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FOLLOWING INDIA…….PART 1

INTRODUCTION TO LOK PAL BILL AND ITS CONTROVERSY

India regularly ranks among the most corrupt nations in the world. India holds 87th place in Transparency International’s list of the most corrupt nations. Everyday, the headlines scream about senior government officials or legislators being caught with their fingers in yet another corrupt pie. But hardly anyone ever gets punished.

Man Mohan Singh government, under massive pressure due to corruption charges,and to gain some of its lost ground, half heartedly agreed to think over the introduction of LOKPAL BILL in the parliament.

Scams of Common Wealth games and Adarsh Housing Society proved as a limit to the forbearance of Indian public to corruption. And the civil society as well as the general janta came out in hordes to give unprecedented support to Anna Hazare’s fight for a movement against corruption.

What is Lokpal Bill:

The LokPal Bill provides that any one except a public servant can file a complaint of corruption against the Ministers, members of Parliament and the high government officials. And that the inquiry and redressal against the complaint has to be completed within six months.
The basic idea of the Lok Pal is borrowed from the office of ombudsman, which has played an effective role in checking corruption and wrong-doing in Scandinavian and other nations. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand, Burkina Faso and the United Kingdom are some of the countries which have the office of an Ombudsman.

The Lokpal means a forum where the citizen can send a complaint against a public official, which would then be inquired into and the citizen would be provided some redressal. The office of the Lokpal is the Indian version of the office of an Ombudsman, who is appointed to inquire into these complaints made by citizens against public officials.

History:
It is a 42 year long journey for the LokPal Bill. Eight times in the history of this republic, governments tried to get the Lokpal Bill enacted. But no government – from Indira Gandhi to that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh – could succeed in installing an all powerful ombudsman to probe graft cases against the high and the mighty in the country

What is the controversy :

Civil rights activists, including Anna Hazare( a 71 year old Gandhian), Swami Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, termed the draft legislation as weak and demanded that fifty per cent of the members in the committee drafting the bill should be from the public. They proposed a draft Lok Pal Bill by the name of Jan Lokpal.

The Jan Lokpal Bill or the Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill, a draft anti-corruption bill, would create a Jan Lokpal, or an independent body (like the Election Commission) which would have the power to prosecute politicans and bureaucrats without government permission.

Jan Lokpal ( by Anna Hazare& co) will have powers to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public. While Lokpal ( originally drafted by the govt) would have no power to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public. It could only probe complaints forwarded by Lok Sabha Speaker or Rajya Sabha Chairman.
They insist that the high offices of the Prime Minister and the judiciary should also come under the compass of the Lok Pal Bill.

Diverging Opinions:

There are diverging views on issues such as the inclusion of the office of the Prime Minister, ministers and Members of Parliament, inclusion of judges, and powers of the Lokpal. Some experts contend that all public officials should be accountable while others feel that the autonomy and privilege of Parliament require the Prime Minister, ministers, and Members of Parliament to be accountable only to Parliament.

Now the whole controversy has taken the shape of a National Movement of unprecedented proportions, as Anna Hazare announced ‘a fast unto death’ at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, on April 5, 2011.
The prime minister, bowing under the pressure from the support to this mass movement, formed a sub-committee of the Group of Ministers to discuss the issue with these activists. However, initially, these two groups were unable to reach an agreement on the provisions of the Lok Pal Bill.
This led to Anna Hazare go for a hunger strike in early April, but just in few days the government accepted his demands.

There are three major points in the murmur of criticism against this civil uprising:

First, the cause is just but the method is undemocratic and, some have suggested, fascist. These civil society leaders are not elected and thus have no locus standi to demand change.
Second, if we allow such pressure groups, instead of established institutions and channels, to dictate terms to government, there would be anarchy.
And third, a mere law will not be able to curb corruption.

Now it is for the readers to form their opinion and decide if this is justified or not.

UPDATE ADDED ON JULY 5, 2011:

On July 4, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the announcement at an All Party Meeting, ” “We are also committed to bringing the bill before Parliament in the coming monsoon session. ……”

Not all is over. There shall be debate in the parliament to bring consensus on the tricky parts of the bill which include: bringing the Prime Minister’s Office and higher judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal. And also to include bringing the conduct of Members of Parliament (MPs) inside the House, CBI’s anti-corruption wing and lower bureaucracy across the country under the Lokpal.

After all a journey of 42 years, 8 failed attempts at getting it passed in the Parliament, display of ‘People’s Power by tens of thousands and civil society members coming out on streets and 60 million tweets has led to this day where LokPal Bill can see light at the end of the tunnel.

And hence a great leap towards ‘real’ and ‘transparent’ democracy.

(WHY have I posted this to you?  We in Pakistan love to follow Indian Soaps, Bollywood buzz, IPL, Indian sarees, fashion trends etc etc . Now it is time to follow their political movements too and learn some good lessons too).

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