Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and many other activists share a common ground when it comes to their sympathy towards the industry. Their silence over foreign direct investment is an example. The silence on the exploitation of contract workers is another instance.
These activists speak against the public sector and the government. They are, knowingly or unknowingly, their colleagues say, spokespersons of a global design which wants to eliminate the public sector and replace it with private sector. The soothing flow of funds from corporate social responsibility (CSR) has further helped in silencing activists.
Devinder Sharma, one of the founding members of India Against Corruption and a staunch critic of privatisation and globalisation, says, the movement has never spoken against the private sector. And, that is why the media also supported them as the media is a projection of an agenda to run down the government and to replace it with the private sector, he adds.
Madhuresh Kumar, an associate of Medha Patkar, who was part of the anti-corruption movement, says neither Hazare nor Kejriwal attack the industry because they don’t want to offend the middle class which has benefited from the private sector. They get jobs from the service sector, out of which 70 per cent comes from the private sector.
Recently, Kejriwal went to Kudankulam and sent associate Sanjay Singh to Narmada to support the Jal Satyagraha. The next day, Twitter was agog with comments on how Kejriwal was trying to be like Patkar. His overtures to the poor and downtrodden or anything that hurts the interests of the middle class would only backfire, says Kumar.
Patkar’s prescriptions are not considered healthy for the country by most opinion makers. In fact, Patkar has been shunned by the media. Her protests get scant attention, the recent jal satyagraha being an exception, thanks to the visual content it provided to TV cameras.
Kumar attributes this to the urban-rural divide. He says those who sympathise with the rural, stand to harm the urban and those who back the urban causes would hurt the rural. There is no way someone can talk about the benefits of both, he adds.
Hence, laws that favour the industry and the city folks are bound to hurt the rural folks. As for a compromise, he says Hazare’s prescription of village self-rule could be a way forward, a concept many consider suicidal.
The private sector brings in all the donations and so Kejriwal can’t afford to hurt them, say his critics like Shivendra Singh Chauhan, a former member of the movement. Nuclear activist Anil Chaudhury says these and many other activists consider the system to be fine. All that needs change, according to them, is governance. The alternative is to have ceilings on assets, profiteering and incomes, he says.
Yogendra Yadav, a political analyst and adviser to Kejriwal, points out Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have spoken against beneficiaries of scams and against privatisation of water. They are about to launch a protest against private electricity companies in Delhi.
The Right to Information movement, started by Aruna Roy, emerged from the corruption in welfare schemes for the poor. That has kept her focused on government programmes, says Ashwani Kumar, an economist from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, defending her. Patkar, on the other hand, has a background of labour movements, making her slightly more broad-based, say her admirers.
The CSR money, that non-governmental organisations are dependent on, has also affected the progressive character of the civil society, says Ashwani Kumar. While some of them don’t accept industry donations, Hazare and Kejriwal have been recipients of funds and awards from industrialists like Sitaram Jindal.