by Malvika B.
Earlier this year, a man decided it was time to take matters into his own hands and make the government and people sit up and take notice of the corruption and scandal this country faces. He decided to go on a hunger strike, and ever since, pandemonium has ensued.
This man, Anna Hazare, and his team have drafted what is known as the Jan Lokpal Bill, in order to create an Indian ombudsman, i.e. a council of ‘trusted’ officials to receive and investigate complaints against public servants. The government of course came back as only it can. Appease him by promising to deal with the issue, and draft its own version of the bill, to be tabled at the Monsoon Session of Parliament. But this is Indian Politics, and what is Indian Politics without a bit of tamasha?
The Jan Lokpal Bill has generated differing reactions; many have found a new pet cause, and the likes of Baba Ramdev have done what they can for cheap publicity. Meanwhile, Anna Hazare and the government have continued a furious feud over what each deems appropriate content for the Bill. Anna Hazare’s version of the bill contains certain much-needed provisions such as those created to entitle the general public to register complaints, and ensure timely dispensation of justice. Provisions like these would, for example, expediate the execution of Ajmal Kasab’s sentence. This in turn would reduce the massive economic drain on the government, created by keeping him alive. However, this version also lacks accountability and concentrates power in the hands of a few. These caveats rely on the assumption that these few are not power hungry, a far cry in the Indian political system. On the other hand, the government’s version exempts far too many high government posts from investigation for corruption. It also provides very few benefits to the common man, and demands insufficient financial penalties from those found guilty.
Anna Hazare and his team have severely criticized the government’s bill and threatened to go on strike from 16th August if their original version is not passed. While most agree that corruption is a serious problem in this country and something needs to be done, does that justify blackmailing a government, which we ourselves have voted to power? Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the transparency mentioned in the Jan Lokpal Bill will be sustainable. Would we rather put our faith in a government that is corrupt, or in an institution that has the potential to subvert every democratic process in the country.
One thing is certain, neither option is anywhere near the perfect solution. Corruption needs to be stamped out, and needs to be stamped out constitutionally. We need quicker justice by a body that works within the framework of the government. A parallel judicial system could lead to disaster. Fasting-unto-death is tantamount to blackmail. The time has come to look to due process rather than pre-colonial tactics.
The Government has said that they will pass the Jan Lokpal bill if 25 crore people support it. Today, an SMS and telephone campaign to collect 25 crore names began. To give your support, call 022-61550789 from your mobile number. It will ring once and disconnect, and you’ll get an SMS confirming your call. The Know Your Vote team supports the end of corruption, but we thought that before you call, you should know about the complexity of the issue.