Anna Hazare on fast-unto-death against corruption

Mounting pressure on India to enforce Lokpal Bill
From 5th April 2011, noted social activist and Padmabhushan and Padmashree awardee Anna Hazare has begun his fast-unto-death in New Delhi to put pressure on the Government of India to root out corruption. Not only in Delhi, but in more than 200 cities across India, people have started a protest today in support of Anna Hazare. In Kanpur, senior social activist Mahesh Kumar Pandey is leading the agitation and in Lucknow, social activist and journalist Akhilesh Saxena is on fast-unto-death in support of Anna Hazare. The demand is clear: India needs a strong parliamentary Act (Jan Lokpal Bill) to stem corruption.

Sonia Gandhi, who heads the National Advisory Council (NAC) and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - the ruling coalition, said that Government will consider the Jan Lokpal Bill after revision. However activists are worried of diluting this anti-corruption law. Activists say that the draft Lokpal Bill is too weak - so it needs to be strengthened to plug loopholes.

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.

We are not the agents to implement government policies, said Kejriwal, who is a former Income Tax official. Even if we implement all government policies honestly, not much change will happen in people’s lives, asserted Kejriwal. For example, despite implementing existing government's policies honestly, poverty, unemployment and other issues plaguing people's lives on daily basis are least likely to be effectively addressed, said Kejriwal.

Till the time, 'Gram Sabhas' realize their inherent power and take stock, the desired change will not come in effect, said Kejriwal. Kejriwal proposed why cannot a Gram Sabha fix a day every month to convene an open meeting where people can participate freely on discussions around schemes, programmes, problems, solutioms, and accounts. The elected representatives of the Panchayat have to make a conscious decision whether they want to become a tout of the government or be in service of the people, said Kejriwal.

All support to India to bleed out corruption.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS
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