These are exciting times. What started as a agitation in Turkey has spread like wildfire and today reached India. As a lover of freedom and a staunch advocate of democracy, it was a heady feeling to see the response to Anna Hazare’s fast. I must admit, I was carried away in the euphoria of the moment and posted “Mera Neta Chor Hai”, in four languages as my status of Facebook. I followed with glee as celebrities tweeted about the issue at hand and discussed it over social media.
Then I saw Barkha Dutt’s tweet and pulled up short. It said “The govt accepts the demand for 5o-50 representation of civil society on panel that will draft lokpal bill: sources”.
“Hold on”, I told myself. “Something isn’t right here.”
The Lokpal bill seeks to set up an independent body that will police the politicians. Anna Hazare is protesting the fact that the Lokpal bill being introduced is a watered down version of the original one, and it does not give the Lokpal any teeth. The kind of teeth they are looking for is the ability to register First Instance Reports (FIR), the power to investigate sitting members of Parliament and a police force that does not report into the regular police force.
While I can understand Anna Hazare’s protest against the watering down of the bill, I cannot understand the demand for 50% of the committee to be nominated members. Why?
By constitution our society is made up of three arms – the Government (elected by the people), the courts (elected by the representatives of the people) and the armed force (unelected). The courts and the armed forces report into the elected representatives, this ensures that the people are always the ones in control.
However, over the years, we the people have lost control of our politicians, which in turn means that we have lost control of all three arms of our society. It is akin to travelling in a bus where we have no control over the destination or on how we are going to get there.
How, we may ask, did a people who fought for their independence sit around idly as their freedom was taken away from them? The answer is sheer apathy.
The key to understanding why this happened lies in understanding that the average Indian did not understand the meaning of the word Freedom. A handful of educated, liberated people spoke to the common, illiterate man and told him that he needed to be free from the British beast. It made sense, to the common man, because the British seemed to be taking away everything from him. But I doubt if the people really understood that freedom meant responsibility. After the British left, the people went back to their lives, leaving a handful of people with the power to govern.
The apathy began there and never improved. Even though the number of educated went up, our participation in civic life remained minimal. Collecting the garbage, providing water, providing electricity, participating in general elections – none of these were considered a duty of the people, but the responsibility of the elected. Even in school, the Civics or Moral Science class hardly gets pride of place in the curriculum.
As the population grew to unmanageable proportions, we were all involved in the race to create doctors, engineers, software programmers and civil servants. The creation of human beings with a commitment to their society lagged far behind.
The result is that we are protesting the fact that the GoM discussing the Lokpal does not contain 50% members from the public to represent the common person. However, logically speaking it contains 100% representation of the common person because every member of the GoM is an elected member of Parliament.
We are going about this the wrong way. I urge the youth icons of the day – Chetan Bhagat and troupe – to visit schools, colleges and villages and create an awareness of duty. Freedom is a very misleading word because it tends to let you think of yourself as free from everything. It is in fact the opposite, freedom binds you to duty and unless you do your duty, you do not deserve your freedom.