April 9, 2011
My views on lokpal bill
Well the facebook and twitter streams , my mailbox and my sms inbox are all flooded with “Support for lokpal”.
Something of this significance and of national importance cannot be simply overlooked and I started digging in.
Anna Hazare is the man who is at the epicentre of it. He is a social worker and a Padma Vibhushan. I haven’t had an opportunity to interact with him personally or really investigate his work, hence would consider his role from a very neutral angle.
Wikipedia mentions that this bill was presented in the parliament for the first time in 1969 and has been unsuccessfully been staged there after. The bill is drafted taking references of similar act implemented in Scandinavian countries in and apparently looks like it worked for them. Sweden and Denmark are least corrupted countries today based on statistics. As Navjot Singh Sidhu would have stated, status are like mini skirts. They reveal a great deal, yet hide the essential things. How can statistics account for White collar corrupt practices.
Lets start listing down key clauses of the bill:
- ‘Ombudsman’ / Lokayukta : In simple words the person / entity who can initiate a proceeding on his own for greater cause of the people against a complaint. Now prosecuting culprits or not by Ombudsman, our honourable MPs (Whom we have elected / ignored to vote) would debate on.
- Appointment is to be made on the recommendation of a committee. Lokpal will have its own administrative machinery for conducting investigations.
- The Lokpal is supposed to complete the inquiry within a period of six months. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
- He can order search and seizure operations.
- If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
- Lokpal is supposed to investigate cases of corruption only, and not address himself to redressing grievances in respect of injustices and hardship caused by maladministration.
Now thinking like an electronics engineer.
- Now why can’t these amendments be made to IPC / CBI / Income tax / Excise rules, a system already in place for investigation. Why a separate institute?
- Lets say there is a separate institute, who are the most qualified personnels (ethically and unethically as well) for this job. Well no prize for guessing, Judges , CBI , Income tax / Excise, etc.
- Indians love the game called “Pass the buck” .. Now let’s say that there is a case which lokpal is handling. There is a huge money scandal, like Hawala. Automatically IT (Income tax) dept comes into picture and then a few more committees to audit their reports. Now lets say the guy is a criminal. The CBI/ CIA/ KGB / Crime branch Mumbai, etc comes into picture as well. Now these guys decided to pass the buck. What can Lokpal do? File a lame report?Moral of the story: A scandal clean up drive is not single person’s (institute in this case) undertaking.
- Now how do we know Lokpal is not corrupt? Ghourmint of India’s Classic solution… Set up a committee, investigate for like 25 – 50 years and then the parliament has to reject the recommendations unanimously. By this time the kids of the accused person are chilling their heels in some states of Ambrika.
- How is corruption not different from maladministration. Lets say I allow a blacklisted vendor to bid for a project, oops I didn’t knew it was a blacklisted company. Thanks to my insightful vision which usually cannot be tried in the court, the vendor wins the bid.. Now is this a case of administrative mismanagement or corruption.
Ok let say all my logical arguments are proven wrong and the parliament passes the bill. This would be truly a landmark event, but are we ready to nurture this sapling into a humongous tree which would protect us from the blaring heat of corruption.
Let’s find out with some simple introspective questions:
- Do you have voter’s ID. You might have driving licence and passport, but do you have voter’s ID.
- For ZP / municipal corporation elections, which ward do you belong to.
- Who is your local corporator. What was the budget allocated to your ward this year.
- What’s the fine for not carrying your driving licence, assuming you have a valid driving licence.
So if we don’t know very basic things about the government we are part of, no amount of committees and institutes can help us. We need to participate at basic level.