India – Anti-Corruption Bill. Civil Society vs. Political Class

July 8, 2011

By Padmini Arhant

Indian civil society movement against corruption that began in March 2011 led by the leader Shri Anna Hazaré and five members team to negotiate legislative action with the government and Parliament members is contested in terms of applicable law to various government branches beginning with the Prime Minister’s office, the intelligence bureau directly under the incumbent power as well as the judiciary.

Additionally the issue is debated on whether the law should be effective on the serving cabinet members barring investigation until their term expiry.

The government attention to the crippling corruption problem was drawn following the leader Anna Hazaré’s fasting and non-violent protest in April 2011.

National rally asking government to address rampant corruption was the impetus for the meeting between civil society locally known as Lokpal and the government.

Although the meeting was held marking the preliminary step towards recognizing the inherent lack of ethics within society, the legislation draft still remains contentious leaving the outcome more ambiguous than ever.

Meanwhile the nation’s Yoga Guru Sri Ramdevji calling for accountability on funds embezzlement and black money holdings via Swiss Bank accounts not excluding money laundering among the wealthiest, influential and powerful in the society added another dimension to this issue.

The Yoga Guru Sri Ramdevji fasting on national stage with mass gathering in the capital, New Delhi on June 4, 2011 unfortunately resulted in the government backlash to citizens concern.

The law enforcement officers’ severe crackdown of unarmed citizens during peaceful attendance produced serious harm to civilians endangering their lives for participation in national discourse.

Incidents involving police assault on non-violent crowd is maintained to quell dissent in a democracy and other political system.

The authorities use of violence against citizens does not bode well for political power especially the democratic society – eliminating the underlying distinction in the constitution governed democracy granting freedom of speech and political, economic or social event assembly.

Democracy is threatened and undermined when political power exercise excess clamp down to restrict citizens’ voices from being heard.

Subsequently no inquiry in the abuse of power in public view creates perception of the government condoning the prevalent security personnel misconduct.

Since corruption is affecting all particularly the mainstream population the most, with mandatory bribery to the government and private industry for public service,

Stringent measures and loophole free anti-corruption legislation would unequivocally deter the widespread practice possibly terminated at the roots with a robust law in place.

The general consensus among various political factions in the ruling coalition and opposition along with civil society team is the bill introduction in Parliament in the monsoon session – August 2011 for the elected representatives’ scrutiny.

The ruling party and the opposition’s formidable approach to pass legislation in the upcoming session rather than postponing the citizens’ plea to winter session in December 2011 would confirm the leaders’ sincerity in prioritizing national and electorate interest.

Anti-corruption bill is crucial for damage control with respect to national image, economic return and social transformation through laws embracing strong ethics and morals.

It would lead the present and future generation in the path to success and glory earned righteously setting continuous trend beyond the immediate period.

Hence reluctance in transcending politics and social differences poignantly the existing hierarchy with political class declaring ultimate authority is counterproductive amid national sentiments to emerging corruption scandals.

The government spokespersons argue that civil society is attempting to run a parallel government with the Lokpal bill.

When in fact the legislation request spans over five decades and the political parties are yet to deliver the long awaited anti-corruption law.

The pattern persists with political disagreements taking precedence over compelling factors to legitimize legal consequences on corruption charges.

Another contentious element is the civil society anti-corruption draft aimed at comprehensive impact including Prime Ministers office, judiciary and intelligence unit.

The proposal has vigorous opposition in relation to Prime Minister coming under purview more from the political party and those safeguarding the privileged status from individual standpoint than contributing to the much-required change for national benefit.

Concurrently subjecting all branches and entities without exception under the national law would be acknowledgment of the fundamental democratic doctrine  –

None are above the law in any land of justice.

The condescending remarks against civil society as anarchists and the repetitive question raised by the political party appointees…are noteworthy.

‘Who is going to Lokpal the Lokpal?’

Otherwise to whom are the civil society held accountable?

The answer lies in the question. The civil society team would be accountable to the people.

Just like with any leadership and representation, if the navigational guidelines are slighted for agenda at the vast majority’s detriment then evidently the credibility is lost and,

The civil society has liberty to choose members dedicated to the cause allowing republic rule determine the constitutionality of citizens’ will in protecting national welfare and progress.

Political parties’ surrogates in their defense have consistently attempted to isolate people from the Parliament asserting the public as intruders in Parliamentary affairs proclaiming the constitutional guidance exclusively to serve legislative body.

This is an irony in a democracy with Parliament and State legislators directly elected by the respective constituents and electorate.

The constitution guarantees citizen rights in seeking policy implementation through elected officials in a Parliamentary procedure.

Legislations indeed are passed in Parliament per the appropriate protocol.

Nonetheless the public input in the form of ideas and viable solutions to the crippling crisis predominantly caused by the political class at the main street immense suffering cannot be rejected for that would invalidate the democratic system.

If the government committee comprising high profile cabinet ministers with some implicated for the same problems are entrusted to resolve the burgeoning issue through policy making,

Then conflict of interest arises preventing a meaningful reform.

The civil society version or Lokpal bill would identify core issues and provide remedies applying fairness by replacing demands such as capital punishment with community service in the prison sentence for those apprehended in the corruption act.

Pursuing black money hoarders and tax evaders regardless of social stature and economic class incorporated in the Lokpal bill would ensure anti-corruption law effectiveness,

Besides remaining non-discriminatory in national assets recovery.

The government reaction towards citizens against black money and corruption thus far has been disappointing with undemocratic means adopted to contain the growing public anger and frustration on the pervasive moral and ethical decay in the society.

Any authority irrespective of political faction whether state or central government utilizing intelligence and armed personnel for undue advantage against citizens is in direct violation of constitution protecting civil rights,

Not to mention the aggression in recent events indicative of the nation founded on commitment to non-violence now misled in a wrong direction.

Leaders across the spectrum have unique opportunity to demonstrate the art of living with respect and dignity without compromising human characteristics i.e. honesty, integrity, humility and social discipline in adherence to law.

Also espousing philosophy that enhances positive attributes viz. patriotism and compassion expressed in service to the nation and humanity at large.

It could not happen unless one pledges to disavow ‘Me, myself and I’ concept from the basic instincts prompting impulsive indulgences in life.

The desire for personal advancement at any costs is destructive and poses grave danger to mankind in the fiercely competitive environment without boundaries revealing the lack of self-restraint primarily responsible for human miseries unable to find peace within and around.

Human nature to care for life is intrinsic.

However, the aspiration diverted towards self-promotion ignores bountiful effects of utilitarianism bringing real happiness and lasting peace to all.

Every person could make a difference in the world with special talent lying dormant in some while vibrantly active in others producing collective gains for fair distribution amongst all.

Refining ones’ thoughts and work ethics is essential to achieve milestones leaving a legacy as the benefactor and beneficiary to life endowments.

Life is an investment with good deeds promising profitable returns and negative pursuits yielding similar outcome.

Human beliefs and choices in life have greater influences in improving living standards for them, their family and community eventually experienced by others in the remote and far corners of the globe.

There is optimism despite the status quo.

Mutual understanding and consideration to reconcile differences by exchanging genuine views and grievances could potentially resolve political standoff expediting legislation passage in saving national grace.

It is sincerely hoped that wisdom and rationality would guide leaderships in adapting pragmatic course alleviating citizens’ plight by restructuring moral foundation and ethical pillars to withstand any challenges ahead.

Anti-corruption law could be a phenomenal catalyst in spreading transparency and accountability culture throughout society modifying human conduct in dealings monitored by national criminal offense code.

The law would also facilitate eradicating other social crimes like ransom claimed in dowry not dissipated in spite of anti-dowry act due to bribery infiltrating police force to judiciary – an accepted norm in the moral decline.

Procrastination in legislating the Lokpal bill would categorize the political class in unflattering light confirming complicity to corruption in the electorate mind notwithstanding serious political ramifications witnessed in the latest state elections.

Moment lost may not return since time and tide waits for none.

Anti-corruption law could perhaps be the cornerstone in preserving national wealth with a new chapter in history for India.

Best Wishes to Indian civil society and leaderships in the successful passage of Lokpal bill in Monsoon session – August 2011.

Peace to all!

Thank you.


Padmini Arhant













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