Kapil Sibal & Salman Khursid, both from UPA and members of the committee to draft the Lokpal bill made a few statements this Sunday pertaining to the Lokpal Bill that need further analysis.
Mr. Sibal has the propensity to stick his foot in the mouth before he speaks on any important issue. On January 9, 2011 Mr. Sibal issued a statement pertaining to the 2G Spectrum scam saying CAG’s Rs 1.76 lakh crore figure is erroneous and went on to say there is no loss to exchequer. He later on ate that back.
Speaking on the proposed Lokpal Bill, Mr. Sibal on Sunday told a public meeting “I ask this question. If a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then, he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal Bill help?”
When criticized for his cynicism, he further clarified his remarks by stating what he had meant was that “the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different.”
As you study these remarks, two facts stand out:
1. Mr. Sibal either does not understand or does not really care about the impact the corruption rampant in our country has had on the common man particularly the poor in the rural area. Come and take a look at the government run hospitals at the District and Tehsil level. People line up there early in the morning and wait for the whole day only to be told in the evening that Doctor Sahib is too busy and there is no more medicine for them. The funds that have been allocated for these hospitals dry out before they reach there.
Come and take a look at the pathetic situation of the facilities there to house the patients. Sometimes these patients are arbitrarily taken out of the hospital and dropped on the street sides to make the hospital presentable to visiting politicians who come there to “inspect”. The corruption from top down has permeated to the lowest level of staff there. The last thing the poor man there would do is to call a politician to help him out. He/she has figured out by now that the honorable politician is the Gangotri of the corruption Ganga.
Contrary to what you state Mr. Sibal, the scope of the Lokpal Bill directly addresses the problem of the common man. At the current 8.5% annual growth in GDP, India has enough resources to provide minimum basic health care to its poor. The problem of the common man is that wherever he goes for services he is entitled to, he is turned back because of corruption. What fraction of the allocated social welfare funds really make it to the intended beneficiary? I would like Mr. Sibal to ponder on it before he makes such statements. Corruption is like a common multiplier with the numeric value close to zero. It reduces the net effect of any government run programs for the poor no matter how big in scope and how well intended they are.
2. Is this the attitude a union minister should display about a critical bill he is a party to and about to co-author? Where is his enthusiasm and commitment to make it happen? Doesn’t he want to reduce the corruption rampant in our country? Why make cynical and negative statements?
Mr. Khursid who is the other minister on the committee to draft the Bill, responding to a demand by Mr. Hazare to video record and make public the proceedings of the Committee to ensure transparency in the drafting process said, “The Joint Drafting Committee is supposed to decide its own procedure. This procedure about making whatever happens there public or televising it, will be decided by the Committee itself.... I can’t comment on it as an individual.”
Technically he is right. However, since when the ministers became known for their restraint to make statements? He could have voiced his personal support to ensure transparency. After all, doesn’t he want it? One can fabricate a myriad of reasons why confidentiality is paramount during the writing of the draft to ensure candid exchange of views. Then again, what views are worth hiding from the public on a crucial bill such as this? The government’s infamous draft on the Lokpal Bill 2010 was written in such a “confidential” environment. Isn’t Mr. Khursid a leader? Why not take a lead and state your commitment toward transparency?
Both of these gentlemen seem to have problems in containing the disappointment they feel after being forced to bow to the will of the public. Responding to their comments Mr. Kejriwal, one of the civilian members on the Committee said “Now how many obstacles they will put during the committee meetings, we don’t know. We have great fear. May be many more protests are needed.”
As I said earlier in this forum:
Save the Dias on Which Anna Fasted.
We will need it again (and again)!
Addendum (April 14, 2011):
There are two distinct drafts of the proposed Lokpal Bill. The draft of the Lokpal Bill 2010 that I talked about in my previous article, Save the Dias on Which Anna Fasted, is proposed by the Group of Minister from UPA. The draft proposed by Mr. Hazare and his group Jan Lokpal Bill V 2.1 is very different than that. Both these drafts can be viewed at http://sites.google.com/site/sharmavipulk/home. There are other URLs as well that carry these drafts. Mr. Hazare's draft points out the deficiencies in the Government's version and proposes remedies.
My suggestion is that our readers should diligently study both the versions and offer constructive criticism so that an optimum bill that is legally sound and at the same time effective in fighting the corruption in all branches of the Government can be developed.
The politicians in general from most of the parties are attacking the integrity of Anna Hazare and trying to diverge the scope of the Lokpal Bill to include a myriad of other areas. These are time proven political tactics intended to make the people lose support for Mr. Hazare and focus on the bill resulting into the bill staying in the limbo as it has been for over 40 years. We need an effective Lokpal Bill to stop the rampant corruption in our Government now. More amendments in this bill can be made in the future to expand its scope.