Crowd Management a lucrative Enterprise in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Social activist and anti graft crusader Anna Hazare has caught the imagination of the nation and he and his team is a subject of discussion at every nook and corner of the country. The common man in India sympathises with the cause that they are championing, but some have reservations about the method being adopted to put across the point to check corruption in the country.
Let us analyze the anti corruption fast of Anna Hazare in New Delhi in August 2011. A careful study of the fast covering both the pre planning and execution, clearly indicate the enormous level of strategic planning that have gone into this public agitation.
While there maybe twenty thousand agitators sitting along with Anna Hazare during the fast in Delhi, and maybe around fifty thousand persons in different cities all over India, yet they remain a miniscule figure when compared to the total population of the country.
The hard fact is that the number of agitators who actually participated in Anna Hazare’s fast could be less than 0.01 % of the Indian population. People in the lower income group who are the real sufferers due to corrupt conditions prevailing in the country and who constitute around 30% of Indian population (more than 300 million people) did not participated in Anna Hazare’s agitation. Many people in the rural areas did not even know about this fast taking place in New Delhi.
Nevertheless, the impression that was spread around the country was that the whole country was behind Anna Hazare. The Government of India was brought to its knees by the people’s power on the streets. The protest method adopted in the colonial era, still remains the most potent form of agitation even today. It also serves a role model for groups and lobbies to launch a similar agitation to get their demands accepted by the government.
The impression that is being created is something that needs to be analyzed, because it has ominous portents for the future of democracy and the development of our country.
The credit of “highly successful” fast of Anna Hazare in New Delhi obviously goes to the skillful agitation managers or team Anna as its being called. The agitation managers had controlled the movement so tightly that no negative campaign was able to make an impact during the time of the protest. The coercive methods adopted by them may have been disliked by lakhs of Indians, but they were “silenced” by the Anna
Hazare’s strategists making more noise and diverting attention.
This is the most conspicuous part of Anna Hazare’s fast in New Delhi and it needs to be studied in detail because this could be a right subject in the management schools and can be learnt under the topic agitation management, a lucrative enterprise in India.
In recent times, the agitators in India appear to have become highly skilled and some of them seem to have turned professionals as well. It’s not a emotional outburst that forms crowd but there are certain methods and theories that needs to be applied for the formation of the crowd.
So the crowd management is an interesting area of study, because India is a democracy and power lies with the people and they need to be mobilized in the streets round the year for different reasons and different purposes. It has to be backed by sound logistics and appropriate strategies in tune with the ground realities. It’s a highly specialized job that needs to be studied in all its seriousness.
This realization is soon dawning upon and the day may not be far off, when the management schools in India will start a special course on “agitation management”, teaching the students about launching agitations in a scientific way. A money spinning opportunity appears to be awaiting the B schools in the country.
What is striking is that many of the recent agitations all over India have been “successful,” with the state and central governments yielding to the threat and succumbing to the pressures of the agitators. Consequently giving an impression that the agitators are right and the method adopted is becoming a role model to be replicated in all the future agitation in this country.
The growing trend now is that the agitators seem to be measuring and testing as to what should be the ultimate intensity of agitation to paralyse the administration and bring down the government or any other agencies to their knees. A scientific survey and right timing, well managed and well executed agitation is sure to be successful.
Given their recent “successes”, many agitators seem to think that whatever may be the cause, if they could organise ten thousand agitators in one strategic place backed by money power and skillful media management they can become successful.
In a country like India, organizing ten thousand agitators is a cake walk. The social media has come as a bonus in the crowd formation, money power and media support are the other necessities. In such circumstances, the political parties and agitating groups first organize the money power and media support before venturing to bring the crowd on the streets to launch a successful agitation.
In the strategic planning of the agitation, they also take into consideration the quality of the political leadership and their lack of credibility which they exploit superbly working out the timing of the the agitation and in framing their pamphlets and speeches.
The Anna Hazare’s fast in New Delhi fast had all such planning done in a very meticulous manner. Every thing was in place, with Sonia Gandhi out of the country and weakest Prime Minister at the helm, they know that Tinamen square cannot happen at Ramlila grounds. So with remarkable planning they launched the agitation sustained it for two weeks a time well thought out to make the government relent and declare mission accomplished.
The example that is set by the Anna Hazare’s fast in New Delhi fast has now its echo is the agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. Although opinions are divided on this issue, those against the nuclear power station had a field day. With the government unable to decide how to handle the protestors, this agitation is also considered to be “highly successful.”
The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu is under construction since 2001 with Russian assistance. No one opposed to it and in the wake of Indo-US nuclear deal it was considered to be country’s asset in the generation of nuclear power.
However the radiation leak in March 2011 at Japan's Fukushima nuclear installation due to tsunami disaster, led to the opposition of the construction of the power plant at Koodankulam. Thousands of protesters and villagers living around the Koodankulam nuclear plant blocked the highways and staged hunger strikes, preventing further construction work demanding the closure of the plant
A group of agitators by their skillful planning and methods have been able to stall the entire progress of the massive power plant. The central government has repeatedly given an assurance of the safety of the nuclear power plant but the protestors remain unconvinced.
The Koodankulam agitators taking the cue from the successful agitation management of team Anna are also managing this agitation in the same way. They have managed the media well ensuring that the media focus remain on them and their demands. Their methods include even disrupting the meetings that would support the Koodankulam power plant.
The agitation management theory propounded by team Anna has become so successful that may political parties and agitating groups are taking note of it. In Tamil Nadu, the agitators are getting emboldened and one group is now demanding the closure of Kalpakam nuclear power plant, believed to be having India’s nuclear assets.
Now the big question is how to bring such misguided people into seeing the reasons? India is not Singapore or China where such agitations would be put down with heavy hand mercilessly. India is a democratic country and we all enjoy the right to protest.
The argumentative Indian the debating Indian is the trademark of the citizens of India. There could be different opinions and view points on every issue and in the traditions of the Indian democracy all this has to be discussed and debated in the Parliamentary forum of the country.
Parliament alone is the right forum to debate and discuss every issue that concerns the citizens and the nation as whole. The constitution has given us the rights to remove those in power if majority of people dislike any action of the government but this could be done only by due electoral process.
In such background, if this trend of a small group of people skillfully organizing agitations by their money and muscle power and media management are allowed to have a free run, it can seriously retard the stability and progress of the country.
While we all are proud of the liberal Indian democratic traditions, at the same time, we should realize that in the interest of the nation, it is necessary to ensure that frequent agitations and protests do not hamper the growth of the country.
By resorting to coercive agitations of colonial era, and at the drop of a hat, using methods like so called satyagraha and fast unto death, are highly counter productive. In fact such agitation management is leading to ‘mobocracy’ and creating a condition of unrest in the country. It’s undermining our democracy our liberal values and all the good that goes into the making of wonder that is India. It is high time that we wake up to such realities and arrest this trend gaining ground and doing more damage to the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org