Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Are we witnessing that - Corruption in India has gone up by several notches, in the last 2 years?

Or, do we see that - India’s fight against corruption has gone up by several notches in these two years?

The Truth seems to be - Both.

The Prime Minister was candid enough to admit of coalition compulsions. But – evidently, it was difficult for him to speak beyond that – at that stage.

In India, the lower level corruption is suffocating enough – for the common man. The tragedy is- everybody knows of it; and yet no one even tries to make a dent on it, leave alone, put an end to it.

Is it so difficult to discipline a traffic constable, a land registrar or an RTO? No one knows why no one really wants to end the corruption even in these small pockets. These are examples. Many Government offices are reeking in corruption.

But, the reason why lower level corruption persists so rampantly – is becoming increasingly clear – when scam after scam is nailing the highest levels of Political and bureaucratic leaders. How will they have the heart to tackle the lower level corruption?

It has taken all the power in the hands of an Independent Judiciary, to force reasonably fast and straight forward investigations into many of the scams, unearthed by the Opposition Parties, media, press, CAG and a few others. 

For some more time to come – the media and news papers may be awash with scam news only – but, if the stern message goes round quickly – the scams too may come down quickly.

While the unearthing of scams may be credited to media, press and opposition parties – forcing the CBI to conduct a reasonably Good, Fast and straight forward investigation must be credited to the Higher Judiciary.

Where does Team Anna Fit into the Fight against Corruption?

Team Anna was instrumental in looking for a permanent, effective solution to the problem of corruption. Team Anna prepared the Jan Lok Pal Bill and forced the Government  into discussions on the Lok Pal Bill. It has also forced the Government to (propose to) introduce a Lok Pal Bill (however fractured) in the current session of Parliament. Team Anna therefore deserves all praise – from this angle of India’s fight against corruption.

Where did Swami Ram Devji fit into all this? In my opinion, he also  was a sincere crusader against corruption and his fasting also was largely successful. The midnight charge against him and his volunteers, the lathi charge and bursting of tear gas shells on sleeping / half asleep peaceful, unarmed volunteers has shown the Government in very poor light. Of course, that some of Ram Devji’s demands were impractical in the short run, also helped the Government. There was no one to advice Ram Devji to skillfully maneuver his agitation against the wily Political class.

In this aspect – Team Anna had and has  a few vocal, skillful crusaders like Kiran Bedi, Santhi Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejrival – apart from Anna Hazare himself.

It was certainly difficult for Ram Devji (or any body in that situation) to respond properly to the pell-mell situation created by the mid night charge on half sleepy volunteers. The small errors committed by him in that confusion (in assuming a murderous plot against him), and trying to wear a woman’s robes to avert it – weren’t the best responses -  but looking from his angle, not unreasonable and not unpardonable. It doesn’t make him any the less sincere in fighting corruption and Black money – compared to team Anna. It is just that he needs some good advisers in these Political fights.

In my opinion – it is wrong for Team Anna to keep him away from the Fight. It emboldens any Government to try similar tactics with Team Anna or any peaceful agitator in future. The 4 Bulls and the Lion story from Pancha thantra is to be remembered by Team Anna too.

But, much water has flown in the rivers of India since then. A scam a Day seems to be coming to light in recent days. Too many things are happening.

The Draft Bill prepared by Government is expected to be introduced in Parliament in a day or two. It may be referred to a standing committee straightaway – unless Opposition Parties force discussion on it.

What are the main aspects on which the Government Bill differs from Jan Lok Bill – and  what should be done about them? This is what Team Anna is strategizing and this is what the Opposition Parties are mulling over right now.

Evidently – Government is not right in many provisions of the Draft Bill it has prepared. This ,Team Anna is relentlessly exposing. But – unless sufficient number of MPs are convinced – the Jan Lok Bill provisions have no chance of getting accepted and incorporated in the Final Bill.

Team Anna is right in many things – but is not right in one thing at least. It is not right in not looking at all opinions and debating on them, and coming down a little, on some of their own demands.

After all – if both sides stick to their respective view points – there can be no meeting point at all. The Jan Lok Pal Bill will be forgotten, the moment, the Government Bill, with some modifications proposed by opposition are accepted and approved.

When the Bill is approved by the Parliament, much of the sheen on the fight for Lok Pal bill by Team Anna will fade away – since, the approved Bill will then represent the will of the people – and over 500 eloquent MPs will be standing behind it.

Let us admit that – some Politicians are corrupt – but many are NOT. It is on them that we all, including Team Anna, must necessarily depend.

Any improvements in the Bill will have to be carried out NOW, with the help of these MPs  – or else – we will perhaps have no further opportunities for it. It is therefore NOW or NEVER.

In what aspects should Team Anna come down?

I will mention one instance, for starters. Inclusion of the higher judiciary under the purview of the Lok Pal – will certainly not be acceptable to the Higher Judiciary. A non-Judge, judging a Judge – is not acceptable under the scheme of Independence of Judiciary – which is an essential feature of our constitution. I do not know if watering down Judicial Independence in this respect even needs a constitutional Amendment. The Politicians also do not seem to prefer it.

Also - if so many scams are today being investigated with vigour by the CBI – the full credit goes to the Independence of the Higher Judiciary in India. Yes. We do need an institution to look into judicial corruption – but let that be an independent part of the Judicial system – and not Lok Pal.

We still do not know how an independent Lok Pal is going to function in India. A Lok Ayukth in Karnataka may have unearthed a few scams, that too, at the time of laying down his job – but that is all we have to show (from this institution) for the whole country. It is not blaming an institution or the Individuals – Such new institutions need time to pack vigour in their working.

So many CECs were there – but  one Seshan made a lot of difference. So many CAGs were there. But, only now, people are talking of CAG. So many CVCs were there. Which CVC, if any, made any big dent in bureaucratic corruption?
Among all Lok Ayukths also, many in India remember only one – Santosh Hegde! So, a Lok Pal position – also needs a Gutsy, honest, energetic man – a man with a big mission in his heart. Otherwise, cleaning what today looks like the fabled Augean stables is a Herculean task.

Therefore, and for many other reasons – I feel, Lok Pal is not the best institution to tackle Judicial corruption. Let there be an independent Judicial body for it.

Should the Prime Minister come under the purview of Lok Pal or not? Yes. And, No. Both. It should not be suo motu. It should not be on the complaint of a few Individuals or one or two MPs. It should not be on the basis of Media reports. I would say – the Prime Minister may be investigated if, say – 100 MPs ask for it, on the basis of sufficient grounds. The institution of PM should not be dragged into small controversies. The same provision should prevail (with say, 50 MLAs seeking investigation) for the Chief Ministers of States.

Now – what are the institutions which must come under Lok Pal, to help him? The Anti–Corruption wing of CBI must come under Lok Pal. The Anti corruption wing of CVC must come under Lok Pal. There is No way that Lok Pal can function efficiently, if these Portions of CBI and CVC do not come under Lok Pal. This also implies – that these two bodies must not remain under Government control.

Lok Ayukth institution must be similarly constituted in all states and brought under Lok Pal. But, like High courts under Supreme Court – Lok Ayukths must function independently – and Lok Pal may keep advisory Powers on them.

The uniform Lok Ayukth bill must be a part of the Lok Pal Bill itself.

Should the Lok Pal have Powers to look into charges against all Government servants of all Grades.Not really necessary. Inclusion of Group A and Group B under Lok Pal, apart from MPs, Ministers etc is sufficient. Else – the total focus will be lost.

The Administrative vigilance wings which handle corruption charges against lower officials – must however report to Lok Pal – or the CVC under the Lok Pal – of all complaints of corruption, how they investigated and what was the result. In select cases – Lok Pal shall have Powers to seek further investigation, or, where a huge racket is suspected, Lok Pal may be free to ask CBI to investigate. But, in general, It is not appropriate to burden Lok Pal with cases against Lower level officials. It is counter productive.

Last question –

Should Anna Hazare go on Fast Now? What is the Purpose, Sir? If all MPs are taking a view on the Bill in the Parliament -  a Fast on the Bill outside the Parliament serves little purpose.

Anna has written a letter to all MPs. It is a Good Move.

A Padayatra to draw the attention of people and keeping up the heat on Government will be a Good move.

Meeting all ruling party and Opposition leaders – and placing your view points will be a good move.

Approaching the press and other media will be a Good move.

Galvanizing the opinion leaders of all hues – and also the general public in any other manner is a Good move.

But – a FAST, at this stage, does not look like a good move. It gives the Politicians a Good Handle to discredit a good movement.

Therefore – My appeal is – kindly keep up the pressure and be a little flexible. A little Give and take is always part of any good negotiation. The best path is always the third path. Not yours and Not his. That is how the world works.

We all wish to see a corruption–free India at the earliest and Tean Anna has to play its role carefully in it. We all wish to see that the Indian Parliament too, adopts a little more flexible attitude – and come up with a strong Lok Pal Institution.

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