Lokpal Bill anti-graft crusaders consult Lucknow citizens

[हिंदी] India had undoubtedly witnessed a historic social mobilization against corruption in early April 2011, led by Gandhian leader Anna Hazare. However right after he broke his fast after the Indian government issued the notification inviting civil society to be part of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, a number of controversies and allegations hounded them since then. Braving them all, Anna Hazare and his other comrades moved ahead with the Lokpal Bill drafting process and are now going on a nation-wide tour to consult the people on Lokpal Bill. Two members of Anna's team, Magsaysay Awardee, noted RTI activist and former Income Tax official Arvind Kejriwal and Rights Livelihood Awardee Swami Agnivesh were in Lucknow at St Francis' College, seeking suggestions from citizens on Lokpal Bill.

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 Arvind Kejriwal.

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.

"The civil society's draft of Lokpal Bill proposes an institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each state which will be set up like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations" said Arvind Kejriwal.

"Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years" said Arvind Kejriwal.

"The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction" said Arvind Kejriwal.

"How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years" said Arvind Kejriwal.

Arvind Kejriwal also invited people to send suggestions through their website: www.indiaagainstcorruption.org and promised to take these suggestions to the drafting committee.

Bobby Ramakant  - CNS  

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