Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anna Hazare is not following FB and Twitter posts

A movement that began in April with an Independence Day ultimatum is on in full force now thanks to Anna Hazare, a man known best for his developmental initiatives - Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahmednagar in particular - a drought-prone village which began seeing year-round water supply, a grain bank, a school and no poverty after his efforts rallied the villagers into becoming self-sufficient and empowered. The blatancy of the Commonwealth scam, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, shamed the average Indian, but a sense of 'what am I going to do, anyway' crept in as always and we kept watching the TV screens in horror as scam TV started hogging prime time TV space! Till one day, one man decided that enough is enough. A man with a track record, given that his crusade got the Right to Information act enacted and this act has benefited people by the millions! Very good! It is high time someone told our Government that we are a democracy and though we may be too involved in the throes of everyday life, at some point, some of us care about how we are perceived in this small world!

His protest has managed to galvanize the average Indian, and that is heartening. It feels good to know that people are gathering in places to express their solidarity and also joining Anna Hazare in his fast. Finally, after putting up with terror attacks, the Government's damp squib responses to terror abatement, image damage in the wake of scams, the average Indian perhaps believes he has had enough. And Bravo to that!

But while the protest has managed to rally people together against the ineffectiveness of the Indian Government, it has managed to stoke the imagination of the 'Social network patriot', as I'd like to call that breed! The timing of Anna's protest has been very opportune for the average Indian. Tahrir Sqaure is fresh in everyone's mind and the Facebook Revolution has seemed like a fun thing to do for everyone! People suddenly got fired up, seeing how one FB message overthrew the rulers in Tunisia and 40 years of dictatorial rule in Egypt, and completely shook up the Middle East. Urban India suddenly wanted their own Facebook saga. And the tweets and status updates began in April and lasted a couple of days. And on August 16th, they began again. Trite comments like "Anna...I am with you" or "Down with corruption" are all over the place. And I wonder why. Does someone believe that these messages are going to scare the Indian Government? Does someone believe that FB updates are going to be collected and sent by Anna Hazare to the Government? Does someone think that such messages imply patriotism? I still remember how in 2008, when Mumbai was besieged by Kasab and his cohorts, a friend of mine in the US kept asking me in Mumbai for updates, as he wanted to update his tweets and report about the attack in real time on Twitter! Why, I exclaimed then and I ask now.

If one really wants to 'Root out this evil corruption', one needs to realize that we are ourselves at fault. And little drops do make an ocean, but not on Facebook. One must stop rolling that 100 rupee note inside his palm while whispering to the traffic policeman - 'Kaka, zaaoo dya na', when booked for a traffic offence. One must stop investing in houses where the 'black' or unaccounted and untaxed cash component is 5 times the white or taxed amount. One has to stop bribing Ticket Collectors on trains while traveling ticketless. And then, when every young Indian is rallied in this manner, it makes sense to ask the Government to 'root out this evil', by looking at the pay scales of Government employees who are most prone to bribery. We can then ask the Government to enact laws that have a self-correcting mechanism when it comes to corruption.  We can ask for better transparency in property deals and the like, and that can in effect root out asset bubbles! 

And  then we can show that the final power does indeed lie with the people, when we choose not to elect a corrupt government. The power does lie in our hands, but not through 'hip and happening' social networking routes which go more like 'one status update, a dozen likes, end of story.' True power needs true words and real, sustained action.

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