Sunday, 21 August 2011


It is common belief that the fourth estate of a democracy is a free and independent Media. Media’s purpose is clearly that of a mirror that reflects the state of affairs in the nation. It shows us who we are, where we are currently and where we are headed. It reveals and makes transparent the inner workings of the other three pillars of democracy namely the Judiciary, Legislature and the Executive. It on a daily basis or in case of 24x7 news channels minute by minute makes the people aware of the current affairs in the country. So while the legislature is a reflection of the representative nature of our democracy the media is what enables a participatory democracy on a daily basis.
All four pillars of democracy are meant to be independent. Independence and freedom of the media is ensured by the fundamental right to freedom of speech for every individual. That the media is indeed the fourth pillar of democracy is established even more whenever a popular movement rises in the country. This is when the media both thrives on and feeds into the popular movement. This is when the real power of media is revealed and the independence of the media becomes most important.

The present movement for the Lokpal bill is a culmination of years of reporting on corruption issues by the media. There was never a grand design that a movement like this had to be created. While India Against Corruption NGO did organize Anna's protest but it is beyond them to organize the entire media campaign in favour of this movement. This movement evolved over the years because of the failings of the executive that was revealed by the media to the socially aware population of our country. For long the political class has assumed that their decisions would go unquestioned by apolitical people once they have been elected to the legislature. They have thrived on ill informed voters who have brought them to power over and over again on petty issues. They have played politics on petty issues like cast, subsidies, religion, regional identity, and so on and avoided being answerable to voters on bigger issues like corruption, defense, terror and others.

Media savvy population of the country is a new breed of voters who not only want to elect representatives every five years, but also want to participate in the daily workings of our country by staying abreast with the major issues and demanding transparency and action by the executive and legislatures on those issues. Anna Hazare has all but been a catalyst of this movement. The movement was already on for several years now. Anna Hazare has only highlighted the most important issue for the people of our country, and brought that latent public discontent to media’s attention, and through the media, to the attention of the political class. The ruling political party is bearing the brunt of this discontent but this is a message for all representatives that they need to be responsive to peoples concerns even in a non election year. That the political class has resisted this movement as best as it could, shows the culpability of the political class in corruption.

The same politicians who talk about how the Lokpal would undermine the independence of public institutions forget that it is they who have over the years destroyed the independence of our institutions. The Police, CBI, civil service, anti corruption watchdogs like the CVC etc, have all been undermined by political interference. The bogey of independence of the three pillars of democracy that the government purports to be safeguarding in their bill falls flat on its face when one looks at the history of interference by the executive in the workings of our institutions. The cash for vote’s scam, corporate lobbying, MPs asking questions in the parliament for money, the political horse trading that is all but common in our country are examples of how the independence of legislature are undermined. Promise of appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts after retirement to plum assignments in government committees can very well be used by the executive for interfering with the functioning of the judiciary.

The People of this country through the fourth pillar of our democracy are conveying to the politicians that it is time for them to curtail their own powers when it comes to investigation of corrupt amongst them. It may very well have been possible for them to be self correcting, but they have failed to do so over several decades. They have lost that opportunity. This has allowed corruption to grow deep roots and spread its tentacles to every walk of life. Stronger measures are needed and the people believe that an independent and strong Lokpal with investigative machinery under it but with a limited mandate to deal with only public corruption is a must for our country. All politicians and the government in particular should listen to the people and not try to weather this movement. It can be predicted that the more they resist or the more they try to delay the bigger this social movement will become. It is not a question of whether the government relents; it is a question of when the government relents.

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