Thoughts on economics and liberty

Two ways to reform alcoholics: 1) Beat them with a belt, or 2) Support them

I'm amazed at the praise being lavished on Anna Hazare for "reforming" drunkards in his village – by BEATING them. Given the overwhelming PUBLISHED evidence, people aren't able to any longer deny that AH has ACTUALLY beaten poor, illiterate people in his village. So now they are saying that it is GOOD thing that AH has been beating people to reform them!

A typical comment:

If he managed to reform even hard core drunkards by whatever means, he deserves my salute. No doubt every thing was done under a code to which the village panchayat agreed. People were surely free to call in police if Anna was beating them without their wishes. That they did not, means they realised that it was for their own good. In any case it sure had the village folks approval. 

Nice! That's what educated Indians should be – isn't it? Perfect role models of MORAL CONFUSION. 

I've by now had a LOT of "educated" people basically telling me that within India – a constitutional republic with its parliament and laws – we must have scope for UNELECTED village panchayats that totally DISOBEY the laws of the Republic. Such are the PATHETIC conceptions of justice and liberty our "educated" people have.

Something is SERIOUSLY wrong with our education system whereby our HIGHLY EDUCATED people can't even distinguish the basic fact that the laws of India apply equally to everyone in India.

Indeed, on Twitter I got this tweet:

@sabhlok Does IPC apply in villages with Gram Panchayat but no police stations ??? Pls clarify

Another person, a senior civil servant in India, wrote in relation to the beatings by Anna:

"The standards of liberalism and practices are miles different in countries like India, than those in the developed countries!"

I'm truly amazed. (But lest I be misunderstood let me add that I do not mean to denigrate anyone including those who honestly don't know, were not taught in school about law, or generally wish to learn something new).

The ends DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS. There is no concept of "by whatever means". There is ONLY one liberalism – one freedom. It is a fundamental precept – that the means to reform so-called "drunkards" MUST be consistent with liberty and individual freedom (and that DOES NOT mean prohibiting liquor – or virtually anything; we need liberty, education, choice). 

And has no one in India heard about Alcoholics Anonymous?  Alcoholics Anonymous has a 100% success rate (or close to that if I'm not mistaken) in reforming drunkards.

Ever heard of Alcoholics Anonymous beating people with a belt?

These HIGHLY (!) "educated" people of India seem to think that there is NO ALTERNATIVE way to reform drunkards except to tie them to a pole and beat them with a belt. AH is not just not being condemned, he is being PRAISED FOR BEATING PEOPLE!

I'm sorry, I disagree. CRIMINALLY ASSAULTING people is not the legal or the right way to "reform" anyone.

This is not a "developed" country concept. It is INDIAN LAW. Period. And just so you haven't YET understood, the IPC does apply to all villages in India.

If you want a different set of laws for Anna's village, you will need to pass them first in the parliament.

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10 thoughts on “Two ways to reform alcoholics: 1) Beat them with a belt, or 2) Support them
  1. Sid

    At the risk of being called uneducated, I want to proffer my two pennies worth: Do we have the right to beat up our own errant children or not if they have really gone wayward…I admit that it may not be the only method…but that IS an option, isn't it. See the end result: that village which was once a daroo ka adda has metamorphosed…is it or is it not a desirable outcome. Also, ought not that model of development (not the beating) have been replicated in more towns and villages of India ?
    Secondly, for all the paeans in praise of IPC and constitution, how come 25% of the parliament comprises criminals…and the UP CM has the "powers", under the law, I am sure, to waive all the criminal cases against MLAs she wants to favour. System promotes criminals of all kinds and if AH indulges in a little inoccuous exercize to purge his village of pernicious bad habits, does that at all compare ?
    Thirdly, "freedom" definitely is NOT all a bed of roses…please listen, dont tune off (I am not contradicting your basic thesis nor am I saying that it is not better than socialism)…what I am saying is the usage of the word or concept of "freedom" to perpetuate perniciously deleterious stuff in the media and bollywood and the advertisement world. See, there are base tendencies in human beings whose expressions must have limited access (to my mind and I can justify by saying that children must not be exposed to certain things … thus the concept of "limited access"). And IPC cannot penetrate everywhere…not villages (practically speaking) and not the "powers-that-be", they are above the Law, anyways
    And sir, with all due respect, do you really have the money and convincing ability (to influence the millions of masses) to see through 2014 elections because your method espouses a change of the system from within and that presupposes an absolute majority as a quid pro quo. Do you have a sureshot formula to make it. I dont have a doubt about your ability to make the structural changes.
    So, till the time you could come in, the population of India is exulting at a person, AH, who has made a dent. Because, by your own admission in BFN, the system has been badly subjugated from within…it is in tatters…WHY THEN ARE YOU OPPOSING A PERSON WHO IS TRYING TO STITCH THE GAPING HOLES IN THE TATTERED SYSTEM ??? 
    And instead of scoring brownie points against AH, would it not be a TACTICAL MOVE for you to come in RIGHT NOW and ride on the wave that the youth of the country is going through and convince them and magnetise them to your line of thinking. Are you not queering the pitch by going hammer and tongs at AH. And whether Gandhi slept in a certain way or not, his non-violence is an unalienable heritage of our country and our ethos, isnt it ? and AH has inherited that…witness the completely non violent level of protest this time.
    Borrowing from calculus, we have x + del x and y+del y
    x is corruption and del x is constitutional provisions
    y is AH and what he has achieved and del y is what AH did to a few errant villagers

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Sid

    First, I’m NOT linking up the two things: what Anna has achieved in the field of anti-corruption work and his violent past (or possibly present). I’ve said clearly that LP bill is basically pointless at this point, but have it – without violating the constitution (the Jan Lokpal bill apparently does).

    Second, you do realise perhaps that I’m not interested in power for the sake of power. I want a mandate for good leaders to do the RIGHT THING, not more of the same.

    Hence giving me examples of corrupt MPs doesn’t ring a bell. WHEN HAVE I SUPPORTED EXISTING MPs? I have called them thugs and criminals (where such proof is evident) and do not see them as role models for me to follow.

    What I want is a FAR BETTER INDIA, where good leaders are found in the parliament and legislative assemblies, and they build systems which prevent the possibility of corruption. That’s the India I want.

    In that India there is NO place for glorification of people like AH. His goals are good but his preference to use unlawful methods and attitude (of threatening the parliament) a problem.

    I offer India a FAR BETTER FUTURE – and a future where we don’t beat up people for what they eat or drink. I hope when the dust settles down, people will start reflecting on what I’ve been suggesting.

    And so, no, I don’t intend to “ride on the wave that the youth of the country is going through”. I intend to keep speaking the truth, regardless of whether it goes against waves. Waves are temporary, the ocean is permanent. I’m talking about the permanent, the base, the systems we need.

    Finally, re: your concerns about freedom (“the usage of the word or concept of “freedom” to perpetuate perniciously deleterious stuff in the media and bollywood and the advertisement world. See, there are base tendencies in human beings whose expressions must have limited access (to my mind and I can justify by saying that children must not be exposed to certain things … thus the concept of “limited access”).

    You are referring to what is not called crime but mores of society. I’m NOT asking for unrestrained liberty – please note that! Liberty MUST come with accountability, and that includes complying with social norms of decency. Regulation to ensure that – while also respecting the rights of individuals to actions which don’t harm others – is necessary. Today we take simplistic approaches in India. Prohibitions or “everything goes”. I’m not in favour of either.

    So, in brief, let’s educate the youth, let’s try to show them how the system can be GENUINELY reformed, and show them a GREAT future.

    AIC does not offer a great future to India. I do.

    When Indians will start listening they will understand.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    From FB

    Ajay Sharma Sanjeev, first of all, I disagree with any punishment against the law of the country, and that too by unauthorised institution or people. But when we read the report, we have to put everything in prespective. As I was reading this, I realized that it happened when he was 38-40 year old, So about 34-35 years ago. In a village where there were around 40 unauthorised liquor dens, tried to close down all. He made a youth group, and forcefully closed down who didn't agree. UK telegraph reports the no of people beaten by him & his team was only 10-15. (not a regular parctice)(same in Wiki). What you expect a 7th grade passed student belong to rural india? He doesn't agree to this, he just justified it that time(1986), by saying that rural india was harsh society. He didn't belong to a diwan family like gahndi but his father worked as unskilled labour. Maybe you are giving him much credit by expecting(Gandhi(LLB/From an educated family) Ghandhi from him.

    Sanjeev Sabhlok Ajay, I'm afraid if you read more you'll realise this violent method is used even today – a group of villagers is apparently ready at any time to impart such punishment. No, I'm not "annoyed" with Anna. That's too mild a world. I'm really angry. Re: his being a Gandhian or not, it is HE who claims to be one – by putting such a huge picture of Gandhi when he fasts. The man on the street thinks he is greater even than Gandhi (that has been reported to me by someone very reliable). 

    Let AH apologise for his beatings, let him disband the goons in his village who are ready to impart violent thrashings on people who don't do what Anna wants to see in "his" village (as if the people were mere pawns). Then, once this whole incident is purged we can re-examine.

    This is not about perfection, but about crime.

  4. Supratim

    The people of Siddhi Ralegaon have been brain washed into believing that everything Anna does is correct and for their own good. And, yes, enforcement of anti-drinking rules continues to be equally harsh today, and this is not something from 30 years ago.  One friend suggested to me that Anna only beats up those people who get drunk and then beat up their wives!!! We go to such lengths to exonerate Anna – I suggested that we let the wives beat up the husbands, instead!
    This is just another rural manifestation of our yet prevailing "mai-baap" culture and our inability to think, which extends to our so-called educated folks too. Trained by our education system to believe in rote learning, never questioning and heavens forbid, ever thinking independently or from first principles.

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I like the solution: let wives beat up their husbands! But seriously, you are right, Supratim. This is no trifling matter – the way almost the whole of India is DELIBERATELY trying to brush this aspect under the carpet.

    Once again, I’m not linking AH’s anti-corruption movement with this characteristic of his. I’m simply aghast at this side of AH’s personality. That has nothing to do with his AIC activities.

    Btw I’d like to know more about the source of your info: “enforcement of anti-drinking rules continues to be equally harsh today, and this is not something from 30 years ago”.

  6. Supratim

    All you have to do is browse the local Indian newspapers – Indian Express, and the local Marathi papers. They have been proud of his achievement of turning Siddhi Ralegaon into a "dry" town/villlage through the use of collective, "moral"  force.
    I will search for the relevant items and send you the links separately.

  7. Supratim

    What Anna has done really, really well is the watershed management program in Ralegan – in dry Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, you have a green oasis. The solution is local, sustainable and replicable and cheaper than all the huge dam and canal projects foisted on us by the builder-babu-politician nexus.
    That is what the rest of India needs to learn from Anna's village.

  8. Aparnita Dutta Gupta

    We need to have lived under a despot to understand (appreciate comes later) what living in a democratic country is all about. If tying people to poles and beating them up tantamounts to ' some innocuos exercise', then only GOD can save us. And by 'GOD' I do not mean Anna Hazare. He maybe good at marketing his fare to the urban crowd ( brownie points to him for replacing the 'Bharat Mata' that donned the backgroung screen at his first fast in April with Gandhi at his recent protest rally ) but the methods adopted to 'purify' his village crowd is disgusting.
    The road to freedom in an independent India now looks even farther. Knowledge has not liberated the educated class. It has made them more rigid, more insensitive, more tragic and more difficult.
    Is it that for every watershed management activity that he did he was allowed to beat one drunkard inorder to condone this horrifying act? So, then Khaps in villages is also justified?

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