Thoughts on economics and liberty

There is no option but to stop Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death

A few weeks ago I spent some time to investigate the extremely problematic thing called ‘fast unto death’. Gandhi did not think that virtually anyone (apart from him) in India, was fit to undertake such a thing. But I concluded, after careful consideration, that even Gandhi should not have used this ‘weapon’. The idea of threatening suicide to pressurise governments to bend to one’s will is improper, and incompatible with a free society: definitely incompatible with the free democracy that India is. In particular, democratic processes in India are being subverted by this idea of fast unto death.

Now Baba Ramdev has joined in. Since he has clear political ambitions, at least his fast is not as bad as Anna Hazare’s.

But Baba Ramdev’s demands have little or nothing to do with the causes of corruption. The idea that high denomination notes cause corruption is so laughable it beggars belief. Ramdev is a TOTAL simpleton who imagines that by imposing the death penalty on the corrupt, corruption will disappear. Such simplicity of mental capacity brings a smile to my face. 98% of government servants and 100% of politicians would need to be hung. Does he want to create the French Revolution in India with its guillotines? Anarchy?

He needs to learn about the CAUSES of corruption (and poverty, and filth, and bad infrastructure, and bad education, and bad health system, and bad everything). A few hints are provided here. He needs to grow up and start reading and asking how the world runs, not impose his childish fancies on India.

There is no legal right to fast unto death in India. Indeed, such action violates the law against suicide. It is imperative, therefore, that the government of India arrest and force-feed anyone who threatens to use such coercive tactics.

I’m reasonably happy to support Baba Ramdev in his political goals so long as he demonstrates a capacity to listen to reason and good sense and is genuinely interested in solving problems including (but not restricted to) corruption [corruption is the LEAST of India’s problems: bad policy is India’s main problem]. But I’m unable to support Baba Ramdev in his undertaking a fast unto death. Let him contest elections, become Prime Minister, and change the laws. But using methods like fast unto death displays a total disregard for democracy.

He must be arrested and force-fed. Period. This racket can’t be allowed to continue. Indian democracy will soon disappear if these methods are permitted by the state.

However, I’m not sure whether the Indian government has the mental strength to arrest Ramdev. It is almost certain that the government will buckle.

Interestingly, either way – whether it arrests Ramdev or not – the Congress government (and the BJP!) will lose politically. Baba Ramdev is a master political strategist (in his great innocence) apart from being a childlike (even childish) misguided simpleton.

Maximilien Robespierre comes to mind. The similarities are more than skin deep.

But with such low quality of (potential) “policy makers” in India, only God can save India. Or the Freedom Team. If you have genuine policy understandings, and are willing to save India from impending anarchy, please join FTI.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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18 thoughts on “There is no option but to stop Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death
  1. arjun

    whenever our country has been in crisis, it is only sadhus and sants who have come to protect it starting from Chanakya to vidyaranya (vijayanagar empire) to ramdas(shivaji) to gandhiji/arya samaj.
    Baba Ramdev has not asked for death sentence to all corrupt, while in a debate he has said so may be to show his anger. He is for high punishment to those who are corrupt, now for his fast there are 3 demands — sign un convention on avoiding corruption, bring back black money and remove 500 and 1000 notes which are causing it and also being faked. I think his fast is justifiable and we all need to support it. May be the timing is doubtful but we need to do it. Our country cannot wait anymore. It has been denied of progress and prosperity for more than 1000 years (atleast since Vijayanagar empire)

  2. chaitanya

    > The idea that high denomination notes cause corruption is so laughable it beggars belief.

    I don't know if baba ramdev has said that high denomination CAUSES corruption. I believe he is saying it makes it easier to carry on corrupt activities. Its easier to carry a bunch of 1000 rupee notes hidden in a pocket than equivalent 100 rupee notes in bag visible publicly. People will certainly think twice about receiving bagful of notes and carrying them out of offices. It seems a reasonable proposal to me. It definitely throws sand in the wheels of corruption. Pls point why you think this is not the case. Ofcourse, it may not address the root cause of corruption, but it certainly makes it difficult to carry out, I.e, a negative incentive.
    Carrying on this logic, imagine we slowly move to a regime where cash notes are slowly phased out, apart from small denominations like 50. I.e, a complete cash free society. That will definitely dent corruption because everything HAS to be done electronically. If someone wants a off-book bribe, let them risk carrying bagful of 50 rupee notes around !

  3. chaitanya

    Also this addresses the issue of counterfeiting very effectively !! Its 10 times more difficult to distribute 100 rupee notes than equivalent 1000 rupee notes. plain math !

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    When a pox has affected the body, should you spend time cleaning each pox or attacking the underlying CAUSE?

    The MEGA corruption does NOT take place through rupee notes. It takes place in dollars, and most of it is transferred ELECTRONICALLY into foreign accounts.

    I think Baba Ramdev and his simpleton followers (both meet each other’s need for simplistic solutions) must start THINKING, not jumping to rash conclusions.

    The mind is given to us so we can think. Use it.


  5. raghavan

    500 and 1000 rupee notes are there for a reason. If we catch cold, we don't cut our nose.. Likewise, banning big notes won't reduce corruption whatsoever. It only increases the problems to people involved in daily transactions.. Making most of the cash electronic is one of the main reasons which fuelled the recent recession in huge scale.. electronic cash has a good place but making it the most part of the cash system where it's hard to keep the security of the computer networks can bring the whole economy down within a short time, if attacked from inside or outside.. More importantly i don't want the govt. to monitor everything of my life.. especially when it can't make a better choice to bring down corruption other than to monitor everything and do as it desires..
    It's an irony that whether we like it or not, these things are bound to happen.. when the govt. or any other body pulls the society from equilibrium to one side, it naturally osciallates to the other side as well after sometime till it becomes stable again.. all we can do(if we can) is to reduce the duration of the extremes..

  6. Supratim

    The Definition of Insanity:  Keep doing the same thing, but expect different results.
    De-monetisation of higher currency notes have been done twice in the history of India – both times by the Reserve Bank of India, under the instructions of the Federal government, to curb "unaccounted money". The first time was in January 1946 and the second time was in January 1978.
    Can all the followers of Ramdev who blindly support this move explain why we should be third time lucky?
    And, have all you followers been tracking the 2G case and the Lavasa case and the Adarsh Towers case – you all have a very 70's and 80's idea of how corruption takes place – suitcases full of cash. Today's high powered corruption does not require the movement of physical cash. It happens through allotment of high-priced flats, and transfer of equity stakes and rent-seeking or just plain appeasement of ego through buying IPL clubs.  Does your yoga guru have any clue about a modern economy?

  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Supratim, you are so right on this. But you should start interacting with people on Facebook and on blogs like this. You’ll be amazed at the kind of “educated” people we have managed to create. Ramdev’s case is excusable because he is after all a medieval yogi. What about Anna Hazare and his Jan Lokpal Bill?

    Why did LokSatta support Hazare despite JP himself stating clearly that electoral funding is the root cause of corruption in India?

    In whatever has transpired so far, LokSatta has come out very poorly, for it seems to support all kinds of half-baked ideas. JP doesn’t seem to have a plan. No plan, no clarity of thought. He is losing his way.

    If only JP would join FTI and we could get some SOUND policy agreements – then we’d be able to open up the genuine third front in Indian politics. We need full time politicians on the ground. JP is ideally suited, except that he sometimes loses his head with half-baked ideas. He needs patience and focus. Then India WILL get a genuine national alternative in 2014.


  8. Arjun

    @supratim: if your logic is to be bought, then the proverb "try and try again, till you succeed" is a farce. Times have changed since 1978. Today most of the people do banking transactions over the internet. Mobile banking is the latest craze. Why can't we think of cash system being replaced by card system using the same UIDAI and biometric system, atleast for majority of transactions? Why dont we research on evolving such a system? America prints notes without having sufficient treasures. And major economies like india and china boost of high amount of USD in forex reserves. Dont you think there is jeopardy involved in this? If the yoga guru doesnot have any idea of economy, will you leave it at that stage?
    He may not have the brains but he has the mass movement with him. Why can't the intellectuals use it and bring about the suitable changes desired in the system to make it more transparent? I dont buy that baba is completely adamant to his demands. What is lacking is open minded discussions and transparent implementation. Most of the fake currencies are reported in the same 500 and 1000 rupees being shipped from pakistan through B'desh and nepal.
    Each and every resource sharing has to be done through transparent e-auction system and suitable verifications of the desired prerequisites. The problem is most of the pre requisites (like bpl cards, apl cards, IT returns) are forged here which is done in the same 70s and 80s fashion show till today. We are facing most the problems today because of less e-literacy also. 
    Nothing is impossible if there is a right WILL guided by an open minded approach.
    @sablok, I do agree that there are many intellectuals on net agreeing or thinking in right direction but is it anyway comparable to the baba's followers, leave alone the voting class. It is the same intellectuals who go on trips during holidays given specially to cast vote. If you get a pox, you do attack the inner cause but you would also apply a lotion on the pox to avoid the irritation and ease the pain and burns! To merely think in terms of who benefits the system or the opposition is no better is just running away from the problem.


  9. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Arjun

    I’d like to suggest that both Supratim and I are members of the Freedom Team of India (along with many other “intellectuals”) who are NOT just saying things, but working towards delivering an alternative government to India.


  10. Murthy

    Dear Sanjeev,
    If Election expenditure is one of the root causes of corruption, scrapping the big denomination notes is going to create a big problem for election funding & expenditure i.e distributing notes for votes

  11. Murthy

    The UN convention against corruption  has come 6 years before.
    Till now Govt if India did not sigh it. baba ramdev asked govt to sigh it.

  12. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Murthy, it is not election expenditure per se that is the issue. That should be left entirely free. The issue is a multi-faceted, including state funding of elections. Do read Ch. 4 and 6 of BFN.

  13. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The UN is a meaningless body operated by Keynesians and socialists. Please don’t talk to me about the UN. And making laws against corruption is even more meaningless.

  14. Murthy

    I ma not debating on State funding of election. I am for scrapping the big notes. We can go for plastic money.
    At present in India,
    Election Expenditure is one of the root causes of corruption in India.
    Each candidate from the main parties spends 10 – 20 crores for assembly elections.The person who spend 10 – 20 crores in election is bound to earn money after getting elected by hook or crook.
    recently in one Bye poll for Lok sabha in A.p, the three candidates together spent more than 100 crores.
    scrapping the big notes is not going to hurt these people badly during elections.

  15. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Murthy

    This is not about “debate” re: state funding or other things. The point is that corruption must be addressed at its source and currency note size is NOT the source of corruption. Let’s not discuss till you’ve read what I’ve suggested in BFN. Else we are going to be wasting our time.


    Addendum: To say that currency notes cause corruption is like saying that knives cause murder. But there are 1000s of knives and only one “causes” murder. So that theory is wrong. The cause is the motivating factor that drives the HUMAN being who kills, or is corrupt. We need to address those causes, not the tools of day-to-day transaction.

  16. allwyn

    Addendum: To say that currency notes cause corruption is like saying that knives cause murder. But there are 1000s of knives and only one “causes” murder. So that theory is wrong. The cause is the motivating factor that drives the HUMAN being who kills, or is corrupt. We need to address those causes, not the tools of day-to-day transaction.

    EXCELLENT POINT – see no more note comments after that you should have said that first thing and save all the typing.

  17. allwyn

    in manipur sharmila is fasting(and being force-fed since for a decade now) to oppose a dangerous army act being imposed. Is a FAST a valid protest in this situation?


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