Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of replies and outrage

It turns out that someone does not like what I have been writing here about Anna Hazare. Here are his comments. He goes by the user name "kooldude1782".

"Hi Shruthi,
I dunno who you are, what you do. But by reading this blog, I can see that you are one of the privileged kids in the block.

It seems that you must have never been to a government office for any paper work. If you have a habit of writing and want to develop your essay writing skills, then please write something about you, your folks, about nature and general topics. Please dont write about things which you have never experienced or never come across.
Little knowledge is very dangerous. Its always good to know both sides of case before coming to a conclusion.

In other countries when we require any paper work from the government, there is a website which says whether I am eligible to receive that document, and what will be the requisite supporting documents and the duration taken by the office to get the paper issued, otherwise I can file a case against the office for not giving me the papers. And the judiciary also does not function like in India,
Do we have this or anything similar to this...?
Few years before there was a bill passed called "Right to Information Act" which says that the citizen has the right to know the process and what is happening for a particular case. But that Act does not mention anything about what to do if the duration has passed due.

Small instance:
when applying for a ration card(this is the card given to every middle class and lower class and BPL citizen, not sure whether you know what it is) I received it after 1.5 years. The first time when I visited the office to apply, the requisite documents were no where mentioned, they just told to submit whatever document we have. After 2 months when I went to the office to know when I will receive the ration card, I was asked me to submit a different set of documents.After 5 months we heard from the neighbours that on a particular day all people who had applied for ration card in that area will be receiving it. But the issuance was put on hold due to elections. The government changed and then the new government took another 6 months to verify the supporting documents and issue it finally after 1.5 years.

When I turned 18 and I wanted to cast the vote, I couldn't because I dint have a ration card to prove my age and identity. those times when I was able to cast the vote, illegitimate votes would have been cast, but how will I prove it...? to whom will I report it...?

I had applied for voters ID card when I was 18, now I am 29 and still have not got it. Even if I get it, I wouldn't be allowed to vote since I now look different than how I was looking when I was 18.

I have a very simple question, when any person gets a job, his performance is monitored on regular basis by people who have selected him. Same should happen with MPs, once they are selected their performance should also be monitored by public. So, public has right to say that MPs are not performing well and voters should also have right to make a complaint against an MP if he/she is not performing well. And by passing the JanLokPal bill we are giving a platform to our voters to exercise this right.

BR,
Citizen of India "

I have a few things to say to this person. However, before that, I would like to clarify that the comments are not intended to be malicious. They are a response.

A) My mother is the principal of a school. She was a school teacher before that. My father is a retired army Colonel. My grandfather was a freedom fighter with the INA and my paternal grandfather was the headmaster of a school. I come from a family of mostly teachers and some privately employed individuals. I do not form part of the "privileged kid on the block" club. I find it extremely annoying when educated, English-speaking individuals who have blogs are thrown in the "privileged kids on the block" club.

B) I have been to government offices. Shocking I know. But it's true. I have chased my passport from pillar to post all because one sheet of paper was put in the wrong order. So, I spent way too much time climbing stairs and running around Shastri Bhavan, Chennai, for a document that I was entitled to own. I have my passport now. It's valid for another eight years. And surprisingly, my family has a ration card. I know right? I do know what it is and I have been to the civil supplies office. Oh yes, I have a driver's license too. For which I went running in circles. Turns out it is a small, laminated document that is too tiny to justify the amount of circle-running one has to do. As for my voter's ID, in a completely bizarre chain of events, people came home and took down my details and I went to a, wait for it, government office to pick my voter's ID up. Thus far, I have taken the time to vote in every election held since I turned 18. Now, I don't know if my privileged upbringing has to do with the fact that I am in possession of government-issued documents. Last I remember, an FIR I filed two years ago is still being "searched for" by the police station. I need a copy to get a replacement of my Army-issued ID. I keep hounding them. At one point, I threatened them with my press ID, didn't work. I'm still hounding. I haven't, however, paid them money to search for it. Paying them might magically aid in the finding of this document, but I don't feel like it!

C) My essay-writing skills, as you so politely put it, are not for writing this blog. I get paid to write. I used to work for a national newspaper. If there is one person in this particular conversation who has been acquainted with ground realities, it's probably me. Therefore, I take offense to the fact that you feel I should be writing essays on nature, about myself and my parents.I vote and pay taxes my friend, this is my country and I'm free to express my dissent. Not supporting a person does not mean I am privileged or even pro-government. There is actually a provision in the Constitution that allows a citizen to register a non-vote. This country lets you be free enough to be a registered apathetic citizen.

Please keep in mind that we are a country of 1.2 billion people. If you would like a proportionate consensus on this issue, everyone needs to be on board. This is not a middle-class movement, nor is this a movement of a certain section of outraged people. This is something all the citizens of the country should agree to. I would appreciate a referendum on whether the Jan Lokpal should exist or not. Let the draft of the Goverment's version and the original be read and studied by the people and let the people decide what they want, without Anna Hazare and his supporters cramming Facebook and the TV news channels with their campaign. Let every citizen of this country make an informed choice. I don't see that happening. Instead, the people who are questioning the motives of this bill are being categorised as anti-change and a few other unpleasant things. I don't appreciate it. Feel free to call me names, don't expect me to feel shameful and cross over to your side of the corruption movement. I live in a free country, I'm free not to like something, as are you.

Stop pressurising agencies like the government and tell the middle-class, that is standing behind Hazare to stop paying bribes. The Lokpal is not an agency that is elected by the people. The Lokpal will be an independent body that is not answerable to anybody. There is no assurance that a non-elected body will keep the best interests of the people at heart.

A few questions - Are you telling me, despite the history of corruption and political avarice in this country, that so much power is good for one organisation to have? What is the point of going through so much trouble and voting? What good is my vote if someone I voted for is knocked out because the Lokpal feels that he is corrupt? Who is going to arrest the people who give the bribes? The Lokpal? The police? If a police official who arrests a bribe-paying citizen is found guilty of corruption by the Lokpal, then what happens to the arrests he/she has made of people who pay bribes? Will they be termed wrongful arrests? Who is going to run the government offices if most of its staff is suspended because they are guilty of corruption? If the MPs and ministers found guilty of corruption are thrown out of office, who will run the country? The Lokpal? [I don't want someone I have not elected to power running this country.] What if the Lokpal does not process a complaint within the time frame that it sets, who is monitoring the Lokpal and the Lokpal's efficiency? [Let's face it, judging by the surety of everyone's assumptions that everyone is corrupt, the Lokpal will have an immense volume of complaints to wade through. If each and every one has to be addressed in a satisfactory manner, it will take time.]

As for Mr.Hazare himself. He's threatening the government. He says he'll fast till death. That's mutinous and childlike behaviour. By being unreasonable, he is saying that he and all his supporters are people who are not keen on discussion and consensus. How do you trust an organisation like that to function objectively?

Comparing his protests to Gandhi's protests is wrong. Gandhi fought for us to be able to rule ourselves. He fought against foreign rule. We are ruling ourselves. We have a system in place. By saying that this system is not working, you are, in some way, trivialising people like Dr.Ambedkar and their work in creating a secular democracy like ours. We live in a country that affords us the freedom to do as we please, and a country that has a free press. Despite this, India is one of the most unhappy populations. A simple example, we bitch about traffic like it's going out of style, but do we take the effort to drive as per rules? We don't. How the hell does a population that is this scornful of simple rules get  the right to bitch about corruption?

The Constitution was framed by Dr.Ambedkar for the population of this country to enjoy equality. Caste, education, hunger, basic healthcare, palliative care, care for the aged, women's rights, prostitution rackets, drugs, communalism, and so many things need attention. Instead. the media has sensationalised this issue to the point where people are no longer driven by common sense but by media-fuelled outrage. Ask the media to shut up first. They should have all killed themselves after the Nira Radia tapes came out.

Corruption is a problematic term. It is complex and problematic to understand. Leaving a tip at a restaurant over and above the service charge is not charity, it's corruption -- it's currying favour from a person in order to ensure better service for yourself the next time you go there. Being nice to your boss, sucking up to him/her despite your dislike of him/her is also a form of corruption. You are ensuring that  you get decent performance reviews and a better pay and better treatment at work. When there are so many definitions, making one version of corruption go away is not going to create a cleaner system or make things easy.

Here is something else we should all be thinking about - freedom. We, as citizens, have the freedom to do as we please. This is a tolerance-preaching, secular, democracy. To see this framework exploited to achieve a goal whose long-term consequences are not known cannot be, in any way, good for us.

I am not going to be tolerant of people accusing me of being privileged because they assume that I don't know what I'm talking about. I talk about what I know and understand. If I don't get it, I will say that I don't. I do not have the time or patience to sit and write a pretentious piece about such a big issue because I have a blog. I am a citizen of this country, there are enough documents to prove it. If you don't think I'm thinking the "right" things, it's okay. I don't care. I don't think you're thinking the "right" things either. The beauty of being Indian is that you and I can continue to live our lives in disagreeable agreement.

15 comments:

  1. Oh how much I lowe you when you rant and how much I hate you for being so popular that you get hate mail!

    Sigh.

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  2. Heh. Salright I say. Sometimes these things happen. :D

    And I don't know if this was hate mail. Is it?

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  3. Oh-oh. I have seen the last paragraph of
    the mail among the comments on my wall.

    Anyways.

    Allow me to share a friend's response to it:

    ..I have "humbly" gone through
    the complete Lokpal Bill and understand it
    from my perspective. I've seen enough
    arguments and debates on TV between folks
    significantly more qualified than either of
    us. Based on that my argument remains the
    same that the solution to a corrupt
    government is not to instate an
    autonomous body, rather to prevent corrupt
    people from getting into this government in
    the first place. If they actually implemented
    a law which gives some minimum
    qualifications to politicians, half the
    corruption will be gone. Let us not allow
    people with criminal records, no educational
    degree, or misguided principles like religion
    or caste based agenda to contest in
    elections in the first place. I think thats an
    excellent start. The solution to a problem
    should be from the roots not from the
    branch level. As for the performance
    feedback argument, there is already a
    system in place for that. A government
    which is found useless naturally does not
    get elected the next time. If its really
    corrupt there are provisions in the
    constitution to dissolve that government and
    conduct re- elections. Perhaps, what we all
    should do is read the current constitution
    first (or even brush up on class 10th Civics
    lessons) and see if there are any
    amendments that we can make there before
    we jump into creating something new
    altogether. There are enough platforms out
    there to voice our opinion against any of
    the government officials. What happens to
    us after that is the question? I don't think
    Jan Lokpal can do anything about that.
    What you should notice is that this Jan
    Lokpal is also drawing references to the
    same constitution that we all are ignoring -
    like the Prevention of corruption act!...



    P.S. Also, this is one classy reply! You rocks mait. :-)

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  4. I went to a protest, no one Remembered mr Vinod Rai nor the CAG. The Jan Lok Pal is not a solution.
    Well the hypocritical myopic middle class sigh. Have you read this piece? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/world/asia/18iht-letter18.html

    Brilliant. i went to a protest, just for the heck of it, despite not believing in it. I saw redBull pushing their cans etc. Im sure half the crowd will go and bribe the next day.

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  5. I have always wondered, the total loot is about 1 lakh crore (CAG, 2g, KG basin, surprisingly latter isnt focused) and India's population is about 110 crores. So if each citizen is given 1000 bucks would we still protest? Problem is we dont have a stake in the pie.

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  6. Must be the BEST comment I read in a long time. =) and the comment by Vrinda is also Awesome. Sorry I can't contribute anything coz I am CONFUSED and honestly have 'no opinion'.
    your blogs taught me that its not wrong to express what you truly feel !! =)

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  7. Vrinda - I think your friend has a point. I just feel bad that those of us who choose to have a studied and informed opinion are not being given the option of having a voice because everyone, including the media, thinks Anna Hazare is approaching this the right way.

    Ada-paavi! - I read that NY Times article too. I must say it is one of my favourite pieces. IF each citizen if given Rs1,000 we'd fight to get Raja out of jail! :P

    Semi - :) our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought for us to have the right to think and feel whatever we wanted to.

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  8. dooooood what a! Just what a! hahha I dont think they realise how many times mayors, mlas, councillors were met by some of us. how many times tambaram and purasawakkam was scouted for 'civic' issues and how you bus travel comes most naturally to some of us.

    Hilarity means hilarity only.

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  9. K - I know, right? The second someone is not comfortable with an opinion, then out come the labels and classifications. Weird.

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  10. Shruthi,
    Firstly I did not tell that you are privileged just because you write blogs. I meant it because you are not showing the reality to the people who are reading this particular post.

    Firstly, I hate sucking up on bosses for better performance appraisals, thats the reason that i have been with the same designation for 6 years, without good hikes.
    I hate people who dont follow traffic rules. thats why I have created a page and a group in Facebook to educate and spread awareness. On this group and page i dont say that we need a change of system, I only take the instances from the existing rule book and say that we are not following them.
    But who will do the similar thing to our Government and the politicians?

    when you know that all the government officials are corrupt, why do you still want them to hold on to their jobs?
    when you know that the politicians are corrupt, why do you still want to elect them again ?
    We are forced to pay bribe...
    when I had applied for my passport, I didn't run from pillar to post since my documents were in order, but when the part of police verification came, The inspector asked me 500 bucks, i said that i am a student and i dont have money. H e said beg borrow or steal, only when i give money he will sign and send back the documents. what should i do...?
    After 15 days, i went back to him and gave 100 and said that this is what i was able to manage after 15 days... He signed the papers and after 10 days i received my passport. I had 100 bucks, so i gave, but lot of people cannot afford that 100 bucks. what should they do....? just live without a passport or Ration card. why should they pay for something which is supposed to be free?

    We know that its dirty politics and dirty government. When someone is ready to do the cleaning, we have to support him, rather than abuse him?

    Our fore-fathers fought for freedom from Britishers, but now the definition of democracy is changed. Its "for" the politicians, "by" the politicians, "of" the politicians.

    I completely agree that Mr Hazare should not be treated equal to Mahatma. Its like comparing Apples and oranges. There is something common between them. They are not doing this for themselves, but for India.
    The background of the people fighting against corruption is much much credible then the people who are our leaders now.

    Mr Anna Hazare didnt go on a fast from the first day. He struggled hard to make discussion with the members of parliament, then drafted a bill, but a different version of bill was submitted at the parliament. is this not betrayal? How do we citizens fight against this betrayal?

    Do you have a solution for this problem? or are you telling that this is the fate of our country that the politicians are looting our country and we have to just watch, like we watched 200 years before?

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  11. kooldude1782 - I don't understand why this pro-Lokpal team is not cleaning up or is demanding the clean up of existing vigilance bodies? What's wrong with them? Why work from the outside in? The Lokpal cannot be the new solution to an old, deep-rooted problem. If there is a possibility of cleaning up existing vigilance bodies then that needs to be done before branching out to the Judiciary and government.

    I don't have a solution to this problem. The Lokpal apparently does. IF it does, then it should, at the very least, consider to take its time rather than let things get completely out of hand. This circus that's going on right now, I don't appreciate it. It's the kind of marketing that is aggravating.

    I don't HAVE to support Hazare because he's standing up for and is the face of a good cause. I'm not for his way of dealing with this. I am anti-corruption. That much I can tell you.

    Do you know about the communal divide in the Lokpal team? There is a lack of representation from all sects of Indian society and this morning a Muslim leader called on all Muslims to not support Hazare because his cry of Vande Mataram is unislamic.

    This "peaceful protest" is getting out of hand. And it will reach a very unpleasant boiling point. I'm sure that there is a better way to go about this. I'm sure there is a way to garner support and backing from the people who will need to pass your bill, rather than antagonising them. It took Kiran Bedi years before she cleaned up the act in Tihar. It will take the pro-Lokpal team time as well.

    I don't believe in autonomous institutions. They are not good for the overall health of a democracy. At some point they do become autocratic. History has proven it time and again. This problem is too deep-rooted to have a sweeping solution. It has to be more nuanced. I don't see nuance in the way things are moving now. I only see a polarised approach.

    Until there is some semblance of calm and some semblance of control, nothing will progress healthily.

    As for reality, I am not going to underestimate the people who stop by here. The reality, in this specific situation, is corruption. Everyone, including those from developed first-world countries, know what it is and how pervasive it has become.

    My posts are my opinions on this issue. For those who want to know what the reality is, Google I'm sure will be more than happy to help.

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  12. Hi Shruthi, I've mentioned your posts about Hazare on my blog. Watching whats going on with interest.

    http://goo.gl/X8kpc

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  13. Dicky - thank you. I did read the post. I appreciate it a lot. But I'm not starting a movement here and I hope that people see it that way.

    Thank you again for linking...

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  14. Its not the time of great minds think alike, but it seems that All hopeless pessimistic people also think the same....

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  15. Its good to know that the hopeful optimistic set are hopeful and optimistic. Of course they are also waiting for the next chance to fast unto death because the government is going to let a standing committee monitor the Lokpal process... it is very entertaining for us pessimists

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