What Are You Scared Of Mr Minister?

Social activist Anna Hazare,, whose last week's fast forced the Centre to form a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, expressed his displeasure on Communications and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal’s misgivings about the beneficial scope of the Lokpal Bill. Mr. Sibal had reportedly said that the Bill was not a one-stop solution for everything, and would not be able to solve problems related to education, health or civic issues.

"I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services, then he will call up a politician? How will Lokpal Bill help," Sibal asked.

But later, after Hazare's criticism, Sibal clarified that he meant the scope of the bill and the problems of the common man are different.

Well, the Bill, as understood by most of us purports to do just that--address the problems of the common man. The common person sees the Lokpal Bill as a panacea to all ills of corruption. Its  very purpose is to root out the rot of moral debasement that has set in various public/ government departments, undermining the implementation of the various welfare schemes. Surely, the honourable minister cannot be so naive as to be unmindful and uninformed of the levels of corruption in the Education, Health and Civic Amenities, and other Departments across the country.

An anti corruption ombudsman will definitely be able to address the needs of education and health simply by ensuring that the funds allocated for these purposes are spent  not only on paper but reach those for whom they are intended. Despite wonderful government schemes pertaining to Sarva Shiksha (education for all), Maternal and Child Health, etc. the ground level reality is very different. It is a ‘free for all’ situation, with a total lack of accountability, when it comes to implementation of these lofty schemes. The ‘lokpal bill’ is surely going to help a poor child get quality education by ensuring that greedy politicians and bureaucrats do not siphon off the funds meant for her. A poor man will have better access to even existing medical services, if the free medicines and other facilities meant for him in government hospitals are not availed by those who are not entitled to them. At present, a very minuscule amount of civic and social benefits, earmarked for the needy, are actually able to reach them.

The numerous schools and teachers, which till now have existed only in official records, will become a reality—real school structures and actual (not dummy) teachers; the water wells which have been dug up only on paper (a la the film Well Done Abba), will be there for everyone to see and draw water from; primary health centres will no longer be run by compounders, but by doctors who are actually appointed for the purpose; medicines and other hospital equipment will not be siphoned off, but reach the needy free of cost; the rations from public distribution systems will not adorn the granaries of unscrupulous traders. 

The list is endless Mr Minister, and you should be proud to be a part of the committee who is going to make all this happen.

Of course, the politicians and civil servants will no longer be able to rule the country as their personal fiefdom. They will have to govern it sensibly. So those who fear a drastic cut in the undue largesse received by them till now will surely be in a state of panic. But the honourable members of the present Lokpal committee are expected to prove themselves to be above suspicion in thought word and deed, and steer the country towards a better tomorrow.

We, the commoners, are also expected to keep our tempers in control and lend a helping hand in making our country a more just, equitable and honest place to live in.

 Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI).She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)