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Anna’s Next Round: BUMPY ROAD AHEAD, by Dr. PK Vasudeva, 6 Sept, 2011 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 6 September 2011

Anna’s Next Round


By Dr PK Vasudeva

Ex-Mem, Consumer Redressal Commn, Chandigarh.


Will the country be rid of the corruption scourge now that both Houses of Parliament have unanimously resolved to put in place an effective and strong Lokpal Bill? Is Gandhian crusader Anna Hazare satisfied with Parliament's good intentions, as reflected in his decision to end his fast? Is the end of sleaze only a matter of time?  Answers to these three vital questions are very difficult to predict. All one can aver his that the objective of Anna’s fast is to eradicate corruption in public life to begin with through a Jan Lokpal Bill.


Consider. Since Independence successive Governments have believed that legitimacy in governance is through general elections held every five years. Once India attained its hard fought freedom, our polity believes that this should never be challenged, except in the genteel ways of Parliamentary democracy. However, civil society, led by Hazare challenged this notion by mounting a campaign, which was exemplarily non-violent but nevertheless not bereft of an element of coercion.


True, neither the Government nor the political class is ready to give up its freedom of morally de-generated politics they have been following all these years, merely because civil society objects to it. As both have merely forgotten that the will of the people (“we the people”) as enshrined in the Constitution is supreme to Parliament.


Undoubtedly, battles are fought through attrition into enemy territory before any decisive war is won. Importantly, Anna and his team recognised this and realized that incremental steps taken would achieve more progress than success in one dramatic encounter. Hence Anna's decision to end his fast, even though he had earlier declared that he would continue fasting till the Bill, conforming to his three specific demands, was passed by Parliament.


Significantly, on its part, the Government might be keen to deflect the narrative of political discourse currently centred on corruption into something that it would be more comfortable with. It could start talking about dalit upliftment, welfare schemes for below the poverty line (BPL) people and aam aadmi politics.

In addition, the success in the anti-corruption crusade that civil society is now engaged in would depend on how it manages to keep the public focus on issues that matter the most. In this case, the core subject is corruption that has evoked strong sentiments in the masses as they resignedly fend-off the corruption monster.


Pertinently, at the same time, we should never underestimate the shrewdness of the political class or the manipulative games it can play? Like the proverbial ‘birds of the same feather flock together,’ all parties are one when it comes to their self-aggrandisement. See how Our Right Honourables passed two Bills heftily raising their emoluments by 200 per cent to Rs 60 lakh and another wherein the MP’s Local Area Development Fund Scheme (MPLADS) was hiked to Rs five crore from Rs two crore per annum respectively. Most scandalously, unanimously, in a jiffy and sans debate or scrutiny by the standing Committee.


Undeniably, in over six decades of Independence there has not been a single case of corruption or any other kind of malfeasance against any member of the political class which has been effectively pursued to the very end, resulting in conviction or a jail sentence. Yet, every Party or political combine during election campaigns, solemnly promises to “fast-track” pending corruption cases against politicians through “fast forward courts” and bring the corrupt to book, but once it assumes power, every thing is forgotten.


Sadly, every Party resorts to this charade. Right from the late 80’s vis-à-vis the Bofor's pay-off, 90’s Bihar chara swindle, 2010’s 2G spectrum scam, Commonwealth Games muddle et al that the country has been witnessing.


The initial ‘outwardly’ frenetic pace of ongoing investigations on various scams soon peters out, resulting in the accused strutting on the national stage with impunity and worse, even becoming Cabinet Ministers. Everything finally settles down to the old proverb, ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours’.  Sadly, this seems to be our polity’s motto, regardless of Party or ideology.


The prime example is the Lokpal Bill which has been allowed to languish for the last 42 years, albeit by tacit consent across the political spectrum, notwithstanding the seeming commitment by various parties, either in power or in Opposition, to passing the Bill. Remember, in September 2004 soon after the UPA-I came into power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, “The need for Lokpal is much more urgent at present than ever before”. Further, he undertook to take effective action in this regard “without any further loss of time.” It has been 7 long years, how much more time is required?


It took all these years and a nation-wide upheaval led by a 74-year old crusader Anna Hazare’s ’s two fasts, first in early April and then last month,  resulting in “a sea of humanity” (Akin to Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising) which threw a jittery Government into a tizzy. Ultimately, the ‘people’s will’ forced the Government which bandied together the political tribe and got both Houses of Parliament to pass a “Sense of the House” resolution to “satisfy” the Gandhian’s demand for initiating the Jan Lokpal Bill.


Despite the spin put on it by Team Anna, Government and public-spirited persons keen to see the back of the impasse, the “Sense of the House”, is nothing more than a pious, though persuasive call to the Standing Committee, to take into account three issues listed by Anna, while considering all versions of the Lokpal Bill received by it. Namely, both Houses have “in principle” agreed on a Citizens' Charter, inclusion of lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal “through an appropriate mechanism” and establishment of Lokayuktas in the States, bearing in mind “their practicality, implementability and Constitutionality.”


As pointed out by the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, the Committee would need a minimum of four months to prepare its report, and it is all up in the air whether the final outcome would conform to the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. All one can foresee is a rough terrain ahead.


Clearly, Anna’s Jan Lopal Bill seems to be travelling on a bumpy road. The tragedy is that given our past experience and political class’s penchant to keep things hanging, in all likelihood, the Jan Lokpal Bill would continue to remain in limbo. Until such time, that Anna Hazare once again makes another aggressive onslaught with the support of the masses to push through the Lokpal Bill on the road to make India corruption free. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)
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