Jan Lokpal Bill: Have We Accomplished Anything So Far? by Gopal Singh SignUp

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Jan Lokpal Bill: Have We Accomplished Anything So Far?
by Dr. Gopal Singh Bookmark and Share

A lot has gone on during the past 100 days on the subject of drafting a meaningful Jan Lokpal Bill capable of tackling the corruption choking our nation every day.  The net outcome so far is hardly a surprise.  So, was this a meaningless exercise in futility?  Why did we go through all this at all?

How can a government, neck deep in corruption, agree to draft a strong anti-corruption bill? How can a system corrupt within itself, cure itself by itself?

If we examine it carefully, we find that it has been a very meaningful endeavor on part of the civil society and the country:

  1. The country has been galvanized on this issue over the past 100 days.  Corruption has been a major problem for all of us for decades but we felt mostly helpless in tackling it and besides engaging in idle talks about it, did nothing to address the issue directly.  Team Anna gave us an effective alternative to deal with it.
  2. This was by far one of the most hotly debated draft of a bill in our post independence history.  A significant portion of the population became aware of the term Lokpal and its purpose.  A vast number of people became aware of all the pros and cons of both drafts.
  3. The government was put in the focus and could not quietly pass another bill to create yet another toothless agency to “fight corruption” to pacify the public discontent.
  4. The civil society and its members, by and large handled themselves very well.  They posted the meeting minutes regularly, solicited public inputs, expressed their discontent with the attitude of the government panel of ministers not willing to address the real issues of creating an effective Lokpal Bill.  They also handled effectively the smear campaign against them by the government and the UPA.  They stayed away from any political, communal or sectarian alliances.  Baba Ramdev’s movement was a distraction as it happened during the same time frame, but Anna and the team kept their relationship at arm’s length without compromising their approach.  Their tactical decision to boycott one of the meetings was effective in raising the exposure to the public about the underhanded government approach of agreeing with minor issues to kill time and then taking unsubstantiated dictatorial stand against all the key issues.
  5. The decision to participate in all the meetings till June 30 even though the differences were glaring and uncompromising in nature was appropriate.  This only further highlighted the fallacy in the government’s positions.
  6. The classic political moves by the government to pacify legitimate public outrage against corruption did not work.  The plan was to readily agree to the civil society demands to defuse a volatile situation and then slowly kill the movement by smearing the reputation of the opponents and confusing the public by offering a series of convoluted and misleading arguments and counter-arguments.  The prevailing logic to drag it out long enough until the public loses its interest did not work.
  7. The government’s position became crystallized.  They had no plans to be specific on key issues but were left with no choice but to take positions.  Their current position further reinforces their disingenuous actions and those of the other governments in the past in keeping the Lokpal Bill in a perpetual coma.
  8. Several fundamental issues were brought to light and tested.  Do the citizens in a democratic country have the fundamental right to voice their discontent about the actions and practices followed by their government in a peaceful manner?  Can they hold peaceful rallies?  Can they go on peaceful fasts to protest against these actions and practices?  These are in focus right now and will be repeatedly tested in the future.

To be certain, there are questions that can be raised about the civil society Jan Lokpal Bill as well.  It is not a panacea to solve all our corruption problems.  But then again if we wait for a panacea we may never get any relief at all.  The biggest point in favor of the Jan Lokpal Bill is that it appears to be a genuine attempt to control the corruption rampant in our country. If the government was willing to start with a similar premise and participate in the drafting process then real tactical, procedural and legal improvements could have been made to refine it and make it even more acceptable. 
For instance, it stands to reason that the institutions of the Lokpal, Lokayukta, CBI, CVC, Election Commission, Human Rights Commission and still a few others could be brought directly under the President (an elected public servant) and thereby made to operate independent of the government.  This could be done with certain minor amendments in the constitution.  This point has been brought out repeatedly in the past by another prominent contributor to this forum.  

The basic question still remains: How can a government, neck deep in corruption, agree to draft a strong anti-corruption bill? How can a system corrupt within itself, cure itself by itself?  It has earned itself a position between a rock and a hard spot.  There are no good choices left for it.  If it agrees to draft an effective Lokpal Bill, it signs on a document of its own demise.  If it wiggles, hedges and tries to politically diffuse the corruption issue, at this juncture it can only buy some more time.  The eventual demise is only postponed for a while.  The issue at this point is too hot and crystallized to diffuse and disappear in the near future.

Perhaps this is the single most effective accomplishment achieved thus far by the civil society movement.  They have brought the issue to the front burner and forced the government to take positions on it.  They have succeeded in getting the people involved.  Our democracy is beginning to mature.  The game is not over yet.  We are in a half-time recess.  The second half is yet to be played.  The civil society may appear to be behind in score at this point, but do not count it out by any means.  As they say; It ain’t over until it is OVER.

Meanwhile, we cannot stand on the sidelines as the spectators.  We have to get involved.  If we are already involved, then get more involved to support this movement.  Do not forget:  We are the Players!  

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Comments on this Article

Comment The is fear in certain sections of the society that civil society members want all the powers of elected representatives without actually going through the election process. This cannot be called fair in a democracy. Politicians are corrupt and so are many Indians. Politicians do not come from heaven. They come from the society, which shapes them. We just cannot play with the form of democracy in our country. While there is instability in a large part of the world, we are sailing smoothly. The virtues of a system begin to surface once the system is broken but then, it gets too late. India does not need a revolution; it needs evolution. All of us need to become more sincere, honest and hard-working. The PM does not tell the peon in the collectorate to take bribe and then carry the file. brLook at the way RTI has gone into the hands of black-mailers who take money and then withdraw applications. All the negative, jealous forces are using RTI to trouble people, settle scores and get money. brOnce the quality of people gets poor, no system works.

Prof. Shubha Tiwari
07/06/2011 19:10 PM

Comment the jan lokpal bill is only a beginning.it is not the panacea against corruption,but may check it to an extent of 50 - 60%.let the process against corruption start,let us not abort this process because a tipping point has been reached when an average indian will not tolerate the corrupt,their supporters,their coterie,the elite and those whose cosy network with the powers that be which would be disrupted if the lokpal bill saw the light of day,-hijack their very basis for a better life.the old corrupt guard and their apologists have to make way for the young ,new india which is yearning to be corruption free.the youth of india is a tsunami which will drown these old corrupt fogies and their ilk.the youth will not be denied-not this time.the nac draft is politically motivated and an insult to honest indians.

07/06/2011 19:10 PM

Comment Prof Tiwari, In my most recent article in this forum titled What is a Civil Society?, I have offered my views on some of your comments. Thank you.

dr. gopal singh
07/06/2011 19:10 PM

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