Top 5 Take Aways from the Anti-Corruption Movement

Anna Hazare has been voted as the Person of the Year / The Indian of the Year by many news channels and newspapers recently. Even international press has noted him as one of the top news makers of the world in 2011. And why not? After all, this 74 year old Gandhian has changed the way Indians look at corruption and given all of us hope that this disease can be removed from our country. As I wrote in a poem, he has come as our Messenger of Hope in 2011.

Below are what I feel are the top 5 take-aways from this movement so far –

Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Rally, Delhi

Anna has found support from people of all age groups

1. Strengthening of Democracy

Anna Hazare has spend all his life promoting the decentralization of power in democracy and his asking for a Lokpal, free of any government control, is another step in this direction. By directly involving the people in his protests, and highlighting the point that the people are the real masters and the politicians only public servants elected by them, he has made it clear that they should proceed in accordance of the will of the public.

He and his team have taken the issue of Lokpal to the people in small towns and villages, holding live debates and educating the people about the various fine points of the Lokpal Bill and the importance of each clause. This has never happened before. Politicians have never bothered to debate with the people about the fine prints of any bill. By involving the public and making them aware of why and what they are doing, they have enabled a healthy environment which has resulted in the strengthening of the democratic institution.

2. Hopelessness to Hope

If you would have asked anyone about the issue of corruption in India at the start of the year 2011, you would have only got hopelessness and pessimism in return. But in one year, Anna has changed that mood to one of hope and optimism. People have seen the power of peaceful protests and how they can pressurize the government to do their job properly. This must be the biggest take-away from this movement.

3. Uniting India for something other than Cricket

When India won the World Cup this year in April, people came out on the streets and danced and partied all night long. I wondered that do we have the same unity and patriotism for other issues which are much more important to our country. But my doubts were put to rest as during the two fast-unto-death’s which Anna underwent in April and August, he received huge support from people of all walks of life – from big cities to small towns and villages like. It was so glad to see the whole of India united and fighting for a cause that really matters to every one of us.

4. Gandhian Values

It was India who gave the world the weapon of peaceful protest – Satyagraha. But questions have been raised in recent times about its relevance in a 21st century world. But this movement put all such speculations to rest and showed that Gandhian methods of peaceful and non-violent protest are as much effective today as they were 70 years go. It was amazing to see young leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and others using technology (internet, social media) to gather support and spread their word quickly among people.

5. Patriotism and Power of Youth

A famous quote says that “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government“. This movement has shown the power of youth and the importance of patriotism in democracy. By coming out in big numbers and by even courting arrest in huge numbers, the Indian youth has shown the importance of public protests in democracy. It has shown to the world that even a corrupt government will find it difficult to operate if the public is aware and ready to hold the government accountable for their actions.

I would like to conclude by saying that just as a strong and responsible opposition is needed to keep the government on its toes and working properly, a strong public (or civil society) is needed to keep any democratic institution on its toes to do its duty responsibly.

Why 15 Aug 2010 was one of the best Independence Days I have had in my life?

Independence Day comes every year on the 15th of August, and this was the 26th time I witnessed it. Over the last few years, it has been awaited more for the holiday it brings than for the occasion. During the school days, there would be flag hoisting ceremonies and some functions highlighting the patriotic sentiments. Back home, there would be patriotic songs and movies playing on television. In the last year 5 years, it was only just another holiday. But this year was different! One of the best Independence Days I have had for a long long time.

Unity in Diversity

Unity in Diversity

I have been volunteering as part of YEFI (Yahoo Employee Foundation Initiative) to teach English to school kids in a school which is partially funded and supported by Yahoo. More than the teaching itself, it is the interaction with the kids, most of whom belong to poor families, which has been a wonderful experience so far. Most of the kids speak only Kannada, Tamil or Telugu and neither Hindi nor English, so I thought communicating with them would be a big problem. But let me tell you, you don’t need a language to interact with kids. Kids are always natural and self expressed, and they often remind us of the fact that we were once like them!! And interacting / having fun with them on Saturdays for two hours really takes care of all the tension / stress one has in life.

Getting Ready for the Occasion

Getting Ready for the Occasion

This Independence Day fell on a Sunday, and we decided to visit the school for the customary Independence Day prayers and some events to mark the day. We first went to a Parikrama school, which is funded totally by Yahoo. When we reached the school the program had already started. There was a dance highlighting the different religions in India and the “Unity in Diversity” theme. Then there were few patriotic poems in Kannada but I still managed to get the crux of it 😉 Then the teacher called all of us to the front and we had some interaction with the students. Then we were given “Happy Independence Day” greeting cards made by the students themselves. This was their special way of welcoming us and treating us on the special occasion. My card read “Happy Independence Day, Sumit Anna” (Anna is brother in Kannada)

The Tricolor Flying High

The Tricolor Flying High

The Father of the Nation

The Father of the Nation

After this, we left for the government school where I had been volunteering. They were preparing for the flag hoisting ceremony when we reached there. They had marked the ground with the Indian Map, and placed the flag pole in the middle of it. On the side there was a portrait of Mahatama Gandhi. Soon the teachers started an Aarti for the Father of the Nation. It was a wonderful feeling witnessing this. After the Aarti, the flag was hoisted by the Headmaster which was followed by “Jana Gana Mana”. After this, we were given roses by the school authorities to mark the day. As I knew quite a few kids of the classes I have taught in my previous visits, we interacted with the kids for some time before leaving.

Kids and Innocence in their faces

Kids and Innocence on their faces

Kids are free of the biases, prejudices and political agendas that cloud our point of view, they see things as they are and fully express themselves without the fear of feedback, which is an ability we lose somewhere as we grow up. They know the real meaning of love, be it for fellow human beings or for the country. They are innocent and open to life fully. There is more for adults to learn from children than the other way round. Whether they are playing marbles in the sand, or just riding their tricycle, or playing with toys, they put every bit of their energy into it. Watching them, and interacting with them is something I have always cherished. I would recommend nobody should lose touch with children. Take a moment to ask yourself when was the last time you played around with children, and if the answer is more than a month, I will suggest you find a way to indulge yourself with kids, be it with the son of a friend, or a neighbor, or anybody else.

After I was back home, I realized what a wonderful time I had. With time, we have started to treat our festivals only as holidays and forgotten the festivities associated with them. But this year, I actually saw people celebrating our Independence Day with pride and honor. The way it was supposed to be, the way it should be – the most important festival of our free country. Let us keep the spirit of this country alive. Jai Hind!!

Simple, yet beautiful

Simple, yet beautiful