Last night as soon as the letter by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was read out by his emissary Vilasrao Deshmukh, Anna Hazare on the twelfth day of his fast, thanked the people for having come this far that they can rejoice about what he called “half victory“.
Middle class is variously described but the most recent definition is based on its earning capacity, that is, anything between Rupees 3 to 17 Lakhs per annum. In the pyramid of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, starting from Physiological Needs and going up to Safety Needs, Belongingness & Love Needs, Esteem Needs and finally Self Actualization Needs; the middle class perceived that it is being neglected as far as Safety, Belongingness and Esteem Needs are concerned. To some extent the rich and the poor are responsible for taking the focus away from the middle-class needs, but to a large extent, the other middle class is responsible for the loss of esteem and belongingness of the middle class. Who is the other middle class? Well, the babus in government offices, the railway TTEs, the policemen, the patwaris, tehsildars, magistarates, collectors and the like. What A Raja and Kalmadi do affect the middle class only indirectly. However, what the other middle calss does affects the middle class directly.
Let me give you just one personal example to make a point. A few years back I went to my home place, Kandaghat, in the Shimla Hills. My mother, after the demise of my father, stays there alone. Because of her helplessness in being a widow, some people have encroached on her land. Thereafter. whenever I went on leave, I had to run from pillar to post, with local bureaucracy, police and judiciary to get justice for my mother. Was it provided? You are mistaken. The local patwari, in order to show me down, even whilst acknowledging my rank Commodore, derisively told me, “Us din mujhe milne ek Brigadier Sandhu aaya. Maine kaha bahar baith; jab main bulayoon to aana.” (The other day one Brigadier Sandhu came to see me. I told him sit outside; when I call you then only enter). In the court, I took a request under Article 23 of the Navy Act requesting the judiciary to settle our case expeditiously during my leave period. Indeed, as per this provision the judiciary is required to record as to why the case was not settled during the leave period. The truth is that after more than a decade it is not settled. Navy Act is an act of Indian Parliament but they had no respect for it. There is a letter written by the Indian Home Minister to all the state governments to provide assistance to the members of the armed forces who can get things done only during their leave period. But, they care two hoots for it. Hence, the disrespect for the Indian Parliament, is erroneously being pinned on Anna Hazare and his team and movement. This disdain is to be found with the other middle class in villages, towns, cities, states; indeed, everywhere.
The focus of the middle class, therefore, should not be merely politicians, and bureaucrats or the big fish. But, those who defeat it and keep it from realising its needs; and that is the other middle class. Anna Hazare movement must realise that middle class is both the focus of its movement as well as the target.
The Indian middle class is defined not just in economic terms; but also by being the middle of nowhere; its voice not being heard at all. The authorities have no choice but to be seen as pro-poor (which includes even ignoring or permitting indicipline and lawlessness so that “people’s sentiments are respected“. The rich look after themselves. But, the middle class gets step motherly treatment. Who is responsible for it? Well, it doesn’t require knowledge of rocket-science to conclude that the middle class itself is responsible, to some extent, for this sorry state of affairs. During the very first elections held after 26/11, when the middle class in Colaba (the scene of carnage by Kasab and co.) took out candle-lit marches and other vociferous protests against the neglect of politicians towards such issues as terrorism and security, a dismal 40 percent voted in Colaba. Largely, this 40 percent comprised the poor in such localities in Colaba such as Murthy Nagar and Geeta Nagar. The middle class just didn’t bother.
Therefore, for the movement to succeed and really bring relief to the people, the moment has to be a catalyst for change for the middle class both within and without and not just target the politicians and babus at higher places. In short finally the middle-class awakening has to help the middle class become more effective in people regaining their national and individual character.
Will the middle class, exultant at “half victory” of Anna Hazare, be able to look within as well look without?
Lets now focus on “half victory”. Have we really achieved half of what we wanted to achieve? Is a vague assurance by the parliament really “half victory”? Is passing of or even voting on Jan Lokpal Bill then full victory. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Here is what I wrote just a week back (Anna Hazare and the Indian Democracy):
The second is that our middle-class, the main pillar of the movement, has become quite impatient. It is true that we have been conditioned to it. But, the catch here is that in its impatience it may very well regard some quick wins (as passing of Jan Lokpal Bill) as the ultimate solution to set right our democracy. I laboured over the current shortfalls in Indian democracy to bring home the point that, at best, the movement and the passing of Jan Lokpal Bill can be only the beginning and not an end by itself.
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