By Gopal K Agarwal
Country was waiting for a strong Lokpal bill to be tabled in Parliament by the government. After such a long battle and successive assurances, everybody was expecting that it will relent and at least stand on its promise within the Parliament to Anna Hazare and through him to the people of the country.
The concept of strong Lokpal was based on a unified, independent, transparent and effective anti corruption institution in the country. At present we have several anti corruption laws and institutions but they are all scattered and are not independent and therefore not effective. Through India Against Corruption movement people of the country demanded an institution which will combine investigative setup of CBI (which is not independent) and will enjoy the independence of CVC (which is not effective). This anti-corruption institution was also expected to oversee judiciary. People wanted that the members of Parliament and the Prime Minister to come within its ambit, as it is perceived that, they are the major source of rampant corruption in the country.
Another lacunae in the anti-corruption setup was the lack protection to the whistleblower. We have seen 13 murders of RTI activist recently. If whistleblower does not get protection then people will be hesitant to complaint against the high and powerful.
Lower level beaurocracy is more troublesome to the common man, though corruption in high places harms the country more, but common man is fed up in his day to day life, coping with bribery. Therefore, all categories of government employees needed to be brought under the Lokpal. Government has kept out the C category, for the fear of losing its major vote bank and left them to harass people. Another problem was that, unless you have a time bound delivery of services and are able to fix accountability, you cannot determine the level of services. Based on this accountability we can fix the harassment and grievances. This was also part of anti-corruption movement’s demand.
But the current draft of Lokpal bill has neither the CBI in its ambit nor has made it an independent body. CVC is also a separate body and C group employees have been put under it, but CVC has no resources to manage the menace of corruption in this category. PM though is brought under Lokpal, but has been given several unwarranted protections. Citizen’s charter has been segregated and is being brought as a separate bill. The complaints of the people will be looked by the department vigilance officer, which will never be effective as it will not give report against its own colleagues. If the protection of whistleblower is not under Lokpal, how Lokpal can protect the complainant, I fail to understand. And we don’t think that by simply setting up of judicial commission, we will be able to check corruption in judiciary.
So the Lokpal bill which the government proposes is an empty box of chocolate. Reservation is another ploy to play the vote bank politics. And fax pause on the part of government with regards to the word minority, which had to be removed at the last moment due to constitutional restriction, is a case in point about its over obsession to placate minorities at all cost.
With the government opening its cards the only hope for the people is BJP. Though. BJP has said that it will oppose the bill and demand for its amendment based on its dissent note in the standing committee. Everybody is waiting to see how it performs vis-à-vis the expectations of the people.