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Civil society can flag, not flog an issue: Bhagwati

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 22, 2011
First Published: 20:24 IST(22/12/2011) | Last Updated: 00:09 IST(23/12/2011)

As Anna Hazare launched another scathing attack on the government on Thursday, there was a word of advice for the civil society that Hazare represents.

“They should learn the value of dialogue, not diatribe,” noted economist Jagdish N Bhagwati said, delivering the Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture on “Designing Institutions for Governance Reforms on Thursday.

Bhagwati, who teaches economics and law at Columbia University, also took pot-shots at the Anna Hazare movement that had “turned into uncivil society instead”.

“The mayhem among those activists reminds one of American free-style wrestling where there are no rules or, more cynically, the only rule is that you must hit below the belt,”

Bhagwati — who held the licence raj responsible for sowing the seeds of corruption that trickled down to the lower bureaucracy over time — said the greatest disappointment with the civil society was their presumption that they could supplant the democratic process.

“The UPA government has been exactly right: the civil society can agitate, it can make suggestions but it cannot be allowed to impose solutions. They are good at flagging an issue; they are not good at flogging it,” Bhagwati said.

Bhagwati also emphasised that the Lokpal, in any form, would not prevent corruption but reduce its adverse effects.

“The real problem … is not its (Lokpal’s) problematic efficacy. Rather it lies in the fact that these measures do not provide mitigation which would reduce the incentives for corruption,” he said.

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