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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 27, June 25, 2011

No Alternative


Tuesday 28 June 2011, by SC


“The government’s attitude in the nine meetings (of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee) indicated that they are not willing to root out corruption,” said Anna Hazare spearheading the civil society crusade for an effective Lokpal with the aim of eradicating corruption, at a press conference in the Capital on June 22. He also made it abundantly clear that the civil society’s proposed Lokpal, as upheld in its draft of the Bill, was not in the least an attempt to foist a parallel government as the members of the UPA-II Ministry were trying to project thereby “misleading the people”.

Anna Hazare and his associates sharply refuted the Manmohan Singh Government’s effort to characteristise the debate over the Lokpal issue as “Anna versus Parliament” thus underscoring what had been spelt out in these columns last week. They only wanted a strong anti-corruption law in the shape of a viable Lokpal Bill (to be turned into an Act once passed by Parliament) that could play a seminal role in curbing corruption and that was, in Anna’s opinion, the MPs’ “constitutional duty”.

Anna himself elucidated that all he and his colleagues desired was an autonomous body in the form of the Lokpal and on the lines of the Election Commission, Supreme Court and RTI panel. There was no question of setting up a “parallel government”, he asserted.

There is much strength in the argument that the UPA-II Government displayed no genuine interest and sense of urgency in drafting the proposed Bill. This was brought out in bold relief in these columns under the editorial “What Is Anna Hazare’s Crime” in Mainstream (June 18, 2011). Team Anna has reached the same conclusion on the basis of its experiences in the meetings of the drafting committee.

In the circumstances Anna Hazare has no optioin but to resume his fast-unto-death that he had suspended on April 9 in the light of what appeared to be a positive approach to the problem on the part of the government in agreeing to a joint committee with civil society activists to draft the legislation. Even at that time Anna had cautioned that if the government goes back on its assurance he would be forced to resume his fast-unto-death on August 16. He has merely reiterated that announcement now.

The government’s decision to postpone the monsoon session of Parliament from July to August testifies to the fact that it is distinctly on the defensive, and scared to face Parliament at this stage. At the same time the Delhi Lokayukta seeking an explanation from the Union Home Ministry as to why the President rejected his recommendation to remove the local government’s Minister for PWD has posed a major question to the authorities since the President is constitutionally duty-bound to function on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers. This rejection of the Lokayukta’s recommendation has to be taken into consideration alongside Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit’s sharp criticism of several indictments of the Shunglu Committee which has inquired into the irregularities in the CWG as well as, more importantly, her considered opinion, aired in public, that a Lokpal was unnecessary. This specific development exposes the attitude of the Congress leadership in power: it will not countenance an effective and strong Lokpal.

The people are thus left with no alternative but to fight this trend tooth and nail through the instrument of the civil society regardless of the political class’ position on the problem. That is the basic issue which the UPA-II leaders are striving to distort even as the PM and UPA chairperson continue to observe studied silence for reasons best known to themselves.

June 23 S.C.

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