So is Anna Hazare’s fast and movement something that will undermine democracy? Or is it simply the weapon of last resort left to a citizenry that has seen systematic weakening – and near dismantling – of many democratic institutions?

Over a year ago,  I wrote “Requiem for a Country”,  a post on some remarkable observations made by Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad. One of Dr. Ambedkar’s points of view struck me as being very insightful: that satyagraha and non-cooperation are the “grammar of anarchy”. In the interesting comments that followed that post, I further stressed that in a constitutional democracy, one has to use the tools given to us to seek redressal, and resorting to other means is not desirable. Not everyone agreed, of course.

I still stick to the point of view. But one can’t help but be in awe of what Anna Hazare has done. He has managed to bring together an apathetic nation, and has managed to infuse a sense of purpose into the people. It is very clear that this man has struck a chord with a people desperate for some semblance of change, craving for a symbol and a cause that would enable them to forget their everyday priorities of caste, religion and language.  For that, and for the courage to take a stand, he deserves our honour, gratitude and support.

But where does this all end? No one really knows. Uncomfortable and distraught as I am at the fact that as citizens and voters we have undermined our own constitutional democracy by electing, time and again, the worst possible people to represent us, I am equally uncomfortable with the fact that some NGOs, Magsaysay award winners and activists would now dictate policy. I am terrified of the self-righteous who, in my experience, can be as intolerant and blinkered as the worst bigot you can find.

And is corruption such a big issue to the average Indian voter? I know it is big, but is it big enough to overcome the primary considerations – language, caste and religion, with some electoral freebies thrown in for good measure – of the people of this Great Country? We will find out soon enough.  Our fellow citizens in five states have the opportunity to actually make a difference in their states. They have the tools, the means and the opportunity to drive the change everyone says India wants. Let us see what they do.

Having said that, in all fairness I must also admit that all the commentators and observers who are wary of this phenomenon that Anna Hazare has generated  – and I include myself among them – have failed to come up with any alternative or even a half-way credible solution to set things right. All they keep talking about is how dangerous it is to bypass elected representatives, and undermine the electoral process. And such arguments, without any alternatives, simply reek of hand-wringing helplessness, and only serve to  add credence to the alternative of action. “At least we’re doing something” seems to be the dismissive rejoinder to our notes of caution – and I can’t really blame the people for making that response. After all, see where six decades of constitutional democracy and elected representatives have got us. Surely anything would be better than this lot.

Hard to fault that argument. Except on one count. Where did this corrupt lot come from? Did they impose themselves on us? No. We elected them. We chose them. We applauded them and cheered when they made other illiberal decisions, drafted other draconian laws and nominated some distinctly dodgy people to certain positions of power and responsibility. Yes, we got them there. We had the gift of universal adult suffrage, which other countries are still fighting for, and we systematically squandered it away. Half the population chose not to exercise the right to vote, and the other half elected the very people that we heckle today. What makes us think that a different bucket of water from the same well is going to taste any better? We traded a bunch of white-skinned exploiters for a bunch of dark-skinned exploiters, and we now want to trade in the latter for another bunch with the same skin colour, but with apparently more integrity. But we can never have the ability,  as Dr. Rajendra Prasad rightly said “…to devise any yardstick for measuring the moral qualities of a man, and so long as that is not possible, our Constitution will remain defective”. The wave of enthusiasm sweeping across this country has its hopes underpinned on the fact that activists and “award-winners” will prove to be of better moral calibre than our politicians.

So, will anything change for real? I don’t know. We deserved the governments we got, and I dearly hope I am wrong, but all precedents point to the fact that we will also get the NGOs  and activists we deserve.


I am truly in awe of the possessors of great foresight. Of visionaries. And when the person concerned is part of the government, that awe is tinged with wonder. Because the government is the last place one expects to see any foresight or vision.

All this while, we thought that indefatigable loyalist, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was a gray, unremarkable man, remaining in the corridors of power simply by virtue of loyalty. (Lesser mortals might sneer and prefer to use the word sycophancy, but not me. As an exalted denizen of the trees, I choose to use the word loyalty.)

Mr. Azad, as part of his job as Minister for Health and Family Welfare, has gone above and beyond the call of duty – brought upon, no doubt, by the urge to top the impressive achievements of his equally brilliant predecessor – and hit upon a great idea for population control.

Late Night TV.

To ensure that we don’t breed like rabbits, ‘Watch TV Instead Of Having Sex’ seems to be his prescription.

A brilliant insight. Kill ardour, snuff out passion – and voilà, you have population control. Some may argue that marriage performs exactly the same function. But most kids I know are legitimate, so obviously marriage as a means of population-control-through-the-death-of-passion hasn’t worked very well.

The idea that the childish, convoluted crap that passes for TV programming takes away our sexual urges is not new. In fact, it might actually be borrowed from – horror of horrors – the BJP. But to actually see it as a policy instrument – that’s brilliant. And the best part is, you don’t even need new programming. Just re-run the DD archives. The Krishi Darshans, the Saptahikis, the Pragati Ke Ores….believe you me, these are lethal. Any residual sexual urges will be annihilated.

So where’s the vision, you might ask? What about that foresight you were extolling?

You see, the brilliance of the idea lies in the fact that it solves many problems.

Abstinence is always a hit with the moral brigade, regardless of religious affiliations. The fact that there are other people not having sex must make them happy. It’s like sharing their pain. Then, they’ll be pleased that the ‘new’ TV programming will be in sync with ‘our cultural values’ – meaning no racy stuff, no skin, no corrupting influences. So they’ll start behaving. Hopefully.

The biggest pay-off, however, is this: even if one assumes for a moment that most households will be able to ‘jugaado’ a TV set, they will still need electricity to watch it. If this scheme is implemented, 60 years of gross mismanagement and sheer incompetence in the power sector get knocked off. Let the H&FW ministry have a go at power generation. They really can’t do any worse than what we have already seen. And they just might surprise us all.

The cynics and sceptics might feel it would be easier and more cost-effective to educate people about the various methods and benefits of contraception, to incentivise birth control and to efficiently ensure free access to condoms, pills and diaphragms. To them, all one can say is, Shoo! Go away. We don’t need your negativity to dampen this kind of enthusiasm and out-of-the-idiot-box thinking. You’re the same lot that believes in Sex Education, you dirty sods.

We, the people, will have a new trade-off: Electricity in lieu of Sex. I think most Indian couples will jump (no pun intended) at this choice. Sex is not that electrifying, anyway. More power to the people. Besides, as true Indians, if we don’t keep our part of the bargain, and indulge in a safe-tumble-in-the-hay after we have been granted access to electricity, who’s to know, eh?

* Electricity Or Sex?

Jenny and Dave, of Our Delhi Struggle, are running a fund-raising project with the objective of bringing sanitary pads to poor women in rural India who risk vaginal and urinary tract infections (and thus illness, incontinence, and infertility) during every period from puberty to menopause. Please check it out at and spread the word.