Thursday, December 8, 2011

Re-Entry: An Ending and Beginning

I recently returned home. It feels so good to be reunited with my family after three months apart. I missed them so much since they left India. I was greeted at the Omaha airport with my girls holding hand-made signs that said “Welcome Home Dada!!!” and showing a map of India, a plane flying over an ocean toward North America with a drawing of two girls and beautiful woman awaiting that plane. Sure enough, my daughters came running down the corridor and bowled me over with hugs and kisses followed by a nice one from my wife.

Coming back has been wonderful… and difficult. Like any experience of significant adventures and inevitable life-changes, it is hard to come back to a place where few people know about, and fewer still truly understand, what you have been through. Thankfully, my family was with me for the first two months of that adventure, so they (mostly) get it.

We had a great vacation to Los Angeles to visit my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. That was a warm respite – highlights being visiting LEGOLand with the kids and their cousins, Thanksgiving dinner with everyone gathered, and especially spending time with Aviva’s 95-year old grandmother who is still going strong – before the snowy winter weather set in here in Nebraska. All these blessings remind me that there is so much to give thanks for this year!

Sharing India Insights
I am keynote speaker at events such as the World Affairs Council 40th Anniversary Dinner, B’nai B’rith Breadbreakers, and the Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Annual Dinner ( I welcome more of those opportunities in the coming months. Sharing my photos and stories is always fun. And the goals of the Fulbright program are not only to represent the USA when scholars, practitioners and artists go abroad, but also to bring the learnings from those other countries back home to the USA.

Some of the ways I have packaged those insights include:
  • ·         Understanding Water Conflicts and How to Resolve Them
  • ·         Community Foundations Worldwide
  • ·         Gandhi’s Trusteeship and The Omaha Way
  • ·         What We Can Learn from India’s Social Entrepreneurs
  • ·         Judaism in a Democratic India
  • ·         Does India’s Rise Mean America’s Fall?

I look forward to sharing my India insights in many other forums and formats as appropriate to the audiences’ interest. And I hope to leverage some of those presentations in order to open up doors for consulting and teaching gigs.

The Last Week in India
My last week in India was a crescendo of activity. I hung out with fellow Fulbrighters, attended a concert of the Sufi Gospel Project, went to tea with my landlord and landlady, and said goodbye to my colleagues at Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy. I guest lectured on “Conflict Management” to MBA students at Raffles University and on “Sustainable Development and Philanthropy” to Masters of Sustainable Development students at TERI University.

I also had the pleasure of hosting my great friend Krish Raval. I met Krish in Caux, Switzerland in 1996 when I was a Caux Scholar ( Krish now serves on the board of Initiatives of Change with me. He is of Indian origin, born in Ethiopia and raised in the U.K. He founded an organization called Faith in Leadership and is an international expert and executive coach on leadership issues.

Krish and I co-presented a workshop at Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), one of the leading graduate universities of management in India. With little preparation, we skillfully wove together leadership, conflict resolution and philanthropy themes in our presentation. We hope to return to India to teach and consult in the future. Besides the wonderful synchronicity that Krish and I had when guest lecturing, it was just wonderful to have an “old” friend with me as I ended my amazing adventure in India.

Next Steps
I am excited about how this next chapter is evolving. In it, my hope is to find a mix of activities that play to my strengths: consulting, teaching, research and writing.

After a vacation to visit my family in Portland, I will begin teaching a new course at University of Nebraska at Omaha called, “The International Politics of Donors, Development and Disputes.” This picks up on the three themes of my Fulbright – donors or philanthropy; development, especially social entrepreneurs or grass-roots community change efforts as opposed to top-down projects such as the World Bank or USAID funds; and, disputes, in particular water conflicts – and will be a great way to process so much of what’s been on my mind.

In addition to the organizational strategy consulting that I have done for the past 20 years with businesses, nonprofits and government, I am also launching a new consulting firm focused on congregational conflict resolution. This will be a partnership with Rabbi Jonathan Gross. We are excited about this venture. Do you know of any churches, synagogues, mosques or faith-based organizations and federations that could use coaching, workshops, trainings or mediation services?  

Thank you for following my blog. Whether you have read one or all of the entries posted here, you have shared my journey. I appreciate you being a fellow traveler!

I would like to hear of your adventures. Please email or call 402-561-0236.

Peace to you and all you come into contact with on your continuing journeys….

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Community Foundations and Trusteeship

I just attended the National Conference for Community Foundations in Delhi where I facilitated a dialogue session. Although the conference was small in numbers, there was a great exchange of ideas and inspiration among the diverse group of community foundations who were present. It was sponsored by the Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy (SICP) which is my primary host here during my Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar fellowship. From left in photo: Jyoti Sagar, President of the Board of Trustees; Pushpa Sundar, Founding Director and Visionary behind SICP; and Dr. Pradeepta Nayak, Executive Director.  

I have been researching the community foundation movement in India. There are only about a dozen and they differ greatly in terms of size, age, budget, focus and effectiveness. One idea that I think should underlie the work of philanthropy in general and community foundations in particular is that of “trusteeship.” The concept of trusteeship that Mahatma Gandhi wrote about was an ideal that he hoped would be realized. This blog entry will explain trusteeship, give some examples, connect this concept with the community foundation movement in India and conclude with some recommendations for the field of philanthropy.

What is Trusteeship?
The concept of trusteeship is the pillar of Gandhian economics. Gandhi was neither a capitalist nor a socialist, but the idea of trusteeship carefully towed the line between these two. He writes, “What I would personally prefer would be not a centralization of power in the hands of the State, but an extension of the sense of trusteeship, as, in my opinion, the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State.” (The Modern Review, October, 1935, p. 412)

Trusteeship is possible if people think of themselves of mere trustees of their possessions and wealth. It is achieved when people earn money in non-violent ways, use what they require for their basic needs, then give the rest back to society.

To explain his concept, Gandhi employs a mantra from the Bhagavad Gita translated as “Enjoy thy wealth by renouncing it.” He goes on, “Expanded it means: ‘Earn your crores by all means. But understand that your wealth is not yours; it belongs to the people. Take what you require for your legitimate needs, and use the remainder for society.’” (Harijan, 1-2-1942, p. 20)

The money earned, if done so in honest ways, is meant to take care of your needs. Now those needs may legitimately differ from person to person.  Although he lived a very frugal life, Gandhi admits to these different needs by using the analogy that “the elephant needs a thousand times more food than the ant, but that is not an indication of inequality.” (Harijan, 31-3-1946, p. 63)

The key is that the rich must voluntarily give back to society and not in any way be coerced to give. Therefore legally mandating payment by businesses to NGOs under the name “Corporate Social Responsibility,” which has been proposed in the Indian Parliament on three or more occasions, would not be consistent with Gandhi’s trusteeship. Only voluntary philanthropy would be allowed under trusteeship. If involuntarily dispossessed of their riches that would surely constitute violence which would, of course, be abhorrent to Gandhi. He writes of his ideal state, “The rich man will be left in possession of his wealth, of which he will use what he reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for society. In this argument honesty on the part of the trustee is assumed.” (Harijan, 25-8-1940, p. 260)

The questions inherent in this theory of trusteeship are: Trustee of what? And trustee to whom? Gandhi answers that “everything belonged to God and was from God…. When an individual had more than his proportionate portion he became a trustee of that portion for God’s people.” (Harijan, 23-2-1947, p. 39)

Examples of Trusteeship
On a recent visit to Gujarat Vidyapith, the university that Gandhi started in the 1920s and at which he served as Chancellor until his death, I met with the current Vice Chancellor, Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar. He is probably the world’s foremost scholar on Gandhian economics and is intimately familiar with Gandhi’s writings. He told me that Gandhi “experimented with every one of his concepts” before he held them to be true… with one exception. “Trusteeship is unique in all of Gandhi’s writings. It is the exception to the Gandhi rule because he did not test this theory in practice. It is only a theoretical construct.”

I asked if Dr. Iyengar could cite examples of trusteeship in action. He said no one has fully lived this theory of trusteeship. But then he quickly added, “I think Warren Buffett would be the nearest to this trusteeship construct in practice.” Upon his death, Warren Buffett is giving away all his wealth to philanthropic causes. And he and Bill Gates have challenged fellow billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge in which they promise to give (at least) half their wealth back to society. Many people here have referenced – both positively and negatively – the recent visit of Buffett and Gates to this country to meet with Indian billionaires regarding the Giving Pledge.

Community Foundations and Trusteeship
What is the implication of this trusteeship for philanthropy? In the Question and Answer dialectical form that Gandhi often wrote in, he poses the question: “From your writings, one gathers the notion that your ‘trustee’ is not anything more than a very benevolent philanthropist or donor, such as the first Parsi Baronet, the Tatas, and Wadias, the Birlas, Shri Bajaj and the like. Is that so?” To which Gandhi, the writer, responds, “If the trusteeship idea catches, philanthropy, as we know it, will disappear…. A trustee has no heir but the public.” (Harijan, 16-2-1947, p. 25)

Although it is not quite what Gandhi postulated in terms of giving all of your wealth back to society, when I worked at the Omaha Community Foundation we would advise donors to “consider the community as your extra child.” So, if your will leaves assets to your two children, how about adding a fund at the community foundation and splitting your inheritance in thirds? After all, it is the community in which you work and live that is largely responsible for the good life that you and your family have been blessed to live.

In Gandhian theory, the economic system is subservient to and dependent on the larger social system. This does not matter whether it is applied to the industrial age or the information age. If the goal of human activity is materialistic then income is meant for consumption. Although they have different constructs for the ownership of capital, both socialists and capitalists agree that ‘the good life’ is had through seeking to meet material needs. Gandhi rejects this assumption in theory, but sees the reality of society driving people to desire wealth enough to meet basic needs (and beyond). So he writes, “I accept the proposition that it is better not to desire wealth, than to acquire it and become its trustee. But what I am to advise those who are already wealthy or who would not shed their desire for wealth? I can only say to them, that they should use their wealth for service.” (Harijan, 8-3-1942, p. 67)

Recommendations for the Field
Three recommendations I would humbly offer to those colleagues and friends working in the philanthropic field in India:
  1. Consider using the language of Gandhi to frame philanthropy in an appropriately Indian context. Although we need to be cautious with quoting Gandhi out of context (so go and read the original writings for yourself!), using the language of Gandhi has great resonance here in India. 
  2. Do not push for legislation that would mandate CSR, trusteeship or any other form of giving. Gandhi was clearly against coercion of any kind by the state. If people give, it should not be because they must, but should be from the heart because they want to. 
  3. The theory of trusteeship has many nuances relevant far beyond philanthropy. It is important to understand this deeper critique of the capitalist and socialist economic systems in order to truly under Gandhi. His economic theory was and still is revolutionary. While we might not buy all of Gandhian economics, the theory does challenge us to think critically about so-called development, our own choices of livelihood and social justice.  

I have learned so much from my association with SICP and value the partnerships we have formed. My colleagues here at SICP have challenged me, taught me and befriended me over these last 5 months. For that I will always cherish them.

I want to see the community foundation movement thrive in India and believe that SICP can continue to play an inspirational role. However, this is not a case in which, as they say in that modern classic film, Field of Dreams, “Build it and they shall come.” No. It is not enough to simply build the institutions of community philanthropy without a parallel effort in the local villages, towns and cities to recruit donors who have a trusteeship mindset, willing and wanting to contribute back to society all their wealth beyond what is required for their basic needs. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Circumambient World

As I near the end of my current India adventure, I have come full circle – back to where I first believed that someday I would be a Fulbrighter.

I recently returned from Sri Lanka. The US-India Education Foundation has a special travel grant available to Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholars in India to present guest lectures or workshops in adjacent countries. I was awarded this grant in order to guest lecture at the International Water Management Institute ( in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I also did a retreat at the Nilambe Meditation Centre ( where, 20 years ago, I met a Fulbright Fellow who inspired me to venture on this journey.

Water of Life
I learned a lot more from the folks at IWMI than they did from me. I have been interested in conflict resolution around water issues for a long time, but have only recently been intensely involved in research on the topic. My time at IWMI was an amazing opportunity to learn more from some of the top water experts in the world.

I spent a week living at their Guest House and hanging out at Head Quarters of IWMI learning about water issues, with a particular focus on water conflicts, from the researchers there. About one-third of the researchers are natural scientists, about one-third engineers, and about one-third social scientists, mostly economists. The focus of IWMI has traditionally been on irrigation for agricultural, although this obviously touches on many other related issues. They have four research themes: (1) Water Availability and Access; (2) Productive Water Use; (3) Water Quality, Health and Environment; and (4) Water and Society.

My main host was Mark Giordano, the Theme Leader for Water and Society. Mark is from Walla Walla, Washington, which is near Pilot Rock, Oregon, where my mother spent her early years on my great grandfather’s ranch. He went to Whitman College, the excellent small liberal arts college in Walla Walla. He and his wife Meredith, who also works at IWMI heading a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project, both have PhDs in geography from Oregon State University where they studied with Aaron Wolf, a globally renowned expert on water conflicts.

While at IWMI, much of my time was spent in dialogues with Mark. He graciously answered my questions and pointed me towards resources he thought would be of interest. I made a point to spend time with all the theme leaders who were in the IWMI offices, plus the Director General, Deputy Director and top researchers on various issues. The opportunity to informally interact with these brilliant scientists – asking them my sometimes basic but often challenging questions – was wonderful!

At the end of my week there, I presented my guest lecture in the Friday Seminar Series. It was titled, “Water Conflicts: A Framework for Analysis, A Case Study and Suggestions for Resolution.” In my presentation, I told the story of the water conflict I had just researched in Gujarat. Using the analytical tool of “nested conflict,” I included many different escalating factors beyond just water. 

We had a rich discussion afterwards. Some of the hard-core natural scientists challenged me on my mostly qualitative methodology, and some of the social scientists were particularly intrigued by the relational, cultural and legal issues that I discussed. My suggestions for resolution were generally well received. I proposed that instead of the western model of “outsider neutrals” as mediators to resolve local water conflicts, it might be more successful to use “insider partials who are known and trusted and understand the local culture, language, relationships, history, etc. In the case study I presented my example was a well-known guru in the area named Morari Bapu who tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to act as a mediator. During my interview with him he swung in a lounge chair the whole time. Below he is about to present me with a special blessing and this shawl.  

My time at IWMI was far beyond what I had imagined it could be. And it inspired me to do more work in the increasingly important area of water conflicts. While the popular rhetoric of imminent “water wars” may be a bit alarmist, I do think that as the global population grows and as we see more competition for water uses, being able to play a positive role in peaceful resolution of water conflicts will be incredibly important. I thank Mark and the many wonderful people who I met at IWMI for a challenging and stimulating week.

Circle of Life
Twenty years ago, I took off and traveled around the world. I had worked on Wall Street for three years and saved my money for this big trip, my first venture outside of the USA. Turned out that I literally circled the globe, visiting 26 different countries, and traveling as long as my savings lasted, which was a year and a half. About a year was spent in India and Southeast Asia, including six weeks in Sri Lanka.

On my last visit to Sri Lanka, I did volunteer work with the Batticaloa Peace Committee which was tracking “disappeared” Tamils who had been detained by Sri Lankan police and army then never seen again. That long civil war between separatist Tamils, led by the rebel group called Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and the Sinhalese majority is over. Although there was a brutal end to the conflict, about which some in the international community are calling for investigations, most everyone I spoke to in Sri Lanka was glad it is over and their lives are back to normal without fear of terrorist attacks by the LTTE or others.

Last trip, I also went to a lay meditation center where I studied with one of the truly enlightened beings I have encountered, the late-great meditation teacher Godwin. I also met a man who had a Fulbright Fellowship to study meditation techniques in Asia. This planted a seed. I said to myself, “Someday, I am going to do a Fulbright.” Finally, after 20 years, here I am doing a Fulbright… and feeling like my life has come full circle.

Last week, I made a pilgrimage back to this place. After a short overnight stay in Kandy, where I visited the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Lanka’s most sacred site which houses in the inner sanctum a tooth relic of the Buddha), I returned to Nilambe Meditation Centre. Nilambe is nestled in a beautiful tea plantation high above Kandy, with panoramic views of the surrounding hills.

This majestic setting was the perfect place for me to do a 48-hour silent retreat. For some of my friends and family, it may be hard to imagine Patrick not saying a word for two days straight. But let me tell you, it was a liberating experience to be totally silent for that period. Quieting my mind was a challenge, but sitting in stillness with God was a wonderful blessing and I cherish the opportunity to practice meditation in this way.

I am trying to carry this mindfulness practice back into daily life, but it is difficult to “come down from the mountain,” which is, of course, the case in every re-entry situation from a life-changing experience. There is a Christian method of mediation, called Centering Prayer, which I have been practicing both on my own with encouragement from my spiritual director and with a group at my church.

Part of the challenge of regular meditation, especially for those of us in the “householder” stage of life (that is with children, working, caring for a home, etc.), is that we can’t fit it into our routine. Nilambe helps by providing the space and structure for practicing mindfulness. Plus, everyone there has made a special effort to be at Nilambe to meditate. Here is the daily schedule:

Wake-up Gong
Group Meditation
Tea with the Sunrise
Mindfulness In Motion (yoga/walking)
Working Meditation
Group Meditation
Individual Outdoor Meditation
Rest/Reading (Library open)
Walking Meditation (indoor/outdoor)
Group Meditation
Tea Break (only during this half-hour, those who choose to – which I did not – can practice “Right Speech” which is useful, gentle, timely and truthful, the rest of the day we all practice Noble Silence)
Mindfulness In Motion
Meditation with Nature
Soya Coffee with the Sunset
Chanting and Group Meditation
Dhamma Lecture or Meditation
Preparation for Sleep
Sleeping Time

Light of Life
Now is the holiday of Diwali in India. It is the Festival of Lights. Delhi looks like Christmas in America with strings of lights and flowers adorning many buildings and gifts being exchanged by family, friends and colleagues. I am joining the extended family of my landlady and landlord for a special Diwali dinner.

My prayer is that all in India (and everyone everywhere) will let our inner lights shine and dispel all the darkness in the world! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free Drugs for All

I am just returning “home” to my flat in Delhi after more than a month of travels. I covered a lot of ground and ideas. Highlights include time with the Gandhi scholars in Ahmedabad, a 10 day retreat at Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram in rural Maharashtra, a short time at the beach on the Arabian Sea in Diu, researching a water conflict between farmers and industry in the remote villages of southern Gujarat, guest lecturing at Sir Padampat Singhania University in Udaipur, and spending three days with a high level Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in Jaipur. It is this last experience that I will briefly reflect upon in this entry.

First, a bit of history on the IAS. In the 19th century, the British Government inherited a well-formed public administration system from the East India Company called the Indian Civil Service (ICS), which in 1853 had instituted a competitive examination for highly sought after appointments. After independence in 1947, the IAS was formed and took over the functions of the ICS. There is still a competitive examination for which approximately 300,000 sit annually to win one of 850 positions. Those who don’t make the cut in the top IAS selection can go to other government services such as the Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Audit and Accounts Service, etc. But in my experiences teaching young people in India, the IAS is, undoubtedly, the place where the best and brightest hope to land a job. Ask why the IAS, one student answered me, “Because that is where I can have the most impact on changing society and making it better.”

In July, I was introduced to Dr. Madhukar Gupta by a friend who suggested that, having written his Ph.D. dissertation on water conflict, he might be a good resource for my research. Dr. Gupta invited me to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan State, where he serves as Divisional Commissioner. His wife, Kiran Soni Gupta, an accomplished artist with an international reputation (, is also a high-level IAS officer serving as Principal Secretary of General Administration and Chief Protocol Officer for Rajasthan. Dr. Gupta and his wife both have degrees from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. They have a daughter who is studying at Wellesley College in the Boston area (where my wife, Aviva Segall, went to school) and a son in the 10th grade.

Dr. Gupta was a gracious host during my time in Jaipur. He set up meetings with water experts, arranged my accommodations and meals and took me out for a day in “the field” with him. We went to an event at a government hospital, a visit to a district police station, a university celebrating its anniversary, an advance team to where the Chief Minister would visit the following day and a women’s college which Dr. Gupta was instrumental in starting. Being an IAS Divisional Commissioner, he was treaty as a dignitary wherever we went. His jurisdiction includes the metropolitan area of Jaipur and five adjacent districts which have a population of about 17 million people. He oversees all government programs and personnel in this division.

The day I arrived, the Government of Rajasthan launched a scheme in which all citizens visiting government hospitals, clinics and pharmacies will receive free prescription drugs. Over 200 medicines are on the currently approved list. The state government will pay the bill. Some commentators say this is a way for the current Congress-led State government to win the goodwill of voters. There is resistance to this program from some doctors who think that their professional judgment will be constricted by having to prescribe generic medicines as opposed to branded medicines. Critics claim that because doctors are getting kick-backs from drug companies for prescribing their brands, the real resistance is because the doctors will lose that source of income once this program is implemented. There is also obvious resistance from pharmaceutical companies who will lose revenue when cheaper generic medicines are used. And there is resistance from some pharmacists who are making a higher profit margin on branded medication than on generics.

We traveled on bad and bumpy rural roads about two hours north of Jaipur where we met the Gujarat State Minister of Health, Members of the Legislative Assembly for Gujarat and local Panchayat leaders at an event to launch this free drugs scheme. Dr. Gupta used to serve as District Collector, the top government officer, in Sikar District where the event was held, so he knew a lot of people there.

I had an opportunity to interview the Rajasthan Minister of Health, E. A. Kahn (called by his nickname “Durru Mian” by all), after the event. He gave me some history of this initiative to provide free drugs to the people. The National Rural Health Mission was a scheme launched in 2005 as part of the 11th Five Year Plan (India has had these 5-year plans from its independence). Under the NRHM, there were 15,000 medical units supported in rural Rajasthan. Already free medicine is provided for families “below the poverty line,” pensioners and pregnant women.

The expansion of offering free drugs for all at government hospitals the Health Minister estimated will cost the State government about 100 crores Indian rupees (US $20.4 million) although the media reports were estimating expenditures of 200 crores. Rajasthan is the 14th state in India to take up such a scheme, and the Health Minister claimed it has succeeded everywhere. I asked him about the resistance from doctors, pharmacists and drug companies. He said, “I appealed to NGOs and civil society to become more active in pressuring these doctors and corporates to do what is right for the poor people. Some doctors say that generics are no good, but civil society must pressure them to still prescribe these to the patients.” 

I also interviewed Ms. Rita Singh, the District level Panchayat leader, called a Zilla Pramuch. Besides her elected position, she is also working on her Ph.D. on feminist writer Gertrude Stein. She said she was elected because 50% of panchayat seats are reserved for women. Her in-laws are a political family and her husband was an elected official before her. I asked whether she had higher aspirations and she said, “Maybe MP for this district. Then I can really work for the people.” I asked her about the challenges of implementing this free drugs scheme, “How will the government ensure that the right people get the right medicines at the right time?” She answered, “It is my duty to ensure correct delivery.” But I was left wondering how she or her small staff could ever dream of overseeing such a massive job.

Dr. Gupta knew the people and places everywhere we went and was treated like the dignitary he is. There is already a certain amount of traditionalism and formality to much of Indian society and it is greatly increased when dealing with government officials. Many would touch his feet as a sign of respect when they greeted him. He has a full-time car and driver along with a police officer who accompanies him everywhere for security purposes. On four different occasions during our day in the field, caravans of police and lower-level government officers would meet us on the roadway and usher us – with flashing lights and speeding SUVs – to the venues. And at the district police station where we stopped for tea, the red carpet (well, blue carpet) was literally rolled out for our visit.

I asked Dr. Gupta, “How do you keep your ego in check when you are treated like a rock star everywhere you go?” He laughed and answered, “After 25 years of this, I have accepted that this is my duty and there is a particular formality that goes along with this position.” Later in the day, when we were surrounded by two dozen police officers and another two dozen government officials who were reviewing the hospital that the Chief Minister of Gujarat would visit the next day, Dr. Gupta would quietly tell me, “This is really overkill. It is a waste to have this many police and officials here.”

The protocol that was evident in all we did came naturally to this 50 year old man from Punjab, where his father was the Chief Engineer for that state. Dr. Gupta was polished and professional, treating all with respect, from the highest government minister to the lowest chai-wala who served us tea. He was a soft-spoken man who gave public speeches three times that day which contrasted the bombastic politicians’ volume and style. Dr. Gupta’s deliberate cadence and thoughtful words – all in Hindi or the local language – were that of a public administrator. And even in our far-ranging conversations during the six hours we spent together in the car, this erudite man would calmly quote Shakespeare and Indian gurus, speak of macro-economic theory and South Asian diplomacy, talk of art and basketball, and come back frequently to his loving concern for his daughter who he sent away to college in Boston last month and to her future.

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the people and going to the places I have here in India. Next week, I am going to Sri Lanka for seven days. I won a special travel grant offered to Fulbrighters to present lectures or workshops in adjacent countries. I will give a paper and guest lecture on water conflict resolution at my host institution, the International Water Management Institute ( outside of Colombo. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for me to go back to a beautiful country that I visited 20 years ago, and to learn from the top water experts in the world! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

R & R & R & ‘R

I just finished a 10 day retreat at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram, near Wardha in Maharashtra State. I was there for Rest & Reflection & Reading & ‘Riting. It was a much needed respite in what is proving to be an intense Fulbright fellowship.

Sevagram means “Village of Service” and this is where Gandhi spent much of the last 12 years of his life, which was the height of the Freedom Struggle. It was chosen because it was in a remote village and Gandhi wanted to live like a villager; it is situated near the geographic center of India so people from all over could reach him for consultation; and, it was a gift to Gandhi from his disciple, the industrialist and philanthropist, Jamnalal Bajaj.

Unlike the more popular and much more visited Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, which is more a museum to and research center on the Mahatma, Sevagram is still a working Ashram. Followers come and go for various stays, meetings or conferences. About 15 hardcore Gandhi followers live there regularly and run the Ashram operations. Many villagers work there in related industries.

One of the core concepts of Gandhian philosophy is swadeshi. This means local self-sufficiency and indicates an economy that does not need outside support. I saw this in action. The vegetarian meals we ate were prepared in a common kitchen from plants and grains all grown on the Ashram’s organic farm. We took meals in silence, seated cross-legged on the floor just outside the kitchen. After we washed our own dishes, we all sorted wheat or rice harvested on the farm, separating the grains from other particles that got in the bags. I sometimes helped make chapatti, the Indian flatbread made of wheat and water, which was served with every meal.

Swedeshi also includes a number of local Gandhian industries: composting and organic farming; beekeeping and honey; papermaking; building materials made of local clay; sandal making; and, most famous of all, spinning locally grown cotton and making khadi, the clothing all true Gandhians wear which is made from this simple handspun thread. The original idea was that India would not have to be dependent on any foreign products, especially not clothes made in England, but Gandhi honed his concept of swedeshi into a more and more robust local economy.

Touring these various Gandhian industries made me appreciate the vision of living totally self-sufficiently. However, I came away thinking that if these businesses would ever realize the dream of Gandhi for employing the rural masses in living wage and non-exploitative jobs, they would need to scale up the production and open up distribution channels in order to take products to larger markets. This is, no doubt, antithetical to a “real” Gandhian to whom “small is beautiful,” but I was left feeling that this experiment with off-the-grid enterprises would remain just that, a small-scale experiment, unless the Ashramites and others would allowed for a bit of entrepreneurism and marketing (or maybe more palatably put “sharing of Gandhi”).

I met some fascinating characters while staying at the Ashram:
  • ·         Shailender – The 36 year old architect who gave up his practice two years ago “to go on a search” for living more harmoniously with nature. After the interfaith evening prayer service each night, we would take long walks on village roads discussing Gandhi philosophy and life.  
  • ·         Pramkrishna – The 96 year old Freedom Fighter who was at Gandhi’s side during the famous Salt March which was the formal beginning of the Independence Struggle. I asked what was his sweetest memory of Gandhi? He answer, “When Gandhiji ordered me to go to Andhra Pradesh to work with the tribals. I have spent the rest of my life doing that.”
  • ·         Hannah – The 19 year old German who is doing a gap-year between high school and college interning at Sevagram and helping to develop a website.
  • ·         Steffan – The 23 year old German who is studying organic farming at university and is doing a summer in India.
  • ·         Sureshbhai – The murderer and rapist who “found Gandhi” during his 11 years in solitary confinement in prison and now dedicates his time to teaching young people the philosophy that turned his life around.
  • ·         Chouby – The resident artist who plays music, paints and sculpts all in order to glorify the message of Gandhi.

While I had a wonderful time at Sevagram Ashram, the rustic charm of my Guest House bungalow began to (literally) wear thin when a third night of a leaking roof dripped rain on my floor. The morning of the ninth day at 8:30 a.m., I was sitting on the small porch of the bungalow watching monsoon rains pour, when a deafening clap of thunder and simultaneous lightening shook the ground. That afternoon, I learned my friend Sachin, the computer and logistics guy at the Sarva Seva Sangh office which administers the various Gandhian organizations, stood only feet away from a friend who was hit by that very bolt of lightening, suffering burns over his upper body and presently in the local hospital’s intensive care unit, at his home 500 meters from the Ashram.

After that remote village experience – which was either sweaty hot or pouring monsoon rains – I needed a change of pace. So, I am briefly stopping on the island of Diu for some sun and sand on my way to study water conflicts in Gujarat. This is a welcome stop before immersing myself in a case study of conflict that pits farmers against industrialists over the priority use of scarce water. Should be an interesting next stage of the journey. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Different Education

In this entry, I reflect on four very different educational institutions with which I have affiliated here in India. From each I have learned a great deal and with each I hope to nurture some continuing relationships. My education on this Fulbright fellowship has inspired deep self-reflection, as well as knowledge acquisition. As with any adventurous journey, there is a sense that traveling far somehow brings one closer to true self, finding that the treasure one seeks is buried right under one’s own home.

Gujarat Vidyapith, Gandhi’s University
I write from Ahmedabad in Gujarat State. I am staying at Gujarat Vidyapith, a university started by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 and which he served as Chancellor from its inception until his death. All classes are in Gujarati language. This is the heart of Gandhian scholarship and I am here to learn, although I’ve also presented a couple of short talks while here. The original building of this historic university is stately with a grand gate, pillars that stretch up three stories and a big courtyard that is still used for commencement ceremonies just as it was when Gandhi presided over them.

Upon arriving by taxi from the airport, I went to the Vidyapith “hostel” rather than the “guest house.” I heard a group of 20-somethings speaking with American accents, but they all looked distinctly Indian. An older guy with a beard approached me and told me that this was the IndiCorps Fellows training and directed me to the correct place, then added that I should come back later to talk. Dev, the lead trainer for IndiCorps, said that the 18 Fellows were mostly American non-resident Indians – plus one from the U.K., one from Australia and one from India – who, after a training course here at Vidyapith, commit a year to living with villagers and doing some service project. I have had the opportunity to interact with these amazingly bright, talented and committed recent graduates from top colleges and am sure that these folks are going to make a positive contribution to their native land.

The Gujarat Vidyapith campus is peaceful, if dated, with the feeling of a balance between buildings and nature. Monkeys sit on the fences and swing in the trees. Peacocks wander freely. Chipmunks come up to the tables on the outdoor patio of the “canteen” where I enjoy tea and biscuits in the mornings. Like all of India, stray dogs are seen sleeping and there is construction going on here. The big project is the rebuilding of the Prayer Hall, where the faculty and students all meet at 11:00 a.m. to chant prayers and spin cotton into yarn to make khadi, the homespun cloth that Gandhi promoted as central to his local economic empowerment program called swadeshi.

My host is Prasad Gollanapalli, the Head of Training and International Relations for the Sarvodya movement, the apex national Gandhian organization. I met him in Omaha, where his daughter was a student at University of Nebraska at Omaha, and we became fast friends. He is a Gandhi scholar and activist and knows all the leaders in the movement.

Yesterday, I visited Sabarmati Ashram. From 1915 to 1930, Gandhi and a growing group of his followers lived at this ashram on banks of the Sabarmati River outside Ahmedabad and it was from here that Gandhi launched the Independence Movement. Today, this inspirational place is both museum and research center. Many international scholars come to the library here. The General Secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram Trust, Amrut Modi, told me that many people use Gandhi without understanding the real meaning of his words. “Out of context, do not quote Gandhi,” his assistant frankly told me. Then Modi added, lamenting the commercialization of this great thinker and activist, “Today we are selling Gandhi not sharing Gandhi.”

I met with a 94-year old Gandhian icon named Chunnibhai Vaidya in his home across the street from Sabarmati Ashram in a complex originally built for the families of weavers who made fabric of khadi. Chunnibhai has dedicated his life to putting into action the teaching of the Mahatma. Later I was told by an insider in the movement that Chunnibhai was the first Gandhian to be asked to fast against corruption, but after saying no because of his poor health, Anna Hazare was asked. It is interesting how every Gandhian I spoke to was divided about Anna’s fast. On the one hand all agreed that corruption was an important issue to fight against, but all also shared some variation of what I was told by the scholarly authority on Gandhi’s Collected Works, “Gandhiji would never use a fast to pressure his opponents. A coercive fast is unethical!”

Chunnibhai spoke to me at length about the work he has done over many decades on the issue of water. In particular, he has worked to help farmers with irrigation, most recently getting involved in a major water conflict between agriculture and industry that I will research later in September. “It is generally believed that government owns natural resources, but who really owns the water?” Chunnibhai provocatively asked. After a pause, he dramatically answered, “It is society.”  

We later met with Gujarat Vidyapith’s Vice Chancellor, the academic head, Sudarshan Iyengar, who is India’s foremost authority on Gandhian economics. We sat on cushions on the floor of his office where we sipped chai and dialogued for an hour. I asked him about Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship in which, after taking care of basic needs, one gives all of one’s wealth back to society. “Trusteeship is unique in all of Gandhi’s writings,” he said. “It is the exception to the Gandhi rule because he did not test this theory in practice. It is only a theoretical construct.” Given that it remained an untested theory, I asked if there were examples of trusteeship in action that he could cite. He said that very few have actually lived this theory of trusteeship, then unprompted he added, “I think Warren Buffett would be the nearest to this trusteeship construct in practice.”

My time with the Gandhians is only beginning. After another few days here at Gujarat Vidyapith, I will go to Sevegram Ashram, where Gandhi lived from 1936 onwards. Later I will return to Ahmedabad and head out to rural Gujarat with a young man, a recent Masters of Social Work graduate from Vidyapith, who will act as my translator from Gujarati to English. I plan to do a case study of a water conflict pitting farmers against industrialists.

Amity University, India’s #1 Private University
I spent a week one afternoon at Amity University in Noida. The impressive newly-built campus has 25,000 students, about 8,000 of them living in hostels there. Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan, the “Founder President,” has obviously spent a great amount of time and money on recruiting a world-class faculty, certainly some of the top academics in India, to teach and research there. In the category of private universities it is rated #1 overall, #1 business school, and #1 science school in India.  

When I arrived by a university car and driver sent to pick me up at my flat in Jangpura for the half-hour drive out to campus (two hours in rush hour traffic), Dr. Chauhan was addressing the closing session of a three-day training for port directors. He had me ushered up-front to sit next to him and his son Amul, a junior at Harvard studying engineering with an economics minor, and the Director of Port Authorities for India. Within five minutes of my arrival, Dr. Chauhan asked me to “spend two minutes addressing this group.”

I saw this as his first test of whether I was a guy he wanted on his team. Thinking back to the advice of my friend and mentor B.K. Goswami, who set up this visit and is on the Amity University Board of Directors, to emphasize my entrepreneurial experience I said after a short introduction that coming originally from PORTland, Oregon, I know how important ports can be. “India is the one of the fastest growing economies in the world. More and more of that depends on ports for export and import. You in this room are the key to India’s future. Thank you for what you do!” Dr. Chauhan seemed pleased that I kept it short and sweet, “Well said, Dr. Patrick!”

Then he did something that I watched him do a dozen more times throughout the next five hours: he closed the deal. Like the entrepreneur that he is, he had this group signed up for a five-day training course on a regular schedule offering an Amity University certificate at the end. He called in his deputies to write up the deal and 10 minutes later we were posing for pictures with the group in front of the building, me and Amul flanking Dr. Chauhan front and center.

Our entourage headed down the hall – Dr. Chauhan greeting people and making inquiries of them then delegating follow-up directions to his deputies all along the way – to the 6th annual case studies competition for Amity MBA students. Again, I sat with the Founder President on the front dais while a student finished her presentation on calculations about financing infrastructure development by industry. Dr. Chauhan then made a few congratulatory remarks to the students and faculty. We crossed the hall and he made appreciative remarks to the 250 corporate leaders assembled for this competition. Then we went back down the hall, stopped for some photos, attended to some questions, directed his underlings to follow-up, all the while checking to see “Is Dr. Patrick still with me?”

Our destination was a conference room with a huge table able to seat about 40 people. For the next couple hours, I watched an incredible businessman at work. He met with a woman whose father he knew many years ago in Germany. He met with a Justice of the Uttar Pradesh State Supreme Court to design an Alternative Dispute Resolution training for jurists and lawyers. He met with a group developing “Knowledge City” on 241 hectares of land in Madhya Pradesh. He met with faculty and administrators and occasionally students of Amity, a General of the Indian Army, and an author of a book on “Wisdom.” Dr. Chauhan would sometimes invite people to sit at the big conference table, where he wanted “Dr. Patrick” up front near him; sometimes invite them to a corner of the room and wheel a few chairs over from the table; and sometimes he would adjourn to a large waiting chamber which could accommodate 60 people on comfortable sofas. During these well-orchestrated proceedings, we were served fruit juice, tea and healthy nuts as snacks.

Like the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation that he is, this man was the very epitome decisive dealmaker. After taking a tour of the state-of-the-art labs and meeting with some of the impressive faculty, he sent me off with his Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr. Gurinder Singh, a stylishly dressed Sikh, to “draft an action plan for Amity and Dr. Patrick to work together.”

Before drafting the action plan, Dr. Singh and I went to the “Fresher’s Party” which welcomed the 400 new MBA students to campus. Amidst flashing strobe lights, a stage with students dancing to tightly choreographed tunes, and students (conservatively) dressed up for partying, we made our way to a couch where a few faculty and administrators watched the fun. After a brief welcome to the 600 students at the party, Dr. Singh handed me the microphone and asked me to address the group. “This is better than Bollywood!” I declared as the students roared their approval. Then, wanting to once again keep it short and sweet, I said with enthusiasm, “Today, just like the Freshers who are here, I have been welcomed into the Amity family. May our time together be educational, rewarding and fun!”

Dr. Singh and I returned to the big conference room to present our draft action plan to Dr. Chauhan. He revised a few things then proposed, “We’ll make Dr. Patrick the Chair-Professor of Success in Cross-Cultural Understanding in the new International Centre for Excellence in Cross-Cultural Management. We also want you to advise us on the Program for Diplomacy, Negotiation and Conflict Management. Will you accept?” To which I answered, “I’d be honored.”

My head is still spinning from this whirlwind afternoon. I am not quite sure what I got myself into because I left a day later to come to Gujarat. We have plans to meet again when I return to Delhi in September.

University of Delhi, Ramanujan College (formerly Deshbandhu College)
The University of Delhi has 70 different colleges. Deshbandhu is one of the oldest and best known. It has the look of an old campus, with buildings in need of repair and cramped lecture rooms where blackboards and chalk are the latest in technology. Thanks once again to my friend B.K. Goswami, who is on the University of Delhi Advisory Board, I gave a guest lecture on “Social Entrepreneurship” to Bachelor of Commerce – Honors students.

A panel of two senior professors and the Dean of Students for the University of Delhi, a political scientist who did his Ph.D. work on social movements, sat up front with me. My welcome by the head of Ramanujan College’s Commerce Department set up a debate about whether my ideas were legitimate, which I found a bit surprising in an introduction but treated it as a healthy intellectual exchange.

After a 20 minute lecture we had a nice back-and-forth with the faculty about whether social entrepreneurship was something worthy of academic attention. Then I purposefully turned to invite the students to ask questions, and they immediately went to the subject on all minds these days, Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign. One student talked about corruption at the universities. I riffed off a recent article I read in The Times of India about “reservations” being abused at University of Delhi. In this system, somewhat analogous to affirmative action, 22% of the student seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (meaning those named in the Indian Constitution) and 27% are reserved for Other Backward Castes. So, only 51% of the students are “regular students,” as one administrator put it during a visit to campus the previous week, quickly adding as if I didn’t get the implication of his statement, “There’s only so much education you can do when you have that kind of a situation.” 

Sensing I had hit a sensitive topic, I punted to the Dean of Students. He gave a good educational administrator’s answer, like a politician who is playing to his constituents but still has some credibility because of his academic position and demeanor. It was a great exchange of ideas, if a bit emotional at times. My guest lecture ended with students wanting to snap mobile phone photos with me. I shared tea and cake with the faculty in the Principal’s office afterwards.

Jaypee University
This is the educational institution whose letter of invitation I used in the Fulbright application. I will maintain some ongoing relationships with friends and colleagues there. We are now engaged in a collaborative research project on social entrepreneurship.

While Jaypee is a private university with very nice and new facilities, it also has “deemed university” status meaning the government has approved the curriculum. The students are definitely from families that can afford the tuition. No reservations here. However, it is still a nice mix of caste, religion and type.

Each of these universities plays a role in the bigger quest to educate the mass of young people in India. I believe in school choice and would argue that students (and their parents) should be allowed and encouraged to choose the school that’s right for them, right for their pocketbooks and right for their values. I am proud to be associated with each institution and welcome the diversity.

Next, I am off to Sevegram Ashram where Gandhi spent the later years of his life. This will be a retreat in which I hope to do some reading, writing and reflecting.  I will be offline for a couple weeks. Hope your own journeys are rich, deep and life-changing. Peace! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indian Democracy at a Cross-Roads

Yesterday, I went back down to Ramlila Maidan and watched as two girls - one Muslim and one dalit or untouchable - gave Anna Hazare a cup of coconut water sweetened with honey. After 13 days, he broke his fast. The crowd cheered, Indian flags waved, and "victory of the people" was declared. Parliament had passed a declaration that they would accept the conditions of the Lokpal, an ombuds office to investigate official corruption, that Team Anna made. "I hope Parliament won't go back on their promise," said Anna from the stage. 

This is a fascinating time to be researching and teaching in India. India is the biggest democracy in the world, and yet the coalitions that emerge from the multi-party system can challenge the greatest of yoga gurus. It has growth rates that any country would envy, and yet there is a huge gap between wealth and poverty that is apparent in the streets and villages of this vast land. And right now, there is the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare which I view as a brilliantly complex case study in how civil society can effect change. The timing of my visit was fortuitous because my greatest interest is in how individuals and movements from civil society can bring positive change to communities. This blog entry will reflect on both the power and the danger of these movements, concluding with some thoughts on how the recent events in India might inspire other democracies. [NOTE: I have submitted a slightly different version of this article to Diplomatist magazine here in India.]

Power of Civil Society
Anna Hazare mobilized millions on this issue of anti-corruption. It was an amazing display of charisma, inspiration and, ultimately, power to persuade others. Why was this movement energizing to so many? And why was Anna the man to mobilize them?

The movement energized people because all lives seem touched by this issue of corruption at some level. There was a heart-wrenching story in the news of a young man lamenting that his first act as a new father was that he had to pay a bribe to a low level bureaucrat in order to receive his son’s birth certificate. A friend told me a story of his brother-in-law who was paying a bribe for a job and in a meeting the politician justified this bribe by telling him that “half would be going to god” because the politician always made donations to his temple. Everyone I meet can tell me some instance where they or those they know have been asked to or actually do pay a bribe. (Although interestingly no one has told me that they asked for and received a bribe.)

The issue of corruption is deeper than just bribes, of course. It affects the economy in very real ways, as some corporations might shy away from doing businesses in such an environment and those that do have added costs. It affects the development of talent, as some students might enter schools or universities and workers might be hired by government or corporates when better candidates should have got those positions. It affects the delivery of public services, as some low level bureaucrats may not give to citizens in a timely manner what they rightly request. It affects the moral character of society, as people don’t quite know who to trust and, therefore, end up cynical about all politicians, public officials, business owners, educational institutions, etc., etc.

Along comes Anna Hazare calling for an end to this cancer on society. Francis Fukuyama, made famous for his article then book titled The End of History, later wrote a more relevant book called Trust (1995). In it, he wrote that trust is nurtured when there is a “prior moral consensus [that] gives members of the group a basis for mutual trust” (p. 26). I would argue that Anna tapped that prior moral consensus by using the language and methods of Mahatma Gandhi, the one Indian in history that all look to for moral leadership, to carry out his cause. Anna’s fasting, his nonviolence, his calls for changes in personal behavior, all recalled the moral principles of Gandhi and so energized the conscience of Indians by engendering their trust.

Anna declared a “fast unto death” in order to fight corruption. Although he was clear on his end game – namely, passing the Jan Lokpal bill – others who joined him in the streets may not have been. In the beginning, most of his followers were simply angry about corruption. One former Speaker of the Lok Sabha with whom I had the honor of meeting told me, “Ninety percent of the people out on the streets don’t know the particulars of the Lokpal bills being debate. They are just angry about corruption and this is the way to show their anger.”

Giving people a way to vent their anger is important. Studies in the field of conflict management have shown that without feeling that they have been heard, people will not feel satisfied with any resolution. How people in the streets and the leaders of this movement channeled that anger into action is the more interesting part of the story. Eventually, the political leaders and Team Anna negotiate a comprehensive resolution that passes both houses of Parliament, although there are details yet to be worked on by the Standing Committee before final passage.

What I have seen in my two visits to Ramlila Grounds is a huge diversity of people across lines of rich and poor, educated and illiterate, old and young, men and women, and all religions, castes, and classes. Although there was a political agenda – to pass the Jan Lokpal bill – it is not a partisan one. True that certain (opposition) parties have tried to align themselves more closely with this anti-corruption movement, getting as much political advantage for themselves as possible, yet the movement is still clearly coming out of civil society. And that is a large part of the power of the movement.

Drawing on the work of the great sociologist Max Weber (1947) and later Domhoff (2002), I define power as a group’s ability to use resources to achieve desired results. And Team Anna and his followers did just that. They used the resources at their disposal – mass gatherings of people, media coverage, political back-channels for negotiation, and most persuasive of all, the fast of a Gandhian icon – which were instrumental in getting Parliament to pass legislation that they wanted. No matter what you think of the techniques or outcomes, that is effective use of power!

People are feeling like their voices are heard between the casting of votes every few years. There is an outpouring of emotion around this issue. And while no one is going to go on record as a supporter of corruption, there were more than a lak at Ramlila on the day after the victory of the passage of the Lokpal that publicly pledged with hands raised, “I will not take bribes. I will not pay bribes.”

In the end this is the greater power of a movement such as this. The Lokpal is only an external system for regulating against corruption; and one legitimate critique is that creating a huge new bureaucracy runs the risk of possibly becoming corrupt itself or ineffective in policing of others. While the systemic change is crucial, the real change in corruption is when people no longer accept or practice it in their own minds, hearts and actions.

Danger of Civil Society
Tonight people are partying on the streets of Delhi and throughout India. And well they should. Today is turning point of Indian democracy, a proud moment for this proud nation. Other turning points are certainly the Independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi; the JP movement against Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, led by Jayaprakash Narayan; and, as told to me in a recent meeting by a retired IAS officer who served as Union Cabinet Secretary, a crucial moment in Indian history that upheld the democratic process was when on April 17, 1999, the ruling BJP handed over control of the government when they lost a vote of confidence by one rather questionable vote. So, today’s triumph is another turning point in Indian democracy. But even as we all celebrate Anna and the people’s victory, it would be irresponsible to see this without also considering the potential dangers explored below.

There were a number of points when the anti-corruption movement could have turned and the power of the state might have come down hard. In fact, one might argue that the arrest of Anna Hazare on his way to start his fast was just one point. Almost all commentators now say that was a political mistake by Congress Party. Another mistake may have been Congress trying to blame this citizen’s movement on a “foreign hand” (read the U.S.A.) instead of the legitimate will of a fed-up people. And a final mistake may have been waiting until the 12th day of Anna’s fast before finally resolving the issue, thereby risking his death which could have turned this nonviolent mass into a violent mob.

Next time there might not be an Anna calling for restraint and things will turn violent. Actually, as his health worsened on the 10th and 11th day of his fast, I started to think about the dire consequences if he were to die. But Anna was very clear throughout his fast in instructing his followers to refrain from violence. A social worker from Bihar who I met at Ramlila told me, “If there is violence, the movement will end. Only with peace, as Annaji tells us, we will succeed.”

Maybe it took a man such as Anna, perceived to be righteous and a devout follower of the Mahatma, for this movement to be a success. Still, there is a danger when only one person personifies a whole movement. A friend who is in his eighties and fought for independence with Gandhiji in his youth, said something profound to me recently, “We are a nation of man worshippers. We need a mascot. There’s no alternative to Anna right now. But our hope is that every person will feel empowered to make a difference.”

On the other hand, there are critiques of Team Anna too. There were some moments when media relations could have been more deftly handled, especially as the negotiations between the two sides were taking place. There could have been a clearer plan for next steps after the Lokpal bill was passed. Having mobilized millions is the next best thing really to campaign against those politicians who voted against the bill, thereby turning a positive people’s movement into a negative electoral movement?

Then there what I think is the more significant critique, and that is how Anna and his followers ‘blackmailed’ Parliament into doing what they wanted by circumventing the constitutional process of representative government. Other commentators have compared Mobocracy versus Democracy. If you believe that Members of Parliament are legitimately elected – and that is a big “if” in the minds of many I talk to – then it is up to them to make laws of the land and not up to agitators from outside government. But let’s be truthful in this analysis and admit that various interest groups, especially those with money, influence legislation to benefit themselves all the time. So, why should the claims of civil society not also be brought?

This raises the tricky question of how to deal with the ongoing demands of so-called civil society. There will be all sorts of interest groups that will bring their causes to the pundits, politicians and parks of New Delhi. Some causes may be important, but others may be crazy. In the end, this Anna Hazare movement may just shake the political system enough to demand creation of a legitimate and formal way that the government seeks citizen participation in decision making.

Of course, citizen participation takes many forms in India and other democracies. Gandhi’s vision of a panchayat system is the ultimate in citizen participation. In the U.S.A., there are neighborhood associations, town hall meetings, electronic polling, citizens’ juries and local advisory commissions that may (or may not) have actual decision making and budgeting power. And, as we have just seen with this anti-corruption campaign, there are protest movements that put public pressure on political leaders to take certain actions.

One final danger of this successful movement is that it will raise expectations of the people that they may always be listened to, only to have that hope dashed in the future.
A classic work in the area of citizen participation is by Sherry Arnstein (1969) in which she uses the metaphor of rungs on the ladder of citizen participation. This typology includes:
  •          Nonparticipation in which citizens are “educated” by the politicians and their technical experts.
  •          Tokenism in which citizens are “heard” by those in power, but they are given no real power to affect decision making.
  •          Citizen Power in which citizens are actually making decisions that affect policy, budgeting and implementation.

At which rung of the ladder does citizen participation in India usually take place? How has this Anna movement changed the way citizens participated and will in the future expect to participate?

Lessons for Other Democracies
India is seen throughout the world as a model of democracy. For all the challenges to governing a vast and diverse population, it has succeeded in so many ways. I believe this latest people’s movement against corruption will challenge other democracies to look at the power of their people to participate in governance. When a Star News reporter at Ramlila asked me what I thought of the gathering, I answered, “This is democracy in action. I think that Americans should learn from India – the world biggest democracy – about how civil society can play a role in social change. This is an amazing people’s movement.” 

Although many have made the analogy between India’s anti-corruption movement and the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and the Middle East, I don’t think they are comparable. In one place, you have deep democracy already in place and the people are protesting a change in policy through legislation. In other places, there was no democracy and the people were calling for revolution against the rulers.

There are many ways that change comes about. Multi-track diplomacy, as explained by Diamond and McDonald (1996), suggests that there is legitimate and necessary diplomatic work that goes on outside of Track One, or government-to-government, international relations. Taking this idea into the national context, the conclusion would be that there are many different stakeholders, not just elected officials, who have legitimate and necessary voice in the process. As Barber (1984) envisioned, it is this participation that makes for strong democracy.

So, how one includes those citizens, especially those who have traditionally been left out of the process, in the decision making of governance is a multi-track approach. Some may only want to protest in the streets, while others want to sit at the table and negotiate the intricacies of legislation; some may want to attend in-put sessions with the technocrats, while others may want to log onto a website where simple questions ask for opinions of the average citizen. I believe that this multi-track approach is the key to success. One size will never fit all when dealing with a country as vast and diverse as India.

Let the people celebrate this amazing victory of democracy for a time. But soon, they need to look at what else, beyond the Lokpal bill, needs to be done on a personal or legislative basis in order to root out corruption from our lives. And the ongoing question is how to channel the momentum we are all feeling from this victory into lasting change in the way democracy works and citizen’s voices are heard.