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The Lokpal Bill – Current status of the discussion by the Parliamentary committee




Twice this year, there has been a lot of controversy over the Lokpal Bill. In April, the issue burst onto the limelight when Anna Hazare sat on a dharna at the Jantar Mantar in the capital, Delhi, protesting against the Government wanting to have a watered down version of the Lokpal. The move generated an enthusiastic support with people coming to the site; the media and various online fora were all abuzz with enthusiasm about the campaign. This forced the Government to come to a settlement where 5 citizens nominated by Anna Hazare were part of a committee (with 5 members of the Government as well) that setout to create a strong Lokpal institution. As expected, the Government soon went back on the basic intention, tossed aside the suggestions of the non-Government committee members on the most important issues, and decided to send a Bill.
Anna Hazare took on this issue again, promising to go on an indefinite fast to get a Bill passed by Parliament. There was some condemnation of this move, with protests of this being about subverting Parliament, and so on, but the mass support that Anna Hazare received from all sections of society forced the Government to admit that the measures it had taken were incorrect, and finally the Government decided to have a Sense of the house in Parliament, where they agreed to the most contentious issues, and sent this off to the standing committee. There was a sense of feeling that the Government will not so easily agree, since the most contentious demands arguably refer to the inclusion of the lower bureaucracy and inclusion of a citizen’s charter, since it is the lower bureaucracy that is the one used by all the political parties to generate the money through corruption that these parties need for their survival.

After a lot of discussion, it seemed that the Standing Committee agreed to these main demands, where the lower bureaucracy was agreed to be included in the scope of the Lokpal, and there was a sense of wonderment at this decision. Alas, this was not to be. Just a day later, and to the surprise of the opposition members in the standing committee as well, the media revealed that Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the head of the standing committee had a long evening meeting with the senior leadership of the Congress Party, and the next day, the standing committee reversed its stand, and said that investigation of the lower bureaucracy will not be vested with the Lokpal, since it would seem that the Lokpal will need to be increased tremendously in terms of staff strength if such investigations are required.
This is a fraud argument. When posed a direction question about who will investigate the corruption in the lower bureaucracy (comprising of the inspectors that everybody interacts with, whether these be police inspectors, or tax inspectors, or the revenue officials, etc), there was no answer. Even if the Lokpal was not to investigate them, then somebody else would have to do that, whether this be the CVC or Lokpal. So the argument over the need for more people to investigate the corruption that impacts the citizen is a fraud argument, and is meant to cover the basic postulation that the Government just does not want the corruption cases in the lower bureaucracy to be covered by an independent investigating agency. Just the fact of a few quick cases will be enough to warn off a number of people who are tempted to indulge in corruption.
So, the citizens have given the Government enough time. First it was the attempt to try and draft a common agreed upon law, the Government refused to get a strong Bill, then the Standing Committee buckled down under the pressure of the Congress leadership (it is learnt that the opposition members on the standing committee are planning on giving dissent notes that they do not agree with the conclusions of the Standing committee). This time when Anna does his agitation again for putting pressure on the Government to put in a strong Lokpal, the Government will try and crush the agitation again, be prepared to oppose this move of the Government. Only such pressure can reduce the plague of corruption that is eating through all the gains that the country is making.




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