Anna Hazare and Us: Learning to Live Normally without a Fight!

anna-hazare-060411.jpgAnna Hazare is a War Veteran who is now on a crusade with an enemy which is internal. While he fought the Pakistanis in 1965, he has been fighting the internal rot in the political and bureaucratic system since. He is on a “Fast unto Death” in Delhi for getting an Ombudsman act in place called the Lokpal Bill. The central piece of his demand is that the committee to draft this bill cannot be the Government itself! Why such a stir against one bill? Because this bill has been held as a carrot that never was by the Governments of the day.

Lokpal Bill, in its first versin was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but didn’t make it past the “elders” in Rajya Sabha. It was then brought for vote in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, and is yet to see the light of day!

While mouthing praise and love for the old man, the Government – PM Singh, Law Minister Sibal and the un-crowned queen of the party and corruption – Sonia Gandhi – have tried their best to do an encore with Anna’s attempt as well. While there is no intention to do what Anna says, the cliches abound. Sonia said:

“I am pained by Anna Hazare-ji’s fast unto death. The issues he has raised are of grave public concern. There can be no two views on the urgent necessity of combating graft and corruption in public life. I believe the law in these matters must be effective and must deliver desired results……

…I am sure that Anna Hazare-ji’s views will receive the government’s full attention as we move forward to fight this menace. I appeal to Anna-ji to give up his fast,”

While Sibal suggested

“We had a very constructive dialogue. The broad parameters are generally agreed upon… We want Anna Hazare to give up the fast. We believe the civil society and the government should sit together and deal with the problem of corruption through an effective legislation”

The intention for obfuscation screams out of these statements. Hazare has also written to Dr. Manmohan Singh, who has simply advised the old man to not go ahead with the fast – because… blah blah blah!!

The differences between the Government’s stance on Lok Pal Bill and Anna Hazare’s stand are:

Government Proposal

  • Lokpal will have no power to initiate suo motu action or receive complaints of corruption from public. It would probe only complaints forwarded by the Lok Sabha Speaker or Rajya Sabha Chairman. It will enable the ruling party to protect its own.
  • Lokpal will be an advisory body. It will forward its enquiry report to “competent authority”, which will have the final say. If Lokpal made a report against the PM, will Parliament ever pass a resolution to prosecute him?
  • No police powers to Lokpal. All its probes will tantamount to “preliminary enquiries”. Even if its report is accepted, who will file chargesheet?
  • No mention of the CBI’s role after the Bill is enacted. Will CBI lose its powers to investigate politicians?
  • Mild punishment for corruption – minimum 6 months, maximum 7 years
  • No provision to recover ill-gotten wealth. A corrupt person can come out of jail and use the money

Anna Hazare’s proposal

  • Lokpal will have powers to initiate investigations suo motu in any case and directly entertain complaints from the public. It will not need reference or permission from anyone to initiate investigation into any case.
  • Lokpal will not be an advisory body. It will have powers to initiate prosecution against anyone after completion of investigations in a case. It will also have powers to order disciplinary proceedings against any government servant.
  • Lokpal will have police powers. It will be able to register FIRs, proceed with criminal investigations and launch prosecution.
  • The anti-corruption wing of the CBI will be merged with Lokpal so that there is just one independent body to act against graft.
  • Enhanced punishment – minimum 5 years, maximum life imprisonment.
  • Loss caused to the government owing to corruption will be recovered from all the accused.

Why Heroes?

As amazing as Annaji is, what really makes me sad is –

  • It takes an Old Man to stand up with his spine straight in the country today
  • It takes a someone to make us fight for our rights… we don’t do that as a matter of routine!
  • Why should living NORMALLY need a “Heroic” action??

There needs to be a movement that makes us learn on how to live in a normal manner and fight for our rights as well as think on our own.

Anna Hazare’s Letter to the PM

Dear Dr. Singh,

I have started my indefinite fast at Jantar mantar. I had invited you also to fast and pray for a corruption free India on 5th April. Though I did not receive any reply from you, I am hopeful that you must have done that.

I am pained to read and hear about government’s reaction to my fast. I consider it my duty to clarify the points raised on behalf of Congress party and the government by their spokespersons, as they appear in media:

1. It is being alleged that I am being instigated by some people to sit on this fast. Dear Manmohan Singh ji, this is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I am not a kid that I could be “instigated” into going on an indefinite fast. I am a fiercely independent person. I take advice from many friends and critics, but do what my conscience directs me to do. It is my experience that when cornered, governments resort to such malicious slandering. I am pained that the government, rather than addressing the issue of corruption, is trying to allege conspiracies, when there are none.

2. It is being said that I have shown impatience. Dear Prime Minister, so far, every government has shown complete insensitivity and lack of political commitment to tackling corruption. 62 years after independence, we still do not have independent and effective anti-corruption systems. Very weak versions of Lokpal Bill were presented in Parliament eight times in last 42 years. Even these weak versions were not passed by Parliament. This means, left to themselves, the politicians and bureaucrats will never pass any law which subjects them to any kind of objective scrutiny. At a time, when the country has witnessed scams of unprecedented scale, the impatience of the entire country is justified. And we call upon you, not to look for precedents, but show courage to take unprecedented steps.

3. It is being said that I have shown impatience when the government has “initiated” the process. I would urge you to tell me – exactly what processes are underway?

a. You say that your Group of Ministers are drafting the anti-corruption law. Many of the members of this Group of Ministers have such a shady past that if effective anticorruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars. Do you want us to have faith in a process in which some of the most corrupt people of this country should draft the anti-corruption law?

b. NAC sub-committee has discussed Jan Lokpal Bill. But what does that actually mean? Will the government accept the recommendations of NAC sub-committee? So far, UPA II has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by NAC.

c. I and many other friends from India Against Corruption movement wrote several letters to you after 1st December. I also sent you a copy of Jan Lokpal Bill on 1st December. We did not get any response. It is only when I wrote to you that I will sit on an indefinite fast, we were promptly invited for discussions on 7th March. I wonder whether the government responds only to threats of indefinite fast. Before that, representatives of India Against Corruption had been meeting various Ministers seeking their support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. They met Mr Moily also and personally handed over copy of Jan Lokpal to him. A few hours before our meeting with you, we received a phone call from Mr Moily’s office that the copy of Jan Lokpal Bill had been misplaced by his office and they wanted another copy. This is the seriousness with which the government has dealt with Jan Lokpal Bill.

d. Dear Dr Manmohan Singh ji, if you were in my place, would you have any faith in the aforesaid processes? Kindly let me know if there are any other processes underway. If you still feel that I am impatient, I am happy that I am because the whole nation is feeling impatient at the lack of credible efforts from your government against corruption.

4. What are we asking for? We are not saying that you should accept the Bill drafted by us. But kindly create a credible platform for discussions – a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us. Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in Maharashtra Assembly. Maharashtra RTI Act, one of the best laws of those times, was drafted by a joint committee. Even at the centre, when 25,000 tribals came to Delhi two years ago, your government set up a joint committee on land issues within 48 hours. You yourself are the Chairperson of that committee.

This means that the government is willing to set up joint committees on all other issues, but not on corruption. Why?

5. It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.

We request you to take some credible steps at stemming corruption. Kindly stop finding faults and suspecting conspiracies in our movement. There are none. Even if there were, it does not absolve you of your responsibilities to stop corruption.

With warm regards,

K B Hazare

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