The entire nation OD-ed on Baba over the weekend.
The news channels dived into detailed panel discussions with the usual suspects, giving an "in-depth analysis" of what really happened, what should have happened, and what could happen in the future.
The Chatterati Crowd shared a flood of emotions, ranging from 'aghast' to 'disturbed'.
The opposition went ballistic, comparing the incident to Jallianwalah Bagh and declaring that Democracy had been strangled by the cold, bony, foreign fingers of the evil Congress Party.
The Congress Party is quiet and having emergency meetings on how to resuscitate Democracy. In fact, if you watch the State Sponsored DD News, you will really wonder if anything at all happpend regarding a Baba in India. DD stoically transmitted events and Public Pronouncements around World Environment Day all of yesterday.
On Facebook, the circus has just begun. Numerous status updates, opinions, counter points, call-to-actions, badges, likes, super likes, groups, pages, communities and one game (Catch the Baba!) have been published already.
And ofcourse all office talk is Baba based (“We need to be on the fast track! Not 'fast' like Baba! ~jovial laughter all around~ ..but 'fast' like in speed ~somber looks of commitment all around~).
All this has forced me to start thinking about this wretched situation.
For starters, I had no clue what was going on. In the sense, I knew that Baba was AGAINST corruption. I was not sure what he was FOR - what does he really want and stand for.
So I logged on, and checked up on his Web site. And having read his views in some detail, my reactions are, well, ranging from 'aghast' to 'disturbed'.
Baba Ramdev’s Brahstachar Mitao Sangharsh is part of his “Bharat Swabhiman Andolan”. So it’s a thing within a thing. Let me just stick to the Bhrashtachar Mitao bit.
Baba has listed down 10 demands. And it is to get the Government to agree on these demands, that he and millions fasted. It is these demands that all the people are liking and super liking on Facebook.
1.Declare accounts of Indians in tax havens as national property: Baba claims “This is a very easy step to execute and does not conflict with any foreign policy, treaty or agreement”. Anyone with a half decent idea on how International Relations work will tell you otherwise. That aside, even if we find a miraculous way of doing it, what next? No comment on that from the Baba.
2.Declare stashing away black money in tax havens as national crime: Well it’s a crime already. He wants it to be “Rajdroh”. What’s the difference between the two? I think the punishment is tougher (sedition and all that). Ok. Can happen. My point is that just by making tougher laws, does not mean better compliance. Compliance comes out of enforcement of legislation and not so much out of fear of punishment. Enforcement of legislation needs one to believe in democratic institutions and work towards better process and structure. If you increase the quantum of punishment and keep enforcement weak, nothing will happen. So Baba, this is a bit deeper than you project.
3.Death penalty and lifetime imprisonment for the corrupt: What????!! I know people say that life in India is cheap, but did not realize that Baba views it as that cheap! So he wants to kill the corrupt! It arouses primal feelings of revenge but can someone in ‘civil society’ stand up and say how does this make sense?!! Even in the case of murder, death is handed out in the rarest of rare cases. And here the demand is that if you are corrupt, hang him! What are we, a tribal nation from the middle ages? I know some of you are thinking, “But China does it, and see how developed China is” I would encourage you to read this before you decide whether it is a good thing or a bad.
4.Enactment of a strong Lokpal: I don’t know what exactly is there in the Lokpal Bill but I agree to what he says. I mean look at RTI. It has changed the way things are working. What I am not clear is why does he have to fast until death for it. Things are moving on this one right? At least it was. But now the group of 'Civil society activists' have boycotted the Joint Hearing. Well played Baba!
5.Setting up of fast track courts in all states to deal specially with corruption issues: Agreed. However, setting up new courts is an expensive thing. I think it deserves better thought. But the point is valid.
6.Removal of high denomination currency notes from the economy: This is such a naïve and bizarre point that I will not dignify it with a response. Read the rationale in Baba’s own words.
7.Educational curriculum in Bharatiya Languages: He says:
“Curriculum and examinations of engineering, medical, agriculture should be made available in Bharatiye languages too and as fast as possible so that even a villager can get education properly instead of being deprived on the name of a foreign language(English) which we are using as the primary mode of education even after 64 years of independence. What a shame! We are not against english. But we must learn to respect our own languages first.”Babaji….Babaji…..Babaji, the poor is deprived of education for many reasons, but definitely NOT because he is forced to learn English! There is pride, indeed arrogant pride about our local languages, and it does not conflict with the need or ability to learn in English. Find this point immature and regressive. And definitely not worth supporting through a fast untill death.
8.Ban the Land Acquisition Act: Apparently this act was brought about by “Britishers to loot us..” and Baba wants it rolled back so that the “agricultural loot” is stopped. Somehow Baba has conveniently left out the Chinese example here. I believe there needs to be a law so that Land can be acquired by the Government for development. How come it is ok for Baba to build Yogashrams all over the country and Government has no right to build infrastructure or projects?? Ridiculous.
9.Direct election of the Prime Minister: Baba believes indirect election has led to trouble and political instability. In one stroke he has attempted to negate all the progress the country has made in 65 years as a fully functional progressive democratic nation. Again, a naïve and shallow suggestion. Does Baba believe that US is not corrupt…. I mean come on!!
10.Enactment of a strong Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act: Agree….. and there is some work happening there already… where Govt officials have to pay a fine if citizens are denied service. So if there is already some work happening and being implemented, why fast until death??
Somehow Baba’s demands reminded me of a school project that we had done on “Development vs Environment”. We were young and idealist and incredibly naïve. If I am not mistaken, the suggestions we gave in that class 4 project would basically have everyone living in a mud hut and working on the fileds. Maybe that’s what Baba’s dream for India is. A return to Ramrajya? A world where there is no foreign influence, and everyone is proficient in Yogic Asanas and the cinema-esque “happy villagers in India” throng the streets exchanging pleasantries and buying kgs of jalebi and malai for two bucks.
Sorry Babaji… you do not have my support or my sympathy. Just because you have a network of followers does not give you the right to present a set of puerile demands and then sulk and pout and refuse food if the demands are not met,knowing fully well that there would be chaos if anything went wrong with your health.
One individual cannot be arm twisting democratically elected governements, especially on the back of bizarre demands. This is just blatant Babagiri!
Not for a minute am I endorsing the Government’s actions. They mishandled the whole situation and someone should be sacked for fucking up on the whole Baba thing. But I do wish that right thinking individuals take the time out to really understand what Baba is demanding before superliking his 'fast' and expressing un-conditional support for his ‘andolan’.