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)