Do the recent protests and agitations involving members of the Civil Society groups like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have the danger of converting India into a Banana Republic where mass protests by such groups hold government at ransom? This is one of the most prevalent questions making rounds in the Media and related discussions these days.
Are Civil Society Activists like Anna Hazare holding the government at ransom?
Let us take this question head on.
Did the protesters demand crores of rupees for themselves or their relatives from the government?
Did the protesters demand any freebies for themselves or their relatives from the government?
Were the protesters there to demand loan waivers for themselves from the government?
Were the protesters there to demand job or free land or free homes for themselves?
If not what was the ransom demanded by the protesters?
Asking the government to discharge its constitutional obligations, is this holding the government at ransom? Demanding that the law makers provide a clean and efficient corruption free administration – can this be termed as holding the government at ransom?
Presence of Corruption + Absence of Administration = Nuisance to Common Man
Why did the people have to come out and protest in the first place? All those thousands and thousands of people who donated their time and money for these protests, didn’t they have any better work to do in life? Were they there in the hot sun to make merry?
If India was as corruption free as say Singapore, why would have these people started protests and fast in the first place? Doesn’t it show the inefficiency of the elected representatives that people have to leave all their work and come down on the streets demanding clean governance? So who is causing this Banana Republicization? Isn’t it the Banana administration that is causing this?
When we talk about protests by Civil Society members – who are these Civil Society members? Isn’t it a dignified way of saying “common man is protesting out on the streets”? Do we see only five six people like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Baba Ramdev etc sitting there in isolation and protesting against the government?
Who are those thousands of supporters around them, millions who support the movement by texting sms messages, by tweeting on social network sites, blogs etc? So if all those who are protesting against the government are termed as “Civil Society Members”, then aren’t these the very people who elected this government in the first place?
Civil Society is nothing but the citizens of this country demanding accountability from their elected representatives. Can we term this demanding of accountability as converting India into a Banana Republic?
Some have termed protests like these by the Civil Society as a threat to parliamentary democracy. Well the real threat to democracy in this country is the elected representatives being given a free run for the next five years not being held responsible for their deeds or misdeeds, it is this system which has caused India to become a “Once in a five year democracy”, followed by a dictatorship for the next five years till the next elections take place.
No day runs in our administrative departments without taking bribe. There is not a day when news channels do not show a breaking news related to at least one major multi crore scam. The entire developmental activities and nation’s progress are held at ransom by corruption. Existence of such rampant corruption in the system, has it not made India already a Banana Republic? Or is it that large scale corruption is a core feature of mature republics and only questioning of this corruption is what converts a mature republic into a banana republic?
What is a Banana Republic?
A Banana republic is a commercial enterprise for profit by collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility.
This is one of the definitions of a Banana Republic. Another definition of a Banana Republic is
A Banana Republic is a government by thieves, features influential government employees exploiting their posts for personal gain (embezzlement, fraud, bribery, etc.), with the resultant deficit repaid by the native working people who earn money, rather than make money.
Now read and re-read these definitions and think for yourself. Are civil society movements causing India to become a Banana Republic, or is India already a Banana Republic?
Is India a Banana Republic?
Look at the first definition - A Banana republic is a commercial enterprise for profit by collusion between the State and favoured monopolies
Doesn’t the 2G Scam fit into this definition? A collusion between state (ministers in power like Raja & co), and between favored monopolies (like the companies who benefited illegally from the 2G Scam) – doesn’t this make India already a Banana Republic?
Look at the continued definition - profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility.
Don’t the agitations by farmers recently in Uttar Pradesh, and earlier in West Bengal, and frequently across the country fit into this definition? You have public agricultural lands being exploited by private industries, and the debts incurred by this is passed on to the tax payer as increased tax and to the common man as inflation. With an ever increasing population, if we continue to ever convert all agricultural land into industrial land without proper planning, in the coming years are we supposed to live by eating industrial waste?
The thousands of illegal mining licences existing across the country, doesn’t this too fit into the above definition of a Banana Republic? We have public land, hills and forests looted by mining companies illegally, and the resulting pollution, future costs due to lack of conservation and ineefficient use of limited natural resources like ores and minerals – all these are passed on to the common man.
Permission is denied to peacefully protest, to peacefully demand government action against illegal Black Money and to enact laws to put an end to corruption. Does this happen in mature democracies? Do mature democracies impose section 144 against peaceful protests when there is till to date not a single instance of violence in these protests? We have seen this only happen in dictatorial middle east countries where peacefully protesting people are lathi charged and tear gassed. And it also happened in India two days back, and that too at 2 am in the midnight, when people – women, children, elders alike were sleeping! Does this happen in a mature republic?
Look at the second definition above about what is a Banana Republic – influential government employees exploiting their posts for personal gain – Corruption in the system – with the resultant deficit repaid by the native working people – we pay ever increasing taxes. In simple terms it means a country where corruption is rampant is a Banana Republic.
No election passes without the police seizing liquor meant for distributing to the electorate, money and other freebies meant to be distributed to the electorate in return for votes. No election passes without political parties announcing freebies to the people if they come to power – treating the electorate like small kids waiting for chocolates. Does this happen in a mature democracy, or does this happen in a Banana Republic?
Too many Banana Promises
- Pandit Jawaherlal Nehru, our first prime minister promised to eradicate poverty from India.
- Nehru’s daughter Prime Minister Indira Gandhi coined the slogan “Garibi Hatao” – Eradicate Poverty.
- Indira Gandhi’s son Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi promised to eliminate poverty from India.
- And recently, Rajiv Gandhi’s Son, Prime Minister in waiting - Rahul Gandhi declared a War on Poverty.
I do sincerely hope that my grand children won’t be editing this article to append two more generations to the above list.
Let us hope against hope that the civil society activism, the people’s movement – yields the desired results and converts India into a true mature democracy – free of corruption, full of efficient administration, and of course – devoid of the need for any promises by any political party or a politician to “Eradicate Poverty” from India.
By the way, India is the world’s largest producer of the “Nature’s emergency snack” – The Banana