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India democracy 'at crossroads' as MPs debate graft

Published Aug 27, 2011 11:13am


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Supporters listen to anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare's speech on the 12th day of his hunger strike in New Delhi on August 27, 2011. India's government on August 27 declared the nation's democracy was at a "crossroads" as lawmakers debated anti-graft proposals in a bid to end a 74-year-old activist's fast against corruption. – AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: India's government said Saturday the nation's democracy was at a “crossroads” as lawmakers debated ways to end a high-stakes standoff with a hugely popular anti-graft hunger striker.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, a top trouble-shooter for the ruling Congress party, renewed an appeal to 74-year-old Anna Hazare to call off his fast as doctors said the activist was weakening after 12 days without food.

“I would like to request Anna Hazare to end his fast,” Mukherjee said.

But Mukherjee insisted that the constitution must be upheld in drafting anti-corruption legislation in the face of Hazare's demands that parliament pass a tougher version of an anti-graft bill.

“We are at the crossroads,” Mukherjee told a special session of parliament held in an attempt to find an exit from the crisis that has mobilised huge crowds of anti-graft protesters, including large numbers of the middle classes.

“The functionality of the world's largest democracy is at a crucial stage,” Mukherjee said. “This is one of the rare occasions when proceedings of this house is drawing the attention of entire nation.

“Try to find a solution within the constitutional framework and without compromising the parliamentary supremacy.” Critics fear Hazare's demand for a new anti-graft bill that would create the post of an overarching national watchdog to monitor politicians and bureaucrats could undermine parliamentary democracy and create a “police raj”.

But the giant groundswell of public support for Hazare has startled the government, which was already on the defensive over multi-billion-dollar scandals that have implicated top officials. It is also battling high inflation.

While all lawmakers stressed during the debate that strong action was needed to combat India's “cancer of corruption,” they said any law must be in conformity with the constitution.

“It must be in line with constitutional values. We should not compromise with any tenets of the Indian constitution,” said Arun Jaitley, upper house leader of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Hazare's supporters voiced disappointment over the proceedings, saying they had been told by the government that lawmakers would not pass a formal resolution committing themselves to meeting the activist's demands.

“We have been told there will not be any resolution nor any voting. This is not going to be very meaningful or helpful,” Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer who has been helping to organize the protest movement, told reporters.

The parliamentary debate came as doctors voiced concern over Hazare's condition, saying the protester had lost over seven kilos (15 pounds).

“His weight has gone down further and there is considerable weakness,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, head of the medical team monitoring Hazare's health.

“We're worried,” Trehan said.

But in a speech to thousands of flag-waving supporters in a large open-air venue, Hazare insisted he was ready to continue the water-only fast he is staging in front of a huge photograph of the independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.

“I'm still healthy, I can continue fasting,” declared the former army truck driver turned anti-corruption crusader, adding he was “overwhelmed by the kind of support that my countrymen have shown” for his populist campaign.

The common man is the “master” of MPs, he added, and people need to keep a watch on their “servants, and if they do not perform, they should be thrown out.”


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Comments (45) Closed

Shiva, India Aug 27, 2011 05:50pm
Nothing could have said it better. Finally democracy is working. The common man is the “master” of MPs, he added, and people need to keep a watch on their “servants, and if they do not perform, they should be thrown out.”
jssidhoo Aug 27, 2011 07:58pm
Anna you have done a great job for India
Natarajan Aug 27, 2011 08:08pm
Well said Shiva. This proves that we are a true democracy and not the one who just votes once in 5 years.
Faysal, Pakistan Aug 27, 2011 08:10pm
Yes indeed, nothing could have said it better. No Religion's GURU of present time, nor any Political GURU can handle the situation of the sub-continent. The common man is the “master” of MPs, he added, and people need to keep a watch on their “servants, and if they do not perform, they should be thrown out.”
Khalid Ahmed Aug 27, 2011 08:48pm
Parliament just passed an unanimous resolution on Lokpal. If anything, democracy became stronger today in India. For the first time Indians, especially the youth, sensed the importance of 'participation' in democracy.
Manoj Aug 27, 2011 08:58pm
The topic is misleading.The Democracy id not at the crossroads rather 'Its democracy at its best.'Both house discussed the issue and every minister(who are the elected representatives)put forward their views regarding this movement and a final proposal passed that the parliament agreed on the three major demands of Anna ji.
Subhi Aug 27, 2011 09:09pm
The Lokpal bill resolution is passed up to anna's satisfaction :D... No our jails r really gonna be overcrowded :D
Dhananjay Aug 27, 2011 10:00pm
See, Learn some thing from us :). I fully accept, that we both nations are equal in terms of poverty, illiteracy and most of other things, but difference is at least our direction in in correct side, you(PAK) on other side is going in wrong direction.
Agha Ata Aug 27, 2011 11:07pm
Millions of people fast in Pakistan, too, most of the times willingly (Ramadan) praying for solution to a million problems they face, but nothing happens. Pakistani culture gave nothing that would work to help people survive under dire circumstances except chanting slogans, burning buildings and killing each other!
rajeeva Aug 28, 2011 12:03am
World today has seen the strength of Indian democracy. We may be divided by differing issues but are united in keeping the flag of democracy flying high!
Milind Aug 28, 2011 12:12am
Now that we have managed to get our corrupt politicians to toe the line it is up to you Pakistanis to do the same. Draw some inspiration from across the border and take up the cause. Don't let them ruin the future generations...
jagneel Aug 28, 2011 01:40am
Clearly there is lots corruption in India otherwise there wouldn't such big movement. So India is NOT better than Pakistan. Such large protests can't happen in Pakistan because our system is far less corrupt. And India's leadership is weak and gives into protests so easily.
Vikram Aug 28, 2011 03:02am
Media and NGOs should be proactive in reminding people all the time that electing honest, forward thinking people is the only way to root out corruption.
Khalil Qureshi Aug 28, 2011 04:22am
No matter who is asking what and how good it could be. The question is if this is the right way to compel elected representative to accept demands and stress that what I am saying is right and pass the bill as I have presented? Is this not another way of corruption? would it not create a bad precedent for others to beseige Parliament and present their demands? Is this not another kind og Martial Law? In short term this may looks very attractive and a solution to Indian society and democracy but in long run it would pave the way for more corruption and lawlessness and anarchy. In my view this is not democracy but an anty democratic theme. Lets see what comes up from that high drama saga.
Muhib Aug 28, 2011 05:07am
utopian thoughts....
M. Afzal Aug 28, 2011 06:32am
Finally, Neta's relent and congies realizing that they are about to be wiped out in next elections. People , cutting across party and religion lines were behind Anna, screaming and touting 'I AM ANNA, ARREST US IF YOU CAN'. I think democracy in its purest form.
Ajaya K Dutt Aug 28, 2011 06:41am
There is something peculiar Indian in this movement. When Ramdev followers, including children and women, were beaten up by police to break up the fast; there was reaction but not a ground swell of support. This happened in Anna’s case because it was nonsectarian. One Mullah condemned and then another Mullah supported; but Indian Muslims, Christians supported or spoke against it before clergy sprinkled or held back their holy water. It was NOT a “middle class” movement but mass movement. Only reluctant supporters were politicians and legislators.
Rajiv Aug 28, 2011 06:54am
Portrayal of negative sense is displayed in this article. On the contrary a resolute determination is displayed by Indians to root out problem of corruption from the society. General mood of the Indians has forced the politicians to create Lokpal. Right of Information is another Act which has brought significant change in the life of average Indian. Now there is transparency in govt. dealings. The author should have clarified this aspect. I feel sorry for Pakistanis. In absence of tools like RTI, they have no clue of happenings. It lives with conspiracy theories and denials of the facts.
Rahul Aug 28, 2011 07:34am
People of India forced the Goverment of world largest democracy to bent in front of them...Thanks Annaji
salim Aug 28, 2011 07:47am
Our country need someone like this Person.
Gaurav Sharma Aug 28, 2011 08:28am
Congress should be thrown out!!
Manish Aug 28, 2011 08:31am
Bloodless protest and getting our point across!
Altaf Hussain, Mumba Aug 28, 2011 08:47am
I will like to see the face of Imam Sayeed Bukhari. From all shades of Indian plurality, he is probably the only religious leader who opposed Anna. Where does his stand leave him now?Muslims from the lower strata of Indian society are probably the worst sufferers of corruption in Govt. offices and this movement by Anna had galvanized all and sundry. All predominantly Muslim areas of Bombay had huge cutouts of Anna put up at street corners and Muslim boys and girls roaming around with Anna caps. It is just fitting for the worlds largest democracy that an ex-army truck driver with hardly any formal education should lead the country against corrupt officers, gudges, police officers, Administrative Service officers, et all.
Raghu Aug 28, 2011 11:26am
A huge boost for democracy. I hope citizens of other countries also follow in footsteps of Anna Hazare to end corruption globaly as corruption is the mother of all crimes.
Kumar Aug 28, 2011 11:32am
Lessons learnt for the world societies that Sathyagraha works... Sathygraha is a psychological warfare without shed of blood and deaths... Mahatma Ghandi did it and now Anna Hazare show the strength of Sathyagraha...
Shaik Rasool Khan Aug 28, 2011 12:48pm
Sathyagraha is a weapon invented by Mahatma Gandhi. It worked so well that made the powerful government bow its head. But this weapon will not work in the hands of dishonest, selfish, opportunistic leaders. Hats off to Anna Hazare and Indians for proving to the world that there is a non-violent way of getting grievances addressed without a single drop of blood.
yusuf Aug 28, 2011 01:02pm
Anna Hazare and Indians have once again proven Iqbal's words right-" Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma Sab Mit Gaye Jahan Se Ab Tak Magar Hai Baki Naam-o-Nishan Hamara Kuchh Baat Hai Ke Hasti Mit’ti Nahin Hamari Sadiyon Raha Hai Dushman Daur-e-Zaman Hamara"-Allama Iqbal.
Joginder Kumar Gera Aug 28, 2011 01:50pm
Pakistan should learn lesson from these events. I am an Indian from parents coming in 1947 from now Pakistan now living in France. I have been following Pakistani news since my childhood. I think in Pakistan we are facing two major problems: Drone attacks and terrorism. One encourages other. This is a vicious circle. These are two major issues. If Pakistan gets rid of these two evils then the way to happy and prosperous Pakistan will open. I feel Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry should lead a same kind of movement like this. He did it against General Pervez Musharraf and drew a very wide public support. He is a man with good reputation, experience and respect in the society.
Pakistani Aug 28, 2011 03:02pm
u r wrong in your fear. in society like us and the democrasy whats happenin in India and Pakistan is not like going to correct itself and not only politician but the elite class as well, business man bankers, civil officers armymen etc...they need to get a lesson from it its not they are takin a whip but an inspiration if they are going to correct themselves its gona surely work in society level if not then nothing could correct them. But this movement could surely give them a boost and courage to do something good and rise higher then their own personal interests and motives and work for the land and country and people...very good inspirational!
Rajiv Sharma NEW DEL Aug 28, 2011 03:04pm
I think ABDUL SATTAR EDHI is the right Pakistani to lead such a mass movement in Pakistan.H might turn out to be Anna Hazare of Pakistan.
Sudeep Bhattacharyya Aug 28, 2011 03:07pm
I absolutely agree with you. There are some leaders, religion and faith regardless, thrive on dividing people. It must be realized that corruption does not know and discriminate on the basis of religion, language, faith, caste or ethnicity. People need to rise over that. Colour of Imam Bukhari's blood is same that that of mine, a hindu brahmin, which is not my identity. Mr. Bukhari is not alone there, he has Owaisi, Lalu Yaday and Bhan for company. We need to ignore them and move one. I hope people in Pakistan pick a point or two from this unprecedented movement to eradicate corruption from their country.
Manoj Deshpande Aug 28, 2011 03:45pm
Im an ordinary citizen from Mumbai. This Anna Hazare movement against corruption has really moved common people like me out of our slumber. In our Office Complex, every afternoon nearly 100 people would gather at 2 pm and then rally a distance of 1 km shouting slogans in support of Anna Hazare's movement. We are not the only ones who did that in Mumbai or India. Now is the payback time. All of us have tasted the success and will continue this participation in our democratic process to bring public concerns to our elected representatives. We are tasting the power of people in a Vibrant Democracy -proud to be Indian. I know this can also happen in Pakistan.
Hari Har Aug 28, 2011 04:23pm
Indians have risen against corruption and will overcome this socio-economic evil sooner or later. Anna Hazare, a Gandhian revolutionary has galvanised the whole nation through this peaceful movement. Millions who followed Anna were bitten and stung by corruption. We want to see a similar movement in Pakistan who is similarly infected with corruption. We want to see a Pakistani version of Anna Hazare. We want to walk hand in hand with affectionate people of Pakistan. Their aspirations in similar circumstance cannot be any different to ours. Good luck and insha allah!
abhishek Aug 28, 2011 04:29pm
All over the world all leaders whether Indian, pakistani, French or American portray themselves to be the most clean & clear hearted. But if they were so clean why do they need to think for so long for taking basic measures against corruption, poverty, terrorism, education etc. this is because they know that at the end of the day it is their own creation not something that was air dropped. & yes regd who is more corrupt Indians, or Pakistanis. i personally believe leaders of both our countries are in competition in order to outdo the other.
Virendra (Delhi) Aug 28, 2011 04:32pm
Good thinking, keep it up! Satisfaction is the state of mind one has at anyt given time. I like your satisfaction.
abhishek Aug 28, 2011 04:33pm
This movement in India suceeded on a/c of several reasons: 1. This was a mass protest everyone irrespective of his background was aparty to it. 2. there was no violence of any kind any where this protest was organised 3. The MPs were personally & individually targeted peacefully 4. No political party was allowed to interfere or get involved
Neha, pune Aug 28, 2011 09:53pm
I am proud to be an Indian. We have proved to all that we are true democracy.
NEERJA MISHRA Aug 28, 2011 11:44pm
Hats off to Anna Hazare and all the participants involved in this great anti corruption movement! Look at other countries, Middle East, London, Europe they had plenty of killings, destructions during their movements recently. But we Indian proved ourselves that we are the people who believe in non-violence philosophy, we are believers of Gandhian thoughts and we are the people with great values who believe in love and peace.
Siva D Aug 29, 2011 07:30am
Extraordinary situations need extraordinary responses. Your fears about democratic process being bullied or hijacked is misplaced. Anna gave a strong framework for the bill. The bill has to be debated, amended as needed and passed by the parliament only. Second, Indian politicians are not anybody's fool. They will try their best to wrest control. The only reason Anna's movement prevailed is because of the incredible popular support it recieved from ordinary people. Not everyone can muster such following. Movements/leaders without genuine base are the ones the governmnt ignores, hoodwinks or co-opts - see Baba Ramdev's recent failed movement as an example. If some issue finds a deep resonance among the people, what is wrong for the politicians to take note and act accordingly. Is it not the essence of democracy? If leaders cannot lead, people will show them how to.
Prabhat Pal Aug 29, 2011 10:12am
See, it's very simple, democracy has become more bidirectional. Companies and interest groups lobby for bills in parliament anyways, why not people? The movement only signifies that MPs have to become more responsive and answerable to their constituencies. We will keep a vigil at the laws that are passed for us and protest as and when required.
maqdoom khan Aug 29, 2011 10:24am
imamsahab (abdullah bukhari) how much u charge for the statement that Muslims must avoid from Anna Hazare's anshan from the government, people like him never wants that Indian Muslims will grow up maqdoom khan new delhi
Jot Singh Aug 29, 2011 11:26am
I am proud to say that I am part to this movement from Nov-10 last year. I belive still we have a long way to go. There are many more reforms that are in pipeline to make India a paradise. These reforms include electoral reforms (Right to Recall/Right to Reject), judicial reforms (enacting Judicial Accountability Bill/Judicial Commission), police reforms, educational reforms, agricultural reforms to name a few. I am more than sure we will be able to achieve these objectives in quick succession as today Indian have awaken. We are ready to break the shackles of religion, cast, area etc. and dedicate ourselves to take the nation to new heights.
Siva D Aug 30, 2011 07:42am
What does the poem mean? Kindly translate.
Capt. Khurana K.S. Aug 30, 2011 12:51pm
Muslims make a very important part of our country and they must learn to look forward to new goals with rest of us. Our new generations must be capable of reaching lofty heights of peace and prosperty together.
Capt Khurana K.S. Aug 30, 2011 01:00pm
Excellant words, so encouraging.