Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, August 26, 2011



You might have missed the insanity that has crippled the world's largest democracy the last two weeks.  But don't worry!  We're here at the DUNER BLOG to fill you in.   Yesterday in Mumbai, populist activist ANNA HAZARE ended his hunger strike after ten days of ingesting nothing but water.  To celebrate, he went straight to McDonald's and inhaled five Chicken Maharaja-Mac sandwiches.   Okay...maybe not...but everyone else in India certainly was celebrating.  Somehow, a crazy old man had single-handedly managed to hold the massive nation of India hostage.  In Bangalore, fifty thousand angry, pro-Hazare protesters crippled traffic.  In Delhi, the Indian parliament was deadlocked debating emergency Hazare leglislation.  And in Mumbai, TV stations had 24-hour coverage of the decaying, withering 74-year-old body on their news networks.  Yuck!  Let's all just thank VISHNU it's over!

Oops...we forgot to mention what the fuss is all about.  It's all about corruption.  Our hero, ANNA HAZARE, is from Ralegan Siddhi, an impoverished village in Maharasta.  This Indian province has it rough.  Half of the year, it's wrecked by monsoons and typhoons.  The other half of the year, it's subjected to drought and 110 degree heat.  Nonetheless, Anna was determined to help his village. While he couldn't control the weather, he instead fought against the second worst problem afflicting Ralegan Siddhi: Graft.  In order to receive emergency federal aid after a disaster, villages must to first bribe government officials.  But, since they didn't have Rupees just laying around, Anna instead started a grass-roots campaign to raise awareness about the issue.  Over the last 30 years, his movement has gained a tremendous amount of steam.  ANNA HAZARE went from village idiot to national hero.

Okay...you're asking yourself...of all the problems facing India...is Corruption really the most pressing issue?  The answer is: Yes!  Let's look at the stats.  According to a recent study by TRANSPARENCY INDIA, nearly half of all Indians (that's half a billion people!) admitted to paying a bribe to a government official.  Another study by a Swiss-bank-watchdog-group reported that Indian citizens have a whopping $1.4 trillion dollars in 'black money' stashed away in secret bank accounts.  Yes...that is a lot of money.  The group reported India has more 'black money' in Swiss bank accounts than the rest of the world combined!  And it's not just private citizens.  Graft is also a problem in government.  Currently, 120 of India's 522 members of Parliament are under federal indictments.  Hmm...maybe ANNA HAZARE isn't so crazy after all!

What also bothers Hazare is the general acceptance of corruption in Indian society.  The aforementioned study focused also on one field to help make this point: The trucking industry.  Like everywhere else in the world, Indian highways have occasional 'truck inspection stations' where all trucks must be stopped to be weighed.  But unlike freeways in the US and Europe, Indian weigh-stations have makeshift booths in front of the scales where every driver must stop and pay a fee.  The study concluded that Indian truckers pay $5 billion in such bribes annually.  It's that bad.  A famous Hazare quote goes like this: "In India, your parents must bribe the hospital to get your birth certificate.  Your life only gets more expensive from there."

While everyone in India today is applauding ANNA HAZARE for starting a national debate on this appalling subject, many are questioning his methods for achieving it.  Specifically, his blatant comparisons of himself to revered national hero, MAHATMA GANDHI.  It's true, Anna looks like Gandhi, dresses like Gandhi and often makes speeches in front of huge posters of Gandhi.  His continued use of hunger strikes...a Gandhi favorite...to make his point has angered many, especially RAHUL GANDHI.  He worried that sensationalized and theatrical stunts like this simply have no place in a modern nation and "set a dangerous precedent for a democracy."

We here at the DUNER BLOG aren't sure who 's right or wrong...but we do have some advice for any readers planning a trip to India.  Be sure to get plenty of 100 Rupee Notes before you leave.  You'll need them to get your suitcase out of baggage claim!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bob - You scooped the Wall Street Journal. They had an article on Anna Hazare last weekend (9/3/11). So, it's sort of reversed this week - the WSJ is keeping you up on stories you might have missed at the DB.