NO NEED TO DECLAIM
- Published 21.06.11
The Lokpal tamasha has reached a point where serious debate and discussion have been thrown to the winds, with allegations and counter allegations being flung around, making the entire exercise contentious and unacceptable. We have something called ‘Team Anna’ that claims to represent ‘civil society’. It clearly does not. The last few weeks have shown that there are many in ‘civil society’ — experienced professionals, thinkers and activists — who are vociferously questioning the premise of many demands raised by Team Anna. The television shows have no debate, only hysteria and endless political main main tu tu. Anchors have ceased to be non-partisan and are brandishing personal views, thereby diluting all discussions. The hero of the TV anchors is Anna Hazare, who comes across as being equally superficial and simplistic when addressing this issue of enormous future importance for our democracy. The cavalier manner, devoid of intellectual strength, is scary, to say the least, and the prospect of leaving governance to this ‘alternative’ is frightening.
What ‘Team Anna’ seems to want from the bill is the creation of a parallel government, peopled with self-appointed individuals, who believe that they are more honest than their fellow men, and are without any accountability at all to established democratic institutions, the Constitution, Parliament and the judiciary, even to the people of India. This is much like a movement for anarchy. Surely, the lok pal, like the ombudsman, needs to play the role of the watchdog of society, putting pressure on the government and its diverse administrative arms to regulate governance with probity, using the mechanisms and delivery systems according to stated laws.
This is the humungous corrective that has to be initiated and made operative. India does not need anarchy to replace democracy. We need our democratic systems to be rebooted and restored. We need collective political will to do that. We need Parliament to be respected by the elected representatives themselves. We need to conduct ourselves with dignity. And this ‘we’ includes Team Anna, political parties of India, the administrative service, the judiciary and the people. To exchange one dreadful, failed mess with another is suicidal.
The press, an essential and critical player in a democracy, has failed us by not being able to transmit the pros and cons of issues that are fundamental to our everyday lives. With a few exceptions, TV channels have reduced debate to sarcastic comments, banal questioning and rather supercilious, personal comments.
Had there been a proactive government at the Centre, it would have seized the moment to reinvent Doordarshan so that it could compete with the frivolous channels in our media space. There is a crying need for a public interest channel that will treat the viewer with respect and not dumb down every idea to the lowest common denominator. Our people think and hear even if they cannot read and write. We have an oral tradition handed down over the generations that is alive and volatile. It hears and listens, and does not accept the drivel that is communicated.
We need to speak to our people through the small screen. We need to engage with them and keep them connected. We do not need to declaim. Sadly, the untrained electronic lot screams at us, pushes its agendas in high-pitched, aggressive tones and kills the potential strength of the television. Anchors get away with anything. The same, predictable faces from civil society appear for the discussions. They flit like flies from one channel to the next. They represent themselves and their ‘hosts’. Boring, uninspiring and disconnected.