Saturday, October 22, 2011

Team Anna's troubles

I expressed my thoughts on the challenges for Anna Hazare's team in my post yesterday.

The editorial today in Indian Express from Shekhar Gupta is a scathing expression of the point  of trying to hold a sky high moral ground whose foundations are not totally rock solid.  Though i find him biased on a lot of matters otherwise, in this section I feel the questions raised do hold water.

Whatever is happening is not good at all for the cause by any standards.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anna needs to call a 'Chintan Shibir'

Some of the developments in Anna Hazare team's efforts drive me to feel that there are clear causes for concern.

Discussions have subsided. Facebook updates have waned away. Discussions about the bill are not happening.No fervent demonstrations etc happening.Routine life has cast its own net and we are back to our respective domains. Steve Jobs' death was the latest event that drew the sentiments of the youth last time.

Those who were involved in the movement from the very beginning are continuing to raise voices. The hope was in their voice. The hope will continue to lie in their efforts. Rest will follow as and when through discussions or through efforts.

What has happened with Team Anna in the past few weeks is actually worth note as it provides vital insights into some cracks in its management.

Few facts:

1. Despite the fact that Govt stated its intention to bring the bill into the parliament in the winter session, three members of the team decided to use Hissar poll to pressurise the government. The idea was to put political pressure even though there were no 'clean' candidate in other parties and in the absence of 'Right to Recall' the members voiced that the new people would be ousted in case they also acted in the lines of Congress.

Thus though they say they are not going to form a political party, they are trying to influence electoral results by direct action.

What drove the people to vote for Bishnoi from BJP is anybody's guess. Kejriwal feels its their victory while BJP members and political analysts think otherwise.

2. Factions are seen within the party as two of the senior members left the group stating above as the reason. They found the act to be an act of impatience and not in line with their opinion.  The expression of the members even revealed that they never agreed to support it in this form.

3. Prashant Bhushan- the senior lawyer within the group made certain comments in the public about his views on Kashmir (a subject unrelated to corruption) leading to rowdy reaction from some unknown group. Anna Hazare expressed that he didn't agree to both the content of the speech and also the fact that he spoke on this issue in public without group consent.

4. Arvind Kejriwal also faced a backlash when one of the Congress supporters hurled a shoe at him. He commented on the media stating that they are even willing to face bullets. Anna Hazare stood behind his words stating that such things do happen but won't deter the group.

5. Kiran Bedi is being questioned on why she chooses to claim the entire fare for her travels while she has been awarded rebate by GoI on Air India tickets.

6. In the debates shown in certain news channel, it is seen that senior members within the team are not in sync with the method and controls that are governing the progression of the movement.

7. The group members continue to dodge the question on whether they would ever form a political party. The huge gap one creates when one says- i don't want to enter politics but i want to clean it is one of the most counter intuitive statements one can make.


1. Carrying the Cross:Team Anna comprises of people of impeccable integrity who have spent decades in public life doing remarkable work through the years.  Through the aspersions they have cast on the politicians, they have kind of worn a halo of morality around their head. This kind of positioning once taken, makes one extremely vulnerable to attacks as well. In one way the group has invited the kind of probity thats happening towards their own selves.
 Does this kind of a situation have the potential of denting the image of the party in any form?

2. Intent of Institution Building is missing- 'Team Anna' which got formed as a team while it became a movement when people showed their faith in them and that was driven by the hyper intensive media coverage. It is to be noted that the members within the team are not really known for institution building. They are strong individualistic players. Would someone like Tata or Deepak Parekh given a different structure to the way the group is progressing?Would the present members also want to be tied to a certain order in which they speak and express themselves in public? The fact that people are expressing views about various things and expressing their disagreement with each other is a sign that they are not as prepared as any political party is generally seen to be with clear guidelines on who is authorised to express on what aspects? The challenges are two fold- first the journey towards routing out corruption doesn't end with the passing of Lokpal bill. In fact it may begin decisively from there onwards. What is the group doing for the long haul if at all? People like Kejriwal have a lot of demands like a lot of other activists in public life but is there an organized effort required to attain it or can it be done in an adhoc manner the way it has progressed so far? 
Secondly,  an institution which has clearly laid down role for its members to work towards can really draw upon their energies in the most efficient way possible. Wonder what Rajinder Singh (who left the group) would contribute considering his perspective towards corruption is driven by the the deep angst he has towards pollution of our splendid rivers.

3. The dangers of impatience: It is evident that within this group people like Arvind Kejriwal are having far less patience than others. The danger with impatience is that it can lead to over enthusiastic steps and in the worse case, draw the wrath of those who feel patience is a virtue. (Giving a reason that the bill is pending since 60s is incorrect since several small steps have been taken in that direction but with little impact.) This is particularly important when one is engaging with the highest offices in the country. The kind of impatience seen also leads one to uncomfortable questions since one has not thought well enough before acting. For example what does the group do in UP elections where probably all the parties are having deep corruption records like BSP, SP etc.

Its the same impatience which if not challenged for long can also lead to hubris as it happened when several civil society leaders expressed their dissent on not factoring in their views and only trying to push the singular agenda of Jan Lokpal. This is another reason the group is finding itself isolated by some other very well meaning people.

One of the members who left even stated that this is not the kind of example that we should leave in front of the youth.

My personal opinion is that, one of the key qualities that the group needs to develop is the ability to build consensus through patient hearing and persuasion. Something that people like Patel, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were known for. A national level leader can't give knee jerk reactions or conduct oneself out of bravado alone.

4. The difficulty of holding together a very high powered group of leaders: Considering the stature of the people in this 'team' (i hate to constantly call it team though), it is very likely that all these people will have their own opinion on different salient issues of our country. While a political party needs to have coherent and articulate policies around these issues where all members have to concur when they talk to the media. And this takes time sometimes even in years. They can debate endlessly and thrash it out but once they are out there, there can't be dissonance. The simple mind listening to them doesn't care what their views our as much as he would want to see them speak in sync. In fact this was what energized people more than anything else. Educated people expressed that they don't know whats there in the bill but the fact that they are fighting for it is good enough. A kind of outsourcing of thinking happened. But if the unit you outsource your thinking to, shows signs of dissonance, it can lead to annoyance.

The effort towards holding the group together has not been put at all. Since corruption is a multi layered problem, questions can be raised on any aspect say from policy on electoral financing, to public distribution system to regulation of NREGA. What mechanism should the group have to ensure that it doesn't keep on stepping on each other's shoes from time to time while responding to each.

The possible way ahead

Thus, from the way the things have progressed, it appears that the group needs a 'Chintan Shibir' or a self reflection forum to put its own house in order. Understand the kind of organized effort it needs to develop its strength from within. In the absence of that, attacks- both through ideas and physically can cause immense damage thereby leading to weakening of the public image of the group because for such an agenda, its the image that matters more than anything else to see the light of the day.

Anna Hazare has taken immense efforts to reach this level. Further serious soul searching and self critique will help in consolidating the efforts for the times ahead.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taking science to masses

Arvind Gupta is no less than a magician. In a world where the price of toys are shooting out of the roof, here comes an engineer having the capacity to make science enjoyable by making scientists out of municipal school kids.

Barefoot College talk by Bunker Roy.

A wonderful talk by Bunker Roy on empowerment of village folks through the concept of barefoot college. Great talk. Hats off to these people who see villagers as equals and have the grit to enhance the quality of their lives. It calls for Himalayan conviction and self belief.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mallya's values are so clear

Vijay Mallya has all the wealth for sustaining his great 'image' through his Kingfisher calender but wonders what to do when it comes to paying salaries to the employees of Kingfisher airlines who are facing 'red' now.

Check out these two contrasting information pieces that appeared in the span of 5 days

Kingfisher says capital crunch hurting salary payments


The hunt for Kingfisher calender 2012 is back

Inviting a la wall street protests ?

Shameless to say the least.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The man behind Apple is no more

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. I have never used any of his inventions yet but I still can revere the amazing genius that he actually was. He was able to see value in the field of technology specifically computers in 60s way before most of us even knew anything about it. His amazing journey and the kind of digital products that he came up with captured the imagination of people throughout the world. A true leader he was!

The number of messages that we see post his death indicate the influence that he had on this specific age group of people. Particularly the upmarket professionals and students who are in their 20s and 30s now.

The emotive value of his loss is testimony to the fact that the more expansive a life one leads, the deeper the loss of that person is sensed once he/she leaves.

He will surely continue to inspire several people in the years to come.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ICT driven social entrepreneurship ventures

Report on some wonderful international efforts of social entrepreneurship using ICT to improve the lives of people.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Safar mein dhoop to hogi

सफ़र में धूप तो होगी जो चल सको तो चलो
सभी हैं भीड़ में तुम भी निकल सको तो चलो

इधर उधर कई मंज़िल हैं चल सको तो चलो
बने बनाये हैं साँचे जो ढल सको तो चलो

किसी के वास्ते राहें कहाँ बदलती हैं
तुम अपने आप को ख़ुद ही बदल सको तो चलो

यहाँ किसी को कोई रास्ता नहीं देता
मुझे गिराके अगर तुम सम्भल सको तो चलो

यही है ज़िन्दगी कुछ ख़्वाब चन्द उम्मीदें
इन्हीं खिलौनों से तुम भी बहल सको तो चलो

हर इक सफ़र को है महफ़ूस रास्तों की तलाश
हिफ़ाज़तों की रिवायत बदल सको तो चलो

कहीं नहीं कोई सूरज, धुआँ धुआँ है फ़िज़ा
ख़ुद अपने आप से बाहर निकल सको तो चलो

A poignant reflection of life by Nida Fazli