Here’s the argument—“The typical Groupon “deal” is 50% off retail, with half of the proceeds going to Groupon. The merchant gets 25% of the revenue he would have received if the same number of customers had arrived via walk-in traffic. Except that all that Groupon revenue is unprofitable—so more and more Groupon revenue is actually bad.”
What Anna Hazare is saying may not be news anymore. And even as the scams are increasing every day, for those who are over-exposed there is a numbness that is creeping in. But, on the ground, an awareness is building, which was not there before
Anna Hazare was on television all day long on Wednesday, and what he as well as his supporters are saying, is not news anymore. Nor is the scale of corruption and scams—increasing by leaps and bounds every day—really all that surprising either. Truly, there is a numbness creeping in, and that's a simple truth.
But what is surprising is the way this government is trying its level best to make any sort of dissent or protest next to impossible. Tactics mastered in small towns and habitats far away from the public eye are being tried out-from the Ramdev episode to what they tried yesterday—much of which did not make it on the news.
On one side, the Civil Society protest meeting at Jantar Mantar was denied "permissions", on the grounds that Section 144 does not permit a gathering of more than five people. On the other side, a quick drive past the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offices, as well as the Race Course part of Race Course Road, where they race horses also, and in the same New Delhi District, Section 144 certainly did not seem to apply—it was business as usual, like at any other counter selling tickets, for example.
What was the real reason, then? One hint dropped was that last time around, easy access to Jantar Mantar because of the Delhi Metro was a reason for the success, and orders had come "from above" that this could not be permitted this time around. In addition, Jantar Mantar is surrounded by all the logistical back-ups required-food, access to medical facilities, close to the welcoming environs of Gurudwara BanglaSahib (a traditional safe haven) and more.
You have to understand the geographical location of Rajghat, to figure out how devious minds can work. It can be accessed only by road, and a few small traffic diversions can make it close to impossible for people travelling there by bus to reach the venue. We saw that also, as the whole of Ring Road was closed off to southbound traffic from Shantivana till the ITO Bridge crossing.
In addition, the place is remote as far as other back-ups are concerned. So not only would you have to walk, all the way from Old Delhi, but you also had no facilities in the area.
At the venue itself, it seems that no effort was spared to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the participants, squeezed into a small area on one side, leaving the larger part of the area reserved for the authorities to stand and listen too.
Despite that, there were a few thousand people present, and more on the streets outside, trying to get there. And to put things in perspective, the gathering was certainly eclectic, with people from all segments of society present. Correction: most segments.
Unlike in the past, with the Freedom Struggle with which this is compared, glaringly obvious by their absence this time around are those who claim to be impacted the most by corruption: the industrialists, their associations and what could pass of for modern-day royalty.
Drive past the offices of CII, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, and it is business as usual. Search for their latest activities online, fighting corruption is nowhere among the new horizons. Yes, it did appear as though markets and roads were not as crowded as usual; that was probably due to the continuous coverage of the Rajghat events throughout the day.
However, on the ground, matters are rapidly reaching some sort of boiling point, and not just with the people attending. More than a few rank and file from the recently much-maligned Delhi police appear to be more than aware of what is really going on and are making their views heard as well as felt.
Most of all, however, is the simple fact that some of us who have been over-exposed may be reaching a numbness or cynical stage. But, on the ground, there is an awareness across segments that was not there before. And that, truly, is something the already-informed among us are not able to understand, appreciate and digest. This is no longer some convenient Congress versus BJP game. This is more than that: people have twigged to the simple fact that bi-polar politics is about tweedle-dee-dee and tweedle-dee-dum, 12 of one and a dozen of the other.
And that is something which Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and team have picked up on. At Rajghat, the Congress leaders were about as popular as the BJP leaders, and that is something not coming through strongly enough in mainstream reportage.
As I send this article, I am surprised to see and hear P Chidambaram competing with the closing moments of Anna Hazare's fast, just when Arvind Kejriwal was getting into full flow.
If anything else, the body language of our UPA government leaders, the ones who are not headed for Tihar that is, gets more and more worrisome every day. Here too, the whole approach smells of a patronising and condescending attitude towards the rest of us Indians, and the effect is the same as that of Iftikar (as cop) landing up in Hindi movies in the old days to take the villains away.
Of course, we know the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is behind the good Baba, we didn't need the might of the State and the home ministry to tell us that; but more than that, who is behind the RSS?
The answer to that lies in another anecdote: 'Whose mother anywhere in India would cook a halwa of any sort without adding saffron to it?'
Anna Hazare's movement makes one thing very clear—the people of the country really don't see much difference in the saffron tinges of both the Congress and the BJP. And won't see them through rose-tinted glasses anymore, either. Anybody who promises, and delivers, fair development, gets to govern the country. Simple as that.
However, if you are going to sell the country, then goodbye. And it doesn't matter if you are like Iftikar, you now go with the bad guys; movies have changed.