What next for India?

Activist Anna Hazare has ended his hunger strike that forced Indian authorities to consider a tougher anti-corruption bill, but is this real victory?

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    "We the people of India ...." is how India's preamble reads. It's giving force and voice to a nation and not just a polity. But in recent decades this line by India's founding fathers has somehow lost its relevance. Instead of respecting one's lawmakers, Indians have had to put up with their political bickering, their personal quests for power and, yes, rampant corruption amongst them.

    But the last 24 hours have changed this perception.

    On August 28, 2011, Anna Hazare put an end to his hunger strike. Parliament accepted his demand for a strong new anti-corruption watchdog. This, after eight hours of some of the most scintillating speeches we've heard from MPs in a long time. And it took a 74-year-old man who refused to eat to come to this.

    Victory?

    So, has the faith of the people been restored? It's not quite clear yet. Yes, Hazare and his team of associates have managed to push a piece of legislation, which has largely been in cold storage for the past four decades.

    Yes, they've managed to mobilise tens of thousands of Indians, including the middle class, to come out on the streets against what they thought was a general way of life - corruption. And, yes, they've managed to bring popular dissent from the streets and into India's parliament. So, why does this victory suddenly feel hollow?

    Perhaps because Indians who've been supporting Hazare's crusade against corruption will now ask: "What next?" India's parliament, while conceding to Hazare's three key demands - bringing the lower bureaucracy within the Lokpal Bill, having a citizens charter in every government institution and having separate state anti corruption watchdog - will still need to debate and pass a new law.

    With the kind of scrutiny on India's lawmakers right now, it's unlikely this law will be pushed down among the many others. But for it to metamorphose into change will take a much longer time, perhaps even decades.

    So, as the celebratory dust settles down, the real work now begins. Anna Hazare also concedes to that. After he is discharged from hospital, he's going to undertake a nationwide march against corrupt officials.

    And then he'll tackle electoral reforms. He's guaranteed the support of many in this nation, but will he be able to deliver a strong law? It's hard to say.

    For now, Indians know their voices can - and do - matter. That if they come together and stay united in the face of a hegemonic polity, they have the power to change their own destinies. The trick will be to ensure this momentum and wave of euphoria doesn't fade out anytime soon. Something which is more difficult to achieve.


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