The Other Dimension The Company That Hazare Keeps
Recently, the front pages of the Indian news media have been saturated with Anna Hazare’s “fast-unto-death” against corruption in the Indian polity. Hazare is described as a Gandhian—the politics and morality of the Gandhian fast is another story; this one is about the company this Gandhian keeps.
“India Against Corruption” (IAC) is Anna Hazare’s address for his letter dated 6/4/11 to the Prime Minister, and is therefore presumably the prime mover of this fast-unto-death. IAC describes itself as “an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption”. Those who started it include, besides Hazare himself, spiritual leaders Swami Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, religious leader Archbishop Vincent Concessao, a politician in the guise of a religious leader Swami Agnivesh, and three notables usually described as civil society activists: Kiran Bedi, Mallika Sarabhai, Arvind Kejriwal. In addition, “notable participants” include another now-notorious civil society activist, Medha Patkar.
Agnivesh has his own websites, his own political party, and is a “self-titled Arya Samaj scholar”. He has under his saffron robe the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award, the Right Livelihood Award, and the Rev. MA Thomas National Rights Award. He describes himself as “the most distinguished leader of the Arya Samaj” though this has been questioned, as has his fascination for Mother Teresa, his infatuation for Mother Sonia (“only light of hope of spirituality at end of dark tunnel”), and his unabashed admiration for Islam and Pakistan.
Kiran Bedi’s service record was actually far from distinguished; she was professionally unreliable and untrustworthy; deserted her post more than once; and expected favouritism because she was a woman officer. She excels at public and media relations and, over the years, picked up a Magsaysay award and awards from the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin, the Don Bosco Shrine, the Mother Teresa Memorial National Award for Social Justice, and other such assorted goodies. The Hindu (Delhi) on its front page on 6/4/11 had a picture of Bedi carefully situating right next to the fasting-unto-death Anna Hazare a placard that announced “bhrashtachar ko khatm karo—www.jnss.in”.
JNSS is the Jagruk Nagrik Suraksha Sangathan (National President: Mr Denson Joseph). It proclaims itself nationalist and anti-terrorist and “salutes and supports the efforts of all agencies working hand in hand to secure the nation”. These agencies are the Home Ministry, the Delhi Police, BSF, NSS, CISF, and the United Nations! It solicits donations—but nowhere on its website does it give its accounts. Prominent with Hazare when he began his fast were “Arvind Kejriwal along with Mallika Sarabhai and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey”, and “famous former top cop Kiran Bedi said all the activists present there would be on a day-long hunger strike, but Hazare would continue his fast till the Government agrees to our demands.”
Accused of cheating by dancers who filed a complaint against her, Mallika Sarabhai declared “neither the country nor its people for whom I have spent 25 years working deserve me”. Indians and India don’t deserve Sarabhai, but does Sarabhai deserve India? How much in those 25 years was not motivated by her desire for profit or for her own greater glory? I can personally testify to the desperation with which the dancing-Sarabhais sought government sponsorship and recognition. There are thousands upon thousands of jawans who are far greater patriots than her—and don’t boast about it. They are prepared to die for the country that Sarabhai wanted to flee because her fellow-dancers accused her of cheating them. Why did her most vocal defenders not include any of her dancer peers? Was this because, within the dancer sorority, they were aware there was more to the Sarabhai publicly-cultivated image than met the eye?
Was she not, through this particular contract that was challenged by the dancers, peddling to them her saleability? Was she not touting her own brand image to introduce them—on payment by them to her or her organisation—to foreign audiences that they could not have managed on their own? If (according to The Pioneer, November 2, 2003) 13 dancers complained about her, had she not netted from them a cool Rs 2.60 lakh for not taking them abroad!? And, if they felt cheated because she took their money—but not them—and she claimed she acted according to the terms of the contract, why should they not challenge those terms? “…there is hardly any doubt that daal mein kuchh kala hai, that something fishy has been happening over sending dance troupes to the US by Ms Sarabhai’s academy”, wrote Chandan Mitra. As it is kala in the daal of Mapin Publishing (co-founded by her and her ex-husband and with which apparently she still is associated) that welshes on its word and its payments (cases known personally to me).
Medha Patkar has the Right Livelihood Award, the Rev. MA Thomas National Human Rights Award, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defender’s Award, and the BBC’s Green Ribbon Award for Best International Political Campaigner. Her Narmada Bachao Andolan is described as a “social movement”. Presumably this social movement handles money, if only for its own expenses. But the Supreme Court has noted the NBA is not a registered entity. So how does it bank its money? How does it account for its expenses? The NBA, which has international connections, does not seem to have its own website. Foreign sources funded its support groups. Accused of faking medical certificates, fined more than once for dodging court hearings, Patkar is now accused by the Supreme Court itself of filing a false affidavit before it.
Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey and his Asha for Education have a full chapter to themselves in the Vigil book that details their magic of making foreign money disappear after it reaches them, their allergy to professional accounting, and (in the book’s Appendix 12) his blatant lying to the Deccan Chronicle.
Now, India Against Corruption solicits donations. But it doesn’t solicit them in its own name. It solicits money in the name of the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF). In other words, the money you donate for IAC’s work actually goes into PCRF’s pocket. Guess who set up and runs PCRF? Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Abhinandan Sekhri, started with the Magsaysay money to Kejriwal. It is not clear from its website under what law it is registered, but it was filing a tax return in Form ITR 7 and claiming s.80G exemption.
Let us look at Public Cause Research Foundation’s accounts:
- For FY 2006-2007, PCRF reported Rs 51,434/—as utilised for charitable purposes—though actually all this was entirely office/administration expenses. It reported an opening corpus fund of Rs 13,01,000/- and a closing corpus fund of Rs 12, 49,566. In other words, it utilised its corpus fund solely for routine office/administration expenses.
- For FY 07-08, PCRF reported Rs.6,31,797/—utilised for charitable purposes—again, actually all this plus another Re. 0.90 was entirely office/admn. expenses (including salaries of Rs 3,26,600/- and legal exp. of Rs 91,209/-). It reported donations received of Rs 21,400/-, loans and advances of Rs 2,15,000/-, and a closing corpus fund of Rs 14,49,168.10/-. Its corpus fund statement as on 31/3/08 showed for “specific corpus fund” an opening balance on 1/4/07 of Rs 1,000/- only and an addition during the year of Rs 8,10,000/-. And as “nonspecific corpus fund”, an opening balance of Rs 12,48,566/-. The loan of Rs 2,15,000/- was “Kabir Loan 200,000.00” and “Loan to Parivartan (Mangal surat) 15,000/-”.
- The Parivartan is presumably Kejriwal-Sisodia’s Parivartan. Kabir appears to be the registered society “spun off of Parivartan”. Founder-member Manish Sisodia is also its “Chief Functionary”; Kabir’s governing body includes Arvind Kejriwal. Though founded in 1999, Kabir’s website reports no financial details.
- For the year ending 31/3/09, PCRF omits the ITR scans, the corpus fund is now Rs 31,51,416/-, the loans and advances are Rs 2,46,274/-, and the office and admn. expenses are Rs 8,10,078.10/-. No donations are reported, and there is no financial information for after 31/3/09.
- Kejriwal’s Parivartan was analysed in the Vigil book. Manish Sisodia was Parivartan’s founder-member and treasurer. Kejriwal and Sisodia founded PCRF, Sisodia founded Kabir, and together they “govern” it. Note the incestuous connections between all these different agencies actively soliciting money from the public, and note the opacity of their publicly-declared accounts. Kejriwal was in the income-tax service. Surely he understands accounting.
- Prima facie, your IAC money—which you gave because of Hazare?—is channeled into Kejriwal-Sisodia’s PCRF and from there into Kejriwal-Sisodia’s Kabir and possibly Kejriwal-Sisodia’s Parivartan.
As was asked about Parivartan, “This is transparency? This is accountability? Something wrong with their maths? Or with their morals?”
A “triumvirate” of an ex-police officer, an ex-income tax officer and a very worldly godman publicly abet an old Gandhian’s attempted suicide, while they themselves have no intention of shuffling off their mortal coil. Their personal ambitions become apparent, and there are “sharp differences in movement over spoils”—“both Kejriwal and Agnivesh can leave if they cannot sink their differences,” said Hazare. Here was Hazare fasting-unto-death and Bedi withdrew from the dharnasthal because of “poor health”! Agnivesh opened his own direct line to the Congress. Kejriwal declared, “A 73-year-old man is fasting-unto-death… He is fighting for each one of you and for your children’s future. This is your last chance…” And then Kejriwal smartly seized his chance and out-manoeuvred both Bedi and Agnivesh!
Sonia Gandhi’s NAC colleague Aruna Roy is emerging from the woodwork (yes, this is the same Aruna Roy whose duplicity is detailed in the Vigil book, and who calls the Indian government “fascist” but has no qualms sitting at its highest table with the de facto head of this fascist government to “advise” her and it).
“…who will decide who are representatives of civil society for the joint committee? Anyone and everyone can claim that they are part of civil society so must be included into this panel to formulate the Lokpal Bill.”
Of all the “civil society” activists featured here, Kejriwal has ensured he’s the only one into the joint drafting committee. Thus, Arvind Kejriwal, of dubious accounting fame, now represents at the national level our country’s “civil society”.
Anna Hazare demanded: “There should be no tainted ministers in the committee.” Asked if there were five untainted ministers in the government, Hazare said: “They should be least tainted.”
The public official must be “untainted” or, at any rate, “least tainted”. Fair enough. So, we assume the five ministers named to the joint drafting committee and accepted by Hazare are untainted or the least tainted, including Kapil Sibal who publicly castigated the country’s Comptroller & Auditor General and equally publicly absolved Spectrum Raja of any wrongdoing!
But, characteristically, what’s sauce for the sarkari goose is never sauce for these “civil society” ganders.
Of the “triumvirate” that negotiated the joint drafting committee’s composition, is Arvind Kejriwal really “untainted;” or, of the three, the “least tainted”? As the primary negotiator on behalf of Hazare, was it ethical of him that he negotiate his own name? If Justice Santosh Hegde who is Hazare’s first choice could suggest Justice JS Verma rather than himself as the “ideal person” to be the committee’s Chair, why could Kejriwal not insist on some other “civil society” activist for the committee? Was he negotiating for his own inclusion and/or ensuring the exclusion of Bedi and Agnivesh?
All these so-called civil society activists will be aware of the legal doctrine of clean hands. Yet, as is amply clear, they demand public officials have clean hands even as their own hands stink.
- Baba Ramdev has been doing far more to raise popular awareness against corruption than this lot, yet neither the English-language mainstream media nor these so-called civil society activists extended to him the “civil society” support they extended to Hazare. Why not?
- None of these so-called civil society activists has stood for popular election, whether State Assembly or Parliament, except Mallika Sarabhai (and she was roundly trounced by the electorate, losing her deposit). So, whom do they really represent?
- Why does Anna Hazare promote that extra-constitutional “civil society” bastion called the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi? He “sought to project that Gandhi and he were on the same page on the issue of an effective Lokpal Bill”. (Para 3b at http://www.hindustantimes.com must be juxtaposed with the widely-circulated “bhrast-achar” email – e.g., http://www.flickr.com.) The connection is obvious, yet Agnivesh is “already singing paeans to the Government and Congress president Sonia Gandhi”.
- Whatever the merit of the cause, is Anna Hazare wittingly or unwittingly a pawn in the unclean hands of these “civil society” activists?
- Of IAC’s 19 others who “started the movement” with Anna Hazare, how many and which ones showed up to express solidarity when he started his “fast-unto-death”? Only four—Agnivesh, Bedi, Sarabhai and Kejriwal. Why didn’t the other founders join him?
- Finally, there will be expenses, if only on the bandobast of this “fast-unto-death” mela. Who was providing the money? And who was keeping the accounts?
By Krishen Kak