratic means used before resorting to these methods. And also how narrow focussed the govt version of the bill is.
The current methods work very much for the (personal) profit of the members of the Parliament. Why would they want to change it? If they did, they would have changed it long back. The questions being raised and demands made are not new.

NOTE: I will not be adding more comments to this article. Adding more comments and spending more time on your article will only improve it search ranking and attract more traffic. Which seems to be the only purpose of the original article.

August 19, 2011 at 10:48

Mr. Tanuj you have to see (or you have to view some of the impartial articles that are available in web about the development works he has done for his village Ralegaon Siddhi. That is enough to treat him more than a saint. If that village can be used as a role model then Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of “Ram Rajya” will be a reality within a short span of time. The General Public is also equally corrupt because there is no option rather than to be a part of this disgusting system. But the good thing is they were frustrated & were waiting for a turning point. Mr. Hazare has provided that platform.. Mr. Rajeev Sharma in one of the blogs in The Diplomat (Refer: Why Manmohan Singh Should Resign?) has given a very very Interesting Observation.. Very Very Interesting indeed !!!!

Pramod Sultania
August 18, 2011 at 14:15

@ Tanuj: Just that he has not raised voice against Yeddyurappa, you cannot say that he is not a Saint. He is very focussed person and he is fighting for a cause. If a strong Lokpal is enacted, it will solve the problem of corruption in Public Life to a great extent, be it by BJP, congress or any other political party. Please note that its a fact that the ruling class (be it from any party) in India has become arrogant and does not want to pay heed to public opinion. They just want to enjoy the fruits of power for 5 years (or till the are being re-elected). Everybody is in hurry to recover the investment mad by him in fighting the election and multiply the return also. This is not public service.

August 18, 2011 at 12:12

@Tanuj: The kind of question you have raised in response to Adi and others conclusively proves that you have not done your homework properly. Moreover it shows your biasedness towards a person of impeccable integrity. My response to your questions are
1. The issue of national importance will assume more significance if it strikes emotional chord with the people concerned. The cause Anna has taken up is the most important issue in our country today and concern every indians.
2. Anna did agree to participate Baba Ramdev’s fast( which unfortunately didnt take place due to mid-night crackdown by Delhi Police) on the condition of not sharing the stage with communal elements. Pls get your facts right.
3.This is the most farcical question you have raised. Mr. Santosh Hegde, the person who is behind Yeddi resignation, is a core team member and in fact was one of the member of Anna’s drafting committe.

August 18, 2011 at 07:14

Tanuj, what do u mean Anna is no saint. He has done so much for Maharashtra and villgae. So much so that the particular village, whoes name I am forgetting has become not only self relient but also into exports. Also for ur information, Anna has been awarded with Padam Bhushan for his work. So pl. don’t call him no saint. He has done what best he could do and still doing for the betterment of nation.

Tanuj Khosla
August 18, 2011 at 01:42

@Adi: I completely support the cause (a strong Lokpal) for which Anna Hazare is fighting even though personally I don’t approve of the method(fasting) being used to do so. I support the end but not the means.

Talking about Anna Hazare being a saint, perhaps you might want to answer the following questions:-

1. Why was first fast organised a few days after India’s win at the ICC World Cup while the second one on Independence Day ? The national fervour was high on both these occasions and wasn’t Team Anna opportunistic to cash in on that ?
2. Why didn’t Anna join Baba Ramdev in his fast ?
3. I am completely aware of Anna Hazare’s PAST efforts against the BJP but why was Team Anna muted during the revelation of the Yeddyurappa scam ?

Anna Hazare has his heart at the right place but that in no way means that we are completely blinded by him. It is important to stay rational in these turbulent times.

@Ashutosh: I agree with your comment.

@Nikhil @ Gopal: I am completely aware of Anna Hazare’s past efforts against the BJP which is why I was surprised at their reaction (or rather the lack of it) during the Yeddyurappa scam ? In this environment, all parties like BJP, RSS, Shiv Sena are ‘supporting’ Anna to DERIVE POLITICAL MILEAGE FOR THEMSELVES. However it is extremely important for this movement that Anna Hazare stays apolitical.

Nikhil Kumar
August 17, 2011 at 18:09

Mr author plz go and brush up your knowledge about Shri Anna Hazare…you are a research analyst but here your analysis is totally wrong…

August 17, 2011 at 16:49

Perhaps, the author is not aware that Anna was jailed in Maharashtra during Shivasena-BJP government. Here is an extract from Wikipedia _ – _

“In May 1997 Hazare protested against alleged malpractices in the purchase of powerlooms by the Vasantrao Naik Bhathya Vimukt Jhtra Governor P. C. Alexander. On 4 November 1997 Gholap filed a defamation suit against Hazare for accusing him of corruption.

He was arrested in April 1998 and was released on a personal bond of Indian Rupee symbol.svg5,000 (US$110). On 9 September 1998 Hazare was imprisoned in the Yerawada Jail to serve a three-month sentence mandated by the Mumbai Metropolitan Court.

The sentencing came as a huge shock at that time to all social activists. Leaders of all political parties except the BJP and the Shiv Sena came in support of him. Later, due to public protests, the Government of Maharashtra ordered his release from the jail.

After release, Hazare wrote a letter to then chief minister Manohar Joshi demanding Gholap’s removal for his role in alleged malpractices in the Awami Merchant Bank. Gholap resigned from the cabinet on 27 April 1999.”

August 17, 2011 at 15:23

I may sound like a government spokesperson[which i am not,im just a guy concerned
about this mindless scenario which severally lacks any intellectual thought process and awareness].
A group of people not elected by the people are trying to undermine the ethos of the Constitution by threatening the shear existence of Parliament whose members are elected by 600 million voters of this country. This isnt a battle for a strong lokpal,it is the battle between combined egos of Team Anna and UPA.Team Anna was called to deliberate further on the Lokpal bill by the Standing Committee,but the civil society team was determined to bring the government to its knees.
I like most citizen of India do want a strong lokpal,but not like this.I want the parliament to discuss and debate each and every point of the lokpal.
The real reason we are seeing this large gathering of people is simple to explain.These are normal working class people,they are so tired and feel so helpless by the rot that corruption is they somehow want to see an end to this.And here is Team Anna promising the same.These hardworking people are made to believe that this lokpal will solve all there problems,improve there living standard,bring down poverty.It is hard to believe that Team Anna will say so,but there recent press conferences are testament to this fact[which are easily accessible via youtube and various Indian news channels].
My humble plea to Anna.. please stop this fast,we all need you to talk to the Government.Im sure they will listen to you[they said so today in the Parliament].Anna you should do what you think is right not what people that have surrounded you tell you what is right.Anna the system hasn’t broken down,we are still a strong,proud,confident nation with a functioning Parliament and a functioning legitimate government.

August 17, 2011 at 13:11

You say Anna is no saint yet you have not made a single point to support your statement(title). The only one point you have against Anna seems more like a speculation than anything based on concrete evidence or research. It feels like you are trying to write something different just for the sake of it.

Tanuj Khosla
August 17, 2011 at 12:40

@Chandran: I am completely aware of Anna’s past and his endeavours. However you can’t deny the uncomfortable silence observed by Team Anna when Yeddyurappa’s scam came to light recently.

August 17, 2011 at 11:12

Just a snippet of info for u, Santosh Hegde is the founding member of IAC with Anna. he is credited with removal of Yedurappa govt. :) you can google on him and find out more. Before him Yedurappa was treated like a saint. he brought his scams in public domain.

August 17, 2011 at 11:05

Author doesnt seem to be educated enough on Anna’s past. He has been a crusader and didnt leave any party untouched whom he found guilty. Request you to please go into the detail of his fight against corruption in the State of Maharashtra where at number of occassion he confronted BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and many other political party. Lets stop making false remark as truth can never be hidden.

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