The last 12 days, or rather the issue of Jan Lok Pal bill over the last 4 months, has polarized opinion like very few issues in the last 25 years (Mandal, Babri, Godhra/Gujarat, Nuclear debate) . Some of us have been firmly on the side of the need for this “revolution”, while others have maintained that the intentions may be noble, but the methods are not acceptable. I have had heated (and some civil) discussions with friends on and off twitter. While I debated and argued at first, at one point I figured it is best to listen. Every time I felt I was on to an answer, another question popped up – due to the ineptness of the government, the deviousness of the Congress party, the theatrics of Team Anna (who strategized and executed much better than brilliant people in Government) or behaviour of media. The goalposts kept changing – from Jan Lok Pal bill to the right to protest,from (mis)use of official machinery to the possibility of dangerous precedents. Some call it blackmail, many call it revolution, but is it a bit of both? There are no simple answers but many thoughts, questions that I wanted to blog about a few days ago, but did not as the situation was evolving. Some thoughts
- Institutionalization and corruption in bureaucracy and other aspects of life: Is a resolve to refuse to bribe enough? Will a combination of knowledge of laws, rules, regulations, procedures and patience alleviate the problem to an extent? Is punishment the only way to make the bureaucracy work?
- Large scale corruption: What level of transparency and oversight will prevent shameful incidents like the CWG scam and the 2G scam from recurring?
Lok Pal Bill
- What is the Government proposing? Are they serious about passing and implement this bill? will it be effective?
- What is the Civil Society proposing? Is it draconian? Does it give sweeping powers to the body they propose?
- Do we even need a Lok Pal or Jan Lok Pal? What lessons can we learn from other countries?
- Don’t our current laws cover these crimes? Is it an implementation issue? If so, how will the Lok Pal avoid it?
- How does it impact impact separation of powers? Or is there not much to worry as it has a limited mandate?
- And if it does go through, what is the impact – now and in the future?
- What does the middle class acceptability of Jan Lok Pal bill proposals show?
- Is it just frustration with governance and corruption?
- Is there a disregard or lack of understanding of the bill that people treat it as a panacea?
- Does it betray middle class acceptability/tolerance of authoritarianism or such bodies?
- Did we just witness the emergence of a new pressure group?
- Who are stakeholders in public policy?
- How can inputs be elicited from a wider group of people (beyond the NGOs or those who know the legalities)
- Is there a need to create awareness for policy action groups? How will politics and ideology impact them?
- Is there a lesson to be learnt from Iceland, which recently crowdsourced inputs for its constitution?
Constitution & democracy
- Did we witness the limits of representative democracy?
- Is the constitution always right? What happens when it is wrong? How can the public effect change?
- A non-voter is as much a stakeholder in our democracy as a voter is. How can a non-voter make his point forcefully?
- How does not wanting to fight elections disqualify a person from agitating? Why must he/she depend on the politician? what are the alternatives?
Right to protest
- What forms of protests are acceptable? Where do we draw a line?
- Who is responsible when protests go out of control?
- Is it too idealistic and naïve to believe that everyone who wants to protest will get their space? Is it about size and not the cause?
- How can Government and local bodies be restrained from taking arbitrary action to throttle protests?
- What are the rights of a protestor?
- Is intolerance of dissent human nature and is there a way around it?
Media and reaction
- Is media more powerful than it should be?
- What drives them so much that everything is sensationalized? Profit or survival?
- Do they need regulation or is self-regulation the best way forward?
- What do we do when self-regulation fails?
- Are there any easy solutions?
- What are we trying to fix? Are we creating a new monster to slay the old one?
- How do we get out of this vicious cycle of bad governance, disregard for fundamental rights, rampant corruption, and public indifference to elections?
And where do we go from here on the Jan Lok Pal bill and the movement, the heroes and the monsters it has created?
Many questions. Will try to update this post with links, quotes, tweets that attempt to answer the questions.
P.S: I don’t like extreme positions, but during this debate, I found myself very inflexible and in some cases, went over the top in my reactions on twitter, sometimes in bad taste. The jokes are ok, I am an equal opportunity offender, but I may have lost perspective.