Himalaya Watch

People, issues. Debates, perspectives. Details, nuances. A crisp view from the top.

Visit the new professional website of Jiwan Kshetry

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flip side of Indian fight against corruption

Jiwan Kshetry
The anti-corruption movement in India may look dynamic and meaningful from outside, but the protestor’s folly of missing the bush for the trees makes them far from being relevant or effective; given the scale and gravity of the problem

“When corruption is viewed fuzzily, as just a touchy-feely moral problem then everybody can happily rally to the cause: fascists, democrats, anarchists, god-squadders, day-trippers, the right, the left and even the deeply corrupt, who are usually the most enthusiastic demonstrators.”
This was how the fiery leftist analyst Arundhati Roy chose to summarize the sudden anti-corruption drive into which the civil society of India has chosen to throw itself upon after the exposure of one of the biggest corruption scandals in Indian history. The sentence aptly describes the composition as well as the attitude which the anti-corruption ‘crusaders’ have consistently shown over the course of months even as the new scandals of mammoth scale have unfolded one after another.
Most of the media outlets in India and many of them outside have been giving a great deal of coverage to the details of the scandals that were never unexpected given the order of things in one of the world’s fast growing economies. But beneath the details lies something more important and more ominous yet hardly discussed or debated about in the mainstream media that feed the majority of the people both inside and outside India. Even though the magazines with leftist leanings like Frontline published from southern metro Chennai have been consistent on pointing beyond the idiosyncratic politicians as the root cause of the crippling ailment of the economic and social life of the world’s most populous democracy, that kind of argument is still to challenge what is fed to the people as undeniable version of the mainstream media in daily basis.
The praise and support showered at the fast-onto-death protest programs by the social activist Anna Hazare was mostly result of the bipartisan failure of the political classes to address the growing inequality through which only a small proportion of impoverished population is able to gain the coveted middle class position while the rich people become mega-rich in no time if they have proper political connections. As such, the poor populace that lives in the far-flung areas of India well beyond the shine and glory of show-case cities like Bangalore and Mumbai has traditionally had little say in what keeps taking place in big places like Delhi. The bulk of people who rallied behind Hazare in their supposedly noble drive against corruption were, mostly, the urban middle class; opportunities provided to them by the opening up of the economy aside, irate at the terribly big scale of corruption.
As such there is little in the sordidly corrupt system that can be blamed on part of the hard-working middle class that has made its way up the ladder of prosperity mostly with the combination of proper education and job opportunities provided by a dynamic economy. Indeed the whole upper class of politicians knee deep in acts of misappropriating the state property to enrich themselves is one of the greatest obstacle in the making of a sustainably prosperous nation. But what has been coupled with the journey of the nation away from the state-controlled economy to a market-controlled one is a continuous and consistent process whereby the leading politicians collude with the corporatocrats to steal billions of rupees of money from the state.
Here comes the dilemma of the middle class which prays the sacred neoliberal economic system that emancipated them from poverty, yet now finds such loopholes in the system that allowed theft of the property of the state and the common man in an enormous scale. To point fingers to the system is not yet an option in responding to the events. This is how they have chosen to demonize some of the visible perpetrators of the crime while condoning the system as a whole.
The position of the dominant media houses in the issue is very much different than that of a gullible middle class. What suits them the most is the prosperity of the big private and multinational corporations that can throw to them the money and ads that they need very badly. Even as the corruption scandals can themselves be commodified to sell to the stupefied public, that is not the only important dimension of the scandals for them. Even more important is the maintenance of the status quo in which the process of weakening the state enriching a few people while keeping millions of them in dark goes on unfettered; while going unnoticed by the majority of them. This is indeed the part of their marathon effort in which they have been attempting to project the bright face of the Indian state to the world while helping the dark face to remain as such.
The round-the-clock coverage of the protest programs, while providing them with a valuable commodity that increased the viewership as well as readership helping to attract more advertisement, also helped them to establish themselves as the great ally of the middle class people in their noble fight against corruption. This is particularly how they were able to hide the uncomfortable facts like the tendency of the majoritarian democracy and the neoliberal economic regime to turn into a plutocratic oligarchy. In his shrewd piece in the Aug 13-26 issue of Frontline, a prominent columnist Praful Bidwai has summed up this tendency in response to the euphoric celebrations of 20th anniversary of Manmohan Singh's 1991 Budget, then as Finance Minister, which launched India on the economic policy course of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG), by the mainstream media, in a poignant way in an article titled “Shining and Starving”:
“One-half of India's children are malnourished and two-fifths of its adults have an abnormally low body-mass index. Such deprivation undermines the ability of people to develop their elementary human potential. Life with dignity and acquisition of the capabilities that demarcate human beings from other species remain impossible for hundreds of millions of Indians. Their number has grown over two decades as the natural base of the economy, on which the poorest people depend, has got degraded and common property resources have been increasingly privatised.”
To sum up, the symbiosis of the ‘innocent’ middle class and the ‘honest’ media houses in the drive against corruption in India means a lot about hiding things while they proclaim to expose everything that is obstructing the way of the nation to better accountability. The utopia that they intend to achieve through the unfettered neoliberal policies while weeding out the anomalous elements of the system through their crusade also looks best when imagined. The moment the pervasive rot in the system is to be addressed really, the structural components of the neoliberal system preferring the accumulation of the wealth in few hands are bound to be fully visible to all. And that accumulation is a designed outcome of the corrupt acts as much as that is of the conventionally non-corrupt acts. And there will be a very long time before the anti-corruption people in India or elsewhere come to realize how the vicious fact-making of the giant corporate-aligned media machine had deprived them from real facts .

No comments:

विजय कुमारको खुशी पढेपछि

जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

Read more from Dashain Issue

Debating partition of India: culpability and consequences

Read the whole story here

Why I write...

I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.

On life's challenges

Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.

Read more