Anna Hazare and the people of India win this round, the Government accepts demand for change in process for setting up Lokpal

After a 4 day fast, the Government of India gave up and accepted the demands spearheaded by Anna Hazare. Initially it looked difficult. After all we are talking about the ruling party of the country, which has been ruling for around 7 years now and, based on the last few years, has been implicated in some of the biggest scams that the country has seen. Who can forget the efforts and pressure it has taken to get the Government to investigate the 2G scam, the Adarsh housing society scam, the scam related to spending on the CWG games, and so on. In none of these cases did the Government take a lead in investigation; in fact, in most of the cases the Government kept on denying that something has happened. It was persistent efforts by private parties, by the courts, through RTI, and by the media (which senses major juicy news in terms of scandals involving the Government) that forced the Government to see the writing on the wall. And even now, there are major issues happening – open any newspaper, and you will see news of the following nature:
– Bribes alleged to be paid, or arrests happening
– A case where a private party paid for the marriage of a politician’s son (out of their own sheer goodwill)
– RTI revealing spending beyond limits, or some other financial issue
– CAG alleging lack of proper oversight or extra spending in some area
– Court ordering something or the other which the Government should be doing
And so on, and these are the reported cases. The amount of corruption in this society of ours is incredible, and a lot of it happens because people see that nothing happens to the corrupt and hence they also get emboldened. For example, when politicians such as Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, and Laloo Prasad Yadav have corruption cases against them (or declared enormous increases in their personal wealth), nothing happens.

The campaign by Anna Hazare was not about corruption per se, it was about setting in the mechanism to form a Lokpal Bill. For the above mentioned reasons, there is a need to have a strong institution which can investigate corruption cases, be independent enough to even log cases, and get judgment within a definite period of time. Current mechanisms are lacking in all these – those institutions that can file cases such as the CBI and anti-corruption wings of the police are totally dependent on the politician class, those that are independent such as the Lok Ayukta’s can only give advice which needs to be acted upon by the Government (and which does not happen in many cases, such as the recent case in Delhi), and cases take more than a decade to come to a solution by which time witnesses have recanted, watering down of cases would happen, and enough time to hide or destroy evidence would have taken place.
What did the Government propose ? There are a lot of technical details of the propose vs. the proposal made by the civil society activists, but the major difference is primarily centered around the powers of the Lokpal (the Govt proposes that the Lokpal can only advise and the Government will sanction (with a high possibility that the Government will delay or not sanction, something that already happens a lot), vs. the Lokpal having the power to prosecute), who will select the members of the Lokpal (the recent CVC case shows how the Government will always do what it wants irrespective of the merits of the person, and the Government proposal continues on the same line, with a high degree of possibility that the Lokpal will become a place for retired judges, police officers, legal officers, etc, the Anna proposal wants a mix with more number of eminent citizens being a part of the committee).
The show over the past few days has shown a huge amount of drama. The Government and the Congress party tried to impute motives to the fast by Anna Hazare, and dismissed it as a non-event. And then the huge public reaction, including ordinary people joining in over the country, many eminent people associating themselves with the fast and the protest, and a huge push on social networking sites started shaking the Government. So you had the PM and Sonia Gandhi both claiming that they were in favor of anti-corruption measures.
That is the biggest lie that one can ever see. These people have been in power for 7 years now, and all the major scandals have occurred in their timelines, and one could never see any case where they took proactive action. In fact, the final fixing of the investigation into Bofors took place in these 7 years. And the PM himself came out with a statement where he in effect accepted that corruption of a huge scale will happen so that the Government can continue when he made his justification in the 2G scam. Further, if you take another case where the CWG scam happened, the PM had set up an over-sight committee, which did not do any over-sight, since the Games went into crisis mode in terms of preparation and cost much more money than what was required.
So, finally the Government buckled down and agreed to a committee that will have equal representation from civil society for drafting a Lokpal Bill. This is the next phase of the struggle. When the committee comprises members from the Congress side such as Pranab Mukherjee (who is the chief disaster fighting instrument of the Congress, and to settle down any tension) and Kapil Sibal (who will try and ensure that any significant corruption fighting measure will be fought tooth and nail), one can be sure that one of the policies of the Congress will be try to take these discussions to many years of discussion, by which time the risen public will have settled down again. It will require a great deal of vigilance, and many such vehement protests to ensure that the issue does not die down and is resolved in the next few months. In the end, can I believe that we will have a powerful Lokpal (with some accountability) to fight and start rolling back corruption ? It seems like something that is just too good to be true. But I still have hope. The recent participation by the citizenry in the fight against corruption is what is giving me hope.

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