Finally, there is a huge doubt in the context of the above, whether this policy would help in more landless becoming land owners (if not all), and contributing more land for food production. If these two objectives are in doubt, then what is this policy for?
As persons associated with many struggles to protect lakes, against pollution in Hyderabad, we often wondered who bothers about the status of Hyderabad. We always were concerned whether there is ownership. We scanned different sections of Hyderabad. Residents of old city of Hyderabad, or pre-1956 city, are poor and are not in a position to alter the looks and status of Hyderabad. Many residents in basthis, slums and poorer residential areas live on the banks of nalas, tank beds and Musi beds struggle to maintain status quo, leave alone participate in growth programmes or situation correction programmes of Hyderabad city. These people may be many, more than 40 percent, and may have been the original residents, or may have migrated from different parts of the country, and the State of Andhra Pradesh. Their daily grind does not give them any scope for dreaming about the city. They might as well dream about a decent house, with water, toilet and road facilities, and higher access to educational facilities. And, most importantly, steady incomes from sustained sources of employment. They would not have wherewithal, internally or externally, to think of pollution-free and various other hazards-free environment in Hyderabad. Maybe they think, but are not in a position to have a say, or change the status-quo.
Ofcourse, the upper echelons of social hierarchy in the city have the influence and necessary resources to change Hyderabad. But do they want to change, or did they change. However, what is their contribution to Hyderabad’s dirt and clean atmosphere? We all know that automobile pollution is largely because of large number of personal vehicles, and growing number of cars. There is also enough data to support that these classes use water irresponsibly, and waste lot of water, by extracting large amounts of ground water and public water supplies. Thus, their contribution to the sewer flows is disproportionate to their numbers, and payments to water and sanitation services. Road usage is also more by these class of people, in terms of occupying them for more time and space. Their contribution to the growing mountains of solid waste remains unchallenged. Just the quantity, quality might be debatable. City investments, if any on basic facilities of water, sanitation, roads, electricity, etc., are all geared to meet the demand from these classes. But, do they feel they own Hyderabad? Their ownership, pride, or whatever related synonym, is disproportionately lesser to the benefits and facilities enjoyed by them as residents of Hyderabad. We have not seen them participating in any of the struggles to improve living environment of Hyderabad. Nor, they responded to actions that have deteriorated ecology and environment. It could be destruction of lakes, parks, watershed basins, ground water reservoirs, rocks, heritage structures, trees, footpaths, etc.
Layers and layers of migrating families, and individuals, have come here. More are likely to come. What motivates them to come to this city? Many studies have established that they come for income, employment and comforts. When do these migrants start feeling that they own this city? Is it after making/buying a home? Does the number of years of living influence such thinking? Or, achievement of their goals, when they came to this city, helps them in developing a feeling of ‘ownership? Often, migrants who have nothing to back to build such affinity, but not those who have links with the place they come from.
The question comes back who owns Hyderabad? Let us examine this question with a concrete example. Who feels bad about living with a polluted Hussainsagar, Musi river becoming a gutter and smoky, dusty road corridors of Hyderabad? Maybe, many, if not all the residents. But, then who takes the initiative of doing something about it? If there is threat to a religious place, we often find so many rolling up their sleeves, even if they are unconnected to that place. If a person meets an accident, how many do respond quickly and appropriately? Maybe a few, but not many. Such kind of responses, or lack of such responses, is what established the ownership.
However, in the aftermath of State bifurcation announcement, suddenly we find so many claimants to Hyderabad. In fact, the claim is ownership, nothing less. I was surprised to find youth who probably never set foot on Hyderabad, including school children, who might have seen Hyderabad only their television screens, claiming ownership of Hyderabad. It is fine, if the real estate investors are worried and want to claim their right over Hyderabad, and not just lands, for fear of wipeout of their investments. But, then why people unconnected to Hyderabad claim it? Are they the would-be migrants? In anticipation of their migration to Hyderabad, and fearing that their migration may not be possible, these youth and their parents want to claim ownership. How do they do it? They claim past investments as their money.
Leaving the concerns and fears of would-be migrants, and settled migrants, there are many claimants to the glory of Hyderabad. These claimants include a regional political party, the democratically accepted leader of that political party, many businessmen, and a few real estate dealers-cum-political leaders. Chandra Babu Naidu has gone ahead and said only he has brought glory to Hyderabad, and has built monuments during his tenure. A tall claim indeed. Even if one accepts these ‘ownership’, one should also wonder do they claim ownership to the growth of dirty side of Hyderabad as well?
Not many would know that hi-tech city, in and around Madhapur, with famous, infamous and glass buildings, has only 14 percent sanitation coverage, while old city with four times the same population has almost 80 percent. Deaths and debilitation due to infectious, water-borne diseases have grown in Hyderabad, in the last 15 years, because of improper sanitation and polluted drinking water. Is there any ownership to such situation as well? Is there a 360 degree ownership? Or just the brighter side of Hyderabad?
In fact, during the peak of Telangana agitation, there were many comments and opinions that Hyderabad is dying. If it was dying, why are there claimants still?
Is there governance in Andhra Pradesh? Is the government working? These questions have become repetitive. All party discussions, involving ‘beneficiaries’ and ‘losers’, does not help in improving our understanding. A common refrain on a commoner’s lips has been that government does not respond, come what may. Not new; it has been like this for the past 14 years. The big indicator everyone agrees upon is the pile of files. But those in the government would contest this. They would say look at our schedule. We are busy. True, they are so busy in meetings solving people’s problems, that they do not have time to listen to people themselves, who are their office door.
In this regard, we need to look at the initiatives of three distinct individuals as Chief Ministers – Chandrababu Naidu, Y. S. Rajashekhara Reddy and N. Kiran Kumar Reddy. All the three have one thing in common. They matter the most in the governance. Cabinet and Ministers in the Cabinet, senior or junior, did not matter. They kept every official busy, but could not avoid this question: is there governance at all?
All the three crafted programmes such as Prajala Vaddaku Palana, Raccha Banda, Indiramma Kalalu, etc., which enabled them to be in the limelight. But all these programmes were not meant to solve the problems, rather to swamp the people and get away leaving them bewildered. Mannerisms, methods, deployed boogey’s, etc. are different, but the culture is the same and espoused by them thoroughly.
Media personnel, and their ‘supportive’ intellectuals, do know that government is indeed working. Chief Minister’s office in Hyderabad had become a files godown. Files are moving. They would move only after certain background mechanisms start creaking. So much so, even Ministers and MLAs have been reduced to depend on these mechanisms. Each of the CMs have/had their distinct mechanisms – the biggest and most daring mechanism was that of YSR. Wheels within wheels. Ultimately, all wheels have to churn out the same – a favourable decision. Individuals have changed in the last 14-15 years, but the path of governance remains the same.
Decisions are taken only by the Chief Minister, based on files prepared by a small office. This small office (size varied with each CM), had the onerous task of organizing meetings, hammering out consensus among competitors, framing the proposals as per law, or as per needs, and putting it for final stamp from the CM. All other decisions, social welfare, transfers, pensions, doling out occasional handout to a destitute (old, woman, differently-abled) are mere fillers for public consumption, ably played out by the ever present media. A few media persons always know who is visiting the CMs peshi for what purpose and what kind of discussions are going on. But they are part of the crony system. Occasionally a story comes out when the rival lobby wants the story out simply to pressure upon a favourable point. All in all, top echelons of every pillar of democracy know what is happening in the name of governance. But people and citizens are not aware of it.
In the age of ‘right to information’, under the very nose of ever vigilant RTI activists, only one office keeps working, and has been working. No doubt, there is all round reluctance to sign GOs, confusion over GOs, schemes are announced without the cabinet knowing it, Cabinet Ministers get busy with their ‘business’ enterprises since they do not have any work to do, most Cabinet meetings are about the contents and approvals in various files, and not on any development vision, most MLAs (including Opposition MLAs) sit in CM’s office and get things done from such hallowed precincts, and a small clutch of individuals would decide, and most possibly override constitutional bodies such as Legislature, local governments, Auditing office, etc.
Chief Secretary cannot even whimper, forget protesting, because they are ‘pulled’ from lower rung, fulfilling their dream earlier than they would have expected. Ministers are satisfied that they are in the Cabinet (with all the paraphernalia and perks). Otherwise, there is always another MLA, from the rival group, for the Chief Minister to chose. Crumbs are always available for representatives of all other pillars of democracy.
Only courts are the last recourse, and, that is why we see more IAS and IPS officers approaching courts for decision, while procedures and rule-based system are lying at the door-step of the Chief Minister’s office.
About a decade back, media columnists used to write furiously if there was any smell of Governor’s rule. Opposition would be up in arms. They would have said ‘democracy is being killed’ by such rule, single person’s rule. However, in the last 14 years or so, it has been only Chief Minister’s rule, a single person dictating, directing, participating, signing, approving, laughing, thundering, receiving and issuing orders, requests, applications and budget releases. All others including the mighty Ministers, respectable IAS and IPS officers, merely penning and following this one person’s rule. Yet, there is no protest or struggle against this system.
What kind of an example is this? A future, ‘democratic’ Chief Minister would find the entire administration tuned to this ‘sham’ful procedures obnoxiously binding him. Roshaiah, almost had a choke, after the abrupt departure of YSR, in avoiding this set-up. Not that he was any angel. It was simply beyond him to operate like this. Dismantling it might be easier, but the culture cannot be worn off easily. Fortunately, for ‘thus’ accultured elite, Kiran Kumar Reddy has become a savior.
The big surprise is how this is continuing when Congress is in power. TDP had no choice because CBN was the only person who could scale and stay on the hillock. Congress at the State level is not known to encourage such single person dominance. But times have changed it seems. Power lobbies seem to have decided to continue the ‘zero’ procedure approach. It is so cosy for everyone. There is no dictatorship, to given any ruse for protest. There is perfect democracy. Everyone in their own place, understanding each other’s weaknesses and strengths. A fine balance achieved.
The most worrisome aspect is this is not changing, despite Ministers and officials being in the dock, for toeing CM’s rule, in the courts in recent months. If courts can’t change, elections can’t change, what can change this pernicious culture of governance?
In India, the world’s largest democracy, a large number of people do not get to vote in the elections. Many of those who have a vote do not want to punch their choice on the EVM. Due to geographical reasons, many villages and settlements remain outside this process.
But in recent years, we are seeing more efforts to ensure the participation of NRIs in the Indian election process. The Prime Minister promised this at an NRI forum meeting. Many political parties also are keen. Why?
NRIs in the last 15 years have become a major source of funds for almost all political parties. They arrange lecture tours, provide hospitality and funds. If they become voters, it would change the political scenario. Most NRIs having been exposed to foreign culture, including political culture and would influence the agenda of the political parties to suit their interests. Politics of local resources are not of interest to them, because they do not need them. NRIs would be a constituency without a obligation.
Seizing such an opportunity, Nationalist Congress Party has started a company, NCP Inc in the US. Two cabinet Ministers, Mr. Sharad Pawar and Mr. Praful Patel, flew to US to be present on the occasion. They assured the audience that they would use their ‘good’ offices to get any work done. NCP Inc, it was declared, was established to help business interests in US with lobbying services in India. A complaint was filed about this, before the Election Commission, with no result.
All political parties seem to be interested in developing a new constituency to tilt the electoral prospects. NRI participation would lead to a serious blow to the domestic political process, undermining the efforts of public struggles for positive and growth-oriented public policies. As it is, disadvantaged sections of society, especially tribals, farmers, handloom weavers, primary small producers, small-scale industry units, are all facing difficulties in including their concerns and aspiration in the policy agenda. Any unorganised group, whose voting pattern may not be uniform, is not responded to by any political party. All political parties respond to ‘suits and suitcases’.
In this scenario, we should be very worried about the factor of NRIs, who do not understand the politics related to various issues in India, especially those related to natural resource ownerships.
Change is inevitable. Socio-economic changes are expected. But then who would welcome the change and who would not? Obviously, those who benefit from a particular moment of time would not want the change. They would resist the change. Or, people who are afraid that they may be at a loss would resist change.
Formation of Telangana State is a desire and aspiration of many sections of people – across religion, caste and class. Yet, there are sections who want the status-quo – no change. History is replete with examples where resistance to change beyond a point is not possible. For this reason, people who resist change would want ‘static change’. Static change is a change, which ensures the continuation of the benefits, yet allows for change. Some may view this as middle ground, negotiated position, consensus, win-win situation, etc. It might happen as well. But a static change is questioned, if not now, but later. This later can be anytime, depending on the growth of socio-political consciousness.
Congress, with regard to Telangana, in the backdrop of economic reforms, is in a situation where they do not want change, which can add another hurdle in their progress towards ‘wealth accumulation’ through PPP and inclusive growth. They do not want to lose power. They want change – but on their own terms. But, Telangana movement is forcing them to take a decision towards change. Naturally, mid-way course is to enable static change.
TDP wants change. They want to come back to power. But, in a State of status-quo. However, it may not be possible, without political factors that can derail Congress bandwagon. Hence, the two-eye and two-hand theory. While the ‘big boss’ has fixed, two-eye, stern gaze, TDP hands would work for and against Telangana demand, with perfect aplomb, without batting any eye-lid. They would be happy with status-quo with change – that is static change.
All other parties would like to help themselves with the change, in terms of money and power. They would maintain a ‘fixed’ distance with the positions of main political parties. It would equi-distant, even if there is a ‘swing’ in the positions of the main political parties. For this reason, wherein their positions are determined on a comparative basis, they would also want static change. The spoilsports in this game of change are two parties – TRS and YSRC. Both are strong and vulnerable. One is brash and the other is young. Both have cobwebs in their cupboards. Anyday, these ‘vulnerabilities’ can be used to enable static change.
Amidst all these, media is shamelessly discussing who gains and who loses, politically. To my knowledge, at no time, before, political gains have been declared so openly. This brings us to the earlier discussion, in this TSR blog, by Mr. Prasad Rao, ‘politicisation of voter’. Discussion on political options before political parties ‘sanctifies’ the greed, misuse of power and encouragement of evil. If the government of India is discussing Telangana issue in terms of what are the gains and losses for Congress party and we accept this as the ‘legitimate’ agenda, easily the change desired by the Telangana people would be in the danger becoming a “static change”.
Struggles of the people, in Telangana, and in other places by farmers, handloom weavers, tribals and dalits, is about a change, which helps them in participating in the decisions of the democratic institutions. They want participation in the decisions which impact them. Power to the people was enshrined in the Constitution, but have been side-stepped in various ways. Gram-swaraj, local governments, 73rd and 74th amendments were some of the initiatives, which offered sustainable participatory mechanisms. Formation of State followed a logic, immediately after Independence. But this logic is questioned because the other additional mechanisms have been successfully rooted out. Unfortunately, only two fundamental units of power are State and Central governments. Eventually, with Direct Tax Code, CENVAT, BRAI, Seed, Mining, Land acquisition and many other legislations are going to take away the autonomy of the State governments, if not done already. Intensification of federal structure is happening.
Status-quoists in various forms, at various levels, in various places, are resisting the struggles of the people, using the very same democratic institutions and principles, which helped them in continuing discrimination and exploitation. Multitudes of young people, who are also beneficiaries of this system of exploitation, are carried away by attractions and one-line logics. Resistance to real change is likely to lead to confrontation, contestation and violence. Younger generation status-quoists are fed on the nation-state philosophy. One would wonder how formation of a new State affects national integration. But, then status quo and the logic to maintain status-quo would come up with more stranger logics, in the days to come. Not that they are new – old wine in a new bottle. We all know the illogical rationality of the colonial British.
Violence on the advocates of ‘real’ change is under-exposed and not understood easily, while the struggle for change itself gets projected as violence and disturbance to the existing fabric. Political parties, neo-liberal government leaders and the ‘wealth accumulators’ work in tandem to dilute the conditions for real change. We need to be cautious about this.
Obviously, in the ultimate sense, one may see a decision, which can be termed as win-win (to benefit every ‘power’ voice), but then one needs to see whether such an outcome would change relations of power between haves and have-nots. If not, the struggle would continue, until the ‘real change’ happens.
Looking at the smiles, dances and the euphoria at the India Gate tonight, and in a few channels, one would wonder at the achievement. What was the achievement? Given the shape and style of Indian politics and the one-sidedness of the fight against corruption (corrupt having to decide how to control corruption), one would continue to wonder the ‘depth’ of the achievement.
Earlier principal demand of withdrawal of official Lokpal Bill did not happen and Jan lokpal bill was not introduced. The entire matter was referred to the Standing Committee. Standing committee would give a report, based on its deliberations. Government then can amend/introduce the same bill.
The whole hog of 12-day fast was not necessary to include three additional demands, which could have been added through the process of Standing Committee. Was this a consensus, after ‘hard’ negotiations? I am surprised at the achievement, and much more surprised at the celebrations.
I feel after such a built-up the outcome was a whimper. Either the Team Anna caved in, or something else was worked out. In a tight condition scenario, Team Anna might have got misled, or pressurized, which is understandable. But, the outcome is a huge disappointment.
Anna used a important and critical ‘weapon’, with huge public support. And, now the weapon’s ability to strike again has diminished. If this ‘minimum’ was to be achieved, it could have been done in various ways, without using the ‘fasting’ weapon.
Apparently, the fight has not ended. It has begun. Tomorrow, government can easily gloss over the report of the Standing Committee, as happens generally in other bills. With Abhishek Singhvi as the Chairman of the Standing Committee who has ‘fixed’ views on Janlokpal, it would be very tough to include practical suggestions and wording in the report, leave alone amendments to the Lokpal bill introduced by the government in the Parliament. The bottomline is that there may, or may not, be amendments to the government’s Lokpal Bill. Not to the Janlokpal bill. The life of Janlokpal bill is finished, in my opinion.
Despite a five member committee of civil society representatives, government’s Lokpal Bill did not include critical inputs of Janlokpal bill. It needs to be seen whether the Standing Committee, or opposition parties, or friendly Congress MPs would be able to transform the official Lokpal to Janlokpal. I have my doubts.
Media also reported a pact between Congress and BJP. Details of the pact were sketchy, or atleast I did not understand the finer details of the pact. Is the pact done to facilitate the withdrawal of Anna’s fast? Or, does it go beyond? What made the BJP to come to a pact, even while Congress was under pressure?
Answers to some of these questions, and many more, might emerge later. But yesterday I was disappointed. And, today, I can only wonder at the simplicity of our ‘educated classes’, who cannot analyse what they got. Political naivete and innocence seem to be the hallmarks of campaigns against corruption.
Anna Hazare is a much written, spoken and heard phenomenon in media all over India. in fairness, his lifestyle and life are pretty transparent. His honesty is forthcoming. He is achiever as well. He has demonstrated how a village can be transformed and sustained. Pretty difficult task, but he did achieve it. Most people would baulk at such a daunting task. The inner strength to continue is obvious.
So, is Medha Patkar. But why Anna Hazare becomes a ‘darling’ of the media and the middle class and the middle class-on-the-climb ladder. For me, this is politics. It is no fault of Anna Hazare to become the darling. We need to fathom the factors behind such ‘iconisation’. Ambedkar has warned us not to worship a person. Mahatma Gandhi warned us about means being important than ends.
I would like to cite Medha Patkar. There are others too. But she fits the comparison in many ways. Medha Patkar ‘lives’ her views. She has also demonstrated, worked and questioned the corruption. I would think she is on the same pedestal as Anna Hazare. But, she did not become the ‘darling’ of the above mentioned sections. The difference in my opinion is Medha Patkar has a political viewpoint, which Anna does not have. Medha has questioned various policies, which impact the above mentioned sections negatively, especially media houses, who do benefit from such policies.
Medha’s work is much more wider and inclusive. She also steered away from getting associated with the existing political satraps. Anna does not do that. Twelve years back, Anna Hazare was a frequent visitor to Andhra Pradesh, as a guest of Chandrababu Naidu. Then CBN was supported by multi-lateral financial institutions, to implement a reform agenda. Anna was probably interested only in looking at the progress of watershed development programmes. But he had no qualms in associating with a person/regime, which has a baggage, is a characteristic we need to assimilate. India Against Corruption received funds, from ‘shady’ sources as well. Anna is not corrupt, which is obvious from his lifestyle, but unfortunately not from his deeds. The worry here is whether such associations or fund sources have any influence on the crusade?
Lest any recent addition to anti-corruption crusade jump to any conclusions, I am not here to castigate Anna. We are here to discuss various things. We need to take stand on the issue: how puritan a crusader need to be?
In present times, when resources and power are in fewer hands, to get something done, or achieve a broader goal, association invariably would be with persons or organisations with ‘some shades’. We need to be above all those, through our deeds, words and methods.
There is also an argument that Anna is ‘naive’, which makes him a fall guy, hero or a pawn. Some might say so was Baba Ramdev. But Ramdev had his own baggage, leave others baggage. While we can, and should celebrate naivete, or being a hero, suspicions of being a fall guy or pawn would be very worrisome.
Imagine, Medha Patkar in the place of Anna Hazare. What would have happened? Medha’s views are ‘loaded’ and complicated for many. Anna’s views are simple. To say it otherwise, Anna may not have become a hero, if he had strong and deep political views. That is his strength. And, weakness too. I am saying it as a weakness, because of the methods they are adopting. My worry is here.
That is where the viewpoints of other activists ‘hit the nail’. Anna is talking of regulation, while others have been working on removing the sources of corruption, through changing the development model. Regulation is required. It is like building a dam, across a ‘flooding river’, instead of slowing down the water drops, through watershed initiatives. Dams would become mighty and unwieldy, while water conservation at the point of rainfall is much more participatory and controllable. Anna’s campaign needs to learn from his own flagship work.
Apart from all these, it would be a fallacy to say Anna and the campaign is a plant, or a conspiracy. As I said, media and other sections made him a hero for their ‘own’ reasons. It is also gross codswallop to say Anna is a ‘American or multi-national’ conspiracy. Maybe these theories gain credence, in certain sections, indicating a situation of trust deficit (to borrow the recent lingo) all over.