Neo- Gandhism has led to Participatory Development in India post social movement led by Anna Hazare.

Participatory Development in India

Master's Thesis, 2012

63 Pages, Grade: Merit


Table of Contents



Executive Summary

1. Introduction

2. The Context

3. Review of Literature

4. Research Methodology

5. Challenges in primary data collection

6. Results:

7. Analysis

8. Conclusion

9. References

10. Table of figures

11. Annexure 1


I wish to thank my supervisor Susannah Pickering- Saqqa for her valuable suggestions and reading the draft chapters of this dissertation. I also wish to thank Dr. David Durkee for his guidance in helping formulate the proposal for this research.

This dissertation would not have been possible without the support of my wife Pratima Singh who, despite her advancing pregnancy, made sure that I got the time that I needed to complete this dissertation in between a full time job and the growing needs of our two year old daughter Aparajita who always wanted to work on Papa’s laptop so that she could help him.


No portion of the work referred to in the dissertation has been submitted in support of an application for another degree or qualification of this or any other university or other institute of learning.

Executive Summary

The last decade has seen India emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in the face of a global economic meltdown. The year of 2010 saw Delhi host the Common Wealth Games, followed by the exposure of shoddy preparations, gross financial mismanagement and reports of rampant corruption in awarding lucrative contracts to dubious firms. The high and mighty became richer. This was followed by various other scams running into billions of worth of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.

The year of 2011 saw, Anna Hazare, a Gandhian social activist sit on a fast with few people supporting him in New Delhi demanding the formation of an independent ombudsman- the Jan Lokpal to investigate the corruption at high levels. The massive support to the protest from people in every major city, from every walk of life, in the country made the government sit up and take notice. The protest seemed to take the shape of a Gandhian mass movement with people joining the fast, wearing Gandhian white cap and determined to be non-violent.

This paper set out to explore if this movement has resulted in any change in the attitudes and behavior of people resulting in participatory development. A questionnaire was drawn with four thematic statements inter-linking this movement and the effect it had on people’s own attitudes towards participatory development. Twenty five respondents sent their views via electronic medium on issues of their own understanding of participatory development and the role gender within that context, their own stories and if they had played any role in the movement.

The research analysis did not conclude a straight answer and was able to establish that participatory development does not exist in its entirety in India despite it being understood as the only way to holistic development. The reasons appeared to be more diverse and varied and were unable to indicate any changes in inner conscience vis-à-vis personal lives as in Gandhian philosophy; making it imperative that a further and more extensive observational study may be needed to understand why participatory development still remains a theoretical concept at large.


Geographical area of research: The research is focused on Indians within the geographical boundaries of India and few living abroad. For the purposes of ethnography, the city visited was Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Framing the research: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s idealism, beliefs and vision of a self reliant India mobilized the masses of colonial India in its struggle against the British Raj and earned him the title of Mahatama. The pathway that India followed post independence has been a complete antithesis of Gandhi’s vision of self-reliant India and six decades on, the results are for everyone to see- in the shape of a country that is plagued by systemic corruption and exploitation of the poor (Sharma, S, Gandhian Strategy).

Many social movements have taken place in independent India on initiatives taken by individuals such as Vinoba, JP, local NGOs etc for community rights and have yielded positive results at local or regional levels (Bonner, 1990). In the light of massive public awakening and support to India against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare- a pro Gandhian, the research aims to study if this ‘awakening’ and ‘support’ from the masses is a result of romantic momentary passion or does it really mark the beginning of proactive participation of people in country’s development. In this instance the ‘development’ has underpinnings of issues related to economic corruption. Corruption, in itself can mean many things in different contexts (Bardhan, 1997).

This research aims at exploring the peoples’ change in attitudes and practices and the gender roles within the discourse of participatory development in the light of social activist Anna Hazare’s exhortation of Gandhism and his protest movement relating to issues of economic corruption “as public frustrations are boiling over about poor roads, shoddy schools, inflation, rising inequality and the pervasive reach of official corruption” (Yardley, 2011). This is in the face of government being charged with series of financial scams including the common wealth games 2011, 2G spectrum sale, the mining scam, the housing society scam of Maharashtra, military deals and most recently the coal scam and numerous others involving loot of billions of dollars worth of public money.

The research also aims to study the nature of public participation in this social movement led by Anna Hazare against government’s weak Lokbal Bill (an independent ombudsman to investigate corruption), the reasoning why they felt that they had to participate and if that reasoning has changed their view of their own involvement in the development process. Further, the research aims to explore whether the change, if any, is directly related to activism and opportunity or are there elements of Gandhian philosophy imbibed in them as is being constantly exhorted by the leader of this movement Anna Hazare.

Research as part of the bigger picture: India is 64 years old and is one of the fastest growing economies today in the world. Yet, it is still home to the highest number of extremely poor in the world. The only explanation of the plight of its over 300 million citizens living in poverty is the unprecedented political corruption that can be seen at every level of government machinery leading to instability (Gajendran, 2004).

The basic foundation of any functional democracy lies in the awareness of the social and moral responsibility of its citizens to exercise their power to vote in the interest of the larger good of the country. Violent scenes in the parliament and state assemblies are common occurrences in India today. These are the very representatives that were chosen by the masses. Rampant corruption, favoritism and deprivation of social justice have stunted the grassroots development of the communities that need it most. A World Bank report- India: Moving out of poverty (2009) mentions that “Over the 10-year period of the study, people across all communities perceived that bribe-taking had increased everywhere. The starkest rise was perceived in Uttar Pradesh, where the percentage of people who perceived most/all of their local village officials to be corrupt rose from 35% in 1995 to 88% in 2005”.

Anna Hazare, took the centre stage in this vacuum created by ineffective leadership in 2011, dressed in “Gandhian cap and plain white shirt, he rallied tens of thousands in the capital and inspired protests across the becoming a symbol of hope for frustrated Indians--and a thorn in the government's side” (Kai Ma et al, 2011).

The research had aimed to establish the hypothesis that the recent social movements led by the civil society have resulted in second coming of the Gandhian tenets of Satyagrah (civil disobedience) to protest against the apathy of the establishment and demand social justice and accountability. The resultant outcome was a heightened moral and social responsibility as it is these very masses that are also part of the system and somewhat, beneficiaries and/ or victims of the prevailing corruption. The outcome of the research does not accept the hypothesis in its entirety and ends up formulating an alternative hypothesis.

There is much research data available on the attitudes of people regarding consumer habits, voting patterns etc., however, as there is not much research available regarding the attitudes of the people towards issues of holistic development and their personal role in shaping them. There are cultural, societal and individual compulsions involved that need to be understood by the policy makers and appropriate strategies formulated by the lawmakers and civil society to enhance participation by common man in everyday life to enhance social justice and check the plight of poor and marginalized community. It is a society where female infanticide, caste discrimination, child labour and dowry practice are almost common occurrences and the society as an organic mass does not stand up to these vices. This research may also indicate if there is a correlation between these social vices and development deficit via inefficient governance.

The Context

The Government and the Jan Lokpal Bill - Indian parliament has not been able to pass a bill that envisages the formation of an independent ombudsman that can investigate the cases of high profile corruption at the national level and Lokayukts with similar function at the state level. “The unaccountability of the government is so transparent in a democracy like India that most of the 300 million people living below the poverty line fully realize that the public exchequer is being looted, and that the money allotted for development and humanitarian aid is going into the pockets of the rich and powerful. From the highest echelons of government to the lowest village functionary, corruption is rampant and there is nothing that people can do to stop it, save overthrowing the government by exposing the corruptions, which is exactly what has happened over the last few decades” (Gajendran, 2004).

The people - India is a country that is vastly divided over communal, cultural, linguistic and regional lines. For decades, the “democratically elected governments seemingly do nothing to bridge the enormous gap between the rich and the poor..” (Roy cited in Gajendran, 2004). Since independence in 1947, there has been an element of “passivity and the refusal of Indian to demand justice” (Bonner, 1990: 35). This passivity or lack of participatory engagement is also reflected in a quote by an activist in (Bonner,1990: 36) that states “the law is merely an expression of the appearance that the state wishes to make. It does not represent the reality on the ground. There is hardly any public pressure for enforcement, although no one says its good”.

India against corruption- The movement along the lines of Gandhism - In april 2011, a social activist “Anna Hazare, 74, emerged as the unlikely face of an impassioned people’s movement in India…” and resulted in “a public outpouring that has coalesced around fighting corruption but has also tapped into deeper anxieties in a society buffeted by change” (Yardley, 2011). His fast unto death on Delhi’s famous Jantar Mantar- a classic Gandhian strategy, and the immense public support forced the government to invite him to the bill drafting committee- an unprecedented move in the history of Indian parliament. Since then there have been many meetings between the government and members of the civil society for the formulation of an effective Lokpal Bill. The massive public awareness and frustration over “the scandals of the past year have also convinced many Indians that corruption goes way beyond the petty venality of poorly paid clerks and constables” (Thottam, 2011).

Many other public figures, including the yoga guru Baba Ramdev started their own fasts, motivated by Anna, to force the government into specifying what measures it was taking in different issues relating to massive corruption.

The initial response to these movements by some senior members of the cabinet tried to belittle the movement and reeked of pretensions of being the masters, while the general public was a subject that must wait while the government deals with these issues. The message to the members of the public was that of a complete lack of political will and it seemed that the “Indian government seems to value its people mainly as workers, consumers and entrepreneurs who have propelled the country to 9% growth. But the decade long boom has also led to vast inequalities of income. India now has 55 billionaires, their combined $250 billion fortune amounting to a sixth of the country's GDP. And yet all that wealth has failed to remedy a terrible truth: 500 million Indians lack access to any kind of sanitation” (Thottam, 2011).

The members of public assembled in these gatherings wore the Gandhian cap with “I am Anna” printed on it and took oath of non-violence and never to pay bribes to any official again and demand their rights. This research aims to establish if this movement that had captured the attention of the world media- “After revelations of stupendous corruption when politicians granted telecoms licences and prepared Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth games, Indians are right to be furious (Economist, 2011), has actually resulted in peoples’ active participation in development.

Review of Literature

Bonner (1990) has explored social movements in India since the Gandhian era. The common theme in all his experiences in India has been the systemic corruption and lack of will of Indians to demand justice and their rights. He suggests that this lack of social justice creates disenchantment with the system and people tend to disengage with the government functioning and wait for someone else to champion their cause. “It’s a pattern of faith and superstition: Rama [God Incarnated] came, Shivaji came, Gandhi came. Like that, they think, someday s great leader will come and lift us up and lead us to liberation”(p99). This is true in the context of 2011 when people offered their support when someone else took up their cause. He also seems to equate the Indian social movements with the tenets of Gandhism when he say that “They rely on non violence and empowerment: an awakening at the bottom. The legitimizing factor is changed values, not superior force” (p 414). It is this very “changed value” that the research intends to explore.

Bardhan (1997), in his paper, has reviewed the issues that relate corruption to development. He theorizes that corruption is an ancient problem and goes on to define various types of economic corruptions. He also explains the different cultural views around issues of corruption where once society may view something as a matter of privilege and another may view the same thing as immoral and unjust. He suggests that there is general trend that the level of corruption goes up initially with economic growth and then gradually it comes down (p1329). If India is viewed in that context, the economic growth of India saw a surge from the 1990s. Economic liberalization offered opportunities for corruption and even worked towards increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. Should it then be expected that at some future time the level of economic corruption will go down? He does suggest the lack of development due to economic disparity and the importance of participation of the policy implementers in policy formulation, thereby suggesting participatory development. The literature is relevant in the sense that in India it took a social movement to involve people of civil society in formulating the draft bill to curb corruption.

Gajendran (2004), has put forward the arguments, based on chronological political history of India post 1947, about economic development that is plagued by political corruption. He underpins the lack of social development and the reasoning why India is still home to the largest number of poor living below poverty line, despite being “on par with the United States as one of the models of democracy in the world” solely on lack of political will and accountability. He uses the term “transparency” and “accountability” as the ultimate paradox to describe the plight of common man. He argues that there is a general fear and respect for the power of the vote among politicians and that has what has maintained India as the largest functioning democracy in the world. However, despite the fact that people have voted different parties in and out of power for lack of development, India still remains home to the largest number of poor due to systemic corruption. He uses the governance policies and styles by various political parties since India’s independence from British Empire as evidence to support his main argument. He however, also seems to point out the strength of the vote by suggesting that despite the massive corruption, it was the people who voted out the corrupt regimes, thus giving the chance to successive governments to expose the corruption of the previous regimes.

His arguments imply that “corruption is a political problem and it has far reaching economic consequences”. The argument is correct as it results in deferred innovation, lost opportunities and entrepreneurialism. India is today one of the fastest growing economies of the world, despite continuation of systemic corruption. This only goes on to increase the gap between the rich and the poor and the ultimate disenchantment of the commons leading to civil unrest.

The paper only reiterates globally known facts as India continues its downward journey on Corruption Perception Index (CPI) evaluated by Transparency International, slipping to 95th rank in 2011 from 87th in 2012 and 84th in 2009. The paper fails to connect the economic growth and its lack of inclusivity to the rise of sporadic incidents of civil unrest and vigilante justice in India. Since late 2000 Judicial activism, rise of NGOs filing Public Interest Litigations using Right to Information Act and few social leaders canvassing against systemic corruption have started making some impact in forcing the government to take affirmative action.

Pillai (2006) has suggests that the absence of a responsible civil society is the most serious threat to the process of strengthening democracy and participatory development. He discusses the participatory development as an alternative to conventional development models. He also suggests ‘social consciousness’ as major factor in enhancing participatory development and that ‘development’ is a collective responsibility of the society. A consistent theme in all the literature reviewed is mention of “rampant and increasing corruption among the politicians and bureaucrats” (p12). A solution provided in his paper for the “curse of a corrupt democratic society” is the “presence of a vigilant and effective civil society” (p13).

Jos and Rewal (2009) dwell on the “alleged process” of middle- classization. This literature is of importance in the widely held view that the middle class is most effected by the systemic corruption in India. They suggest that the process of middle classization can be understood to be that of “social polarization” where the upper class gets richer and the poor gets poorer, in relative terms. This, they suggest, leads to “social polarization in terms of practices, at the same times leads to a homogenization of aspirations” (p2). They suggest that the middle class seems to have exited from the process of local self governance in both its welfare and procedural dimensions. This also present in the form massive abstention in electoral behavior. Perhaps this lack of participation within the public sector functioning has ultimately resulted in public anger resulting in this social movement.

Sunanda Sharma (2011), is an assistant professor at JCDAV College in Dasuya, Punjab- India has mentioned the basic principles of Gandhism and their relevance in the face of issues plaguing India today, primarily corruption. Her paper- the Exclusive Mantra for solving problems in modern context, describes Gandhi’s virtues of non-violence, tolerance and Satyagrah (quest for truth) as the ultimate means of freeing communities from oppression. She suggests that Martin Luther King as had adopted Gandhism in the 50s to demand civil rights for the black community in America.

The key statement made in the paper questions relates to the Gandhian strategy of Satyagrah while posing a question at the same time that if it could free India from the oppressive colonial rule then why cant it get rid of the country from prevalent corruption.

She mentions recent non violent social movements led by a 74 years old Gandhian- Anna Hazare and his ability to mobilize the middle class masses to fight corruption as evidence to point out the relevance of Gandhism even today. The movement forced the ruling government to involve civil society in formulating the draft proposal to establish an anti-corruption ombudsman. She does not provide any counter argument to her thesis statement, however, it can be inferred that Gandhi’s vision of self-reliance and reluctance to foreign goods would not hold much good in the face of globalised trade and interdependency of states for food and supplies in today’s modern world.

It is evident from the paper that she is an ardent follower of Gandhism and feels that the solution to every problem can be found following the basic tenets of Gandhism- tolerance, non violence, civil disobedience in the face of injustice and the search for ultimate truth. She also seems to influenced by Anna Hazare’s fast in Delhi in 2011 and the reaction it created among the masses, becoming a mass leader championing the cause of the commons.

The implications of the her arguments are that people need to stand up to injustice through non-violent ways. Solutions to issues like terrorism can be found by understanding what is causing the violence and then dealing with the root cause, rather that dealing with terror militarily. I agree this with argument. Gandhi always professed participation in development and having the moral courage to stand up against the face of injustice. Corruption in India can be tackled if common people actually refused to indulge in the practice, even in the face of adverse situation. The issue of consideration is that Gandhism is a way of life, not just a tool to be followed in a given situation. There has been a spurt of neo-Gandhism in recent past in India. In fact a Hindi film- Lage Raho Munnabhai (2003) that shows the protagonist following Gandhi giri (style of Gandhi) in order to win over people and his opponents became a massive hit among Indians. Anna Hazare filled the vacuum created by lack of leadership in the country as a champion who was willing to die for the truth and accountability. Masses joined in with an oath of non-violence and solidarity and as this movement gained momentum and spread to every major city in India, the government catapulted.

The article does not give any new knowledge that had been hitherto hidden from public domain. Despite many repetitive sentences, she does make a point in favour of Gandhism as troubleshooter in modern world. It is more pertinent now in India than ever as, for years, the government seems to serving its own interests with scant regard to social justice. Gandhism is the only effective way that can force the people in power to do something about the welfare of common people.

Kai Ma et al (May 2011) have described the movement as “India hungry for change in their article in the Time magazine.They have mentioned the Gandhian as “74-year-old activist fast becoming a symbol of hope for frustrated Indians--and a thorn in the government's side”. The research envisages investigating if that ‘hope’ is sustainable and if the people are really a ‘thorn in the side’ or champions of real development.

Thottam (December 2011) compares the Indian movement with that of Egypt and compares the two on the basis of people standing up to demand dignity and respect. She quotes the U.S. President Barack Obama who compared the Egyptians to a previous generation of Indian protesters, seeing in the Cairo demonstrations similarities with "Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice." She suggests that this movement is not likely to fade away anytime soon as people feel that they have to fight another struggle, after the one for independence, for their dignity.

Ghose (August 2011) and Economist (August 2011) do not hold the common held view that this movement is positive. While Ghose calls the activist casteist and anti democracy, the Economist warns that there are “better ways to curb corruption than those suggested by Anna Hazare”. The Economist suggests that the movement will fail as it “displays a whiff of Hindu chauvinism”. However, it does not explain that it that was the case, then why are the other minorities not involved as the issue in question affects everyone. The Economist does agree that lack of effective leadership has created “a vacuum, it is no wonder the public does not trust political parties to clean up the system and prefers to join Mr Hazare's crusade”. Ghose quotes Shyam Babu of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation by saying that “Don't forget Dr Ambedkar's caution against 'satyagraha' as the 'grammar of anarchy'. Ghose also quotes various caste and religious leaders saying that the movement led by Anna Hazare is dangerous. It is ironic that India has a history of getting divided on the lines of caste, class and religion every time people have got together to demand their rights. Will this social uprising meet the same fate?

Yardley (August 2011) quotes one observer of the movement calling it a ‘churning period’ for India. In the addition the principles of Gandhism, he suggests that “Mr. Hazare and his advisers have also proved adept at the necessities of modern politics: they have adroitly outmaneuvered the police and government officials who sought to defuse the anticorruption movement”. He has also quotes common people expressing their plight and how they now felt empowered by the movement and were no longer scared police asking for bribes. He does not offer any hypothesis but has expressed the opportunity that government has of enhancing participatory development in India.

Despite much literature being available on the social movements and the inter-relation of ineffective governance and development, not much has been written on the any sustainable change that this movement has brought about on the attitudes of people and what has been the resultant outcome. This research study envisages filling that gap.


Excerpt out of 63 pages


Neo- Gandhism has led to Participatory Development in India post social movement led by Anna Hazare.
Participatory Development in India
University of East London  (School of Law and Social Sciences)
NGO & International Development Management
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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999 KB
Neo-Gandhism, Participatory development; Anna Hazare, India, Corruption
Quote paper
Anil Bajpai (Author), 2012, Neo- Gandhism has led to Participatory Development in India post social movement led by Anna Hazare., Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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