The movement gathers speed, but will it sustain itself. The future of the anti-corruption movement ?

There are numerous problems that are present in our society – the poor position of Muslims, the tragic position of women in many communities, the problems of the dispossessed and their weaknesses, the problems of dowry, the problems of the still existing caste system, etc. There are a lot of people working to improve these conditions, but you don’t see the middle class really reacting to these problems. In fact, one of the chief allegations against the middle class is that they don’t react to many of these problems, and probably don’t care beyond watching such problems on TV, and when suddenly people see the middle class reacting strongly in support of the Anna Hazare movement, they wonder where is the middle class in normal times.
And then you have many others making statements to the effect that Anna should not have launched such an agitation at such a level, first, he should have worked towards removing the inducements that each citizen has for giving bribes. After all, if each citizen were to stop paying bribes, this would have automatically had a massive effect on stopping corruption, and Anna should be doing such a thing. I watch and read such comments, and wonder about the motives of the people making such statements. It reminds me of a panel discussion where the problem between India and Pakistan was being discussed and one film-maker came up with the incredulous suggestion as a solution, “Why can’t we all live in peace?” It was only the laughter that came from the studio audience that showed what people thought of such suggestions.

Right now, the Government is watching such huge demonstrations going on in the major cities, and these are normal citizens who have come to the streets, and are right now, indulging in a peaceful manner of protest. The Government seems to be hoping that these are initial days and they will be able to handle this much easier once the movement loses steam. In a couple of discussions with people, I could not help but understand why people are getting so agitated by this. A couple of small time businessmen were cribbing about how things have got much worse for them in the recent past. For everything they have to do, they have to payoff some Government official or the other, and they can see how this system of corruption has got institutionalized, and they want to do something about this. They also crib about the Government launching newer schemes where public money is being spent, and then they believe that huge sums of money is getting diverted through corruption; because of which the Government keeps on increasing the ways to collect taxes, such as increasing the level of service tax or the various areas on which service tax is collected. A number of people have connections within the Government, and the astounding levels of corruption that people hear from the Government is incredible (as a sample, they believe that anybody who works in the local Government is the take, that anybody in the revenue service or customs is on the take, or that a former minister had a fixed sum for every surface transport project, and so on).
The level of rage in the people is huge, and the Government continues to believe that this is the uncaring public, and that the rage will cool down. In the midst of this, the Government has also mobilised its own supporters in the media and others (even though this is tarnishing the image of the people involved). As an example, Nandan Nilekani recently criticized the movement against the Government, followed by NRN Murthy’s comments in favor of the Government’s proactive measures on corruption (which caused feelings that he was living in another society, since anybody tracking the recent scams realizes that the Government was forced to do steps against corruption, against its wishes); then you had NAC members (who are patronized by the Government, and who are non-Government members advising the Government on laws) coming out against the Jan Lokpal Bill being moved by team Anna.
So, today you had huge movements in cities with people marching carrying the Indian flag, and shouting patriotic slogans. These were incredibly huge crowds; and you had the incredible signs of people going near the residence of some of the Government members and protesting peacefully – if this carries on, the Government and Congress will be in serious trouble. Further, the opposition parties are also sharpening their knives. If the people continue to support this agitation, then it will cause incredible problems for the Government. However, if the number of people decline in the following days, it will embolden the Government and ensure that the Government does not step down.

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