Saturday, April 9, 2011

Growing revolution giraffe's neck in 5 steps

The morning after victory often feels far more hollow than the morning after defeat. There is usually something to do in the morning after a loss; pick yourself up from the smithereens, get guts in order, plan suicide, survival or comeback. But the ornate, empty shell of the winning moment leaves you with very little to do with it the morning after.

After all headlines on TV and the papers have screamed 'Victory' and gone to bed after the government gave in to Anna Hazare's demands and a surprisingly popular citizens' agitation. Now what?

I wrote in my recent piece in Hindustan Times that for India to gain from this momentum, it would have to feed the momentum. Every citizen should try and set aside at least an hour a day for the democracy. Three 'I's of involvement, information and implementation could take us from anger to action. The question is: What next?

I can see five immediate things that can be done to involve far more people:

1. Enlisting: There should be a nationwide drive to enlist volunteers for the movement. This could be done through a common website (discussed later). These volunteers can help create technology to connect the movement better, man helplines, raise funds, keep transparent accounts, help fight cases or seek information under RTI and participate in a range of other such things.

2. Technology: A professionally created, designed and run online avatar should supplement the Facebook presence of the movement. On this website, which preferably should account for Hindi and some major regional languages, one should be able to post from anywhere in India, so that there is a growing database of what the nation's real issues are. A strong web presence will give the movement far more accessibility and a certain centre of gravity. There might also be a way to wire up the entire movement through SMS, with a common number that connects to a citizens' helpline.

3. Human resource: Form small citizens' teams across the country with at least 15 people in each team. These teams meet at least once every week, decide issues that should taken up with the local authorities, resolve to get them done. They also help the poor and illiterate connect to the movement through technology (log on and post a grouse on the website, may be). Citizen volunteers should also take turns to man a central helpline.

4. Publicity: The movement has to be kept alive in the media, especially the vernacular media. There ought to be regular interactions with journalists, updating them on every big and small struggle, every victory achieved, every hurdle encountered. It is always good to take the story to the reporter's desk rather than wait for the reporter to come to the story.

5. Be open to criticism, closed to cynicism: When it comes to the India, it is stupid to view an exception of this magnitude cynically. the mere fact that so many people came out of the streets to rage and rage against corruption is heartening. It tells us there's raw material ready to explode. But to be rigid and closed to criticism would be equally stupid, because we will end up evolving systems that weaken democracy. the Jan Lokpal draft, for instance, is ridden with dangerous holes, as many have pointed out through their articles and blogs. You will find some of these voices here:

This once, let us hope the nice, heady feeling of triumph does not last long, and dissolves quickly into the next set of actions.


  1. May I add Education. The educational system needs to instill values of honesty and integrity. There is such competition to get into the right schools, to get good marks that there is often the exchange of favors between parents and schools. The children grow up used to cheating and bribing to get ahead.

  2. I agree that seeds of corruption are sown early in our education environment, and it is one of the most important things to address. But in this post, I dealt only with the immediate, practical and specific things to be done to keep up the momentum of the protests.