Eminent citizens press for Lokpal
Clamour for Lokpal gains momentum
By Ravi Shanker Kapoor
The open letter by a group of 14 eminent citizens to the United Progressive Alliance government, emphasizing the “need for the urgent passage of a well-crafted Lokpal Bill by Parliament,” highlights the rising impatience over corruption among the higher echelons of society.
Among others, the group includes industrialists Azim Premji, Keshub Mahindra, Jamshyd Godrej and Anu Aga, bankers Deepak Parekh and N. Vaghul, former Reserve Bank of India governors M. Narasimham and Bimal Jalan, former Justices B.N. Srikrishna and Sam Variava, and Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council member A. Vaidyanathan. Even the most garrulous and irresponsible Congress leader cannot attribute any political motives to the views expressed by the group.
According to the group, “August 27, 2011, marked a high point by the historic debate leading to the ‘Sense of the House’ in Parliament on the Lokpal Bill. The event reinforced the inviolable primacy of the Indian Constitution. It was also an event of relief and reassurance to the vast and silent majority who constitute India’s core civil society.”
Pointing out that a “strong nexus exists between certain corporates, politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers,” the group called it as “one of the greatest threats to the Indian economy.” It also called for punishment to both the “giver as well as the receiver of a bribe.”
The group went on to say, “We… believe that the Lokpal Bill is only one small but critical step in the national task of weeding out the plague of corruption in India. This draft Lokpal Bill is intended to address episodic corruption, but is unlikely to have any significant impact on day-to-day corruption, which is insidious and demeaning.” The result is that, the group lamented, the common man’s life gets “vitiated by corruption” at every turn.
Castigating the anti-business stance and policies of the UPA regime, the group said, “Owing to several such impediments, fresh investments are not forthcoming at the pace required for a rapidly growing economy such as ours. Policy uncertainties and delays in approvals are forcing many large corporate entities to seek out opportunities in other geographies.”
Businessmen in our country are normally reticent in their views about the ruling government; their reactions vary from genuflection to unexceptional platitudes. “Policy uncertainties and delays in approvals” must have really hurt them bad, otherwise they would not have made bold to slam the powers that be in so categorical terms.
It is an open secret that most policy flip-flops and retrograde decisions are the product and function of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC). But such is the terror of She-who-must-be-obeyed that even the richest and the mightiest of the land did not dare to lambast the abomination called NAC.
The fact that about 10 months ago the same group had written a similar letter underlines the continuance of anger and anguish over the rot in the affairs of state. On January 17, it wrote, “We are a small group of like-minded citizens who are concerned with the general deterioration in the overall value system of the nation, but have abiding belief and commitment in India’s potential and prospects as a successful democracy… In the last few months, the country has witnessed eruption of a number of egregious events, thanks to an active media eagerly tracking malfeasance. There are, at present, several loud and outraged voices, in the public domain, clamouring on these issues which have deeply hurt the nation.”
They were “alarmed at the widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity.” They alleged that “widespread discretionary decision making have been routinely subjected to extraneous influences.”
Evidently, nothing has changed in the last 10 months; if at all, things have deteriorated. With every passing day, the UPA grandees scale up brazenness. Till recently, the Congress was patting its own back for “empowering” the citizens with the Right To Information; now, it is finding faults with the same legislation. “You cannot claim papers under the RTI which are part of internal communications ahead of a cabinet decision until such time that a decision is finally taken,” Law Minister Salman Khurshid said.
Earlier, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily had said, “In the context of RTI exposures, people are misreading things. Transparency yes, but it cannot scuttle the independence of individuals and ministries expressing difference of opinion. It’s time for a national debate on this issue.”
But, Honorable Ministers, what happened to the great empowerment that you claim to have effected?