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Throwing in the Towel

The anti-corruption movement’s antics have weakened other movements for accountability.

The recent fast-unto-death by members of “Team Anna” (a self-proclaimed name which has always sounded pompous even if loved by a media looking for a catchy t­itle) thankfully ended without any calamity on the advice of a group of “eminent” citizens and with a promise to carry on the “movement” in the political sphere. Many commentators have, rightly, seen in this denouement a clear sign of defeat or at the very least, a public acknowledgement of a dead end for the anti-corruption movement which exploded on all of us through the good offices of the electronic media in April last year.

While the uncritical support that this movement received from the media and its savvy use of the media (especially the hyperventilating 24-hour news channels) helped beam its message to homes across the country, a large part of the support it had garnered was based on widespread anger and disgust with the venality in state institutions and among the personnel who man them. The pervasiveness of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power leaves almost none unaffected. The poorer and more marginalised a person, the greater the oppression. However, the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare and his group did not target this daily tyranny faced by millions of nameless citizens, it instead targeted the big-ticket instances of corruption by top politicians and government functionaries. Further, the proposal of Anna Hazare’s group – a gargantuan Jan Lokpal bureaucracy accountable to none and one that would centralise the powers and functions of investigator, judge, and prosecutor – was a solution as bad as the disease that it sought to cure.

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