Friday, April 08, 2011

Anna Hazare - Lokpal Bill and Beyond


Is the Centre capitulating under pressure or is it trying out tactics that would see the pressure on Lokpal Bill rescind?

Hope was all but lost. Then came along Anna Hazare! For a nation that has shown the world, the way forward with Non-violence, Anna Hazare was just the face that the youth were searching for. In a country where rampant corruption has been spreading its tentacles far, wide and deep, where the toiling section at the bottom of the hierarchy, grumbling middle class and the indifferent elite would get together only when Mumbai is bombed, the Taj is held to ransom or when Team India lifts the World Cup, it is moving to find people uniting for a common cause, under a leader who dares the bad guys with virtually nothing to lose!

Whenever the Lokpal Bill has been discussed, it has been shoved under the carpet under one pretext or the other for decades together. So, when the Jan Lokpal Bill was crafted by the civil society that has been growing increasingly impatient with the status quo tainted with corruption in various facets of public life, it was path breaking in its own right. It's as good as tossing the question straight in legislature's face: If you could not enact a bill for four decades in the face of burgeoning corruption that has taken giant proportions over the years since Independence, why shouldn't we draft one for you without charging a penny for our services?

The ruling class and the bureaucrats can only be expected to get jittery with the voice that has started resonating across India. And the reverberating force of the newly unified voice has already taken its first casualty, with Sharad Pawar deciding to go into oblivion with regard to GoM on Lokpal bill, rather than face the music and have his stained image tarnished further. That is more than convincing an evidence that when people speak as one, the public servants have to listen.

Image: Deccan Chronicle

With the Nation having sensed its lost identity, the question is, how far should the United Front of Anna Hazare, staunchly supported by other prominent faces like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan and Santosh Hegde, push this forward? The Government has been striking notes of conciliation, indicating the grave concern and the urgency underlying the thinking in the corridors of power. Is this a movement that has reached a critical mass, rocking the foundations and the core of the nerve centre of the politics of corruption? Is the Centre capitulating under pressure or is it trying out tactics that would see the pressure on Lokpal Bill rescind?

What this agitation would have reminded those who have been clinging to their chairs by their sheer lust for power than anything else, is that they are, ultimately, accountable for their actions. But there is more to this issue than what meets the naked eye. The breed that we have let grow all over the country is not something that can be corrected or eradicated with the stroke of a single bill or legislation. All said and done, they are the system, and they are the ones who would have to enact and enforce a draft of any kind that is legislated. What Anna Hazare has achieved with his agitation is something to reckon with, and the Government would not risk its stakes in such a tricky situation. However, let us be reminded that it takes strategy, than sheer force, to leverage the situation and engage the government in dialogue with the civil society. Anna Hazare and his team would have to use this opportunity to make the Government get into discussion mode with the people. Threat of action is more powerful than action itself. And tactical pressure has to be maintained over a period, constantly reminding the bureaucrats and the politicians that they have been elected by the people to serve the people. This is the time, not to go full throttle and all out for the jugular, but to check the pace and cruise along with measured control.

As has been rightly pointed out by Anna Hazare, he has to stay out of any position of responsibility and should remain a strategist, a consultant, and more importantly, a figurehead who would be perceived as a constant threat to those who are willing to cross the line. We have not reached the critical mass yet. But we do have sufficient force to start nudging the system in the right direction.

Related Posts:
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi
Anna Hazare, India against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning
Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Corruption in India, Lok Pal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi

When currency notes are traded by our multi-faceted leaders, why should it be Mahatma Gandhi who goes on sale?

This topic needs no introduction. With the Cricket World Cup fever settling down after India won the World Cup 2011 in style, now is the time for some earnest stock-taking, not in sports but in other, more important, walks of life. The Lok Pal Bill has been living on the edge for decades now, bouncing from the walls of the Parliament back to the drawing board like a tennis ball - this is one place in India where tennis is preferred over cricket - as the cricket ball would wear down when made to bounce off the walls as many times as the Lok Pal bill has been made to. The Bill that was first introduced in 1969 has been walking back and forth along the corridors of power for over 40 years now, but has still not seen the light of the day. 

It should come as no surprise to those who are in the know, that politicians are still found debating the bill that could have serious implications for their own breed. Voices from the civil society, led from the front by Anna Hazare and other prominent faces like Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi, are out to make a difference to the way things are handled by those in power, calling for a strict (caustic?) version of the Bill rather than the watered-down version that is preferred, and currently being proposed by the Government of India. They also demand that members of the civil society be made part of the anti-corruption panel. Another issue is the proposed inclusion of people in the panel, who have had tarnished images. Anna Hazare has been vocal and direct in his attack on Sharad Pawar, the Union Minister of Agriculture, whom the Government has proposed to lead the Panel against corruption. The irony is stark, says Anna Hazare - how could we have the corrupt leading the panel against the corrupt?
Image Courtesy:

Anna Hazare has entered the second day of his fast unto death if the bill is not accepted in the form as drafted by 'India against Corruption', the movement by the Civil Society that has come up with terms of the draft that really matter. It remains to be seen as to what effect the 'Gandhian style' fast would have on politicians, in these days of high-flying corruption, where millions and billions in kick-backs are the order of the day. Talking of Mahatma Gandhi and the way the Indian currency is losing its value, both monetarily and morally, the issue should be sparking another debate off, if Mahatma Gandhi should still feature in the Indian Rupee note, which has increasingly become the "symbol of corruption". When currency notes are traded by our multi-faceted leaders, why should it be Mahatma Gandhi who goes on sale? Anna Hazare should perhaps be starting off with his demand to either eliminate corruption from the country, or replace Mahatma Gandhi with someone else's face on the Indian Rupee. And given the mood of agitation that he is in right now, he may even nominate Sharad Pawar as the 'Figurehead' for the role.

Related Posts:
Anna Hazare: Lokpal Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning
Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Monday, April 04, 2011

Burning the Koran, Pastor Terry Jones and Barack Obama: Time to Act Tough

Image Courtesy: Daily Mail, UK
Ever since Pastor Terry Jones first announced his outrageous intention to burn the Koran, in a bonfire coinciding with 9/11 anniversary, religious intolerance seems to be hitting a new low with every passing day. Tension has always been in the air, all around the world, where such incendiary action is only expected to lead to widespread demonstrations, protests and inevitable violence. And when he finally made good on his intentions and burnt the Koran after a mock trial, there were outbursts of anger and emotions in places that have anyway been sensitive spots with a fragile state of affairs, finally culminating in the slaughter of UN officials at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.

While such violent reactions were predicted as a direct result of burning of Quran, there can be no justification of either action. The difference between the despicable act of burning a sacred religious text and a savage reaction to the act in Afghanistan lies not in the scale of hatred involved, but only in accountability for the actions. Pastor Terry Jones is responsible for spreading hatred through incendiary remarks and deeds, while none can be held responsible for mob action of violence. What both the incidents do achieve, is to widen the gap and increase the divide between two communities. Each one could blame the other and hold the each other responsible for the violence that ensued, resulting in meaningless loss of lives and fuelling growing enmity, forming further grounds for fresh negative acts. But, where does the cycle end?

To quote an old adage, 'With great power comes great responsibility'; there can not be many doubts as to where the power in this equation lies. If the US considers it its duty to get involved in international affairs, as it did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and if it wants to enforce global peace, the responsibility for the current unrest lies squarely with the United States of America. It is never easy to run a democracy, and there would always be conflicting elements that stoke hatred among religions and communities that form the very basis of democracy. However, such provocative actions as the one done by Terry Jones need to be condemned and controlled with utmost urgency, to send a message that would be in line with the signals that the US wants to send across the world, to the international community. With its forces still at work in the Middle East, and with the region being more fragile than ever, given the scale of social uprising that the monarchs of the regions are having to deal with, there is more than ethical and moral responsibility that should make the US take decisive measures to stop the likes of Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Centre. There are practical reasons for the US to take the initiative and make such people pay for, and realise the gravity of their deeds. 

President Obama has tried to bring in the much desired 'Change' and is seeking re-election in 2012. One important facet of the 'Change' has to be the way the US is perceived around the world. If someone can do it, Obama can do it. If it has to be done, now is the time!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

India Wins World Cup 2011 - "We Are The Champions!"

This is the first time, in almost 6 years of existence of Clearway, that I have felt compelled to write three consecutive posts on Cricket. So, at the outset, let me emphasise that this is not a Cricket Blog. But, the occasion is such that 2nd April 2011 is to be etched in Indian minds forever! India winning the World Cup was never a serious prospect, perhaps, till a few weeks back. And I, personally, did not pay focussed attention to World Cup 2011, even as the Flagship event of world cricket kicked off in February. And now, here is the Indian team, beaming across the world with the prestigious Trophy in its hand, pride and joy writ all over its face! 

People of my generation have grown up listening to stories of the Indian Cricket team winning its first ever prized treasure, way back in 1983. And given the swift pace of the modern world, 1983 would have semblances of the pre-historic era, especially to the cricket-loving current generation of the country. "Cricket-loving" is an under-statement. In a buzzing nation coloured with splashes of boisterous celebrations and emotional festivities, cricket has occupied unrivalled centre-stage, not just in the sporting arena, but in the entire gamut of entertainment and beyond. Cricket is an inevitable part of life for the hundreds of millions, who have grown up listening intensely to radio commentaries, watching matches in black-and white television sets, and playing the game in its numerous forms at schools, in the neighbourhood playgrounds, along roadsides and by the beaches and street corners. For those of us who have vague memories associated with India winning the 1983 World Cup, the ultimate possession that we could dream of, as a nation, is the symbol of unrivalled global superiority in the world of cricket, in an event that is celebrated once in four years. And last night was, by no means, just another night. It was History! A day that, going by the records, happens only once in 28 years! 

What MS Dhoni and his team have achieved, by that standard, is phenomenal! They have not just won a competition. It's not just about emerging victorious in a tournament. It is not a matter of achieving the first place in international rankings. The deal is not about India beating Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the trot. Team India have pierced the senses, made their way through innumerable Indian minds and have filled a void that has constantly existed in the subconscious. They have made the zealous followers of the sport, who have had cricket ingrained in their elements, realise themselves and their burning desire for something intangible and unexplainable - "Yes, this is what we have wanted all the while!" The fanatics of Indian cricket may well take a few days to realise the depths of what occurred at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, on a Saturday that they have been waiting for in what seems an eternity. It's the feeling of parched land, riddled with self-doubts and inconsistencies, and only powered by a faint ray of hope for some divine mercy, suddenly being flooded with a torrent of celestial bliss by the Gods. And those who grace this religion that cuts across human divides, reign supreme as Demigods! 

Immense in his stature as portrayed by mortals like us, stands tall a man, clad in blue, his heart buoyant with child-like enthusiasm, his face bubbling with charm, his name radiating the charisma of his personality and worshipped by his followers as the supreme among the Demigods. Still, a mortal that he in reality is, he has been part of as many as six of the teams that have set out on a hunt to bring the famed cup back to the country, ever since it slipped out of the Nation in 1987. The 2nd of April, 2011 was, again, destined to be the day that his thirst for the one recognition has remained elusive for more than two decades of his dominance of Indian, and world cricket, was finally quenched. Today, the dream of Sachin Tendulkar, a sportsman with an astounding array of records, with a deep passion for the sport and a quest for the ultimate prize, stands fulfilled. It was a fitting tribute paid by the next generation in the squad to the Little Master, the young battalion who would have grown up motivated by, watching and learning from him on Television and in person, to carry him around the stadium on their shoulders and parading their pride and devotion to their Living legend.

What Dhoni, guided by Gary Kirsten, has infused in the team is immense confidence in their ability to perform as one unit. That new-born self-belief would make them question history - why should it be an event that happens only once in 28 years? Is that an unwritten rule, or have they been deprived of the World Cup for almost three decades by their own oblivious disorientation? Well, that is something that the Indian cricket team would work out in the coming days. For now, they have treated their followers and fans like never before. The next few days would be spent by the common man in hazed disbelief of the intensity of what has just hit him unannounced, before unabashed pride kicks in, and he declares to the world: "We are the Champions!"  

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sachin Tendulkar - Grumbling Detractors, Dropped Catches and the Crowning Glory

Sachin Tendulkar has always played like a King, growing from a gifted prodigy to a seasoned run-machine, deciding the pace of countless games with a master’s touch and adapting seamlessly to changing situations. 

Apart from the remarkable victory that India scored against arch rivals Pakistan at the World Cup Semi-finals, marked by jubilant celebrations all over the country (which has already been discussed threadbare and analysed to its elements at numerous news reports and blog posts), a significant aspect of the match was that Sachin Tendulkar, the Superman of Indian cricket, stopped short of marking his one-hundredth Century in cricket. And this is significant in more ways than one. For one, it was a burning desire by the legions of cricket fans in the country, that India outplay Pakistan in the all-important Semi-final match and cruise along to the Finals, to meet Sri Lanka at Mumbai on Saturday. More than the lure of the World Cup was the lust for victory against India’s neighbour with a long, shared history of international relations that blew hot and cold. Then, there is the nagging accusation, which people have hurled at the Master while drawing a rather sadistic pleasure, that Sachin fails invariably to perform in high-pressure games and crisis situations – it eludes logic if he is expected to cease being a mere mortal and start brandishing celestial powers, if he has not done so yet on his opponents, to be able to silence his relentless critics – and he doesn’t have many records left to break anyway! Further, there is this superstitious belief in the canons of India’s national religion that the team would somehow fail at the expense of Tendulkar’s ton – “whenever Sachin has scored a century, India has struggled or lost the game”!

Leaving the host of projections of the human mind indulging in an endless streak of analytical adventures aside, perhaps the most significant aspect about the way Sachin left the creases without disturbing the record books yesterday at Mohali, is in his not creating history punctuated with a dubious record. There has never been such a miracle in the History of the game that someone has been so ruthless and dealt so many opponents mercilessly, to score a hundred hundreds! And it is only once that Sachin Tendulkar would be crowned with such a glory in the arena of International Cricket, with a record that had not even been fancied by anyone before he steadily approached the daunting landmark, never slogging but crafting his path with strokes of elegance and grace. Given the grandeur of the occasion that the entire world would not have an option but to stop and applaud, why would he want to strain his own record books, by creating history with as many as four dropped catches and a couple of referrals (which were not lives anyway)? Tendulkar’s “lives” are already among the most talked about topics since yesterday, something that the Master Blaster has seldom been associated with. And his detractors would have already smelt blood, even as the Pakistani team was busy, inexplicably spilling rather straight forward catches at regular intervals.  The commentators would refuse to admit that they had misread the wicket even as the much-awaited (and media-hyped) game began, calling it a batsman’s paradise, as the ball kept crawling inches above the ground and stopping in its track, falling well short of the keeper's gloves on many an occasion, as if the leather had been drenched and soaked in a tank full of water. As batsmen of both the teams fell helplessly, without a clue, deceived by the wily nature of a deceptively lifeless track, the wise men with microphones would rather blame the travails on pressure and the situation, shovelling it all under the convenient label of “nerves”, sticking to their guns rather than acknowledging the appalling nature of the cricket pitch.

And it is not just in such difficult terrain as in the semi-final match alone that Sachin has topped the scorecard, and eventually making the difference between an Indian victory and defeat. Sachin has always played like a King, growing from a gifted prodigy to a seasoned run-machine, deciding the pace of countless games with a master’s touch and adapting seamlessly to changing situations. The crowning jewel in his collection of records deserves to be sublime, free from the strains of dropped catches and revoked decisions. For someone who has made India proud with his sparkling class, we could all wait for his moment of virtually insurmountable glory!