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People's Movements and the Anna Upsurge: A Comment

Why has the Anna Hazare movement against corruption steered clear of people's movements, and why have the latter behaved likewise towards the Hazare agitation? Manoranjan Mohanty ("People's Movements and the Anna Upsurge", EPW, 17 September 2011) is despondent about this gap between the two. The reasons are obvious and are to be found in the very observations Mohanty makes.


People’s Movements and the Anna Upsurge: A Comment

Birendra Kumar Nayak

the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) regime, the “National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi has formalised this trend of integrating the NGO sector within the state process?” He, however, concedes that such integration is “promoted by the forces of globalisation

Why has the Anna Hazare movement against corruption steered clear of people’s movements, and why have the latter behaved likewise towards the Hazare agitation? Manoranjan Mohanty (“People’s Movements and the Anna Upsurge”, EPW, 17 September 2011) is despondent about this gap between the two. The reasons are obvious and are to be found in the very observations Mohanty makes.

Birendra Kumar Nayak (bknatuu@yahoo. is a retired faculty member of Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar.

Economic & Political Weekly

november 12, 2011

“People’s Movements and the Anna

Upsurge” by Manoranjan Mohanty

(EPW, 17 September 2011) eloquently speaks of the author’s yearning for a grand alliance between various people’s movement (PM) groups and the “Anna Hazare campaign-against-corruption” (CAC). But his article expresses a sense of despondency on his part, because the PM groups and CAC managers are keeping off each other. Mohanty is worried that it is the PM groups, which, by not recognising the “democratic element in Anna upsurge”, have missed a great o pportunity, while the organisers of CAC, having seen the “massive groundswell of the support, were so preoccupied with the negotiation process with the government that they did not see the need to seek allies among people’s movement groups”. He assumes that PMs could “be strengthened by the anti-corruption measures p roposed by the campaign”, whereas the “anti-state perspective of the people’s movements could have provided further ammunition to the Anna campaign’s e ffort to expose the hollowness of the official Lokpal Bill”. Why these two groups failed to see what the author expected is the moot question. But, interestingly, the answer to this question emerges when the very observations made in the article at different places are stitched together.

Yearning For a Grand Alliance

Mohanty has not failed to see some nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) providing the “backbone for Anna’s campaign”. But he points to the inescapability of such a scenario when he says, “that is a part of the contemporary reality of the neo-liberal econo mic process in Indian society” and “during past two decades all governments at the centre and the states have associated with NGOs in policymaking and delivery of services”. And, is it not visible, the author seems to be goading the readers, that, during

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and liberalisation”. From this discourse, it emerges that the integration with NGOs is the common factor between the government and CAC.

On the other hand, PMs, particularly for life and livelihood and against displacement, have become more visible in the last 20 years of the economic regime that e spouses the cause of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG). The antistate perspective, which the author has rightly seen in these PMs, is undeniably antagonistic towards this LPG.

So it is hardly surprising that Anna’s team preferred negotiation with the government to seeking allies among PM groups. It is, therefore, futile to expect that PMs, with their anti-state perspective, and Anna’s campaign, with its backbone strengthened by the forces of globalisations and liberalisation, would ever come together. Logic does not allow such a marriage; emotion may. But that neither succumbed to that weakness shows their firm, independent and existential perceptions. Yet, one cannot fail to appreciate Mohanty’s irresistible yearning for a grand alliance.

Tackling Corruption

The author, in his article, has delineated a three-pronged approach to tackle corruption. The third approach is “through moral values”, whereas the first two approaches are “at the political economy level” and “at the legal apparatus level”. While articulating the third approach “through moral values”, the author raises a very pertinent issue when he says, “If a parent has to pay Rs 10 lakh as capitation fee for the admission of his/her child to a professional school the child is groomed to make additional money to compensate for that investment”, and, in this context, invokes the relevance of “common school education, public universities and colleges with a clear commitment to values of integrity and service to society”.


As against such an understanding of the author, when one is reminded of Anna H azare being in Kalinga Institute of I ndustrial Technology (KIIT) campus in Bhubaneswar on 16 August 2010,1 interacting with the students of KIIT International School and the inmates of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), which, a ccording to the American ambassador, shares the values of the “American dream”,2 one wonders if Anna has ever given priority to the third approach of the author. It is well known that KIIT is a private deemed to be university, where the cost of education is much higher than the cost in public institutions, and that the cost in the KIIT International School is far above the cost of common school education.

Further, Anna’s CAC receives contri butions from corporations, which have assumed a predatory character and are responsible for causing conditions that have forced the emergence of PMs. It is well known that J indal Aluminium had contributed Rs 20 lakh to Anna’s CAC when Anna sat on a fast on 5 April 2011. It is also known to the people of Odisha as to how the Jindals, with their industries in Angul, have been threatening the life and livelihood of locals and attracting protests from the people there. Anna, thus, appears to be unconcerned about the source of his campaign’s funding. The website3 of “India against Corruption” posting advertisements by Jindals also corroborates the closeness.

Not strangely, therefore one finds that the ubiquitous NGOs and corporations are kept out of the Lokpal’s purview in Jan Lokpal Bill. The government version of the Lokpal, though, has NGOs under Lokpal’s purview; but, corporations are out of it. Justice N Santosh Hegde, former Karnataka Lokayukta and once a member of the joint drafting committee on behalf of the Anna Hazare group (but who now describes himself as a freelancer), favours the inclusion of NGOs and corporations under the Lokpal’s purview in Jan Lokpal Bill.4

So, if PM groups did not participate in Anna Hazare’s CAC, then it reveals a mature understanding of these groups. It is possible that they understood that the Anna group and they were a class apart. Significantly, it seems that the Anna group had also understood that.

But the approach to tackle corruption “at the legal apparatus level” appears to be given top priority by the Anna group when it insists on the passage of Jan Lokpal Bill, so that a strong Lokpal can be installed. In this sense, no difference exists between the approaches by the government and Anna except for the coverage of the apparatus each is suggesting. Nowhere does one find the Anna group unequivocally questioning the LPG regime of the economy, which, on the one hand, has immensely benefited NGOs and corporations and, on the other, has become the breeding ground for unprecedented corruption, whereas the PM groups inherently and continually question this regime. That Anna Hazare and his group obsessively pitch for a strong Lokpal, however, conveys their anticipation of more corruption of much greater magnitude in the future, which is certain to occur, according to PM groups, if the current economic scenario continues. Therefore, unlike the Anna group, they challenge the present economic regime. If, as Thoreau said, “the best government is one which governs least”, then, Gandhi, who had acknowledged Thoreau as his teacher, must have looked forward to such a government and, therefore, in all probability, would not have agreed to the idea of a strong Lokpal, which “Gandhian” Anna Hazare is demanding.

‘Everything Is Not Lost’

In my considered opinion, the PM groups, by not associating themselves with Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, have assured us that “everything is not lost”. Therefore, the author should not be despondent about the failure of a grand alliance, because the alliance was not to be.

Corruption can never be eliminated without reducing inequality in society and eliminating unhealthy competition and vulgar consumerism. As long as a billion dollar worth multistoried residential villa stares at us, more and more billionaire tread our land on which live more than 70% of the population with less than Rs 20/- a day per person, and private educational institutions proliferate with active support from the government and tacit support from the civil society, corruption is bound to be in the sleeves of many. Fasts or meetings cannot eliminate it. Euphoria against corruption has time and again risen, but corruption has refused to leave. It has caused a change in government and enactment of stronger laws, but shown no appreciable sign of decline, let alone extinction.

november 12, 2011

The author recalls that, in late 1960s in Odisha, the slogan of corruption-free clean administration was quite loud; the then Deputy Chief Minister Pabitra Mohan Pradhan had, as erstwhile Chief Minister Nilamani Routray records in his autobiography, held meetings at 375 places to create awareness against corruption and instituted commissions of enquiries. It provided fodder to media but did not at all result in a corruptionfree administration. The Jayaprakash movement, at the national level, was also against corruption and it could hardly change the scenario, except that no political party today is left to claim itself free from corruption.

No political party today can raise a voice against corruption without running the risk of being shown its own indulgence towards corruption. Power has tainted every political party that has tasted power in the last four decades. A vacuum has risen against corruption. This vacuum has attracted Anna’s team and the likes to fill.

The task of opposition political parties has been taken over by Anna Hazare with the ungrudging support of well-funded NGOs and rich corporations. History is witness to such an intermittent euphoric rise against corruption and its sad imminent fall, while, in between, serving as a weapon at the target. History has also time and again proved that corruption was always an alibi, never a target. Now who is the target? Apparently, the political class, the class which has been overzealously pursuing the World Bank dictated economic policy in the last two decades, whereas the opponent, the civil society is sharing the World Bank’s concern for corruption in developing countries.5 The World Bank has both the disease and the medicine in its hat. Interestingly, both the political class and civil society, though seem to be standing face to face today, are the clients of the World Bank. It is, therefore, gratifying to see that the PM groups have kept themselves out of this rigmarole and are engaged in their struggle that strikes at the World Bank dictated economic policies.


1 2 3

global-university-adm 4 “Put Corporates under Jan Lokpal: Hegde” in www., posted on 28 September 2011. 5 Helping Developing Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank (New York: Oxford University Press), 1997.

vol xlvi no 46

Economic & Political Weekly

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