The ATM generation that’s backing Anna Hazare

R. Jagannathan, the editor of First Post, says there is a “new” middle-class propelling Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement. It has five distinct traits, it can dump you as easily as it pumps you up, and it is here to stay:

1. The new middle class knows that you can’t get anything done by being reasonable. Just as the Dalits or OBCs get their reservations and caste-surveys done not by reasoned debate in parliament but through an exercise of street power, it has learnt that you get what you want when you are unreasonable enough.

2. The new middle class has discovered its spending power and wants goods and services made to order. Politics, for it, is not about democracy and constitutionalism. It is about delivering governance.

3. The new middle class is impatient and self-obsessed. It is the ATM generation, where you put in your card and get your money. It does not believe in negotiating with people, with bureaucracy, and with the political establishment. Corruption and bribery are obstacles to its progress.

4. The new middle class has a consumerist view of democracy. It will vote if voting is made easier. Its ideal of democracy is something you can give your opinion on through a website poll or a tweet or a Facebook post.

5. The new middle class is a product of the decline of the public sector and the rise of the modern private sector.

Read the full article: Why Anna’s middle-class is different

Photograph: Activists of “India Against Corruption” at a dharna at Freedom Park in Bangalore on Thursday in support of Anna Hazare. (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Is only urban middle class backing Anna Hazare?

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20 Responses to “The ATM generation that’s backing Anna Hazare”

  1. sumakani Says:

    Dont forget to add that for new middleclass(Cum Richer Class) Including persons like NRN, feel that Govt is an enterprise where u pay taxes and they have serve you depending on the quantum of tax paid by you like how expect a service in a hotel where u pay room rent and u r expected to get good services depending on the charges paid by you. All these social equality, equity as well as rights of oppressed, let it go to GTH. Yes I agree with the writers observations.

  2. Abhi Says:

    1. There is nothing unreasonable about people being pissed. It was high time. In fact, it is unreasonable why and how people have been putting up with such mess till now.

    2. What use is democracy and constitutionalism if half of your countrymen crawl on roads.
    If I were making a country, I’d get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy, then I’d go about giving pamphlets and statues of Gandhi to other people. – quote from Aravinda Adiga’s book.

    Shove your democracy up the arse. We all know what a joke it is in the context of India.

    3. What is negotiating with bureaucracy, and with the political establishment? We already live in servitude to both.

    4 and 5. Point noted. How does that reduce what Anna is doing?

    Infact being a guy form middle class, if I may add a 6th point, to become your ultimate villain:

    6. I am not obsessed with nation states. If India can not give me a decent quality of life, I will stay away from it.

  3. chetan krishnaswamy Says:

    Portraying the ‘middle class’ as self-serving or self obsessed – with a “consumerist view of democracy” (whatever that means) is narrow thinking. It has no basis whatsoever. The writer flaunts his theory in the most whimsical manner almost attributing devious designs to this mass of supporters. There are so many ridiculous statements in this piece that it is best relegated to the ‘recycle bin’… ” Making the middle class, the villain in this plot is unpalatable. It is totally unfair…

  4. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    This so-called ATM generation in India is about as politically and philosophically mature as the so-called Hope and Change generation of USA that elected an inexperienced President Obama.

    The hope and change generation in USA has now suddenly realized that the economy cannot be improved by merely hoping and changing. Similarly soon the ATM generation in India is going to realize that political change does not happen at the speed at which money can pour out of the ATM.

    You need patience and a coherent plan to bring about positive political change. Just going on fast is not a solution to any problem.

  5. twistleton Says:

    I wonder if they realize that what they are doing is singularly political :)

  6. karihaida Says:

    Why are there no candle light vigils? Is it not cool anymore or what?

    sorry to burst your bubble, but government is an enterprise. The cliched free lunch thingy …

  7. Krishna Bhat Says:

    Well, at least they are doing something other than giving up like many of us. Clearly, Indian democracy is a farce, since 60+ years have only seen our system stumble from one crisis to another, from Nehru’s idiotic obsession with the failed Soviet-style planned economy through Indira’s cancerous license-raj to the abysmal depths of state-sanctioned corruption and looting today, with no way for the common man like you and me to live a decent corruption-free life.

    It should be absolutely clear to anyone that our government is here to exploit and loot us, not make our lives better – all the way from the local constable through the top echelons in Delhi.

    I can’t remember one instance of dealing with any sort of government office where no bribe was required. I had to get a photocopy of a degree certificate attested by a gazetted officer. Just one sheet. The going rate at the time was 10 rupees per copy – for something that is the officer’s duty to perform. When I applied for my passport, the cops never even came home to verify address proof. I was called to the police station, asked my name, asked for fifty rupees (“dakshina”) and sent away. I was also told in not a very subtle way that if I didn’t want to pay, life could become very difficult very quickly.

    If this is democracy, I don’t need it. The only progress we have seen is in spite of the government, by private sector industry and small enterprises.

    Maybe I was selfish, maybe I could have done more, but I was too sick and tired of it all. As Abhi says, I chose to get out of the country as soon as possible, hopping from one place to another till I settled in one nation that offers a decent life. Not utopia, but things just work here, your daily life doesn’t sound like Indiana Jones adventures. I surrendered my passport and gave up my Indian citizenship after nearly two decades of thinking, but that is a decision I will not regret because I am far more productive and can focus on my work and family. Things get done here if we are reasonable, unlike the land of my birth where you get things done only through protests or violence.

    Now I am advising every capable person I know to get out of the country and most of my friends and relatives are doing that. I will not apologise for this action of mine, nor do I expect any understanding or sympathies. Just telling it like it is, that’s all. Goodbye India.

  8. FRND OF ALL Says:

    hi i m with anna hazare he was fighting for us,what we r doing now also hum ik dosre ki tang keech rahe hei why hame corruption ko mitana hei corruption causes by every neta n officers here sare india ko ik hona hoga judna hoga is aawaz sei hum ik hei abhi bhul jao kis party ko belong karte ho abhi to socho us kranti ke bare mei jo anna takes for us sarkar ko bhi jabab milega after some yrs or left right ko bhi why we anna come on road be silent n do urs best dont tease any body do what u can do silent protest by all age no restriction on any thing but dont break rules anna ke andolan mei apni bhagidari karo anna humare sath hei ANNA HUMARE SATH HEI

  9. Manivannan Says:

    Government is not an enterprise. A democratic government is a trustee and manager of public resources. It manages the resources based on majority opinion. A democratic government is a reflection of the society. If it is not functioning as per the expectation of the society, then the reason lies with the society itself or in its mechanism of electing the government. Solutions lie there, not in fasting or with strong Lokpal.

  10. balasubrahmanyan Says:

    hits the nail on the head. bala

  11. twistleton Says:

    @ Manivannan

    Well said.

  12. Krishna Bhat Says:

    Which dream world are you in? This government is not and never was a trustee of anything. The government is squarely in the business of oppressing people. As I keep saying, we have had sixty years of so-called democracy bringing India down the drain. The government has been allowed to systematically destroy our ecosystems and loot our people because of the constitutional framework.

    The only hope for change is to change the constitution, throw out the government and bring in a completely new system. No change is possible, it has never been possible within the current constitutional framework.

  13. sanjeeva Says:

    Manivannan Sir, Theoretically you are right. But in practice you know very well what is happening around us. The people have very little choice or say in electing the government or the good people for that matter. The government itself is formed not based on merits of the persons but for other varied reasons and compulsions. Secondly, take the example of an elected government itself – In any government, there would be at least few good, knowledgeable and welfare oriented persons. Yet, they are not able to bring any kind of reforms in any field. Why? Eventually, even a good person succumbs to power and money.

    There are cliches like “one should take the course of law, “arm of the law is long” “Justice may be delayed, but not denied” etc. etc. But what is the state of our judiciary? A common man is not able to get justice in time and appropriately. There are so many loop holes in our law, rules and regulations that, mostly the wealthy and influential people get away while others suffer. People come to the streets only when they are desperate and frustrated. Their feelings must be understood and instead of trying to suppress them, a sense of assurance and trust must be created. Indulging in great debates with rhetorics, technical jargons and in articulate manner as to whether the ways are proper or not would not serve any purpose. Unless the mood of the people is understood and appropriate remedial measures with good intent and purpose are taken, just harping on democracy, democratical methods, supremacy etc. is meaningless.

  14. Nastika Says:

    @Manivannan, I agree in theory. But in our country, whoever the society puts up ends up in the same bin.

    I think the responsibility is lacking with power.

    This is true of serial no 1 to last candidate in the poll.


  15. Deepak Says:

    What a joke. Fortunately, the likes of Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari havent’s got hold of your ‘innovative’ theory!! Else they would have blamed us for 2G scam and CWG.

    Our democracy can best be defined by Benjamin Franklin’s quote :

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch”.

  16. Anonymous Guy Says:

    I dont think you guys get what Manivannan is saying. Please read his last sentence again:
    “If it is not functioning as per the expectation of the society, then the reason lies with the society itself or in its mechanism of electing the government. Solutions lie there, not in fasting or with strong Lokpal.”

    Thank the many gods that at least we have a functioning democracy with laws and processes inherited from the British. Otherwise it would be anarchy of the worst kind given our tribal, casteist, regressive mindset and the majority would have had to suffer greater injustices.

    If it were not for the UPA (and BJP) governments’ economic policies which allowed the urban middle class to benefit, there would not be any Team anna or any chance to protest against corruption.

    Anyway what alternatives do you propose? What big problem with the lokpal bill solve.

  17. Faldo Says:

    @Mannivannan – you make some good points. If society can reform its processes, many of its ills can be reduced if not eliminated.

    It is easy for us to say that we are against corruption. But that is a very broad perspective and may not be very helpful. We need to identify tangible objectives and look at specific conditions that can lead to corruption and try to find ways to solve it. While doing so, we must be careful not to make this movement into a fight against all government officials and leaders, otherwise no one would be encouraged to take up public service. That could lead to anarchy.

    There is a strong link between corruption levels in a country and the living conditions and access to resources. Reforming the system and improving living standards goes long way in reducing corruption. I had commented on this movement in another related post.

  18. sanjeeva Says:

    AG, “electing the government”! Do we the people really elect any government?….We elect the people. Even for that we have very little choice. It is like choosing between a pickpocket, a robber, a thug, a conman, a rowdie etc…. How effective our democracy is a highly debatable thing.

  19. karihaida Says:

    “If it is not functioning as per the expectation of the society, then the reason lies with the society itself or in its mechanism of electing the government. Solutions lie there, not in fasting or with strong Lokpal.”

    This is the entire reason why you have to be realistic about ‘government’. I’m as corrupt as the next person and as a whole our society ( I can say human beings) is extremely corrupt. You can call it casteist or whatever, but bottom line is we are all greedy and corrupt. When we know the truth ourselves, trying to hope for our type of constitution to work, is sheer stupidity and kind of immoral and corrupt in itself. So the only practical way of governance is through a minimalist, easily enforceable set of rules.

  20. Manivannan Says:

    @AG, Faldo

    I agree with both of you. Read faldo’s link too. In a democracy, government is after-all a reflection of the society. Hence, theoretically the government is ‘people’s government’, thus liked by majority of the people. But, when the society is as pluralistic as India, we have to put up with leaders who do not have majority support, but still enjoy a lead. (first past the post system of election)

    Considering the level of plurality, education, awareness and capacity of Indian Society, it will take many years to resolve our conflicts and elect leaders who will represent us in real terms, at-least, whom we wont protest against!

    Till then, we have to accept the harsh reality of unacceptable leaders and their mediocrity, corruption etc. At the same time, we can work steadily to change the basics; electoral system, transparency, tolerance etc. It may take time, but it will work. Only it works!

    World over, change has come only when the Majority wanted it voluntarily, and not when thrust by a group, however articulate and charming it may be. Else, the change doesn’t sustain. (USSR!)

    So, lets use our limited energy & time on basic, non-glamorous issues enumerated above. My humble opinion.

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