Is Lokpal really of a few, by a few and for a few?

In the last three weeks , we have witnessed Anna Hazare and team campaign against corruption. The demand for much awaited Lokpal Bill, which has been in the making for 43 years, has brought the urban population (mostly middle class and upper-middle class) to the streets to voice out their opinion on the cacophony of corruption in India. While so many participated in the fight against corruption, many did not know who Anna Hazare was or what the Lokpal bill was.

In one of his interviews, Anna Hazare said that he had announced two months ago that he would be campaigning against corruption.” I do not understand how it came as a surprise to people”, he said.However, his fast-unto-death (the literal meaning of which has never been clear to anyone) brought the media’s attention and it harped on to this issue, after Lelyveld’s Great Soul controversy. The media brouhaha in this regard was appreciable, but what the media has overlooked is to probe whether the members of the drafting committee were really worth being in the committee.

It is said that ” a collegium consisting of several different kinds of people – Bharat Ratna awardees, Nobel prize winners of Indian origin, Magasaysay award winners, Senior Judges of Supreme and High Courts, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Chief Election Commissioner, and members of the outgoing Lokpal board and the Chairpersons of both houses of Parliament,” should be members of the drafting committee. Does this mean people like V.S Naipaul (Bharat Ratna awardee) should be a member of the drafting committee? If this is what we are looking at, well, we need to think again!

A few critics pointed out that the movement was more a right-wing kind of one, with Baba Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh, Kanchi Swami and RSS members grabbed the limelight. Also, questions were raised whether the Anna Hazare campaign would remain apolitical.

As usual, (especially) the broadcast media kept repeating shots of people shouting slogans against corruption in all the major cities and towns in the country. Even if there were very few, the TV channels portrayed this as if millions were a part of this movement. What most of us haven’t observed is:  people who are denied basic rights every time, the ones who are oppressed, the ones who are subjected to violence almost everyday were not a part of this so called “movement against corruption.”

For example: The Times of India carried a headline on April 9, 2011 “India wins again” which is quite misleading. The headline was referring to Anna Hazare calling off his fast. but this portrayed it as if the Lokpal bill came into force. Because, the bill was proposed in 1968 when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of India and had accepted for an institution like Lokpal be established. It was revived in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001.But, each time it was proposed, a committee was set up and the matter ended there. As a result of series of scams in 2010, an alternative drat of the Jan Lokpal Bill has been proposed by activists from India against corruption, under the guidance of Karnataka Lokayukta Chief, Santosh Hegde and senior lawyer, Prasanth Bhushan.

In the entangled mess, accountability is a question. Who are the members of the drafting committee answerable to and how do you make sure that they are not corrupt or have no records or being corrupt? It is a good a step to bring out a provision to set up an institution like the Lokpal which protects the whistle-blowers and investigates cases of corruption. Having said this, will setting up another institution and another law, apart from outmoded laws India, bring any change in the system? How will the corrupt ones be punished when or if the members of the drafting committee themselves are corrupt? When institutions like CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) are corrupt, how credible will Lokpal as an anti-corruption institution be?

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