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04 September 2011

How to Make Lokpal Bill Effective – The Debate Continues

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba


How to make Lokpal Bill effective was the theme of a debate competition for college students organized by a NGO ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’ on August, 13, 2011, in Chennai. The objective of the competition was to provide an opportunity to the college students to give their views on the subject.


Number of college students from several Chennai city colleges including Indian Institute of Technology Madras, School of Excellence in Law, JBAS College for Women, Loyola Institute of Business Administration participated in the debate competition.


This author, P. K. N. Panicker, President, Chemical Industries Association and educationist and N. L. Rajah, senior advocate, were the judges in the first panel. Prof. S. Radhakrishnan, Professor of Economics, S. M. Arasu, Founder, Anti Corruption Movement, Kris Dev, social activist, were the judges in the second panel. Trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, N. S.Venkataraman moderated the debate.


Quite a few students argued that Lokpal Bill may not be necessary, since enough laws and regulations are in the country to root out corruption. The problem, they felt, was that those in power including politicians and bureaucrats circumvent the existing rules and regulations to indulge in corruption and prevent punishment for the corrupt persons.


Students wondered that Lokpal Bill if enacted into law, may also end up with the same fate as the several of the existing anti corruption regulations and institutions


At best, Lokpal may function like Central Vigilance Commission, so instead of enacting a new law, the Central Vigilance Commission can be strengthened in variety of ways, which would produce quick results and avoid protracted arguments and delay.


Some students felt that Lokpal is only likely to function as an advisory body, with no powers to punish the corrupt. Therefore, the Lokpal’s report has to be substantiated in the court of law and judiciary would ultimately decide the case. Therefore, there may not be really any change in the ground realities. So the students argued that Lokpal may function like Central Vigilance Commission, referring its conclusions to the court.


Most students said that the Lokpal Bill should cover all sections of the country irrespective of age and position including judiciary and defense. The present move of the government to restrict it to certain sections of bureaucracy alone will mean nothing.


Some students insisted that Prime Minister should be included in the Lokpal Bill. They dismissed the argument that the inclusion of Prime Minister will lead to vested interests, paving way for false charges against the Prime Minister to destabilize the government. The students said that instead of excluding the Prime Minister, Lokpal Bill can have certain built in safeguards to ensure that vague and false charges against the Prime minister would not be entertained.


There are multiple vigilance organizations today like CBI, CVC and others which sometimes work at cross purposes. Such organizations should be brought under Lokpal to ensure coordinated approach and transparency. This aspect should be examined by the government for its administrative feasibility.


Students suggested the selection process for Lokpal Chairman and members should be broad based. The nomination should be invited from public for Lokpal Committee members, just like nominations being invited for Nobel prize award and selection must be very strict and should not be left into the hands of politicians and judges.


While the students greatly applauded the initiatives of Anna Hazare and his team members, they pointed out that Anna Hazare is only aiming at forming some regulations at the government level by seeking to introduce one more law. Anna Hazare has not looked into the option of strengthening the existing anti corruption institutions by closing the loopholes in them which would produce quicker results.


There was an unanimity that the ultimate solution for the problem is to change in the mind set of the people. Many people in India are involved in corrupt practices and corruption is not restricted to politicians and bureaucrats alone. Some people in India think that the act of small corruption is not immoral and this mind set needs to be changed.


The students disagreed to the concept of second freedom struggle launched by Anna Hazare. They pointed out that the essential difference between the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the movement initiated by Anna Hazare is, while Mahatma Gandhi led the freedom movement against the British, but simultaneously fought against several social evils such as caste system, untocuhability, liquor habit and strove to reform the individual Indians and their mind set, Anna Hazare movement lack the broad based approach.


The students felt that even now, it is not late and Anna Hazare should look back into his activities during the last one year and redirect the movement in appropriate direction, without giving an impression that mere change of laws will make India corruption free.


The debate had some very valuable inputs from the judges who commented on the issue of corruption and the aspects on the Lokpal bill. Their broad theme was in India; traditionally success is measured by the money accumulated by the individuals irrespective of the means adopted. This has resulted in a situation where corruption remains has permeated at all levels and in all sorts of activities. The public campaign against corruption should continue just like the anti liquor campaign and anti tobacco campaign.


The battle against the corruption must be fought in the minds and hearts of people and NGOs have a big role to play in this. The country should learn to hate the corrupt people which will happen only by millions of Indians not being corrupt in private and public life, was the ultimate conclusion of the debate.


The debate competition would further take place at Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai in September. The participating students would be awarded prizes during a meeting on October 1, 2011 the eve of Gandhi Jayanthi. The views expressed by the students would be forwarded to the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman for their consideration on the formulation of Lokpal bill.


[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a senior journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

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