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Friday, April 15, 2011

Question Anna, IAC out of Solipsism?

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Several eminent writers and thinkers have started pouring in their opinion about the movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare, the Jan Lokpal bill and how and why it wont work. I am no authority over political science and governance but my commonsense makes me wonder why people of such repute and influence dont carefully examine the situation before writing opinion on blog, newspaper etc.

Let us take a close look at what has happened.

India Against Corruption movement has started (in recent past) with a letter and petition to our PM, which elaborates the deficiencies in the current anti corruption laws and government version of the proposed bill, which can be read here Unfortunately the PM never cared to reply nor our popular media seems to be concerned about this and gave the due attention to such a strong and relevant letter signed by respected members of the civil society. Infact I have never seen/heard of any interview/article about this petition by the leading media and newspaper agencies. Perhaps they are always bothered about what's happening/selling today and things which shape tomorrow does not seems to appeal them much, barring few exceptions ( cricket, bollywood, stock market). A comparison between government version and civil society version of bills can be foundhere ( a much recent article though) Surprisingly not many people including the intellingentsia seems to have covered widely about this version of bill and criticized government about introducing such meaningless bill.

On 8th Feb, Anna Hazare showed his concerns about deteriorating law and order conditions in Maharahstra. Once again not many people seems to be caring about what they said and what was happening. Some RTI activists were attacked in several parts of Maharashtra, a detailed article can be found here . Unfortunately some of the activists lost their life in Jan 2011 and no comments were released by CM, PM, Mrs. Gandhi or Sharad Pawar about such shameful acts which seems to undermine democracy. Another detailed article can be read here On 26h Feb, Anna Hazare declared that because India Against Corruption movement has not heard back from government and no seriousness is shown by government, he will sit on indefinite fast from 5th April. A news article can be found here

Though some skeptics ( can be ignored) questioned why he started fasting after the world cup victory perhaps were not aware of his announcement earlier and back in Feb this year nobody in India would have imagined that India will win the Cricket world cup. Some seems to question why fast ended the same day IPL started. They should ask this question to Congress and the government of India rather than India Against Corruption movement. IPL is a multibillion $ entity and its absolutely possible that some of the politicians have vested interests in the success of IPL. On first day of fast, Congress termed Anna's fast a premature. A detailed article can be read here A nice attempt by the government by outrightly rejecting the whole idea behind the IAC movement led by Anna Hazare and attempting to trivialize the whole idea behind taking strong measures against corruption. But Anna Hazare continued this fight, despite almost no support on day 1. As stated in this article Anna Hazare rightly stated that Congress is trying to mislead the people of India. Is misleading public using their high offices and power not attributable to a crime ? Perhaps people of India have been so immune and indifferent to blatant crime and corruption in every walks of life that the famous PR campaigns by state/ central governments, using their high offices to distort the facts and hence wrongly influencing the public opinion is not even considered a crime in India ( by media, public, opposition parties or even court).

Then Mr. Sharad Pawar resigns from the Group of Ministers working on anticorruption bill. He states that he's busy campaigning for state elections, as was also covered in newspapers But nobody seems to understand the simple fact that elections dates were announced a long back and so were IPL and Cricket World Cup final schedule was announced, so Mr. Pawar should have made his schedule accordingly then why he resigned only after IAC movement started rejecting the government proposals and infact started targeting this senior leader directly. Was he afraid of something ? Alas Mrs. Gandhi responds on 7th April ensuring that his demands will get full attention of the government. Why all of a sudden Mrs. Gandhi felt the need to respond and give full government attention to the matter after it has taken a shape of national movement? and Why not before or after ? So tackling corruption was not her/Congress agenda at all or were they having any effective alternate hidden plan? Was she worried more about the upcoming state elections than anything else? For sure she and the Congress knows the fact that masses generally vote based on popular consensus, near term events can have a damaging effect but was it too late already, was the damage to the image and hence the complete election campaign already being done and perhaps they were trying to save whatever they could ! And now Mr. Sibal steps up, a lawyer by profession and taking care of the Telecom ministry after the massive 2G scam by Mr.A.Raja. Congress and the Government of India was definitely trying hard to negotiate the terms and conditions, as can be read here But once again surprisingly nobody cared to question the government that What they were trying to negotiate with IAC - a little weaker Lokpal? perhaps lesser transparency as compared to what IAC was demanding or something else? While BJP and Shiv Sena extended support to IAC, some of their lone stalwarts tried to blemish Anna Hazare, but for sure they had their vested interests behind it and rightly they didn't got much media coverage. More can be read here In parallel a lot of celebrities came in support of Anna, some again out of vested interest and some like Anupam Kher out of genuine interest and concern about the matter. Unfortunately his house was stoned by hooligans, who all of us know were from which political party. I think in few more years these hooligans will loose all the little relevance and media coverage they still enjoy due to their glorious past, so I hope out of their own vested interests these hooligans learn to behave themselves in a civilized, democratic society else they will be obsolete/ extinct very soon.

Back to negotiations with a well educated lawyer Mr. Sibal goes invain. The government is not ready to issue official notification till 8th April and does not accept any member of civil society to chair the Lokpal. Nobody questions the intention of government even now, why were they so afraid to accept members of civil society to chair a committee responsible for drafting a bill ? Power lust is perhaps the ultimate sin, that too over others, that too ultimate, without any question. Why does a democratically elected government behaving like a dictator and wanted a absolute control over everything. In a later interview by Mr.Karan Thapar of Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Mr. Thapar repeatedly blames the IAC movement as an attempt to undermine democracy. If Mr. Thapar is such a true journalist by spirit then has he not raised questions when GOI tried and succeeded in doing the same so many times in the past by not responding to the petitions of IAC, by trying to negotiate with IAC on Lokpal framework, by trying to make Lokpal a complete dummy and by not doing anything to punish the corrupt in its 7 years of governance. And so after lot of negotiations IAC and government agrees for a Joint Committee with 2 chairman. I felt it was a equation because its important to have duly elected members as a part of this committee. Government also agrees to issue notification to this effect and Anna Hazare declares to end his fast. A much needed and well deserved victory for the people of India. Surprisingly the finally proposed members from GOI are veteran specialists in law, finance and governance, quiet a contrast with the originally proposed members of the committee ! Does this mean that government was not serious before and perhaps IAC movement made them realize the importance of this burning issue of corruption and an urgent to need to address this issue before 'they' sell the heart and soul of its people ( in addition to land, sea, air, minerals, food grains, fodder, arms and airplanes, dams, bridges, roads, airports and everything possible) to corruption !

Some analyst, writers and think tanks are calling the proposed Lokpal as draconian body, all encompassing and all powerful. How else do they intend to address the issue of corruption? Requests, articles, movies, petitions, RTI appeals, CBI, Police, Judiciary and Polity all have failed incredibly in addressing the issue pertaining to corruption by the high and mighty. Amidst the 5 day fast, CBI released yet another piece on nonsensical chargesheet on 2G scam continues its old tradition of working under political influence, submitting half prepared reports and eventually providing lot of time to the accused to take sufficient measures to find loopholes in the documents, procedures and finally get away with it. A good article on the efficacy and culture within CBI by Justice Verma can be read here How many cases against politicians, bureaucrats, high and mighty filed by CBI in past 60 years have been solved till date? What attempts have been made to recover the losses caused by that corrupt individual/ party and what subsequent measures have been taken to ensure that things dont get repeated? Ineffectiveness of CBI is a wide know fact, but was it considered even a issue worth contemplating by any of the governments/political parties in the recent past?

Lokpal will not be a magic wand, a solution to all the problems pertaining to corruption at all the levels in India. Indian democracy and society is way to complex and will pose many more challenges in tackling issues of national importance. We simply cannot afford anymore to hide behind our cultural lineage and diversity and keep complaining that we are like that only culturally or we cannot have all encompassing laws because of our diversity. Eventually We the people of India will have to make use of the provisions in Lokpal in addition to provisions in RTI and other similar acts which empower the people. Lokpal is just a beginnig in right direction, first step towards a path to tame the demon of corruption. If democractically elected politicians provide constructive inputs, a strong will to amend, frame and then pass the Lokpal bill and then of course several other similar laws which empower the law enforecement agencies, the judiciary to take corrective, punitive measures and whatever it takes to ensure that 'everybody' obeys and live by as per the laws of the land. IAC is a movement by the people, by right set of people with genuine intention to solve issues, they are open to suggestions, they have not done anything to gain publicity, they have not reached that stage overnight, they have been working in this field for years and they know the subject matter in great details. So let us not sabotage their efforts by complaining that all regions, religions, sects, race, color, ethinicity, state etc should be represented. Instead its time to come out of Solipsistic frame of mind and ask all the questions bubbling in our minds in a appropriate manner to IAC team AND ask the same set of rigorous questions to our democractically elected Block officers, MLAs, MPs and make a wise choice this time, thinking beyond the freebies and the proposed rate cuts which benefit us in the short term but have no long term significance whatsoever.

5 comments:

  1. You are absolutely right when you write that Lokpal will not be a magic wand, a solution to all the problems pertaining to corruption at all the levels in India. And it will not be easy sailing either. Just to bring the judiciary within the ambit of Lokpal will itself be a herculean task what with the apex court itself harping on its powers of judicial review even when it comes to constitutional amendments. And without making the judiciary accountable the Lokpal itself would be doomed to be another white elephant. In fact, if only the judiciary had performed right, the scene would have been entirely different. As of now our judiciary is the most glaring example of the truism 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absloutely'. They have led the charge to subvert even the right to information act and instead of impeaching (the only course open to discipline/punish judges of higher courts and which is practically an impossiblity) the executive arm of government goes and rewards the perpetuator with another plum posting! To my mind Lokpal, with naxalites and maoists striking the criminals instead of the hapless, may produce the desired results in the long run. But again one cannot forget that the extra constitutional forces could be a genie out of the bottle but right now the constitutional government is definilety worse, making this genie look benign!

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