India – Anti-Corruption Bill By Indian Civil Society

April 22, 2011

By Padmini Arhant

Indian politics is not different from the rest of the world on issues like public dissatisfaction with bureaucracy, corruption and political scandals.

In fact politics without corruption is analogous to fish on the land with the permeating odor affecting the surroundings upon contact.

Indian society has been long dealing with corruption from top down in public and private sector.  The nation has developed immunity to the virus resistant to both prevention and cure.

India’s independence movement began with sentiments contained on the surface and underneath simmering frustration on the bondage endured in homeland from foreign oppression.

If not for the strong and courageous leadership of the nation’s founding father – Mahatma Gandhi and several committed freedom fighters,

Indian history would perhaps be similar to the nations struggling for political liberty in the twenty first century.

Subsequently complacency to corruption, nepotism and cronyism predominantly contributed to the status quo – tax evasions, embezzlement, money hoarded in Swiss bank accounts and tax havens, complicity to atrocity against humanity,

Notwithstanding systemic abuse of power benefitting the powerful, affluent and influential in the society with demography at the lower economic strata marginalized including lagging investments in infrastructure and green technology.

As previously mentioned, no political faction is “Sanctus Stephanus Protomartyr” given the erupting political scandals.

The prolonged investigations and judicial process are still underway with prime suspects committing suicide or fleeing town to avoid trials against them.

Invariably all political parties and governments slighted the citizens’ voices against corruption and requests to address the issue over four decades leading to the recent hunger strike by a seventy two year old citizen Anna Hazare – reportedly Mahatma Gandhi follower, a former soldier in the Indian Army then a community organizer and later became a social activist.

The senior citizen Anna Hazare claimed to have written to Prime Minister DR. Man Mohan Singh and the ruling Congress Party President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi earlier this year on the worsening corruption situation.  Mr. Anna Hazare confirmed there was no response from either political leader to the plea.

Mr. Anna Hazare launched his fasting in mid-April that soon galvanized into national rally demanding government attention to the overwhelming corruption charges and allegations against ruling as well as opposition political parties at the central and state levels.

Indian citizens gathered in large numbers seeking a committee with members representing the civil society and the legislators from the government to draft a bill against corruption through robust measures to curb the epidemic stalling progress in many frontiers,

Besides tarnishing the image of a great nation poised to lead the world in the most challenging era.

The government’s agitation in accepting the civil society proposition on the committee with fair representation on both sides was evident in the developments involving the panelists nominated by Mr. Anna Hazare.

If the government approach was to adopt a high moral ground in exemplifying the important legislation’s ethical efficacy then it would have been appropriate to begin with their members – the four prominent cabinet ministers as eminent legal minds albeit not without political baggage in their respective domain.

Congress Party has been inundated with numerous allegations from 2G-Spectrum scam, Commonwealth Games Funds misappropriation, bribery charges during vote of confidence in 2008 to the direct implications of the political alliance with DMK and the Chief Minister Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu.

Notwithstanding the corruption cases dropped against the Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors Scandal by the Congress led government in 2009 and,

Closure of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe in the criminal investigation against Mr. Quattrocchi per the Delhi High Court decision in March 2011 concluded after 250 crores Indian Rupees approximately $50 million expenditure in 25 years producing no result.

Likewise on the opposition front, the BJP protection to the Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa alleged dealings and the CM’s defiance in every respect reveals the impunity granted to members across the political spectrum.

The Congress Party President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Mr. Anna Hazare clarifying the disdain for smear campaign against the civil society panel,

Amid the Congress Party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh and the potential coalition partner Amar Singh relentless attacks against Lokpal committee members proved contradictory to the national party position rendering Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s statements disingenuous based on the reality.

It is well known that politics is served with selective memory and made obvious in Mr. Digvijaya Singh’s analogy of the Congress government’s former Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Mr. A. Raja – currently held in prison on 2G-Spectrum scandal in the remark against Lokpal committee representatives Mr. Shanti Bhusan and family.

Mr. Anna Hazare began the honorable mission against anti-corruption on the beleaguered victims behalf comprising the vast national majority.

The committee members notably Mr. Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan were nominated by Mr. Anna Hazare despite reservations within the support network on possible nepotism assertions from the groups against the bill.

Furthermore Mr. Anna Hazare previously insisted upon retaining the Bhushans for their legal expertise in parallel to the government’s delegates in the committee.

Now in the wake of controversies emanating from the incumbent party members and government officials’ concerted efforts against civil society panel,

Mr. Anna Hazare is reported to have distanced from his nominees Mr. Shanti Bhusan and Mr. Prashant Bhushan.

Since the legislation concerns the society posing imminent threat to the moral fabric of the nation known for noble Kings and in modern times the patriotic statesmen allegiance to truth, honesty and integrity,

It would be in national interest to select Lokpal (civil society) committee members subject to meeting the specific criteria on legal background i.e. specializing in ethical framework for the society at large combined with legislative procedures and constitutional law.

Mr. Shanti Bhushan and Mr. Prashant Bhushan could relieve the committee from their involvement and let the civil society proceed with the selection of the necessary emissaries in drafting the historic bill.

Social activists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi deserve participation in the committee considering their knowledge, familiarity with social plight, dedication and unflinching determination to prevail in the national cause.

It is equally crucial to invite representation from the segments deemed outcasts viz. the dalits in the society.

The non-discriminatory bill aptly reflecting the compliance requirement regardless of political, economic and social stature with legal consequences is paramount to deter corruption and other prevalent crimes related to unethical conduct and immoral dealings costing taxpayers apart from draining national treasury.

Due diligence is necessary to ensure loopholes free legislation to prevent circumvention by authorities at the helm to the bottom.

India could set precedence in passing the monumental legislation and successfully implement the law for national good.

Congress Party and the government through finance minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee pledged to introduce the bill during the monsoon session and the conciliatory exchange is welcome.

The initial acknowledgment of the corrosive elements in the system is a refreshing start and devising methods for systematic elimination required to promote effective legislation.

Although democracy is vibrant with myriad views and opinions on the public matter, the objections from the government’s surrogates characterizing the civil society locally known as Lokpal as ‘anarchists’ and,

The spokespersons interpreting the citizens’ call for government reaction after waiting over forty three years as ‘impatience’ clearly demonstrates the polarity between the mainstream and the political establishment.

The apprehensions on civil society presenting the agenda is ironic in a democracy with the constitution set up to represent the government of the people, by the people and for the people – the recognition ominously missing in the present environment.

When the privileged and the political class could safeguard their prospects through active and passive input in the Parliamentary actions, it is rather prejudicial to question the ordinary citizens’ synonymous rights especially them experiencing the brunt of the widespread corruption in the society.

The government and the members against the anti-corruption bill are urged to refrain from mud slinging witnessed up until now for negativities hurt those harboring than the ones aimed at in the karmic and pragmatic sense.

It is sincerely hoped that the civil society would exercise sound reasoning and judgment in choosing the committee legal experts and the government on their part offer cooperation in constructing a formidable legislation and deliver the promise to eradicate corruption.

Upholding transparency and accountability is a key factor with a unique opportunity for the government to utilize the event by allowing the committee meeting to take place in public view via live broadcast.

Good Luck! To civil society and political leaderships in the social as well as political reform victory.

Thank you.


Padmini Arhant








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