From Prof Emeritus Surendra Gupta.

Sir, With reference to your report “Singh says campaigner’s arrest was necessary” (August 18): in saying that a person protesting peacefully on a topic of vital national importance is a threat to democracy, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is putting forward a new theory of democracy.

In fact, his own elevation to the prime minister’s office at the behest of Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi was against the very basic principles of a democratic polity. How can one become the head of government in a democratic country without having won a single popular election?

He has allowed himself to be used by Mrs Gandhi, whose ultimate aim is to see her son Rahul occupy the prime minister’s chair. For this, she could not have found a more pliant person than Mr Singh. After his first term in India’s upper house, for which a person needs only the nomination of his or her party before going through a formal election, Mr Singh could have chosen to contest a seat in Lok Sabha through a popular election, but he still chose the easy route of the upper house. Had he been his own man with a popular base, he might have handled the issues of corruption in India’s public life in a different manner.

In addition to the corruption that prevails in India at the level of everyday living whenever a citizen deals with a government official, the Singh government has added to it enormously by two populist measures: enacting a guaranteed rural employment scheme and providing for a 27 per cent quota for other backward castes for admissions and so on in all public institutions of higher education. The first has become more a scheme of money distribution than of job creation. And money is handed over by local officials, thus opening more avenues of graft for them. In India’s complex caste system, getting a certificate as proof of one’s membership in a lower/backward caste from the same officials has opened even more doors for corruption.

Anna Hazare, a simple retired army soldier living on his small pension, has captured the imagination of Indians of all ages and from all parts of the country by initiating this anti-corruption movement. Indian democracy will be strengthened, not destroyed, by its success.

Surendra Gupta,

Professor Emeritus of History,

Pittsburg State University,

Pittsburg, KS, US

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