By Sanjay Jha
Also on TEHEKHA FW
I truly admire people who are thick-skinned; nothing affects them, they are almost impervious to core human sensibilities. They are contemptuous about their environment , are essentially immune to reasoned arguments , operate in their own gigantic bubble and have scant respect for a larger cause, albeit that’s what they profess defines their existence. The word empathy is conspicuous by it’s absence in their otherwise burgeoning bag of clichés. Worse, some have become inveterate narcissists thanks to the megalomania generated by constant exposure for several months punctuated by a rare bout of self-imposed silence. There is one disease which is worse than the emperor of all maladies, it is called ego. It breeds a sinister presumption of infallibility, coupled with a blushing companion called arrogance. Quite a heady cocktail. Naturally, unfortunate souls afflicted with this disease just don’t listen; the latter being the wide-ranging cause of marital conflict , boardroom battles and even world wars. As India nears the end of a maddeningly turbulent year, largely on account of its own self-inflicted melodrama , the charade continues. I am referring to the uncontrollable unreasonableness of a bunch, supposedly fractured, but yet magnanimously referred to as Team Anna. It is reached atrocious levels.
Tragically, this Lok Pal thing is actually now becoming a bit of a farce. What started off as a determined resolve by an ageing old-man from an obscure village from Maharashtra to expedite an anti-corruption legislation ( already proposed by the ruling government itself ) soon degenerated into an orchestrated attempt to hijack the whole Bill itself, lock, stock and two smoking barrels. Let’s understand the Lok Pal bill from a dispassionate perspective. As by now everyone knows, the Lok Pal Bill is one amongst several measures to combat corruption, it is not a single-bullet solution to eradicate the bribe-kickback menace that has been the bane of India for years. Thus, the disproportionate investment of prime time , national resources and ugly negative energy that has been invested in this endeavor has come at a great cost to several other initiatives that have had to willy-nilly remain in the back-burner. Common sense tells you that after the unprecedented public attention generated at Jantar Mantar and Ram Lila ( brilliantly manufactured by manipulative PR trapeze artists of Team Anna) , any smart, sensible government would create a Bill that would be comprehensive, it would ignore certain crucial legislative provisions to merely hoodwink people at its own peril. For heaven’s sake, have we become such a pathologically cynical nation ?? If so, India will diminish downwards of it’s own volition, with or without a little nudge from the perennial pessimists called Team Anna. We will have no one else to blame but ourselves.
The good news is that despite a few recalcitrant, obtuse and blatantly opportunistic opposition parties , the government and Parliament has upheld the highest democratic principles. The Parliament in an extraordinary effort held a one-off historic session to pass a parliamentary resolution on the Lok Pal Bill in August this year. Basic decency and good sense demanded that thereafter one let the Standing Committee do it’s job; they are not a bunch of novices merely grandstanding , you know. Everyone has a reputation, livelihood and future life and career to work on , it is not the prerogative of only those who have an unusually large pharynx. What one saw instead was sporadic bursts of insane abuse, puerile ridicule and substandard dialogue in an attempt to keep the pot churning . Even outright lies ( phone-tapping it seems was being done to eavesdrop on their televised plans ) ! And this from people who were parading themselves as India’s self-appointed paragons of virtue, some who ingeniously designed a novel method of claiming travel expense vouchers ! Too ridiculous to be true, but there you are. Ekta Kapoor in 2011 has received several real-life inspiring scripts to make more dirty pictures.
But let’s go back to what seems has got the ex-Gandhian mighty incensed; it seems the government has gone back on the commitment to respecting the “ sense” of the house, as decreed in the parliamentary resolution. Utter nonsense! First, no government in India’s parliamentary history has so conscientiously, meticulously drafted such a gargantuan proposal for Lok Pal with full transparency and after taking multiple views into account. Secondly, it has fully adhered to its three commitments made ; 1) Lok Ayukta in states ( under the same Lok Pal Bill) 2) Citizens Grievance mechanism ( in a separate charter ) , while 3) lower bureaucracy will come under the CVC, but will have a reporting relationship with the Lok Pal. The decision on whether the Prime Minister must come under Lok Pal has been left to Parliament to decide. On the CBI, the Standing Committee has taken the stance that a superpower structure of a Lok Pal with the sweeping authority of being investigator, prosecutor and judge would be setting a dangerous precedent. You cannot get more fair than this. By the way, which sanguine day-dreamer expected 100% agreement from all MP’s representing 15 different political parties on such a complex, new experiment that combines legal, financial and administrative architecture ? That would be wishful thinking. Secondly, the Bill is up in Parliament for a full-fledged debate anyway for full public consumption. Thirdly, the Standing Committee had only 11 members from the Congress, the rest are from different political formations ensuring a democratic process. Fourthly, if there is a different viewpoint from that of any civil society ( whether IAC or NCPRI or anyone else ) , isn’t Parliament the ultimate supreme authority ? Aren’t MP’s finally responsible to the people of India? Won’ t they be seeking re-election in two years, while some new civil society heroes will be signing book-deals and speaker-ship contracts?
As I write this, Team Anna will be at their vitriolic vociferous best once again doing their usual bit to arouse hatred against our democratic institutions. Amidst this much ballyhooed jamboree , the real “old man” who has been India’s inspiration has redefined “ fast” in ways unheard of before. Unassuming, down-to- earth, rambunctious, the inimitable Virender Sehwag. On a day when India was sweltering under its usual installments of some more depressing news about 2G, price rise , FDI in retail and Lok Pal, Viru rewrote the record books in his trademark cavalier style achieved with contumacious ease. His 219 runs against West Indies in a ODI match at Indore set a world record, catapulting the Nawab of Najafgarh into bigger haloed kingdoms. Sehwag of course brushed off his mind-numbing success as the hard work of an “ old man”. His humility in a country obsessed with the self-obsessed was cathartic; like a dip in a cold pool on a sultry day.
Some over-rated old men need to take a leaf out of Sehwag’s books. Modesty and decency personified. In the 1980s, I remember an ad campaign for a product I fail to remember which said ; “ Above the noise of trumpet blowers comes the silent roar of a born winner” . The others need to learn from Sehwag. Or keep whining interminably with a morose grim prognostication about its future, even as India has some exciting appointments awaiting it . Either way, India needs to move on ahead of these chronic obstructionists . There is a lot of hard work ahead. And time matters, as we are already behind the clock.