If the recent Arab Spring and the Jasmine Revolution have ushered in a new breeze of strength and vibrancy to the ideal of democracy, it is sadly paradoxical that political bickering, knee jerk reaction and an appalling lack of resolve to safeguard what our parents earned for us for the sake of our children, are knocking democracy as we know out of shape and recognition. From the London Riots, the US credit rating crisis and now the ill conceived Indian mass hysteria whipped by Anna Hazare, recent events are redefining the idea of democracy we have taken for granted.
While addressing the issue of the fasting by Anna Hazare, an Indian social activist and follower of Mahatma Gandhi, demanding a strong bill for an independent Ombudsman to tackle corruption, India's Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh said a few days back in the parliament:
"Those who believe that their voice and their voice alone represent the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position. They must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job that they were elected for."
Today, it looks like the resolve behind those words have all but evaporated. The Government seems ready to concede to the threat raised by a few anarchists and opportunistic political opposition at the cost of the freedom and future of 1.2 billion people!
When Mahatma Gandhi conceived his clever strategy of non violence and fasting, he knew it will work to persuade a few thousand home sick occupiers from thousands of miles away to abandon the idea of hanging on in a country, though it had neither enough guns nor food to stage an armed revolt.
However, the current fasting event being staged by Anna Hazare, who like Don Quixote seems to be attacking a fictitious enemy, is unbelievably shaking the very root of democracy by challenging a democratically elected government of his own country with one billion people and threatening to overthrow it if the parliament will not pass his bill in a time frame dictated by him.
He and his advisers have arbitrarily declared that the root cause why millions of Indians have to bribe the police or petty officers to get things done in day to life as well as for the economic backwardness of India to the corruption among by its elected representatives and judiciary and want to bring them to book by an independent ombudsman who has control over law enforcement and who is arbitrarily appointed and responsible to no one.
No amount of reasoning by the Government or the Prime minister and other prominent citizens, who tried to drill in to this ex Indian army driver, the impossibility of implementing his demands and the danger to India's democratic institutions if these were to be implemented, has succeeded in making Anna Hazare see reason and abandon his sway over millions of emotional Indians, who have gone blind to the consequences of their blind support of an ideologue, in their quest to eradicate corruption. A sample of the public frustration can be seen in this comment on a page on Facebook.
Though there is no denying that corruption is a malice affecting all rungs of the Indian society, Anna and his advisers are way off in the proposed solution which is only bound to fail because it doesn't address any of the real issues.
Corruption in India is directly related to the distribution of wealth. India's dowry and educational system which has traditionally bred corruption are notoriously well known. The recent and massive inflows of foreign capital and outsourcing revenues have created a serious imbalance in the Indian urban society between the private sector employed techies with disproportionate and disposable income, who directly benefit from the foreign inflows and the public sector workers who do not. This unprecedented buying power percolates down through the route of petty corruption, including in the education system, which has created a large part of the techie population, ending as a major cause for inflation.
If the Indian government will capitulate to the demands of Anna Hazare, it will not only destabilise and demoralise the government which will find hand tied, to say the least, to take any of the urgent fiscal and other measures required to keep the pace of the progress India has recently achieved. The fall out definitely will be a defeat in the next elections scheduled in two years time, leading to an alternative government which won't be able to fulfil any of the promises held out by the change. A constitution totally undermined and shaken from its solid foundation, in a country like India with a huge population, could be frighteningly unsettling for the entire region. More importantly, rather than dissolve away, the economic imbalance, artificially suppressed by anti corruption measures will be the minefield, India's Maoist movement is waiting for to sabotage its democratic system.