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Friday, September 02, 2011

Crusaders, stand up and be counted!

The last post I wrote about the ongoing anti-corruption ‘crusade’ (A most frightening prospect) has been visited and commented upon a great deal. Now that Hazare-ji is taking a breather and feeling, I’m sure, very pleased with himself while the Parliamentary Standing Committee takes into cognizance some of his demands, I should like to bring up a connected issue that has been bothering me a great deal lately. Who are these ‘crusaders’ behind him – leaving alone the Kejriwal-Bedi-Bhushan types, who are all well-off big shots with their private axes to grind, and who are obviously playing for very high stakes?

One thing that has caught my eye repeatedly on TV and in newspapers is the claim that a huge fraction of Anna Hazare’s supporters belong to the middle class, which is supposedly sick and tired of corruption. Now I have been born in this very class, and have lived cheek by jowl with it all my life in an urban setting – they even supply me with my livelihood. If I have known them even a little, I cannot help wondering whether this claim that they are ‘anti-corruption’ is not the biggest joke of the century, at least in this country. Let’s see whether my readers can deny that the great majority of the middle class

  • Think nothing of cheating in examinations,
  • Get fake birth certificates so that their children can get a few years extra in their jobs,
  •  Think as little about bribing traffic policemen as about bribing gods in return for undeserved favours (if the cop or god does not oblige, he’s bad; and the cop, especially, is bad because he takes a bribe in return for letting them get away with breaking the law…),
  • Demand dowries despite knowing full well it is a punishable crime,  and the more ‘educated’ they are, the bigger the dowry expected, ‘naturally’, 
  • Spread vile gossip about colleagues and neighbours who seem to be happier and more successful,
  • Absolutely refuse to think that job-shirking is serious corruption,
  • ‘Respect’ their elders (both parents and teachers) only to spout the vilest abuse behind their backs,
  • Litter the streets despite knowing it is wrong,
  • Derive great pleasure from making the maximum noise while celebrating anything, from weddings to pujas, much of the pleasure deriving from the knowledge that a lot of harmless people are being disturbed,
  • Steal everything they can from the workplace, from company time (chatting on Facebook) to stationery, to padding travel bills to using the company car for sundry family purposes, and indulge in petty shoplifting everywhere they go (I have written about this before),
  • Cheat the medical insurance companies with false bills (to such an extent that those companies are getting increasingly stringent with innocent and honest customers – this is public knowledge),
  • Grown children don’t want to know how much of daddy’s money is honestly earned as long as daddy can shower them with largesse, whether daddy is a clerk or a factory manager or a doctor or a contractor…

I can extend this list indefinitely, but I don’t think I need to.

These people are supporting the fight against corruption? These people want to live in a clean India – an India where so many of them or their parents could suffer a drastic fall in their standard of living, if not go to jail? Is this black comedy, or pure farce, or am I dreaming, or is there something very deep and subtle about India that I still don’t understand? Educate me!

P.S., Sept. 08: Hmm. My readers all belong to the urban educated middle class, and few of them have been forthcoming with comments!

In this article, Prabhat Patnaik, retired professor of economics at JNU, has clarified several important things. One doesn’t have to be a card-carrying leftist to see that he is largely right. See, for instance, this line in the first paragraph: ‘what was Hazare’s own movement all about? It was certainly not about “corruption” in any definable sense’… and he goes on to elaborate lucidly and incisively what should be deeply disturbing about this and similar movements, most notably the possibility that in the course of denigrating and weakening the elected constitutional government, these movements are likely to push India into the arms of laissez faire capitalists and religious zealots of the worst kind. The great tragedy is that those who are doing it, being ignorant of history (our ‘educated’ middle class today consists by and large of techies and traders, doesn’t it?), don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are doing, swept along as they are by their incoherent, self-righteous rage…


Debotosh Chatterjee said...

Sir ,
Though i was not in touch with the internet for some time , it has not taken me long to realise how badly the Indian democracy has been subverted in the last one month . Here , i would like to add one more instance of how the 'middle-class' is making a mockery of itself by calling itself 'anti-corruption' . There is a large stretch of brick walls along the Howrah railway station , with warning signs of 'No Toilet' flashed across them in bold letters . Last week ,I was standing in a queue to board a bus from Howrah to go to Jadavpur, when two elderly gentlemen came to get into the queue . One of them was keen to 'answer the call of nature' and so , without any hesitation whatsoever , started peeing on that very brick wall that had 'No Toilet' written all over it !
The man came back into the queue after unloading his bladders to his heart's content and ,incidentally ,started talking to his friend on the 'burning topic' of today i.e. 'corruption'. In an attempt to act smart infront of others , he started lecturing the entire queue on 'how Anna and the aam-admi is saving India' . In response to this 'enlightening' lecture , i coolly asked him what he thought about the people who peed in no-peeing zones . His face flushed all of a sudden , and to lessen his embarrassment he said 'Aaj kal er chokra gulo sob .. nije der ke morol mone kore' ! I could hardly smother a hearty spell of laughter ...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I had exactly this type of Indian in mind, Debotosh, regardless of age!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I just heard that the hordes of protestors against corruption left the Ramlila Maidan littered with garbage. Some of them, when asked, said it was 'not their job' to clean up.

That says all I wanted to say about India's chances of ever becoming a clean country.

Sunup said...


To add to what you've heard -- about protesters littering the area -- it was reported in Deccan Herald that there were at least a minimum of 40 cases of pockets getting picked at the maidan! For most of these protesters, corruption is something external to them.



Sunup said...


It's no surprise that comments aren't forthcoming. A huge majority of the urban educated Indians are on an 'Anna' wave now. Some of them are so naive! I once heard a guy saying that now is the time for Indians to stand up and enact a new Egypt/Libya over here. How ignorant can one be! He has no clue on what he is saying. I shared this post of yours on my Facebook page. Unfortunately from the 200+ people in my friend list there was only one person who shared our mindset. Many just branded me (and you) as Congress agents, Sonia Gandhi's lap dogs, corrupt, vile, people who stand against India's march to progress etc etc! But sir, to slightly deviate from the topic, I have noticed one thing about this agitation. Societies/people who are more political, who sincerely vote in every election, are more well-read -- are quite vary of Anna and his type. So there was very less support and following for this Anna movement in Kerala and to some extent Bengal, TN. And more support in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai -- places where the middle class hardly follow politics or vote or understand anything. Am not sure whether this is a correct observation, but felt I had to convey this to you.


Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

I know some students in my institute who flocked the Ramlila grounds during Anna Hazare's fast to impress their girlfriends with their sense of duty as a responsible citizen.They kept the whole process well recorded so that they can upload the videos in youtube or facebook.These are the same people who hide their parents' actual income to get scholarships.

In this context,I would like to quote an one-liner which someone said to me.It goes like this- "If electricity comes from electrons, shall morality come from morons?"

With regards,

Rajdeep said...

Wonderful article that clearly explains the point.

Rajdeep said...

A link:


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for the link, Rajdeep. One more ironical twist in the tale! My sneer at the whole 'anti-corruption' crusade is becoming more pronounced by the day. I wasn't so cynical when the thing started off. Now I am convinced that it was never more than just another tamasha for a perpetually distracted, lazy, irresponsible, sensation-hungry public...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I was reading a very typical young Indian asserting somewhere that he is quite sure all the corruption (such as he understands it) originates in politics and government. I don't know whether this sort of ignorant assertion should alarm me or sadden me more. As I have said in this post, this generation, even more than the two previous ones, is determined not to look inward, and so it is always someone else to blame - politicians being the most visible and available scapegoats. And these people also (miraculously) believe that the private sector - including the average shopkeeper and householder - is by nature squeaky clean; it is only bad governance that makes them corrupt. Talk about living in a fool's paradise. In this context, I'd draw my readers' attention to a most relevant post I wrote some time ago:


Rajdeep said...

Does this guy really need it? Are waivers only for some and not for all? Are we living on Animal Farm?


Suvro Chatterjee said...

I am delighted and relieved that the so-called 'Anna magic' has (already!) begun to fizzle out, as I had strongly hoped it would: see this news-article

The sooner this man with his atavistic, authoritarian, narrow-minded and partisan views and aims quits the national stage and imagination, the happier the likes of me will be: and there are a lot of people around who have begun to think the same way, now that the silly initial euphoria has faded.

Which does not mean that I am not deeply interested in having some authority like the LokPal put in place, and much more so, a genuine national movement to cleanse the all-pervasive corruption in our national life. Only, for that to happen, we shall need far more credible and sensible leaders than Anna Hazare... because, as I have insisted again and again, including in this blogpost itself, corruption is far more multi-dimensional, widespread and deep-rooted than merely a matter of netas and babus taking bribes.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

In support of what I claimed in the last line of the last comment, someone sent me this link:

Some people may also remember that a few judges were arrested recently for cheating in an examination relating to promotion. Judges, who hand out punishment to lawbreakers!

And this very morning someone else emailed about how his wife's dental problem was very badly treated by a doctor employed by one of the posh private hospitals in New Delhi. It had to be re-done where they are now living, New Zealand, and that dentist said that if someone had done such a botched job there, she'd have had to pay huge compensation, and her licence would probably have been cancelled.

Doctors and judges form pillars of the middle class. Some people still want us to believe that middle class India is seriously against corruption?