Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anna Hazare should stay focused on corruption. Not let his agenda be hijacked by media.....

I must admit the Anna Hazare hunger strike is one issue that has got me swinging like a yoyo. My first reaction upon hearing about it was that it was outright blackmail. Going on a fast was OK for Gandhiji during the British rule.....after all, the British were an occupying force unlike today’s government which is elected democratically by Indians themselves. Then I thought that while the hunger strike was wrong, there were a few good points in his movement.......he was specific about what he was targeting (corruption); he had a specific solution (the Jan Lokpal Bill) and he was apolitical. I thought this was a constructive approach. By the end of the day, I was again swinging the other way. Was Anna Hazare not willingly falling into the media trap? Was he not allowing his movement to become a platform for politician-bashing? If he claims to be a Gandhian, why wasn’t he ready to follow the Gandhian process of negotiations? Why was he painting all politicians as being corrupt? At the end of the day, I feel cheated that he was allowing the real issues to be obfuscated and hijacked by media.

As usual, two of the three English news channels sensationalized the matter. They did not know their ass from their elbow. One channel put together a panel comprising people who had a real intellectual deficit. With all due respect, I think Shobha De should write fiction and stay out of issues that require intelligence. College kids should first try and read up a little bit......do some research......get some maturity.....before coming on prime time TV and speaking like their brains were tucked deep inside their bums. The few intelligent voices – Swapan Dasgupta, Vinod Sharma, Harish Salve and Soli Sorabjee were totally drowned out by the loud rhetoric that this channel has become well known for. The other English channel put up a similar show. The only channel which did a decent job of discussing the issue in a fair manner.....was NDTV and I think Barkha did a good job on her show.

We need to focus on the real issues here. Is there a need for an effective anti-corruption watch dog? Yes, of course. Are the present mechanisms of CVC and CBI and department-level anti-corruption units working fine? Of course not. Do the people have confidence in the present anti-corruption bodies? No. So this much is clear: There is a need for a new “system” that can address the corruption issues. The government has proposed the Lokpal Bill; Anna Hazare wants a different bill called the Jan Lokpal Bill. What is important is that the final bill taken up for voting should be reasonably strong; not who proposed it.

The government’s bill has a few loopholes which must be plugged:

1)      The Bill does cover the PM and the Council of Ministers in its ambit. But if a corruption charge has to be probed, then the clearance has to be taken by the Lokpal from the Speaker of the House. This is obviously wrong. The Speaker is an involved person and is likely to deny the permission against ruling party MPs.
2)      The Lokpal cannot take up matters suo-moto (on its own). This is a minor point really, but can be corrected.
3)      The Lokpal has only recommendatory powers. Meaning it can investigate and make the final recommendations, but cannot prosecute on its own. Any action has to be taken by the political bosses.....this is obviously a major flaw.
4)      There is an accusation that as the members of the Lokpal are proposed to be ex-judges of the Supreme Court, this will make the current judges curry favor with the ruling political party in return for a position in the Lokpal post retirement. This is inane and represents the same persecution complex I wrote about recently.

However, the alternative proposed by Anna Hazare also has its own loopholes. This much was pointed out even by Harish Salve and Soli Sorabjee:

1)      It would like to make the Lokpal into an overarching singular body against corruption and vest it with huge powers. It misses the point that if this were done, then it would be a risky propositon. The judiciary is totally independent but we know how much corruption there is in the judiciary.....and we can do nothing to clean it up. The Ex-Chief Justice of India himself is an accused in a corruption matter. The judiciary is a supremely powerful body but it owes no explanation to any one. It is itself manipulated by interested parties all the time. So why won’t the same happen with the Lokpal? Shouldn’t there be checks and balances over the Lokpal also? What’s wrong if the Lokpal reports into the political executive? After all, the political executive is made up of elected people who face elections every 5 years? All over the world, the Lokpal or the Ombudsman reports into the Legislature....even while it functions independently. Even the Election Commission which is touted as an example for the LokPal to follow reports into the executive.....while still remaining independent.
2)      Anna Hazare’s Bill proposes to close corruption cases within a year. It totally misses the point that delays happen today largely because the huge workload that enforcement agencies and the judiciary are forced to grapple with. It’s not to do with their intentions.....it’s to do with the quantum of work. If the Lokpal will look into each and every allegation made as proposed.....how much time will it take for it also to be inundated with cases? Will it then be able to deliver a verdict inside one year as it aims to do? Is this not a case of lofty goals not adequately backed up by a good understanding of the real situation?
3)      Harish Salve said that the proposed act would be anti-development. It will make decision makers wary of taking decisions. After all, all decision making has subjective elements involved.....I know this from personal experience in my own job. If an IAS officer or a minister is going to be questioned suo moto for any/all subjective decisions he takes, then he would rather not take any decisions at all. Surely, we don’t want to become a nation free of corruption but which hardly grows at all?

My main complaint is that by targeting the political establishment, Anna Hazare is making a fundamental mistake. He assumes that corruption exists only in government. I dare say....each and every one of his fans is corrupt himself in one way or the other. How many of his businessmen fans pay taxes fully as required by law? How many of his followers pay bribes to get their work done? How many give wrong addresses when they buy cars so that they can illegally save on octroi and other duties? How many buy pirated CDs and DVDs so that they can save a few bucks? Is it his point that civil society is not corrupt and only politicians are?

My other complaint is with the way the matter has been hijacked by the media. And the people who stand in support of Anna Hazare have been hoodwinked. Very few media outlets have analyzed the pros and cons of the government’s bill and Anna Hazare’s version. An impression is being created that whatever the government is proposing is wrong and whatever Anna Hazare is proposing is right. How biased is this? What about the National Advisory Committee (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi which itself is unhappy with the Government’s bill and is about to make its recommendations? Is there a race going on between Anna Hazare and the the NAC? Why can’t they all sit down together and make common recommendations?

Anna Hazare has made his point. But just like he is shunning politicians, he should shun media as well. Instead, I get the impression that he is himself using and abusing the media. The same faces (from his audience) could be seen on multiple TV channels. One particular person kept saying “the government’s bill is like giving a cookie to a child”......I got bugged hearing and seeing him on all channels saying the same thing! If Anna Hazare wants results.....then he should engage in the democratic process of negotiations....no matter how much time it takes and how much effort it takes. After all, there are no short cuts to reform. He was immensely successful in bringing about social reform in Ralegaon Siddhi because of his perseverance......surely he can show the same perseverance again?

The real truth is that while the issues Anna Hazare has raised are commendable.....and his intentions noble....he has got totally hijacked by the media. Not by the politicians, but by media. Media which is in search of audiences. Media, which is petrified that another cricket tournament is about to start after one big one has just ended. Media projects itself as the conscience keepers of the nation....but can it answer charges of corruption against itself? What about the paid news scam? Has media done any investigations into it and come out with assurances to their readers and viewers? Honestly, media has no locus in this fight that Anna Hazare has taken up.....and he should realize this. Else this movement will fail to achieve its objectives.....


31 comments:

  1. I like your observations on the media part, but I would like to point out that though Anna Hazare is riding on media, he need that media to get the voice heard. I know that there are loopholes in his versions of the Lokpal bill, but it's still better then any of the previous versions.

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  2. With due respect to the thought of media hijack, just wanna put forth 2 points :-
    (a) Without media, a movement cannot be a mass movement; even Justice for Jessica was a media movement
    (b) The second most important point is that the problem is not because of media; the problem is because of lack of awareness… the consumerism-inclined generation is sharply opinionated but has half-baked knowledge at its base. There was a time when India was smoldering in the nationalism-cauldron. There was restriction on press. There was widespread illiteracy. But still people were aware & mass movements happened because of the passion of people towards a common purpose.. what else could have motivated a 9 year old Indira Priyadarshani to form Vaanar Sena to garner info. Our generation needs the same spirit to understand and to be aware which is why the debate on routing out corruption from not just politics but also from other domains, the debate on regulatory restrictions on Lokpal, the debate on the ambit of its powers & the debate on suo motto jurisdiction will start only when there is awareness & not by shunning media. So, the problem is not about media hijack; it’s about the passion, inclination & awareness of a generation. Let’s use the same media to educate with facts
    Madhumiitaa

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  3. @Anonymous - very true. My only point is that a hunger strike is like blackmail. It is undemocratic. His points are all right; and the differences can be sorted out. He should talk with the government rather than threaten it. Hunger strikes were ok in the British Raj; not against your own elected government

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  4. Hi, the hunger strike seems like the last resort to hold the Government Ransom(if I can call it that). Though this situation is also brought upon by the Government. A strong bill like this is obviously damaging to the politcians and mroe so to the babus. So getting such a bill passed will require extreme measures, though non-violent.

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  5. I think you should share your thought with Mr. Anna..

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  6. if the IAS officer is to be questioned on his decision why wouldnt he make the correct decision first?

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  7. @anonymous....because all decisions have subjective elements, and all decisions can be ripped apart if someone wants to. Also because vision is always 20:20 in hindsight

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  8. Mr Hazare has raised important points. The real issue is about democracy and accountability. A parliament was elected in 2009 for five years to make and amend laws. If people do feel strongly about the way the current adminstration is doing, they can confront their MP's and make representation. Failing that Hazare and all thos aligned to him can simply form another party and put their case directly to the public in the coming elections of 2014.

    I am against setting precedents of fast unto death. How about Telangana supporters, how about Gujjar reservation proponents, how about protesting about Narendra Modi. Going this route is opening Pandora's box with many unintended consequences.

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  9. What you have put forth are very valid points nad i feel very less people inthis country would say what you have mentioned. it is much more than just clicking 'like' on a socialnetworking page.some very valid points made by Harish Salve.
    Nikhil

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  10. Very good effort for Save Sonia Campaign. You mean to say that we should not do anything what Ahmad Patel and Our Imported Madam is doing is correct for the nation.

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  11. @ Davendra Singh. These are your views and I respect your different views. But please dont forget that there were 50 crore people who voted in the democratic process and elected whoever they elected. This is not about saving anyone.

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  12. I have read your post entirely and do find some important considerations. As a citizen and a taxpayer, you have to look at both the sides of the argument.If this movement has happened,then it was the govt which called for it. Corruption is not a recent problem in our country, what pleases me is that our country is aware of corruption and ready to do something about it.Anna Hazare and his followers have also thanked (not only bashed)the govt and are looking forward to working together. Media ha sit's own dark side, but it is also a vehicle that can be instumental in uniting people and making them aware.I just hope that this bill is effective in action,if not ,we the people of india will make sure and find ways to do so.What is important is will, people's will and Political Will.
    Karan Mirpuri
    karanmirpu@gmail.com

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  13. If it has come to the point of hunger strike and appears as threatening , then please till me all of those who call it "Undemocratic".Please tell me what was the other effective way to do it, to plead the govt, catch its leg, and in the process have more Raja's ,Kalmadi's and Kodas? If it was right to do that with the British,who were " outsiders" let us also fight the Evil within,even if it is our own representatives or the corruption within ourselves. More often than not the people in this country, the common man is forced into corruption/bribery etc.Let the change begin at the highest level.
    Karan Mirpuri
    karanmirpu@gmail.com

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  14. Very valid points and I also feel the same. But when govt is sitting on adminstrative and election reforms it needed a kick in the ass to do something. Though Anna Hazare's demands are unreasonable I would still support him since it is sending a message to the govt to act.
    Srinivas.

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  15. every1 r corrupt here including d people who r supporting him hw many people dey ll put into jail 1,2,3..........n i dnt think so even if d bill gets passed.....der would be any major effect

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  16. On the critique of the Jan Lokpal Bill:

    First of all, I have read the entire bill, so I feel I am in a position to make this critique of YOUR critique.

    "1) It would like to make the Lokpal into an overarching singular body against corruption and vest it with huge powers. It misses the point that if this were done, then it would be a risky propositon. The judiciary is totally independent but we know how much corruption there is in the judiciary.....and we can do nothing to clean it up. The Ex-Chief Justice of India himself is an accused in a corruption matter. The judiciary is a supremely powerful body but it owes no explanation to any one. It is itself manipulated by interested parties all the time. So why won’t the same happen with the Lokpal? Shouldn’t there be checks and balances over the Lokpal also? What’s wrong if the Lokpal reports into the political executive? After all, the political executive is made up of elected people who face elections every 5 years? All over the world, the Lokpal or the Ombudsman reports into the Legislature....even while it functions independently. Even the Election Commission which is touted as an example for the LokPal to follow reports into the executive.....while still remaining independent."

    First of all, not just the judiciary but other civil society members can also become the Lokpal members. ANYBODY, yes, ANYBODY can send his/her biodata and apply for the post of a member of the Lokpal. The biodata will be put up on the website. PUBLIC FEEDBACK will also be put up on the website and the feedbacks will be considered. Besides, any body can move Supreme Court for the removal of any member.
    Besides, the bill also has the provision to VIDEO TAPE ALL APPOINTMENTS AND HEARING sessions. So I think this refutes your first point.

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  17. "2) Anna Hazare’s Bill proposes to close corruption cases within a year. It totally misses the point that delays happen today largely because the huge workload that enforcement agencies and the judiciary are forced to grapple with. It’s not to do with their intentions.....it’s to do with the quantum of work. If the Lokpal will look into each and every allegation made as proposed.....how much time will it take for it also to be inundated with cases? Will it then be able to deliver a verdict inside one year as it aims to do? Is this not a case of lofty goals not adequately backed up by a good understanding of the real situation?"

    I don't see why it is impossible. State level lokayuktas need to be set up as well, The details of the robust Lokpal structure can be laid out by the Lokpal Committee itself. There is nothing wrong with setting high goals: it is not lofty at all. The trials will not be held in the normal courts. So the dearth of courts will not be an issue here, if that is what you were referring to.
    It is the first step towards the installation of an INDEPENDENT anti corruption body, so I don't see the problem here. Naturally the exact mechanism will take a while but since the people behind it clearly seem to be very eager to make a positive change, I am sure they will get to work to make the operation as smooth and fast as possible, but first Lokpal needs to be created asap.

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  18. "3) Harish Salve said that the proposed act would be anti-development. It will make decision makers wary of taking decisions. After all, all decision making has subjective elements involved.....I know this from personal experience in my own job. If an IAS officer or a minister is going to be questioned suo moto for any/all subjective decisions he takes, then he would rather not take any decisions at all. Surely, we don’t want to become a nation free of corruption but which hardly grows at all?"

    I am sorry but this point is completely wrong. It is quite the other way round: it is pro-development. With progressively lesser corruption and red-tapism, the system will only get faster and more efficient.

    "If an IAS officer or a minister is going to be questioned suo moto for any/all subjective decisions he takes, then he would rather not take any decisions at all. "

    There is NOTHING in the bill that suggests that such a thing will happen. The decision makers will NOT face ANY HINDRANCE due to Lokpal. Only in the scenario where someone is accused of corruption will a person be questioned by the Lokpal.

    If decisions which lead to corruption become difficult to be taken due to the Lokpal, then so be it! I mean that's good right - that's what we want after all.

    We don't want the rich corporates to bend the law and sign secret deals with ministers, bureaucrats with the help of middlemen like media people and lobbyists - as was seen in the Niira Radia case.

    The "correct" type of growth needs to occur. Not the wishy washy "GDP" growth, which is just a reflection of how rich the already rich are getting over time.

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  19. As for the subjectivity of the decisions, I think it is clear that the Lokpal is the stepping stone towards a participatory democracy instead of the present representative democracy.
    So Lok Andolan should be the next logical step and I am pretty sure, that is the best way to go about governance.

    Why take a decision without people's consent? How DARE they, in fact??

    Open air public consultations with all levels of the society needs to take place whenever controversial decisions are needed to be made.

    But in 90% of the decisions, there should not be any objection as they will not cause harm to anyone.

    In fact, that is why the Lokpal need to be there: to make sure decisions that are taken ARE in harmony and in resonance with what the CONCERNED group of people want. that is the beauty of participatory democracy.

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  20. I do agree, I am not sure when these so called civil society ..(and being citizen of india I have not given them mandate to talk on behalf of me.) asking for transprensy where is there transparency when they have not removed these bhusan duo from panel even though there are some allegation on them how can they fight corruption when they are not clean themselves. Due respect to ANNA he is not Gandhi and stop behaving like one. no one is above Indian constitution and remeber we are not egypt or some other country we are leaving in democratic society where we are having right to change govt on each election term.

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  21. KYA HOGA MERE DESH KAAugust 11, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    I went through the entire debate on this page and was just wandering ki is lokpal team mein jo hongey KAUN SI CHAKKI KA AATA KHA KEY AAYENGEY.Who will keep a check on their credibility and plz dont tel me that again a separate vigilante body will address that issue.The motive behind the campaign unquestionably deserves to be applauded but the approach is faulty and thus has higher chances of yielding low quality outcome.To attain any goal the very first principle is that the objectives should be achievable which i dont see in this case.And about the hopeless indian media except for ndtv let them keep hunting for juicy stories to maintain their TRPs.And for commoners like us we ll keep bribing to attain our vested interests.Sounds baddddddd very baddddd but thats the ugly truth my dear frens.

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  22. a nice read...m also truely against blackmailing d ones v ourselves elected...the youth which is following him blindly...shud b asked..did dey vote for dis govt.?m sure hardly anyone did...v dont take care of our responsibilities..den point finger on d govt. and obviously media is biased...and many a times...oppositions buys d media...to hype stuff which can benefit dem...no one is saint here...and if anna calls himself a Gandhian...den why choose comforts of flights..and cars...aam aadmi ho...den behave like aam aadmi...Gandhiji widout caring of hus life..marched on foot for d big revolts...i dont c dat attitude in him.and dunno how many bodies v will keep creating to stop corruption...d feeling has to come from inside...

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  23. If you have ever been to a govt office there is a yellow board displayed stating "giving/accepting bribe is a crime" and if someone has to notify the said officer is taking bribe a phone number of the statutory authority is also displayed..the sole intention was to create awareness and we failed miserably...........
    Democracy is something we had to live with, try putting an option in the voting system "i don't believe in any of the candidates" im sure the majority of the votes will go for this option.
    Its my right whether to vote or not, it dsent mean i cannot point my finger at any of the elected candidates even if i dint vote.
    If you call this as a blackmail what was Gandhi doing with the British ??

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  24. I must say an excellent unbiased views providing the pros and cons. A person, who is a civil servant, be it from a clerk to a department head and to a Secretary, they take decisions based on certain available information at that particular point of time. This happens to all of us. If we take a look at our decision two months down the road, in many cases, we would realize that we could have taken a different decision because 2 months down the road, you have better information. But on the other side, there are patent cases where things are getting delayed.
    In my own case, am getting 2 property taxes year after year. I got the issue sorted out after lots of hassles; only to see the issue starting all over again - when my wife went to the Municipal Corporation, this guy tells her we have to do it all over again - with some bribe. Or for that matter, why should issue of passport take about 9 months as happened in the case of my son ? Why should a passport application that is essentially a renewal be treated like a new application ? These are my cases but there would be many more. My problem is that the Indian Govt. has always penalised the honest citizens rather than the other way - which is not case in US or Europe.

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  25. i totally agree .... Anna's act is similar to the 6 yrs old child crying for chocolate .. What does fasting do.. how it helps.. suddenly every1 r changing dp's to black will this really do anything against corruption.They claim it creates awareness... We all know how HIV awareness succeed among people. People came to know how to use plastics, that's it .HIV rate never came down. Every citizen should have some ethics and humane values. Change yourself, then think about changing others. Dont put yourself in others' shoes. Play your part well. Be a law abiding citizen.One fine day when everyone stops bribing govt officials what can they do. They cannot stop working. Entire Government will freeze. Instead of supporting someone else' cause, wake up and support your own cause don't give up.

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  26. all of u r so true...m both for n against anna now...... :)

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  27. this is by far the decent blog i have come through till now...great job..and the author of this blog is perhaps in his right mind to write about something that makes sense...
    the government lokpal bill..Mr.Anna's janlokpal bill...clear cut and apt...
    seriously any bill is going to make a change...??..not in the immediate future...
    we are humans and our core drives us into the race of survival of the fittest...and perhaps the fastest..
    in this fast tract world none wants to be left back and everyone does everything in their power to crush the man next to him to reach where he is...
    we want something done pretty soon..we offer gifts and in some time sooner it becomes a practice...and this is what corruption really is..
    instead of taking a bribe to speed up proceedings..now our country is in a position to only undertake any work if the bribe is paid..
    i have spent 8 years abroad in a second world nation where still bribery and corruption is prevalent but only to fasten up proceedings..and once when i got back to india...it took me some time to realise i need to adjust here..
    corruption prevails everywhere from the moment we step outside the home..
    chnage in the bill's format nor the goverment is not going to bring the desired system because the system has adapted itself for so many years..
    change must be from heart..nd in this greedy world where one can never be satisfied by what he has...things will take much longer...
    its pretty interesting to see peoples reaction to the so called fast until death...
    people plunging into the grounds and people shouting chants for Mr.Anna..half of them even dont know the head and tails of it...
    probably they googled the name and decided its my turn to stand in spot light...
    bollywood stars...even some stars from south..all praising Mr.Anna...it was really what to say..hopeless...and finally they shouted victory...
    my fellow brothers and sisters..u have but one important role to play in this democratic country which needs our help...
    use ur right to vote...if Mr.Anna is so righteous and his faithfull band of followers!!??..they must compete in the next elections and let the people see what they are capable of..
    if ur not able to do it..atleast dont point ur fingers at the government for everything..
    as for the media...i am sure that as soon as aishwarya rai bachan delivers a child or if salman khan is getting his operations done..they will forget about this bill...
    and for my fellow commenters...please dont think this was a national movement...because there wasnt even a soul worried here...people just want to put bread in the table and cash in the bank...and they want to get it done fast...they are ready to pay bribes for it...
    until the change happens at heart..nothing can be done..because we have the ability to escape from any little loophole available...
    in a country where offerings are done for gods to fulfill one's wishes...corruption will never cease to exist...

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  28. Please be united against the corrupt politicians whatever party they belong to..

    http://annahazarethetruth.blogspot.com

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  29. Kudos for being so honest & upfront while writing on Anna otherwise media coverage of him is absolutely irresponsible, biased & in bad taste. I feel at this point of time 'not letting himself hijacked by mercenary media" is the most befitting advice to Anna

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  30. can anyone tell about drawbacks og such movements?

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