Mounting pressure on India to enforce Jan Lokpal Bill
Seldom does one see thousands mobilized in over 200 cities across the country to check corruption. Anna Hazare, veteran social activist and Padmabhushan and Padmashree Awardee, is on a fast-unto-death since 5th April to demand a strong, loopholes-less and effective parliamentary Act (Jan Lokpal Bill) to check corruption in India. Since 42 years, the government of India is sitting like a lame duck on a weakened and diluted Lokpal Bill. But Anna Hazare's growing support across the nation has sent the message clear: India wants a strong 'Jan' (people) Lokpal Bill - and civil society is making clear recommendations on how to achieve that from the already pending (but appallingly diluted) Lokpal Bill.
People want their say too as equal partners in drafting this anti-corruption Act. Anna Hazare is demanding a seat for civil society representatives which people will select themselves to work on this draft of anti-corruption bill with the parliamentarians.
The proposed Jan Lokpal Bill brings offices of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and other such top positions too under its ambit to check corruption. It proposes fast-track judicial process with stringent measures for the guilty like life imprisonment, confiscation of property among others.
This campaign against corruption has received tumultuous support from a range of leaders in India including 'Yoga Guru' Swami Ramdev, Art of Living Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar, Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Dr Sandeep Pandey, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, Rights Livelihood Awardee Swami Agnivesh, among others.
How will an anti-corruption agency function if it has to take permission for conducting inquiry from those in power? Moreover if the anti-corruption agency is only supposed to advise the government but not given any executive power to take action to check corruption, the plight becomes grimmer. Lokpal Bill proposes to establish a single, autonomous apex body empowered to investigate and prosecute politicians, bureaucrats and judges in a defined time-frame, said noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee Arvind Kejriwal who spoke to CNS earlier in Lucknow.
Santosh Hedge, Lokayukta of Karnataka, and Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer, have drafted this Lokpal Bill.
Arvind Kejriwal strongly supported the fight against corruption. But how will one fight corruption against those in power, particularly if the ones in power are controlling the agencies to check corruption, said Kejriwal. For instance, the chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) can only give an advice to the government, and cannot take any other action further. Similar is the situation of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which has to ask permission from the government for every enquiry it conducts. Kejriwal recollected that a former CVC had told him on record that in the last five years, all those government officials or politicians who were recommended for either termination or imprisonment by CVC on account of serious corruption were released scot-free after a warning, said Kejriwal.
This time if India is lucky, people are in no mood to recede. The pressure is growing by every minute - not only in Delhi but in many other cities like Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Hardoi to name a few. In Lucknow, three people have been on an indefinite fast since 5th April 2011 - journalist and right-to-information (RTI) activist Akhilesh Saxena, social activist Munna Lal Shukla from Asha Parivar, and Indu Singh. Lawyers, doctors, and students are also coming out strongly to support the movement to root out corruption.
Film-star Aamir Khan has said in his letter of support that fight against corruption is "infinitely more important" than cricket - and his appeal to India is to demonstrate much greater support to the campaign led by Anna to cleanse the system. All our strength to Anna.