Can we become a Hazare or a Gandhi? That would solve much more than corruption

We have seen a tremendous response to the peaceful protests triggered by Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast. People from all over the country, and even Indians living abroad, have shown their support for Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill by peacefully assembling and holding protest marches. He has united India across religions, caste, language or any other divisive factor. It is heartening to see India united for something other than cricket.

The number of people who have protested have been humungous by any standards. In Delhi and Mumbai each, more than a lakh people marched on 21 Aug 2011. Even in Bangalore, I have been hearing news of around 25000 or more people assembling daily. Similar stories are coming from other cities too, even smaller ones. While I don’t doubt that Anna has immensely resonated with the masses and given hope to millions of frustrated Indians, I also feel that going to a protest site is a very ‘easy and convenient‘ way of showing one’s support to Anna. A real test of commitment to Anna and his Gandhian methods of protest would be if we inculcate many of his preachings in our daily life.

Anna’s protest has been based on Gandhian principles of fasting and satyagraha. He has advocated the right of citizens to protest peacefully. He has asked people to pray for the ministers and the government. Gandhi ji also used fasting as a tool for punishing oneself so as to melt the hearts of your opponent and win him over to your side. But a big question to ask is, “Can the common man live by these principles?”

Truth

Can we truly live by Gandhian principles?

Can we truly live by Gandhian principles?

Gandhi’s whole philosophy is based on truth. In our everyday lives this would translate to questions like these

  • Can we live our lives truthfully and honestly, at home and at work, in public and in private, with friends and with family?
  • Can we pledge to follow the rules of the law and live like ideal citizens? Can we wear helmets every time we go out on a two-wheeler and can we not jump signals even if the roads are empty? (In the current movement, I have seen people on two-wheelers carrying the tricolor but without a helmet..)

Sacrifice

Gandhian methods of satyagraha and living a simple life resonates from the principle of sacrifice as a means to purify the opponent. In real life, this principle would translate to questions like –

  • Can we pledge to not give any bribe to a cop, babu or a politician?
  • Are we ready to suffer delays and other harassments which might occur when we refuse to pay bribes?
  • Are we ready to sacrifice our personal comfort for the greater goal of a just society?
  • Can we persist making these sacrifices and suffering even while others around us might not be doing so?

Love the Opponent

According to Gandhi, non-violence doesn’t only mean such in action, it is also meant in thoughts and words. To understand this, we need to ask ourselves questions like –

  • Can we truly remove the thoughts of hatred from our minds for those who have been unfair to us?
  • Can we love everyone alike, even our opponents, and demonstrate it in thought, word and deed?
  • Can we hate the sin and not the sinner, and stand up against the sin but continue to love and forgive the sinner?
Hazare, Gandhi and the Tiranga Waving Kids - Perfect Pic

Hazare, Gandhi and the Tiranga Waving Kids - A Perfect Pic

Equality and No Discrimination

The whole of Gandhi’s life and Anna Hazare’s work in Maharashtra has emphasized on the removal of untouchability and discrimination on basis of caste, language and social factors. The people of Ralegan Sidhi (Anna’s village) call it as a family and not as a village.

  • Can we treat our fellow citizens as brothers and sisters and part of the same family?
  • Can we look beyond our caste, language, economic status and love and treat each other alike?
  • Are we ready to practice what Gandhi said, that we are all children of the same God, and any kind of discrimination would be reprehensible to Him?

What I am trying to say that while it is very easy and convenient to show and voice our support in Anna Hazare in a rally, it would be very demanding and challenging to practice what Anna is following in his daily life. We might have to suffer some short term difficulties and make some sacrifices, but we all know in our hearts that the long term benefits of such a life are always good and more fulfilling. And leave alone corruption, we would remove all or most of the ills that plague our society if we live by the principles by which Anna, and other Gandhi followers live by.

There is a famous Chinese proverb which I think has a very deep meaning which says – “Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.” Can we answer YES to the questions I have listed above? Please leave your views and responses as comments below.. If there are any other questions you might want to add to the list, add them as comments too 🙂

5 Reasons why Anna Resonates with the Masses

In my previous article, I had a doubt about how the public will react to Anna’s second fast unto death. I was more skeptical about the response to his Jail Bharo call. But I am glad all my skepticism has been proved wrong. The public has responded, and how. Tens of thousands of people have come out on the streets in support of Anna Hazare. People have courted arrests in hundreds and in Delhi, police has to convert a stadium into a jail to keep those arrested. There were around 100,000 people marching to India Gate in Delhi and around Azad Maidan in Mumbai. Now can the government arrest them all?

I am really glad that the public has risen to the call given by Anna Hazare. But what is special about Anna Hazare that he has galvanized the whole nation when most of us didn’t know him at all a few months ago. How is one man able to dictate terms to the government? How has he cut across the social and economic divides of the populace which is so deeply entrenched in our society?

History of Work Done

He is an ex-army man who fought in the 1965 Indo-Pak war and later build his village into a model village, self sustained and free of all social ills. People from all over the world have come to see the amazing work he has done. He has not married and devoted his entire life to his village, and later in his fight against corruption. After that he has fought corruption in Maharashtra and he was one of the active crusader behind forcing the Maharashtra government to bring in the Maharashtra RTI act, one of the first in the country. He has given his life for the service of the nation since the last 35-40 years..

Clean Image

He has devoted his life to social activism, mostly in Maharashtra. He developed his village Ralegan Sidhi into a model village which people from all over the world come to see. It is considered a model of self sustainable living and of environmental conservation. The World Bank Group has concluded that the village was transformed from a degraded village in extreme poverty to one of the richest in the country.

More than a lakh people march from India Gate to Ramlila Grounds on 21 Aug

More than a lakh people march from India Gate to Ramlila Grounds on 21 Aug

No Personal Assets or Motives

Anna Hazare lives in a small room attached to a temple in his village since 1975. He has no assets and has a bank balance of Rs 67,000. Whatever land he has is being used for development purposes for his village. His only source of income is the pension which he gets from the Army. He has devoted his life for the betterment of his village, and after that fighting against corruption. He has never done anything for his personal motives.

Gandhian Principles

What is most heartening is to see Anna Hazare following Gandhian principles and using the same methods of fasting and Satyagraha for his cause. In a generation which has come to doubt Gandhi and the relevance of his principles in modern times, this was ample proof of the relevance of his methods irrespective of time and generations. He has called to our souls in the same peaceful manner that Gandhiji did.

Given Hope to Millions of Frustrated Indians

More than anything else, the one reason why Anna has resonated with the masses is because he has given hope to millions of frustrated Indians. Everybody knows there is corruption in every nook and corner of the country. But the BIGGEST problem is that nobody can do anything about it. Everybody is helpless in the regard that there is nobody to complaint, and even if they complaint, they end up being harassed by the same people. Anna has given people hope and shown them a way which might lead to a corruption free India. That is why he caught the government totally unaware!!

It won’t be wrong to say that Anna Hazare has come as the Messenger of Hope in the current state of our country. He has managed to turn all the cynicism and pessimism into an enthusiastic and optimistic revolution by the people of India.

Wah Re India

We are the largest democracy,
With proud we proclaim this fact!
Our economic growth is big news,
As is the huge investments we attract!!

I absolutely love my country,
As it never fails to amaze me!
At times both tragic and amusing,
Its stories are nothing less than filmy!!

We can vote at age eighteen,
And elect our representative!
Yet we can’t drink below age 25,
Who can explain this law’s motive??

Everyday is an irony in India

Everyday is an irony in India

We have the right to free speech,
But isn’t it a grave misconception!
As public order, and even morality,
Can be grounds for police action!!

Among one of the basic human rights,
Is the right to peaceful & free assembly!
But the arbitrary use of Section 144,
Shows the government wants to be bossy!!

Millions go without food daily,
How can anyone miss the contrast?
When the govt. ignores the hungry,
And denies Anna the permission to fast !!

The Fight Against Corruption and for Jan Lokpal Bill – Part II

In April, the government agreed to a joint drafting committee for a Lokpal Bill as they were ‘bound by duty‘ of the people to do so. They promised to discuss the points raised by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and others and present a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of the parliament. August is here, four months have passed since Anna Hazare galvanized the whole nation with his fast, but has the last four months been anything but a hogwash by our politicians?

The talks never got anywhere because both sides blamed each other before and after every round of talks. The demand for televising the talks was never accepted by the government. Even after numerous round of talks, there was no consensus on the various contentious points of the Jan Lokpal Bill. This was very visible in the press conferences by both parties after every round of fresh talks. It was clear there was no trust between the two sides of the drafting committee, from the very beginning. Without mutual trust and respect, expecting a positive outcome from the committee was like expecting Tom and Jerry to become friends because they were on TV.

Finally, the government is ready to present a Lokpal Bill in the parliament. A bill which cannot tackle or investigate any of the serious corruption cases we have seen in recent times. It will not have jurisdiction to investigate the Commonwealth Games scam, Bellary mining scam or the Adarsh society scam as it can’t prosecute state government officials. It can’t investigate the 2G scam as PM and his office has been kept out of it. It can’t take your complaint for corruption against your traffic police officer, or the magistrate, or the collector in your district. Under it, you can not complain against any babu who refuses to process your file or pay you your pension without taking a cut from it.

Are you? Will you?

Are you? Will you?

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) clearly mentions the terms based on which a country’s anti-corruption body should work. It asks for an independent body, which the Lokpal will not be because the CBI’s anti-vigilance wing will continue to function as usual, and under the government. Moreover, the Lokpal will be appointed by government officials themselves, creating a huge conflict of interest. If the government only wants to create a Lokpal for top level bureaucracy, how has the action over the last few months serve the public and the day to day corruption which everybody has to face.

Has the government here played both sides very cleverly to its own advantage? Did the setting up of a committee only a hogwash to dispel the growing public anger in support of Anna Hazare’s movement? Was it only to give an impression that ‘we care’ whereas the ground situation has hardly changed in the last few months? Is the government not trying to suppress Anna Hazare’s threat for a fast again by imposing section 144 in Delhi and refusing permission to his fast from Aug 16? Will they arrest him and force feed him? Will they not even allow an agitation to start this time?

But more importantly, the question is what will the public do? The government can put section 144 in Delhi, but not in every street of the country. They can arrest Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, but can they arrest millions of people if they come out on the streets on Aug 16. Will the public again dispel this movement as ‘it will never work’ and go back to living their pity lives. As the next few weeks before Aug 16 pass, everybody needs to ask themselves just one question, “Do we want to support Anna Hazare while discussing with friends over coffee and watching him on TV, or do we have the balls to go out on the streets to really stand for what Anna Hazare is fighting for?

And who is Anna Hazare fighting for, not for himself, but for us. Have we even lost the dignity to support the person who is fighting selflessly for us, or are our souls so dead already that we can dismiss Anna Hazare by terming his entire movement a ‘publicity exercise’??

I will end with a quote by Henry Louis Mencken – ” It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.”

First Meeting of Pick a Fight, a memorable experience..

Last Sunday (24 Jul) we had our first meeting of everyone who volunteered to join our team in Bangalore. Till now, we have been working on developing the website and asking people to join. We already had discussions with a few NGOs / fights and this meeting was the starting point for our on-the-ground operations in Bangalore. I was absolutely delighted to see 10 people turning up and contributing with their ideas, opinions and suggestions for Pick a Fight.

What was amazing to see was the enthusiasm among everyone as each of us shared about the volunteering they have already done. Ayush recalled several activities he has been a part of while being associated with his company. Pavithra told us about a few NGOs she had visited. She also told us about her ‘India Innoventor‘ project which she is very keen to start. Rinkesh mentioned about a place where he went with Ayush once for volunteering. Others shared their experiences too. It was wonderful to hear about all these experiences.

We shared about the fights/causes we already have on-board with Pick A Fight. Anupama spoke about an orphanage cum school which she visited and interacted with recently. She spoke about the requirements of teachers (to teach Maths, English) and of funds for the orphanage. We also explained the purpose behind Gift Your Organ, whose founder we met a few weeks ago, who have taken on the cause of organ donation to make sure nobody dies for a lack of an organ donor. I also mentioned about Beyond Carlton, a fire safety and awareness movement started by the father of a 23 old victim in the Carlton Towers fire tragedy which happened in Feb 2010.

One of the common areas where these NGOs can utilize our help is spreading awareness. Whether the cause is about organ donation or fire safety or recycling, the awareness factor among the common man is quite low. For example, in UK, 25% of the population have pledged their organs and they are very unhappy about the figure. There are no official figures in India, but the number won’t be even 0.25%. Another way to help these NGOs would be by connecting them to volunteers who are willing to spend a few hours every week with them, teaching kids or spending some time with senior citizens.

A good start, but this is going to be marathon, not a sprint

A good start, but this is going to be marathon, not a sprint

Fundraising is another common area where most NGOs need help. But it is also something which will be most challenging. There have been many instances where NGOs have been used as a front to siphon off money, and hence credibility and accountability becomes a big issue. The challenge will be to connect different causes and bring them on a common and reliable platform which they can use to raise funds for their activities. We will also have to make sure that the money is used for the advertised purposes and not for any other activities.

We surely have a long way to go, and there will be many challenges along the way. While it was great to see the enthusiasm and energy of all the participants, we would need to be very patient at times when things are moving slowly or not as planned. We would have to keep one eye on the long term vision and not get distracted by small obstacles along the way. It will also be critical to keep our focus on the activity at hand and try to give the best possible service to the NGO / cause we are working with.

At the end of the meeting, we all agreed that we would need to grow our network to include like minded individuals across sectors, industries and companies. As more and more NGOs begin to reach out to us, the important thing will be to be ready for them when they approach us. Very soon we will start ground campaigns on organ donation, fire safety, waste management, among others and it will be critical to have a big network to reach out to as and when we need their support.

So let’s get together, let’s spread the word about our activities and plans, and let’s make a difference. If you have taken part in any volunteering activity, write an article or share a story with us. If you have not yet joined us on facebook and linkedin, do so now. In this way you can stay updated about our activities and help with any if you are in a position to do so. Also invite your friends and colleagues to be a part of these communities and engage in conversations.

The road might not be easy. The destination might not be clearly visible. But let us all take the first step, and then the second, third, and so on… Cheers!!