15th august. The date will be remembered for several reasons in history. The independence of India, the partition, creation of Pakistan and East Pakistan, and also my mom’s birthday!! But 15th august 2011 will be best remembered for just one thing–Corruption and ANNA HAZARE. Corruption-scams-black money; the names are interchangeable in India. From the stock market to animal fodder to court papers there is a scam for everything in this country. From the 4th grade blue collar employees to the ministers and foreign diplomats, & even judges! Almost everyone (I’d say almost) has some way or the other contributed to one or more of the scams. With the swiss bank accounts fiasco and the multi-million dollar 2G,3G scams, things were just culminating to a saturation level. The aam aadmi was getting increasingly impatient.
And then came the SAVIOUR! Like Jesus came thousands of years back to show THE LIGHT, out of this disarray emerged ANNA HAZARE. Wikipedia lists his real name Kisan Baburao Hazare but every super hero should have a NAME and so he became Anna Hazare. He had done a lot for the society but fame came to him with the advent of 2011. The kind of sensation he created for the eradication of corruption and the subsequent events caught not only national but international limelight as well. Rediff and Yahoo ranked him as the top searched name in their websites for months on end. The Gandhian style of non-cooperation and Hunger strike shook the government. After a long time there was A NAME whom the government feared; the Opposition was virtually defunct till then. Like a Messiah people worshiped him , followed him and thought (and still thinks as I write) that this was the ultimate solution to all the malpractices in the country. In a long dark corridor he was the lighthouse, and Opposition, rights groups, NGO’s, lawyers, the aam aadmi (including me of course!) and even those NAXALS followed and idolized him. The herd mentality you know, as I always say.
Jesus had his fair share of controversies but alas no one remains alive from His time to tell us the real facts. Thankfully with Anna Hazare it is not the case. Things went on pretty smoothly during the first round of the fast. The event saw phenomenal show of patriotism throughout the country. I too, along with others, cursed the government, the bureaucracy, the system.. and anything that held authority. Though partly true, I for one never saw the dual motive behind this whole drama. I still remember, how we all celebrated when government agreed for talks and 15th august was set as deadline for implementation of the bill. There were joyous celebrations, waving flags, shouting slogans, processions and what not. I remember sending mass text messages to all my friends saying that we had won the battle against the government and a new freedom is near. We never saw it coming that the whole foundation of our movement stood on wobbly legs.
The truth dawned upon me when the talks started. The arrogance of the civil committee just didn’t seem proper to me. I did some research about the proposed Jan-Lokpal Bill and came up with rather startling revelations. The Jan-Lokpal bill provides for the inclusion of the PM under the purview of the Lokpal committee, inclusion of the judiciary under its ambit, ¼ of government revenues for the committee, life sentence for corruption among others. In layman’s words it is like Rajnikanth of India’s political machinery! But this is real life not reel life. And one needs to be realistic about certain things. It has been already stated clearly by the NCRWC commission that “the nation cannot afford to have a PM under a cloud.. The PM should not be subjected to this bill as this would severely impair his independence and freedom of judgment, which contradicts directly with the constitution.” Indeed the Lokpal shouldn’t destabilize the country. If the PM is engrossed in answering questions about his credibility during his tenure, how can one expect him to take important decisions of national importance? Again, inclusion of judiciary under Lokpal is really laughable. It has been laid down that the Lokpal must lodge its cases with the Supreme Court. If the SC itself comes under Lokpal, how can one expect it to function independently and impartially? Moreover it has been a constitutional necessity to separate the executive from the judiciary so that both can work independently in their own domains. This bill seems to be directly challenging the constitutional provisions. Demanding a huge budget of ¼ revenue of the government and life term for corrupt convicts are also unacceptable. The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) condemned Hazare’s deadline for passing the bill as undermining democracy, which operates by “holding wide-ranging consultations and discussions, allowing for dissent and evolving a consensus. …He [Hazare] has the right to protest and dissent. But nobody can claim it as an absolute right and deny the right of dissent to others.”Moreover, we tend to overlook the fact that this is a self-appointed committee without any democratic processes. Civil society should only suggest amendments to the government, not enforce them. Hardly anyone has taken the time to think that what happens if the Lokpal itself becomes corrupt? With it playing the Role of Rajnikanth, who will be there to check it?
In addition to the Jan-Lokpal bill being flawed, there are serious credibility issues with the committee members itself. The justice Sawant commission report lays bare the malpractices of Anna Hazare and proves that he’s not a God as people have been worshiping him. The Commission submitted its report on February 22, 2005 in which it criticized the NGO for spending Rs 2.20 lakhs of its funds on the birthday celebrations of Hazare. What’s more, according to Sawant report “A portion of land measuring 11 Acres was admittedly alienated by way of gift in favour of the Zila Parishad without the permission of the Charity commission.” It also didn’t report on the acquisition of land measuring about 89 acres. The commission also asked him why the NGO has failed to submit its audits for as many as 20 years. Justice Sawant himself has found Anna Hazare guilty of misappropriating funds and so that makes him “an individual liable to be charged under the IPC”.
Mr. Hazare, or let me call him Anna Hazare, for better recognition, and his Anti-corruption squad has an NGO named India Against Corruption or something similar. A message was spread to send a missed call to a particular number to show your solidarity in this fight against corruption. Like thousands of my fellow countrymen, I too followed suit and promptly gave a missed call to that number. Little did I know at that time that the very number would be used to propagate hate messages against the government! At the first indication that the talks were heading towards a stalemate and Anna declared that he would resume fast from august 16, the number sent me a message to “show the government the people’s power and support Anna ji in mass numbers”. When the talks finally reached a deadlock all hell broke lose. I was being pestered with constant messages from that number asking all to boycott classes, come out on the streets and expose the ‘corrupt’ government. I even tried sending a reply asking them not to send any more such messages but to no avail. Now on hindsight this whole sms thing looks like pre-planned and well-motivated. Anna keeps on saying that he’s not against the government but only against corruption. But these messages tell a different story. If they are really against corruption they could have sent us anti-corruption messages. Instead they chose to go on with their government bickerings and instigating the people.
The Jan-Lokpal is no silver bullet against corruption. Team Anna believes that corruption is due to the lack of an independent and powerful body like the Lokpal. Actually corruption is largely because of poor monitoring and supervision of PDS, wrong policies in the past and a slow justice system. Although steps need to be taken to remove these ills, forming an all-powerful committee to check these anomalies is totally unjustified in a democratic form of government. Anna Hazare is challenging the fundamental provisions of the constitution itself, which is unacceptable. Moreover, people are being led to believe that this bill will be the end game for all practices of corruption in the country. When POTA, TADA and Anti-terrorism bill are not being able to stop the recurrence of terrorism, can one bill save the country from corruption? Again there are reports that this whole movement is an ulterior motive by the BJP, RSS and the like to push forward their agenda. Whether this is true or not, that remains to be seen. But the allegation itself should raise serious doubts about the effectiveness of this bill.
This new independent year of India is going through a rough and uncomfortable phase. The government, riddled in multiple corruption cases, is weighing the consequences before taking any firm steps. A democratic and majority formed UPA government is being projected as draconian and ruthless by vested circles. On the other hand, Team Anna, though with supposedly good intentions, should revise their home-work again. Blackmailing, creating civil strife and arrogance certainly do not come under a democratic set-up, neither are some of the absurd provisions of the Jan-Lokpal bill. Where the stress should have been on the De-centralization of power, here we have another bill which strives for an even bigger and more powerful centralized power-spot in the democratic machinery. All’s well that ends well. So lets hope that something positive come out of this riddle, and whether it be beneficial to the government or Team Anna, lets hope that in the end corruption recedes in India. Even if not by “65%” as claimed by Anna, but at least to some extent. And hope that democratic principles, constitutional provisions and the authority aren’t compromised for the sake of a new law.
NB– The facts given above are true to the best of my knowledge and have been verified with reliable sources. Still if someone would like to contradict these or have a different viewpoint regarding any of the above points, feel free to express them. I always look forward to and appreciate different viewpoints. But please no abuses here; for we all know that a man who doesn’t know both sides of the story will always talk filth. Thanks!