The Jan Lokpal Bill might appear to be the product of a people’s movement but it may well be a flawed decision of a particular socio-economic group.
In a nation where the 8 to 9 percent growth has remained limited to roughly 15 percent of the total population, where the elite, ministers and other people of influence have been involved in scams of outrageously gargantuan proportions while 17,368 farmers committed suicides in 2009 (data as per National Crime Records Bureau), it only made sense that a people’s movement against corruption arose with an objective to counter malpractices like money laundering, bribery and bulk cash smuggling. In the current state of affairs, what the nation saw was not really a people’s movement, but what merely appeared to be so. Although the intentions of both the eminent personalities, namely Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev were good, it now seems that their vision and actions have fallen short in successfully curbing corruption in the nation.
The truth is that there hasn’t really been a true people’s movement in India since the 1974 Bihar Movement led by Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, which would later, during the Emergency period, go on to be called the Total Revolution Movement as it spread all across the country. This movement would be responsible for metaphorically dethroning the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi and establish Morarji Desai as her successor. Although this movement is mentioned in higher education History books, much has been forgotten about it. Forgetting him has been in the best interest of both UPA and NDA. As a matter of fact, all through the seventies, JP was referred to as ‘the second coming of Gandhi’. That was the first clarion call against corruption in India and was widely successful too. It is ironic though that in 2011 we are questioning the actions of the same politicians (amongst others) that emerged out of this very movement.
In 1974, a consolidated demand was made for the complete revaluation and change in how the government functioned and how people held the positions of power while urging for a fair distribution of wealth and opportunity to all and not just a select few influential people. JP believed that a mere interpretation of an unjust and iniquitous human society wasn’t adequate. What he demanded was its fundamental transformation. This is where the present day anti-corruption movement seems to be failing. The Jan Lokpal Bill is only looking at a single dimension of a bigger picture.
There are questions on whether to include the judiciary, or, the conduct of MPs inside Parliament into the Bill. Our Constitution protects civil servants from being dismissed or removed by any authority subordinate to the appointing authority. This hasn’t been addressed in the Jan Lokpal Bill. In that case should these provisions within the Constitution be amended? If so, then will the Lokpal, single-member or multi-member, exercise all quasi-judicial powers? If that does happen then institutions like Central Vigilance Commission or the Central Bureau of Investigation will no longer be required. Which leads us to another question and that is how efficient will this ombudsman body be in comparison to the CVC and CBI? If the Bill is to be passed then it will require a great deal of amendment. Therein also lies the question of the intention of implementation of these amendments on the Government’s part.
A fear of inclusion of dodgy clauses exists which may either render the bill useless or dilute its urgency. Establishment of only a Lokpal isn’t the solution if further legal infrastructure in not available to support it. The failure of the RTI act is a testimony to this. Upon asking for information the government officials either give incomplete information, false information or decline to give information under one pretext or the other thanks to the clauses within the RTI Act itself. Can a similar advantage be taken of the Jan Lokpal Bill while making amendments before passing it?
No amount of fasts or forceful schema in order to make the Government approve and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, will work if the drafting of the Bill by ‘India Against Corruption’ has been loose from the very start with such obvious gaping loop holes that it gave the Government an opportunity to evade its responsibility in the first place and argue about the viability of the Bill. In fact, both Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia often said that, “Fasts shift the attention from the issues to the person.” The unnecessary theatrics by a Yoga guru will also not work. Standing on a stage and screaming about bring back “black money stored in foreign banks” will not bring in the money and retreating at the last moment from the Ramlila Maidan will beyond doubt send a message of weak leadership making way for political goons and the police to take violent actions against you no matter how big a celebrity you are.
A people’s movement is a product of everyone’s involvement and participation. A movement which itself is bias enough to separate the “civil society” from the rest of the nation, and thrives solely on media support is bound to either fail or not have the desired effect. What does calling a particular socio-economic group of people “civil society” imply? That the rest of the people are uncivil? Projecting a few opinions as the need of the hour, when one knows that it will greatly affect the nation, isn’t really democratic. One begins to wonder whether the Jan Lokpal Bill even belong to all “jans”. If not, then there’s no point in making it into an Act because then it would indeed, apply to all.
Images Courtesy:Deepankar Raj