Say YES to the Lokpal bill



The Anna Hazare fiasco has raised some important questions on the intellectual elite. While the Middle-Class has happily lapped up this epochal event, a number of intellectuals and political commentators have expressed their trepidation over the recent protests. These neo-liberal idiots have gone to the extent of comparing Anna to fascists.

I wrote in one of my earlier posts about how society strives for idealism and the societal representative bodies work to achieve this goal. In the raging debate of Anna Hazare’s Gandhian methods it is imperative to take a stand in the debate. You either support the bill or you don’t. All the supporters and cynics agree that the Lokpal bill, in its present form, is a work in progress. So one cal always take a stand of working withing the framework of the bill instead of completely thrashing the bill. While none of them comment on Anna Hazare’s morals, his ‘unbridled virtues’ seem to have a hazardous impact in subverting democracy. I for one believe in the Jan Lokpal bill and this article will emphasize the strength of the bill and answer a few pertinent points raised by many political commentators.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta (PBM henceforth) for one has raised some issues on the realities of representative democracy.

“...in a functioning constitutional democracy, not having one’s preferred institutional solution to a problem accepted, does not constitute a sufficient reason for the exercise of such coercive moral power. This is not the place to debate when a fast-unto-death is appropriate. But B.R. Ambedkar was surely right, in one of his greatest speeches, to warn that recourse to such methods was opening up a democracy to the “grammar of anarchy”. (Mehta, 2011)

PBM automatically assumes that India is a functioning democracy. While India can be praised in comparison with its western counterparts on the vibrancies of its democracy that includes dissent, calling it a functional one is debateable. The present UPA government, the beacons of India’s ‘functioning democracy’ has truly lost its mandate to govern. The government is paralysed with the 2G corruption scam, CWG scam; where the nation’s image was tarnished, the Aadarsh scam. If that were not enough, the PM appointed the Central Vigilance Commissioner, in an utterly regardless manner. He did apologize for his imprudent act but such reckless behaviour highlights the ruling party’s apathy. You expect a government to act responsibly when it is still reeling under the plethora of scams. Such unconstitutional acts raise the questions of the ideals of democracy? If democracy reiterates the ‘power and will’ of the people, it is time we the people realised that this power truly exists.

The present government is ruling under the carefree notion of the collective amnesia of the people. During elections, vigorous campaigning and media propaganda ensure that the people are blinded by the hypocrisy of the sham of a government.

True, such ‘moral coercive power’ is unconstitutional and opens up the ‘grammar of anarchy’ as B.R. Ambedkar stated. But it’s this very moral power that is hoping to hold the government responsible for its recalcitrance.

An article appearing in the reputed Kafila, espouses similar thoughts and raises many more. Though the author goes on to state that he has studied the draft of the Kan Lokpal bill ‘carefully’, he fails to offer a convincing critique of it. That is hardly surprising because the hyperlink to the bill redirected me to a 404: Page not found. Well read.

It may be noticed that in this entire body, only one person, the chairperson of the Lok Sabha, is a democratically elected person (Sengupta, 2011)

The animus of the present middle class is the failure of democratically elected persons. The appointment of the Lokpal will be done by a collegium of eminent personalities including the Bharat Ratna award winners, Nobe prize winners of Indian origin etc... The author tries to tell us that this is undemocratic because none of these personalities themselves have been democratically elected by the people. It is the ineptness of democracy that has coerced such a drastic action. And there is no reason to believe that the collegium might be corrupt or the centralisation of power with the Lokpal will be authoritative. After all, the PM’s authority has made the CBI and the CVC defunct.

If one reads the act, point 4, it ‘carefully’ states that, “The Chairperson and members of Lokpal shall not be serving or former member of either the Parliament or the Legislature of any State and shall not hold any office or trust of profit (other than the office as Chairperson or member) or would have ever been connected with any political party or carry on any business or practice any profession and accordingly, before he enters upon his office” (Lokpal, 2011)

The very reason why the act is being hailed as a victory for civil society is because it eliminates the bureaucracy of the government. It is after all, common understanding that civil servants are corrupt.

Sub points 1-4 go on to state the nuances in the act including that if the Lokpal is practicing any other profession, he will be suspended due to a conflict of interests. (Directly or indirectly involved)

Under the heading 6:  Appointment of the Chairperson and the members, sub-point 6, (i)(j)(k) state;

i. Public feedback shall be invited on the shortlisted names by putting these names on the website.
j. The selection committee may decide to use any means to collect more information about the background and past achievements of the shortlisted candidates. 
k. Selection committee shall invite shortlisted candidates for discussions, video recordings of which shall be made public

As the points state, public accountability and transparency is achieved. All the meetings of the member committees should be mandatorily made public improving public participation; which a democracy upholds. (At least, it was so the last time I checked)

In addition to these there are several crucial powers the Lokpal has. It includes acting as a police officer, issuing search warrants, gives protection to a whistleblower etc... (India is yet to pass the Whistleblowers Act)

The author also compares such a council of members to the ‘Velayat e Faqih’ Faqih’ of Iran; which is a select body of clerics including the nefarious Ayatollah Ali Khameini. A typically exaggerated statement aimed at inducing paranoia, if such a draconian bill were to come into force. Rubbish.

In a 2000 odd word article there are 13 times the word ‘democracy’ appears. Almost all the author’s anger seems to be aimed at the ‘subversion of democracy’. Somehow, he seems to pander to the present democratic ideals which allows Kalmadi and A.Raja to be let off the hook. But the author also agrees that ‘nothing fosters corruption as much as the concentration of unaccountable and unrestrained power.Really? After multiple corruptions in multiple departments?

Seems to me like the typical argument you will hear people and TV channels parroting. ‘We need to weed out corruption at grass root levels, ‘We need to stop giving bribes to traffic policemen’. Although no one seems to know when these oafs will begin to start implementing their drivel. It is the same bunch who is very pessimistic about Hazare’s initiatives. Why can’t one view this as a beginning step to keep our politicians and in turn stop entertaining bribes ourselves?

Yes, Irom Sharmila has been on a fast for the past 10 years. Yes, we haven’t supported her, but how does invoking Irom Sharmila tarnish or lessen Hazare’s plea? Luckily, we have the electronic media that can help us understand this phenomenon and Hazare’s fast seemed to come at a time when India is reaping the benefits of the internet. And don’t for a second think I’m apathetic to Irom’s fast. I have written about her in this very blog a year back.

To the less informed fools who think that ‘their opinion’ was not sort out before the bill was being implemented, look out the window. Almost every state was behind Anna Hazare. Too bad you seemed to sit at home and pass your nonsensical views.

One must view the Lokpal bill as a bill that is incomplete but heading in the right direction. Unlike PBM’s arguments, India’s democracy has been subverted prior to Hazare’a fast. It is this lack of faith that has led us to the current stage, where it is imperative to book certain nefarious politicians to task. Accountability and transparency in the appointment process, freedom from the clutches of elected civil servants are the strong points of the bill.

Bibliography

Lokpal, A. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.tehelka.com/channels/Web_Specials/2011/April/09/images/civil_society_s_lokpal_bil.pdf

Mehta, P. B. (2011, April 7). Of the few, by the few. Retrieved from Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/of-the-few-by-the-few/772773/0?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4d9e1cc2a77a9da0%2C0

Sengupta, S. (2011, April 9). At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare. Retrieved from Kafila: http://kafila.org/2011/04/09/at-the-risk-of-heresy-why-i-am-not-celebrating-with-anna-hazare/#more-7287


1 comment:

Yulia said...

bloody gandhian;)
nice piece, and the whistleblowers act is a nice touch;)
n while i do support the bill,forming an institution with has judicial and legislative powers together sounds like too much power in too few hands. afterall,indians are such saints when it comes to corruption.