Suggestions for changes in Jan Lokpal Bill

BY ARUN AGRAWAL

The Jan Lokpal Bill — despite wide consultations, various drafts and revisions — has defects which need to be attended to including the error of incomplete sentence (Clause 6u).

The following changes are suggested in the Jan Lokpal Bill version 2.3. The reasons for the changes have also been stated. A copy is being marked to the Parliamentary Standing Committee and to members of Team Anna too.

1. In the preamble the name of Kofi Aman should be deleted because his family members were involved in the Oil-for-Food programme scam, the largest scandal ever to hit the UN. Introducing his name in the Preamble itself will not be proper/auspicious in the proposed anti-corruption bill. 

Suggestion: Better quotes on corruption can be inserted from Indian greats.

2. Section 4 (4) (d) reads: The following shall not be eligible to become Chairperson or Member of Lokpal:

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(d) Any person, who was in the service of any government and has remitted office within the last two years, either by way of resignation or retirement.

Observation: The clause should be removed for the following reasons:

  • The cooling off period of two years is discriminatory as there are any number of officers of proven competence and integrity who have made the transition to statuary bodies involving confrontation with the government seamlessly.
  • The CAG, Election Commissioners, Information Commissioners etc are appointed without any cooling period and most of them have performed commendably. This despite their appointment being through a government majority. The cooling period is borrowed from a government officer joining the private sector which was struck down by Court.
  • As the appointment is through a search committee and a selection committee, which does not have a government majority and both the committees have veto power of 3/10 on selection of a member, the cooling period is unnecessary. It will serve to curtail the tenure of the officer by two years or lead to the person taking up some other assignment in the two year cooling period. (presuming that a person can be appointed for two five year terms).

Suggestion: The clause should be deleted. A very important source of recruitment may be the non-judicial members of administrative tribunals who have administrative as well as judicial experience. Some of them may not be lawyers. It needs to be clarified as to whether they will be considered as government servant (and hence serve the 2 year cooling period leading to loss of tenure) or will be considered as persons with judicial background?

3. Section 4(6)(iii) Two judges of Supreme Court of India and two permanent Chief Justices of the High Courts selected by collegium of all Supreme Court judges.

Observation: It is impractical as the number of  Lokpals to be appointed each year will be two or three (after the initial appointments). The judges of the High Court nominated by the collegium will be elevated or may retire. Each time after retirement/elevation the meeting of the  entire collegium of thirty plus judges to select a particular Chief Justice of a High Court may not be desirable and may also lead to unnecessary heartburn from the Chief Justices not selected. It may also introduce a bias in the elevation of the selected judge to Supreme Court.

When all the other 7+ authorities involved in the selection of the Lokpal have been identified why subject two to a selection process?

Suggestion: Clause 4(6)(iii)  should either be four senior most judges of the Supreme Court or two senior most judges of the High Court. It is as objective method of selection as the one proposed. It will not effect the independence of the selection procedure.

4. Section 4(8) A Search Committee shall consist of 10 members. Five of its members shall be selected by the Selection Committee from amongst the retired Chief Justices of India, the retired Chief Election Commissioners and the retired Comptroller and Auditor Generals with impeccable reputation of integrity, who have not joined any political party after retirement and who are not holding any office under any government. The five members so selected shall, through consensus, co‐opt another 5 members from the Civil Society in the search committee.

Observation: This clause is a bit complicated and confusing. It is obvious that the selection committee for the search committee is different from that of the selection committee of the Lokpal. The number of persons on this Selection Committee of the Search Committee has not been specified.

Suggestion: It will be better if the Selection Committee for the appointment of the Lokpal is also the selection committee for the Search Committee. 

5. Section 4(15) Any nominations to which objections are raised by any 3 members of the Search Committee shall not be included in the short list.

Observation: Three members can veto an honest and competent person. Fifty percent of the Search Committee is selected by the Search Committee itself. Since there is another filter of three members of Selection Committee vetoing an appointment the word majority should replace three members here.

Suggestion: The word majority should replace any three.

6. Section 4(22) A person appointed as the Chairperson or member of Lokpal shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or upto the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier;

Observation: This clause should be changed to that the term will be for five years which can be extended once/twice. The reason is that it will be extremely difficult to meet the stringent conditions for the appointment of Lokpal. In fact the checks and balances and the stringent conditions imposed on the  appointment may lead to the vacancy not being filled.

More importantly, if someone has performed well then why lose the experienced person who is tried and tested? Give him another term as a reward to subserve public interest. This term may be limited to one or two renewals.

For example it would have been befitting to give Justice Hegde another term as Lokayukta if he was eligible age-wise and willing.

Suggestion: For a term of five years which may be extended by further term/s of five years.

7. Section 4(25) The Chairperson and members of Lokpal shall not be eligible for appointment to any position in the Government of India or the government of any State or any such body which is funded by any of the Governments or for contesting elections to Parliament, State Legislature or local bodies.

Suggestion: The prohibition on the Lokpal contesting an election to the Parliament or Legislature is violation of his fundamental right and unconstitutional and hence should be deleted. However, if permissible, his right to join a political party after retirement may be curtailed.

8. Section 6(c) After completion of investigation in any case involving an allegation of an act of corruption, to impose punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank against government servants after giving them reasonable opportunities of being heard.

Observation: This amounts to sentencing and goes beyond investigation and prosecution and opens up the charge of the Lokpal having excessive powers.

Suggestion: Instead the power to suspend should be with the Lokpal and as both the investigation and prosecution is to be completed in a time bound manner, let the matter be decided by Court or the Competent Authority of the Officer after the recommendation of the Lokpal in its quasi judicial proceedings.

9. Section 6(u) to ensure the integrity of its functionaries and impose punishments of dismissal, removal and reduction in rank against.

Observation: Against whom? The sentence needs to be completed.

10. Section 17(1) No investigation or prosecution shall be initiated without obtaining permission from a 7‐Member Bench of the Lokpal against any of the following persons:‐ 

i) The Prime Minister and any other member of the Council of Ministers 

ii) Any judge of the Supreme Court or any High Court 

iii) Any Member of the Parliament

Observation: 17(1) iii will not get the vote of the MPs as they will not vote against themselves. However, there may be situation like cash-for-votes when the government may lose majority. Such situation may lead to demand by members themselves for a Lokpal investigations.

Suggestion: 17(1) iii  Any Member of Parliament subject to a request for investigation being made by 50/100/150/200 Members of Parliament (this is to take care of voting for cash in order to save the government). One anticipates that the MPs may agree, otherwise the clause will have to be deleted in deference to those passing the bill. 

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap)

Million Arab lives, small price for freedom

BY SAEED NAQVI

Just in case you did not know, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar Assad are victims of a media war, relentless, no holds barred.

I am making this observation with a degree of authority because I returned last week from Damascus, Ham’a, Homs and vast Syrian spaces in between in searing 45°. As for Libya, well, I have been there earlier.

Some months ago, when David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were salivating at Libyan oil, the International Herald Tribune published a cartoon.

A group of hatted Europeans are sipping Campari under an umbrella. Uncle Sam, looking rather like a butler, says, “There is a fire raging next door”. The European grandees reply: “don’t just stand there; go put out the fire”.

Altruism is obviously at a discount when major fires, like the one in Libya, are to be put out. European leaders may be drooling at the sight of Libyan light crude, but all their representatives, flying in from Malta to Benghazi, have been trumped by the visit to Libyan opposition leaders by Jeff Feltman, US envoy and expert on Middle East. Americans are not likely to loosen their grip on energy resources.

The ultimate compliment to Feltman came from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah after Israeli reversal in the 2006 Lebanon war. The government of Fouad Siniora, installed with American help was called the “Feltman Government” by Nasrallah. The label was adopted by Lebanese opposition groups.

The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Stephen Ford is no mean operator either. He has been travelling around the country with the audacity of a Special Forces stuntman in diplomatic guise. His visit to Ham’a, a Salafist center, along with the French Ambassador, in early Ramadan created conditions for some frightful rioting against the regime. The army retaliated, killing 75.

Just when the Bashar Assad establishment was seething with rage, last week Ford decided to poke his fingers in the regime’s eye by turning up in Darr’a, another trouble spot where the variety of Muslims in bad odour with the west are up in arms against Assad. But there is no ambiguity in Ford’s mission: he had gone to boost the morale of exactly the variety who, two months ago, had come out on the streets across the border in Jordan, brandishing their swords and demanding Shariah.

But has anyone seen that story? Ofcourse not, because stories about human rights in any monarchy in West Asia are taboo by edict of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on whose coffers an economically declining West has its eye. Only Republican dictatorships are in the line of fire. And towards this end the media has been deployed – BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Al Arabia, the last two represent the Monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) now in the coalition of the willing, (Israel is the silent partner) in a blistering media assault on Assad’s regime. Mission Libya, in their perception, is as good as accomplished.

After the Darr’a visit, the Syrian cabinet got into a huddle. Should the meddlesome US ambassador be shown the door? There were divisions in the highest leadership. Ford stays on. Assad knows his clout. When John Negroponte was US ambassador to Iraq, Ford was his deputy. The Pentagon confirmed to Newsweek in 2005, that the two masterminded “hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency”. Negroponte described Ford as “one of those very tireless people…..who, didn’t mind putting on his flak jacket and helmet and going out of the Green Zone to meet contacts”. And now his genius is being put to good use in Syria.

It is universally accepted that disinformation is part of warfare. But who is the Assad regime at war with? In imitation of the choreography in Libya, an impression is sought to be created that the Alawite dominated regime is brutalizing the majority Sunni population.

To amplify this image, totally fabricated stories are being flashed on Al Jazeera, Al Arabia, BBC and CNN. “I have seen with my own eyes,” says a lady hosting some Indian friends, “how arms are being smuggled from Turkey in my hometown, Aleppo, given to the rebels but the subsequent violence is being blamed on the regime”. The lady is a scarf wearing Sunni.

Non-Arab ambassadors visited the coastal town of Latakia to verify reports of “heavy shelling from the sea”. Persistent questioning of a cross section of people revealed that no shelling had ever taken place.

Journalists on a tour of Ham’s were shown the police station from where seventeen people, including policemen, were pulled out, beheaded and their bodies thrown in the nearby river. However macabre the story, it gets no play because it is a narrative of the government which is in the west’s line of fire.

The story of “mass graves” in Darr’a makes headlines on BBC and CNN even though inquiries made by embassies reveal that the burial of five members of a family (intra family vendetta) had been exaggerated as “mass graves”, resulting from an army crackdown.

But how is the media circumventing censorship? The New York Times says that “the Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy ‘shadow’ internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.”

Really, what some people will not do for freedom. A million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and heaven knows how many more to follow in Syria, and wherever else, is but small sacrifice to keep the flame of freedom burning eternally and all flames need fuel.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

ISI: An exceptional secret service

BY LT. GENERAL ASAD DURRANI

When Smashing Lists, a relatively unknown website, declared Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI, the best of its kind, it gladdened my heart but also had me worried.

Soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I met an old colleague, a Special Forces officer recently inducted in the ISI. He whispered in my ears: “we have decided to support the Afghan resistance”. Understandably. With the “archenemy” India in the East and now not a very friendly Soviet Union on our Western borders, Pakistan had fallen between “nutcrackers”.

We therefore had to take our chances to rollback the occupation; but did we have any against a ‘superpower’, and the only one in the region at that? Soon after the Soviet withdrawal, as the Director General of Military Intelligence, I was assigned to a team constituted to review Pakistan’s Afghan Policy. That, followed by a stint in the ISI, provided the answer.

The Afghan tradition of resisting foreign invaders was indeed the sine qua non for this gamble to succeed. American support took two years in coming but when it arrived, US support was one of the decisive factors. The ISI’s role — essentially logistical in that it channelled all aid and helped organise the resistance- turned out to be pivotal. In the process, from a small time player that undertook to punch above its weight, rubbing shoulders with the best in the game, the Americans, catapulted the Agency into the big league.  Unsurprisingly, the ISI became a matter of great concern not only for its foes.

Cooperation amongst secret services, even within the country, is not the norm. It took a 9/11 for the US to create a halfway-coordinating mechanism. Between the CIA and the ISI, however, communication and coordination worked out well as long as the Soviets were in Afghanistan. The shared objective — defeat of the occupation forces — was one reason; respect for each other’s turf, the more important other.

The CIA hardly ever questioned how its Pakistani counterpart dispensed with the resources provided for the Jihad or for that matter how it was conducted. And the ISI never asked if the American providers were over invoicing the ordnance or undermining the Saudi contribution.  It did not mean that they trusted each other.

Differences, however, surfaced as soon as the Soviets withdrew. To start with, some of the key ISI operatives were vilified, allegedly for having favored the more radical of the Afghan groups. The charge that the Agency was infested with rogue elements is thus an old one. Twice these vilification campaigns led, under American pressure, to major purges of ISI’s rank and file. If these episodes ever led to changes in policy is another matter.  In the early 1990s, we in the ISI understood this shift in American attitude as a big-brother’s desire to establish hegemony, but more crucially — now that the Soviet Union after its withdrawal from Afghanistan had ceased to exist — to cut this upstart service to size.

The CIA was clearly at odds with our declared objective to help the Mujahedeen lead the new dispensation in Kabul, especially if individuals like Hikmatyar were to play an important part in it. And the US was indeed unhappy with Pakistan’s efforts to seek Iran’s cooperation after the Islamic Republic had made peace with Iraq. But what seemed to have caused the most anguish amongst our American friends were the prospects of an increasingly confident ISI, vain enough to throw spanners in the work of the sole surviving superpower.

These apprehensions were not entirely ill-founded as the Iraq-Kuwait crisis of 1990-91 was soon to show.

Sometimes in 1992, General Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to US Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, reportedly conceded that the ISI’s assessment of Saddam’s forces was closer to the mark than their own, which highly exaggerated Saddam’s capacity. Now, if anyone else in the business too was to broadcast its account every time the CIA “sexed-up” a threat to suit American objectives (next time on Iraq’s WMD holding for example), some pre-emption was obviously in order.

Soon thereafter the ISI was cleansed of the old guard, most of them ostensibly for their infatuation with the “Jihadists” in Afghanistan and Kashmir. These purges must have served a few careers but when it came to taking decisions and making policies, the new guard had no choice but to put its shoulder behind the Taliban bandwagon. The Militia was now, like it or not, the only group with a chance to reunify the war torn country; the inviolable and in principle the only condition for Pakistan’s support for the “endgame”, with no ideological or geo-political caveats.

Initially the Americans and the Saudis too had wooed Mullah Omar, though for a different reason: their interest in a pipeline that was to pass through territories under the Taliban control. If Pakistan should have ceased all support when this militant regime rejected its advice — on accommodating the Northern Alliance or sparing the Bamyan Statues, for example — remains a moot point.

After all, post 9/11 the Taliban did agree to our request to extradite Osama bin Laden, albeit to a third country. That was rejected by the US for reasons not for me to second-guess.

The ISI was thereafter subjected to another purge in the hope that the refurbished setup would put its heart and soul behind the new decree: ‘chase anyone resisting the American military operations in Afghanistan all the way to hell’. That came to millions on both sides of the Pak-Afghan borders; likely to be around long after the US troops had gone home, with some of them turning their guns inwards as one must have noticed. Under the circumstances, neither the ISI nor other organs of the state had any will to operate against groups primarily primed to fight “foreign occupation”. If they also had the right to do so, or how this intrusion was otherwise to be defined, can be discussed ad-infinitum. Pakistan in the meantime has to fight a number of running battles.

So, this time around as well, it is not any “rogue elements” in the ISI but the complexity of the crisis that necessitates selective use of force; essentially against the “rogue groups”, some of them undoubtedly planted or supported by forces inimical to our past and present policies. (Thanks to the Wikileaks, we now know a bit more about the “counter-terrorism pursuit teams”)

If our political and military leadership also had the gumption to support the war against the NATO forces — in the belief that some of the present turmoil in the area would not recede as long as the world’s most powerful alliance was still around — does not seem very likely. If, however, a few rebels in the ISI had in fact undertaken this mission, they may be punching above their weight, once again.
Indeed, the ISI suffers from many ailments, most of them a corollary of its being predominantly a military organisation and of the Army’s exceptional role in Pakistani politics. But that is of no great relevance to this piece which is basically about the Agency’s role in the so-called “war on terror”; a euphemism for the war raging in the AfPak Region.

Epilogue: I do not know what all the ISI knew about Bin Laden’s whereabouts before he was reportedly killed, or when the Pakistani leadership was informed about the US operation on that fateful night. But the fact that we denied all knowledge or cooperation — even though the military and the police cordons were in place at the time of the raid, our helicopters were hovering over the area, and the Army Chief was in his command post at midnight — explains the Country’s dilemma.
If its leadership was to choose between inability to defend national borders and complicity with the US to hunt down one person who defied the mightiest of the worldly powers, it would rather concede incompetence.

The most important takeaway from this fascinating snapshot of the ISI, the Taliban, and Pakistan’s view of America and its strategic choices is that Pakistan will never be a predictable puppet of US interests.

Note by Steve Clemons:

The best places to meet the world’s most interesting national security and foreign policy personalities are no longer Washington or London or Paris.  Rather, highest on the list are Beijing, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha.

Many years ago, I met Lt. General Asad Durrani in Beijing thanks to a conference organized by Australia’s Monash University.  We have been acquainted and communicating since. I remember arriving late to the conference and rushing in as the brash, younger-than-I-am-now upstart and sitting down at one of the lunch tables of ten.  I quickly met everyone and heard that Durrani was a general from Pakistan.  That’s all I knew.

I asked him quickly not having known that he was essentially Pakistan’s Karla, or George Smiley, depending on your perspective, “Do you think President Musharraf really doesn’t control the ISI?”  Several faces went white at the table.  A jaw dropped.  Durrani’s eyes narrowed and he slowly said, “It may be in General Musharraf’s interests to pretend he has little control over the ISI.”  This is pure Durrani — layers, meaningful, informed, and no one’s flack.

Then I realized looking at bios that he was the former chief of the ISI — and our accidental bluntness and candor has glued us together since.

General Durrani sent me an essay he wrote, with very light editing by me.  These are his words, his insights into how Pakistan sees the Taliban and Afghanistan — as well as its competition with the US in the region.

I have permission to post the entire essay which I am doing.  I think that those interested in understanding the other side of the complex and stressed US-Pakistan relationship need to read a bit about the history of the ISI in the words of one of their own.

When I last met General Durrani at a conference organized by Al Jazeera in Doha, he said to me: “Steve, it is very hard for me to overstate to you the enthusiasm for which Pakistan’s generals have for the Taliban.”

Durrani is not a booster for the Taliban; he is a hard core realist — and his view is that Pakistan’s generals prize the Taliban for its ability to give them “strategic depth”.  Whether you agree or not, his assessments are very much worth reading in full.

So, the rest from (article above) Lt. General and former ISI Chief Assad Durrani.

(Courtesy: The Atlantic.com, 25 July 2011)

Anna, home-grown terror, Sonia’s health and other stories

BY SAEED NAQVI

Given the media’s preferences, Anna Hazare will, in the foreseeable future, obscure other stories which may be equally important.

An edit page cartoon in the Hindu shows Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaning hard against a cupboard, trying to hold back skeletons. He is pointing at the opposition: “there are skeletons in your cupboard!”

This at a time when Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal issue was threatening to overshadow the monsoon session of Parliament.

The skeletons the Prime Minister is trying to hide are, presumably, corruption cases on a magnitude which have already sent Union ministers and others in that league to jail. But what skeletons is Manmohan Singh pointing out in the opposition cupboard?

For the first time ever, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, admitted in parliament that there “were indications of involvement of Indian module in the July 13, Mumbai blasts that killed 26 people.” Chidambaram continued: “we cannot live in denial; we cannot close our eyes to facts. There are home grown modules.”

What is it that we have been living in denial of? Only when the media takes its eyes off the Anna movement can this frightening story be brought into focus. Even a cursory investigation suggests that the Indian Mujahideen generally blamed for acts of terror since 2008 are actually the “home grown modules” Chidambaram is talking about. At some appropriate moment, for wider credibility, Anna may wish to take this one up too.

According to one of the country’s leading experts on terrorism, Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation, atleast a dozen major terror attacks since the Uttar Pradesh serial blasts of November 2007, have been linked to Indian Mujahideen who, it turns out, may be these “home grown modules” linked to right wing terror.

Wilson John is candid: “If a fraction of what has appeared in the media about Indian Mujahideen is anywhere near the truth, then we are in for serious trouble – we have a terrorist group capable of networking across this vast country, one which can recruit, train and carry out attacks at will as if intelligence agencies and police forces and a host of federal agencies are either incompetent or complicit.”

The other story that must await its turn to be brought into focus is Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s health and the effect it will have on the Congress succession. Of course the Gandhi family’s privacy has to be respected but the family would be well advised to end speculation. The Congress party could issue regular health bulletins if she is seriously unwell or to make one urgent statement on her health if she is recovering. The calmness with which Rahul Gandhi proceeded to Pune in aftermath of the police firing showed a certain unflappability, that Mrs. Gandhi’s health did not seem to weigh on him.

A spoiler for Anna and his cohorts could well be the fourth cricket test between India and England at the Oval, particularly if, by some miracle, India begins to look good. Principal anchors will then have to wait for custom with their Anna packages while the viewers will have defected to Star Cricket in droves. Rains could also ruin the Anna’s TV potential.

By accident or design, team Anna has hit the political jackpot. He has truck exactly the chord with the people, urban middle class particularly (exactly the one most taken in by the shining India illusion) because he provides them relief from a sense of helplessness in the face of rising prices which in popular perception are jumbled up with rampaging corruption.

The insensitive even cockey handling of Anna by the Congress leadership absolutely justifies the Mail Today banner headline, across two pages: “Cong a Rudderless Ship Minus Sonia”.

When Sonia Gandhi was in control she generally turned to the experience and sagacity of Pranab Mukherjee for all firefighting operations. But just when all political skill was required to handle Anna, the Finance Minister was nowhere to be seen. Nor was the quartet authorized to look after party affairs in her absence – A. K. Antony, Ahmad Patel, Janardan Dwivedi, Rahul Gandhi. A pity the Prime Minister’s apparent absence from issues of political salience is not even noticed these days – except by the opposition to score debating points.

How the Anna phenomena plays itself out is not clear. Should he run out of steam, middle class disappointment will be enormous with unpredictable consequences. The Congress, with luck, must have its leader back soon or, in the alternative, find some way to keep together the flock which has grown accustomed to the apotheosis of a family. A simple way is to hold party elections, never attempted after the Tirupati session of the Congress in 1993.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Question of legitimacy: Panch Pyare or ‘A Company’

BY ARUN AGRAWAL

The legitimacy of the members of the civil society in general, and that of the five members of the drafting committee in particular, to draft the anti-corruption law is being  questioned.

What gives the right to few persons who call themselves civil society to draft laws and impose it on Parliament? Are not other persons like film makers, journalist and socialite/author (and every two bit person bypassed by the movement and is solicited by TV channels for opposing the Movement) etc, not members of civil society? Should they not have a voice? Is not “A Company” being dictatorial, presumptuous and using blackmail of fast and mob tyranny to get their way?

To all these genuine/motivated doubting Thomas’s’, the simple answer is: What is your track record on fighting corruption that the rest of the members of civil society should consult you or trust you? Most of them are in conflict of interest like Tavleen Singh whose closeness to the owner of Lavasa is only too well known.

The band of five or are few good men (describe them as you like) have a sterling track record on fighting corruption matched by few in the country.

Anna Hazare has fought corruption to develop an entire village and led crusades against the politicians in his State. The development in his village was achieved over decades and is there for all to see.

Shanti Bhushan has fought a number of famous PILs (including one for the author) on corruption and never charged any fees from the petitioners. Income forgone on account of fighting PILs would run into crores. Have P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khursheed, Abhishek Singhvi, and other eminent lawyers sitting in the government done so?

Prashant Bhushan has devoted his entire life to fighting PILs. Arvind led the campaign on RTI Act (one hopes that those opposing the civil society understand the connection between RTI and corruption) and was awarded the Magsaysay for it.

Justice Hegde distinguished himself as Lokayukta and took on the entire political system and the mining mafia of Karnataka.

Can the entire membership of the Parliament match the contributions of these famous five in the fight against corruption? If so, let them put their track record on the table for the nation to see!

Coincidentally three of the five also have experience in dealing with laws on corruption. One of them has been a Law Minister and had led the arguments in the habeas corpus case at the time of emergency.

It is a fact that the five are the most competent people in the country to draft and campaign for anti-corruption laws and that is why the masses trust them and not the politicians in Parliament who are responsible for corruption. The politicians are in conflict of interest on anti-corruption laws. By failing to enact the law for decades they are seen as saboteurs of the anti-corruption laws through the proposed bill appropriately described as Jokepal (dhokapal?) bill.

There is no bill in the history of Independent India which has had wider publicity and consultation than the Jan Lokpal bill and the Lokpal bill of the government. And yet it is shocking to see and hear the level of ignorance of TV anchors and motivated critics vis-a-vis the awareness of the youth and in some cases children on the provisions of the bill.

What does the publicity and consultation of the Jan Lokpal bill show? 80 to 90 percent approval rating, which is higher than the highest margin of victory of any MP! Why can’t the bill then be the basis for the discussion and enactment in Parliament?

It is the greatest tragedy of the nation that the key decision makers — the Prime Minister, Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, and Pranab Mukerjee whose lofty lectures on Parliamentary democracy being the only way to enact a law — are the ones with little stake in electoral politics. They can barely hold on to their constituency and have no mass following at the regional level and yet have come to occupy key decision making positions in the government. How many people will spend money from their pocket to attend a meeting addressed by them?

The two lawyers will be seen heading towards the Supreme Court to resume their ten lakh per appearance practice the day after the results of the next elections are announced. The Prime Minister is tired of discharging the role of the regent for his anointed successor and Pranab Mukerjee has enjoyed power, without any mass base, for far too long to care. A gubernatorial posting of his choice before the elections will do, as he had accommodated his long time friend Omita Paul as Information Commissioner before the last election. And yet tragically, they are the government and are the public face of India.

These gentlemen may represent the people de jure but not do so de facto and the sooner they realize it the better. They hold power on behalf of the people as trustee and have abused that power of trust much like the judge that they are trying to impeach. The judge is being impeached for temporary misappropriation of Rs 24,00,000 which he returned with interest. What about the Rs 24,00,000 crores of peoples’ money  (2G scam, mining scam, oil field scam, land scams and bribe money sent abroad over the years) which was misappropriated and never returned? Chidambaram alone is responsible for Rs 300,000 crores – in the 2G scam and the mining scam – of this money.

Should not the people have a right to impeach them? And that is exactly what the people of this country are doing, here and now through peaceful means, on the roads and parks, in the city, town and villages without waiting for the next elections.

And the margin of the vote of impeachment in survey after survey is coincidentally the same as that against the judge, ninety percent!

And yes, kindly remember: the judge returned the money.

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap)

India – A Banana Republic?

BY RSN SINGH

There is a feeling of despair rather hopelessness that is pervading the Indian psyche. Governance, which some time ago appeared to be adrift, is now submerged in internal sleaze, conspiracy and internal power play of the worst kind. There is every indication to suggest that India has surrendered much of its sovereignty in independent thought and policy. Corruption, scandals, totally unprecedented in magnitude is tumbling out on a daily basis. It appears that the whole country is ‘on sale’.

Collectively corrupt but individually honest

There is no one to own responsibility. The concept of collective responsibility which is the bedrock of parliamentary democracy has been killed in India. The only feeble escapism for the political leaders at the helm is their remonstration about their personal incorruptibility? It defies logic that how can a person be personally upright but countenance corruption by colleagues and superiors by inadvertent or forced omission, that too repeatedly

The abyss that the political executive and the instruments of governance has sunk into, has engendered the unprecedented assertion authority by institutions like Supreme Court and the CAG. Probably, never before has the CAG held press conference. This seemingly reinvention of these roles by the institutions is fortuitous and ephemeral phenomenon, because, on the whole most institutions, i.e. CVC, CBI, higher judiciary have lost much of their prestige in the public. It only indicates that how the linkages between the constitutional institutions have been debilitated and subverted by internal and external vested interests over the years.

Ideological subversion

One former Chief Justice of India is under critical scrutiny for having compromised his integrity while in office. In another far reaching development, with regard to vital security concerns of India, a segment of the political class has questioned the Supreme Court verdict on Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Chhattisgarh and has obliquely described the judgement of carrying ideological bias. As it is a wide spread belief has been alive in India that the Maoists, in the last two-three decades have infiltrated most constitutional bodies, educational institutions and the media. Some observers are in fact of the opinion that the substantial chunk of the media has been taken over by leftists, having sympathy with the Maoists. The Maoists have on their payrolls, lawyers, doctors, media houses, and even elements in the judiciary. This is no longer a belief, but now seen as a reality, a threat in the being.

Erosion of media’s credibility

Peoples’ faith in the media is rapidly eroding. To begin with, when the private TV channels first appeared on the Indian scene, it enjoyed tremendous respect and goodwill. Somewhere down the line, as competition became more fierce, some channels compelled by economic intimidation or greed, traded their fairness and independence. Paid news, blackmail, personality promotion, personality degradation are some of the ills that pervaded the media. Some media personnel became power brokers. They were exposed, but they and the media house they represented, unlike Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, continue to thrive. One such private channel is today dubbed as Doordarshan. Some media personnel did not hesitate to become agents of external agencies.

Sources having journalist linkages with Pakistani press had confided with this author few year ago that some Indian journalists were on the payroll of Pakistan establishment, and the least the Indian authorities could do was to inquire as to who pays for their opulent and lavish lifestyle while they are visiting Pakistan, which in some cases is 15-20 visits in a year. Most of the names that the Pakistani journalists mentioned have enjoyed the hospitality of ‘Fai Foundation’.

In the international arena, such things are not uncommon, but such individuals in other countries are certainly not rewarded by appointing them as points-men of the government on sensitive matters involving territoriality and diplomacy.

If in a free country with ostensibly a penetrative and unbiased media simple detail, which includes health, of the most influential politician of the country is ‘out of bounds’, then we are not living in a transparent and fearless democracy. If the press balks at even inquiring about where abroad, does the much touted ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ celebrates his birthday then the credibility of our entire democracy is suspect.

Told to live with Maoist terror

Maoist terror has so far consumed 231 out of 605 districts in the country i.e. one out of every three districts in nine states. This ideologically driven terror has physical, economic, social, religious and an overwhelming international dimension. In sophistication and brutality it leaves Taliban terror way behind. One Indian life is lost every eight hours on account of Maoist violence. Maoists are recruiting children and have destroyed 1700 schools. Maoist leaders have gone to the extent of killing and consuming flesh of suspected informer in full public view to terrorize them. This happened in Malkangiri district of Orissa. And yet, despite the Prime Minister describing Maoism as the biggest threat, it is rather intriguing, that overt agents of the Maoists are not only shielded from law, but are also accorded respectability and official patronage. It suggests that there is some political and on financial design and gain to keep the Maoist terror simmering specially in mineral rich and potentially ‘proselytizing rich’ regions.

The international face of the Maoists and their facilitators within the country was quite evident when some persons belonging to the European Union countries travelled to Chhattisgarh to witness the trials Binayak Sen in the High Court. What was the purpose? Was it to exert indirect international and psychological deterrence on the Indian judiciary in trying Maoist ideologues? Otherwise the entire western world acknowledges the fairly high credibility of the Indian judiciary. No sooner Binayak was granted bail by the Supreme Court, an anxious government rushed to confer respectability on him. In that it appointed him the member of Planning Commission Committee on Health. The timing, the selection and the signal is sinister.

Some Maoist sympathizers are in the highest advisory bodies in the country. A couple of them have infiltrated Anna’s campaign against corruption. It appears that a segment of the dispensation is complicit in the spread of Maoist terror and has vested interest in keeping India unsettled.

Recently the Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child, Shanta Sinha, was much dissuaded by the government authorities from undertaking a tour in Kamanguda village in largely Maoist controlled Ghadrachiroli district of Maharashtra. She persisted and some 1000 policemen were deployed along the 90 km travel route to safeguard her. Yet the Maoists did manage to attack her convoy.

The dread in which the common people live in Maoist impacted areas can therefore be extrapolated. In many ways the government has been goading people to accept Maoist spread by means of terror as fact of life just as contractors and corporate houses have begun to factor the Maoist extortion industry while budgeting their projects and businesses.

Told to live with Pakistan’s proxy war

As in the case of Maoist terror and Maoist extortion industry we are being seemingly asked by the government to live with terror emanating or orchestrated from Pakistan. In the aftermath of the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai the government, right from the outset, was anxiously straining itself to absolve Pakistan. The then Indian Foreign Secretary, in the few days preceding the blast had vouched for drastic change in the attitude of Pakistan establishment with regard to export of terror. It is another matter that three Pakistanis among five LeT terrorists were killed by Indian security forces in Kupwara in North Kashmir just a day after the Mumbai blasts. But we Indians over a period of time have been conditioned to believe that security of the border areas is different from the security of the nation.

During the same period, the US Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton came on a visit to India. The timing of her visit may have had some bearing on the posture of the Indian establishment vis-à-vis Pakistan. Adjustments with the strategic partners, however desirable cannot be compromised with vital security interests of the country and more so on the corpses of terrorist victims. As if, that was not enough, some politicians began to portray the incident as handiwork of ‘Hindu Terror’ groups. These elements must explain the very rationale and objective of Hindu terror to the people of India.

Such sleaze with matters concerning security environment in the country, primarily motivated by vote-bank politics, compounds the complexities of internal security discourse. Banana republics abound in such politicians. Now, India has its fair share as well. They have umpteen platforms by virtue of a collaborative media.

Nationhood and patriotism

The governing class in India made the people first inured to causalities of security personnel. In fact, some students of a university in Delhi celebrated the killing of 76 personnel in Chhattisgarh. Now with passage of time, we Indians are becoming indurate to loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks.

Increasingly, the security forces are being treated by the government as a ‘paid force’ to safeguard and further the personal and political interests of the elements in power. Nationhood, patriotism, the sense of sacred duty and other such key motivating factors have been robbed from the culture of the security forces by the political class. Security forces can only deliver when there is unanimity in the country regarding threats and objectives.

Even the Indian Army, the ultimate bastion, has not been spared. There is a concerted move to make an honest Army Chief retire a year early to supplant him with a more pliable and compromising individual. A preposterous, legally most untenable ‘age controversy’ has been fabricated in respect of Gen VK Singh to ensure succession by another Kalmadi like figure in the Indian Army.

May I submit to our Hon’ble Defence Minister, who is very sensitive about his clean image that by not upholding the contention of the Army Chief regarding his age, he by imputation has conveyed that the Army Chief has lied. If that be so, then the country must be spared of a Chief, who is a liar. But, if the Army Chief’s contention is correct, which by all moral, and legal reckoning and standards is, then the entire country and more so the Defence Minister should stand by him.

Institutions are pillars of democracy and the very concept of nation-state. All round and comprehensive development is the harvest of conscious, positive and ethical investment in strengthening of institutions by the representatives of the people. Unfortunately, it is the political class that has been constantly buffeting then. It has taken its toll. With little support and battered inter-institutional linkages, these institutions are trying to defend themselves. Should they fail the road to anarchy passing through the Maoist territory, insurgent territory in Northeast, and ‘proxy war ravaged’ Kashmir is going to encompass the entire country.

Patriotic and nationalistic quotient of the top leadership percolates down the governing machinery at the lowest levels. More importantly, by sheer osmosis, it rubs on the countrymen including the security forces, who guard the nation. Other deficiencies notwithstanding, patriotism and nationalism had been the hallmark of most leaders in the past. Patriotism and nationalism acts as antidote to corruption, violence, insecurity and disrespect to national symbols and institutions.

India, like the Banana Republics, is now abysmally low on the scale of nationalism and patriotism.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a guest blogger for Canary Trap)