Friday, April 8, 2011

72 year old man forces Government to act against corruption

Every layman on the streets of India – be it literate or illiterate can talk lengths and depths about corruption in India and how it affects him/her. For almost 40 years, the anti-corruption bill has been put on the backburner and every time a weak version of it had been introduced in Parliament. Every time it had been defeated and no urgency was shown either by Congress or BJP. 

The bills introduced in 1996, 1998 and 2001 included the PM also subject to scrutiny. However, after Manmohan Singh came in, the PM was removed from its ambit (No one knows why). Irrespective of Congress or BJP the bill has not been taken seriously with respect to implementation. Every time the bill lapsed and was sent to further review. Already 3 such committees have studied and modified the bill, but in vain.

Existing Mechanism:

Anybody (any govt officer) can be booked under Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, but requires state/central government permission to drag the person to court. So, essentially a citizen can only expose (that too if the citizen is still alive after exposing), but no legal mechanism be easily started. Simply put - the Congress or BJP would ask ministers to resign and keep on boasting about taking actions.

With the government reeling under multiple scams (2G, ISRO-Antrix, Commonwealth, cash-for-votes, Adarsh society, IPL, Quatrochi, Central Vigilance Commission appointment of Thomas - wonder how can so many scams emerge and PM doesn't even know about it. It is carelessness and abysmal leadership by a clean PM) running into 16 times India’s current deficit, the people now have very thin line of patience. 

In early 2000, the Lokayukta was set up in 18 states but no powers were given to prosecute the officers. Today, only Karnataka has a fairly successful Lokayukta. However, its powers of prosecution have never been fully sanctioned. This has made the body meaningless. Yes, it does expose officers, but who wants just that.

What’s going on now?

A trigger was just required. It finally took 72 year old Anna Hazare to sit on a fast and force the PM to draft the bill by a committee consisting of 50% government officials and 50% civil society members.

The reason: No parliament member alone can draft the bill which could slit his own throat when he/she is involved in corruption. The current bill (also known as Govt version of Lokpal bill has loopholes) mainly creates the body and exposes officers but doesn’t give powers to prosecute and drag officers to court. Hence, a set of people namely – Santosh Hegge (Former Supreme court justice and currently Karnataka’s lokayukta chief), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) drafted the JAN LOK PAL Bill whose salient features include:

  • CBI, CVC will be merged into this agency.
  • The body will be independent of judiciary, executive and legislature just like Election Commission.
  • The body will have a citizen forum where public an express grievances/complaints and the officers have to execute and punish the guilty within 2 years of the report filed.
  • The body also would protect the whistleblowers.
  • All property and assets would be seized from the accused once proven guilty.

Joining Anna Hazare was retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi whom we all know and Swami Agnivesh. No politician was allowed to share the dias with Anna. Slowly, a lot of RTI activists, “India against corruption” NGO activists began to join. Facebook, Twitter, blogs were soon flooded with support for Anna. 4.3 million people joined to support in just 3 days!!!!

People joined the movement and lit candles at the India Gate at the very place where people celebrated at midnight cheering Team India for winning the WORLD CUP CRICKET last week. Protests, rallies were held in various cities – Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and many others.

Have a look at how bollywood fraternity joined – Farah Khan, Anupam Kher, Hritik Rshan, Aamir Khan, Anupam Kher, Diya Mirza, Juhi Chawla, Madhur Bhandarkar and many more expressed their support either by physically joining the protest or tweeting and attracting lots of fans and citizens. The movement spread even to New York city where there is going to be a huge gathering of Indians on April 9th at Times Square.

THIS IS AN UNPRECENTED MOVEMENT. The last time such a movement happened was when Mumbai witnessed 26/11. The people seriously wanted safety and Chidambaram has done a remarkable job by personally monitoring the security and making the new body National Investigative Agency to finally look into all matters of this kind. Hope we get some equally good output from the government this time too.

The Govt was forced now to accept a demand and make Santosh Hegde, Anna, Kejriwal to form members of the committee which will be co chaired by Pranab Mukherjee (Finance Minister) to finalize the bill.

I hope that a real good legislation comes out quickly and gets passed quickly. If it doesn’t people should continue their agitation and not stop. This revolution is a must before we can really overtake the world.

The following questions, however, must clearly be legislated before the bill is passed:

1)      How will this anti-corruption body be constituted?
2)      Who would be elected?
3)      How will he be elected? Will there be a fixed term?
4)      What qualification is necessary for the members?
5)      How independently can they function?
6)      What will happen to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and CBI?
7)      What if this LokAyukta becomes corrupt?

The classic example is that CBI has been misused over and over by everyone in power and the Karnataka Lokayukta has not been given powers to act against corrupt officials. The Karnataka govt which wants to support Anna Hazare should first enact and give powers to Lokayukta. It is only then the CM would set a precedent.

It is very important that the govt considers who would be called a whistleblower and how is he protected if he is involved in exposing corrupt official.

Even if the above questions are not answered, clearly this movement shows there is impatience and growing anger against corruption in India.


Anonymous said...

Nice article

Sridhar Kuppalli said...

Why people need a person like anna hazare to show up we need a commission against corruption? Does anupam kher or someone didn't knew it was existed in India?

How many times Anupam kher or me or you have paid fine to trafic police for small amount without receipt? Why we did that? Just tweeting and facebooking is never going to help anyone.