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Anna Hazare, Lokpal Bill and the Red Brigade

April 7, 2011

The man is a Gandhian, has served in the Indian Army, turned his village Ralegaon Siddhi in drought prone Ahmednagar in Maharashtra into a model rural inhabitation with surplus water, fought against rural alcoholism and has been an activist. For those in Maharashtra he is a household name but recently the man has hogged national attention. Anna Hazare needs no introduction. He is on a fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi which has become a pilgrimage of sorts. His fight is against corruption and his demand is that the government introduce the Lokpal Bill in parliament that has been languishing since 42 year. There has been a national upsurge and the civil society is abuzz with the demand made by Hazare. The social networking media is agog with Facebook chats, Tweets on the Twitter and discussions galore. All and sundry are voicing their support for Anna Hazare. Candle light marches are being organized across the country and there are supporters of Anna Hazare who are fasting with the man.  Many are frail and old and may not be able to go on for long.

Social Activist Anna Hazare on a fast against corruption

Lokpal or Ombudsman Bill was first proposed by the Administrative Reforms Commission in 1966 and was passed by the Lok Sabha in 1968 and forwarded to the upper house Rajya Sabha. Since then it has been languishing. The bill was revived in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005and most recently in 2008. The recent corruption scandals in the country seems to have galvanized the nation and the constant media coverage has sent home the point that rampant corruption is endemic and needs to be checked. The common man also associates his own problems with the ever present corruption that is also the cause of massive price rise, or so the people believe. There is a pent up anger that has found voice in what Anna Hazare is doing.  People from all walks of life are joining the Gandhian and this has turned into a so called mass movement. Some have gone on to say that Jantar Mantar where Anna Hazare is fasting is the Tahrir Square of India.

There is no doubt that corruption is an issue in the social and political fabric of the nation.  In that Anna Hazare has hit the nail in the head. It is also true that an Ombudsman at the state level and at central level has a role to play. I may add here that 17 states have Ombudsman or Lokayukta and at least the one in Karnataka was playing a very proactive role in pursuing cases of corruption. The same man, Mr. Santosh Hegde has also been active in drafting a proposed Lokpal Bill for the civil society. It must be said that there have been drafts made by the center over the years and the truth of the matter is that the proposed Lokpal Legislation has crystallized into something that can be a useful instrument in fight against corruption1.

Anna Hazare and his followers are however not impressed. They want changes in the proposed Lokpal Bill.  Other social activists like Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal, Aruna Roy, Mallika Sarabhai etc have joined the chorus. What started as a social movement seems to have been overtaken by a class of people who have an agenda of their own. Some political opportunists like OP Chautala and Uma Bharti tried to join Anna Hazare but were shouted out of the venue. Known criminals like Pappu Yadav have voiced support for Hazare and have ostensibly been fasting in jail. Hazare and his activist friends are demanding that they be invited for talks on the Lokpal Bill. They want an equal representation in any committee formed to draft the proposed Lokpal Bill. They feel that till such time that the Lokpal is given adequate powers and an independent charge on the lines of Election Commission etc. the institution cannot be useful. They also believe that Lokpal is the answer to stemming the rot that pervades the society – especially the political and bureaucratic class.

There is no doubt that corruption is on the increase. It is also true that we need to nip it in the bud. But I am not too sure the way to go about it is the introduction of the Lokpal Bill in the form envisaged by the social activists lead by Anna Hazare.

1. They want that anyone from the civil society may be appointed as the Lokpal and not necessarily a judge from the Supreme Court, which means that any of these innumerable social activists that are creating ruckus at the Jantar Mantar will be eligible for the position of a Lokpal.

2. They further demand that the prime minister’s office and his council of ministers be under the purview of the Lokpal. It is true that PM and his council of ministers do fall under the purview of the Lokpal but with the exception that on matters of public order or defense the Lokpal’s jurisdiction will not hold. Hazare and his men want a blanket access to PM and his Cabinet.

3. They also want that the Lokpal be allowed to take suo moto cognizance of issues pertaining to probity for those in office, which means that there shall be no filters and that any issue purportedly about graft from secondary sources should be enough for the Lokpal to institute an inquiry.  The current proposed bill allows any notice of graft be first presented to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha who will then decide whether the case is fit to be pursued by the Lokpal. This is to avoid frivolous and baseless charges being pursued by the Lokpal. But this does not impress the civil society and they want that this be done away with.

4. They want that the civil society appoint the Lokpal and not a committee of ‘corrupt’ politicians including the Prime minister, the speaker of the house and the leader of the opposition.

I have serious reservations on all the above proposals from the civil society. But most of all I have deep fear about the kind of people who are around Anna Hazare and are using him as a tool to further their own agenda. Most of these people are known Maoist sympathizers. Anna Hazare is seen by many as someone who has been close to the RSS and the rightist outfits but ever since he undertook his fast he has been surrounded by people who have extreme left leanings and are known to be close to the Maoist ultras. The atmosphere at Jantar Mantar is also typical communist party carnival with street plays being organized and sloganeering. This is an attempt by the Red brigade to hijack democracy. In that this is perhaps the most dangerous development on the political horizon since independence. I do not for a moment question the motives of Anna Hazare. The man is genuine and his concern for the welfare of the state and the rise in corruption is something that had to find voice sooner rather than later. What raises my suspicion is the agenda of people like Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy et al. The ones missing from action are Gautam Naulakha and Arundhati Roy but I am sure one will find them loitering around Jantar Mantar sooner rather than later2.

If a Lokpal  Bill as one envisaged by Kejriwal et al is passed it could mean a complete breakdown of administrative machinery. There will be an elected head – the prime minister and then there will be a supra prime minister in Lokpal who can haul up the elected representative any time on any issue. This Lokpal will be appointed by the civil society which will be a conglomeration of people of a particular hue. The Council of Ministers will also find themselves answering to the Lokpal more than doing their administrative work. Democrcy will be endangered. A suo moto cognizance of any issue means that stories can be planted in any media which is again a den of the leftist brigade and the Lokpal can take action based on such stories. This will lead to a witch hunt. This is an attempt at hijacking democracy. What we are seeing in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar is an invasion of Maoists who have activists posing as conscience keepers of the nation but really are wolves trying to damage the democratic setup of the nation. Any political party having truck with them is a threat to the security of the nation. From the jungles of Dantewada and Jharkhand these Left Brigands have descended on Delhi with the purported aim of overturning the government covertly. The shrill media campaign against corruption that has hogged space has raised the hackles of common Indian who fails to see the drama being enacted at Jantar Mantar.  This is not a Tahrir Square, this is a situation where a class is trying to kill a system using the public outrage against corruption.  People like Kiran Bedi and Anna Hazare should immediately stop this campaign and try and work with the government at a different level. There is no doubt that an Ombudsman is required but that has to be within the frame work of the Constitution and not a supra Constitutional body that hijack the democratic fabric of the nation. The media also needs to look at the whole scenario dispassionately and avoid giving coverage to elements whose agenda is suspect.

Lastly, the opposition parties including the BJP must realize that it will be in their interest to avoid using these elements to corner the government. The way Arvind Kejriwal talked about the number of dead bodies that Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the Congress spokesperson wants to get the Lokpal Bill passed is just one example of the kind of people behind this movement. The nation should be alert against these nefarious elements.

Reference:

  1. Lokpal Bill – an Analysis http://www.scribd.com/doc/21632406/Lok-Pal-Bill-An-Analysis
  2. What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it’s important http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/what-is-the-jan-lokpal-bill-why-its-important-96600
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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2011 9:44 am

    Hi Ullas,

    Really liked your post. I have compiled a list of top 15 posts on the issue and I included yours too. Here is the link:

    http://www.adityakumarnayak.com/2011/top-12-resources-on-anna-hazares-fast-corruption-jan-lokpal-bill/

    • sharma24 permalink*
      April 8, 2011 3:31 pm

      Thanks Aditya! Will try and browse through your list.

  2. manjoy laxmi permalink
    April 9, 2011 9:44 pm

    SIMPLY WONDERFUR ,EXCELLENT,GO AHEAD ,MAY ALL INDIA JOIN THIS MISSION FOR FAIR AND JUST EQUITABLE SOCIETY

  3. April 10, 2011 1:41 pm

    Well.. I have myself been critical of the “fast unto death” method and the lets-supersede-the-democratic-process movement.
    You are right about the left leanings… but one thing i need to say… stop being scared of anything “red”… ‘cos most often these left supporters are the most progressive ones in their thinking. It comes with their ideology… and the ideology comes only by deep study! Infact the current UPA has managed to do some decent work (NREGA, NHRM, RGNSS) because of the left… remember they are “socialists”… which is essential if we want some degree of egalitarianism in society. Dont be afraid of left… they r effective (and important), to save the coomon indian from excessive exploitation. Plus, “maoist supporters” are different from “maoist sympathizers” and “marxist intellectuals”. Dont scream when u see something “red”… the color hides more than it shows!

    On Hazare… yes, it was undemocratic for sure. You may like to read my criticism (I am not an out n out red!)
    http://ruhisonal.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/fight-against-corruption-move-towards-order-or-anarchy/

    • sharma24 permalink*
      April 10, 2011 7:49 pm

      Either you have not read my article or not understood what I am saying. I am all for fighting corruption. I also do not have anything against the Lokpal Bill or Anna Hazare. It is the manner in which it is being introduced that makes me uncomfortable. I hope you know what Maoists did to Peru – the Shining Path. It took them decades to recover. These minute demarcations between Maoist sympathizers and Maoist followers etc. are nomenclatures that mean nothing. There is no difference between the Maoists in the jungles of Dantewada and those sympathizers roaming in Delhi posing as ‘intellectuals’. In fact I respect those in the jungles more than the ones posing as academic elites but are out to destroy the social and political fabric of the country.

  4. April 14, 2011 9:51 am

    Justice delayed is justice denied

    Lokpal Bill aims to deliver quick justice to victims of corruption. Target is a max of one year from the date of complaint.

    Goal of The Consumer Protection Act was similar. It mandated that in ALL cases, a Consumer Court shall give its verdict within 150 days.

    After 25 years of existence of Consumer Courts, the reality at the State-level is as follows :

     Cases settled within 90 days ………………………….. 23 %

     Cases settled within 90 – 150 days ………………. 15 %

     Cases settled after 150 days ……………………….. 62 %

    Scenario at the District level is very similar.

    [ Source : Economic Times / April 12, 2011 ]

    Apparently, road to “ Good Governance “ is paved with noble intentions !

    I hope that the Drafting Committee learns from this experience and builds-in provisions that ensure that the Lokpal Act ( when enacted ), does not meet the same fate.

    With regards

    hemen parekh

    http://www.CustomizeResume.com

    • sharma24 permalink*
      April 14, 2011 10:55 am

      Yes, you are right. But consumer court is still feared by most entrepreneurs who are on the wrong side of the law. An Ombudsman will be an option for redress. In that it has its utility.

  5. June 13, 2011 9:45 pm

    Check out my views and thoughts on The Jan Lokpal Bill

  6. August 28, 2011 11:26 am

    yes it is matter of celebration for INDIA…Anna Jai Ho..Kanoon banne ka rasta saaf hua.. sabhi indians ko dil se savikaar karna chahia our aaj se hi individual selfish lalsa kar aam zindigi mein corruption avaidh lain dain se aapne aap ko door rakheinge.

Trackbacks

  1. Top 15 Resources on Anna Hazare's fast || Yesterday We Said Tomorrow
  2. Weekly Roundup – 10 April 2011 – Anna Hazare, An Ambassador of Anti-Corruption Movement in India « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard
  3. Anna Hazare life style – Indian Social Activist « Kvijayanand's Blog

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