Democracies in flux : Shutdown, Anna Hazare the new “Mahatma” against corruption and the Middle East

Around the same time as the US Government was reaching Shutdown at Washington DC on Friday, Anna Hazare was being declared the new "Mahatma" Gandhi against corruption  in New Delhi as the different Middle East movements continued their unchartered progress to democracy. Over the weekend democracies were in a state of flux of different orders, in different parts of the globe. But let's look at momentous events in India with respect to corruption.

India is rated 3.3 in the Transparency International's corruption perception index and foreign investors notice. For 42 years the Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill has not been passed and "enough is enough" said Anna Hazare, who went on a fast unto death, just like Gandhi, in protest. Millions joined him in different cities of India and millions of others supported via the Internet including Facebook and Twitter. The Government of India heard the voice of the people, a ten member    committee  comprising of five Government ministers and five representatives of civil society will create the Lok Pal draft bill which will include examining  charges against  the Prime Minister of the day, and the bill must pass the monsoon session of parliament by August 15, 2011. If it does not, the apolitical Anna Hazare will go on a protest fast again. Indian politicians do not want to think of the electoral consequences of such a dire possibility!

Democracies are messy but as nobel prize winner Amartya Sen pointed out, no democracy has ever suffered famines. In advanced democracies like the  US- Shutdowns are averted, in younger democracies like India old problems like corruption are confronted, in fledgling ones like Libya the opposition tries to come together as a viable alternative.

So where does the Indian Lok Pal bill leave business? Business is hopeful that India's perception of corruption score will improve and the mass of red color in the world corruption map will become lighter with the spread of democracy. For sure Afghanistan will do better than 1.4 and Iraq will do better than 1.5. The scores, by the way, are out of 10, with 10 being the cleanest.

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