Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anna Hazare’s methods for a stronger Lokpal: A radical or an unconstitutional move?

Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption, demanded for a stronger anti-corruption bill – The Janlokpal Bill. With several delays in the past for passing the bill, the team Anna was determined to bring the bill into an act and thereby had launched a gigantic protest gathering numerous citizens- as they call CIVIL SOCIETY, as supporters to push the government to legislate and implement the bill. Now as far as the gravity of the issue is concerned, Anna Saheb has done a tremendous job by bringing up the cause and has helped cause a fierce political debate engaging the apolitical ones. This has no doubt, led to an increase in the political and civic consciousness of the citizens. But down the line, there are many cons/objections that the crusader‘s means /methods to fight against corruption has raised.

With the ongoing saga of plentiful political scandals, the need for a Lokpal is pretty much evident in the Indian society and the recognition taken and the awareness created, of the issue, by the team Anna is commendable. But soon after that, they should have left the task of formulating the bill to the Government and Parliament at large. But, the team Anna was unsure of the Government’s and Parliament’s will over formulating and then implementing the bill. Therefore, the team came up with their own version of the bill, called – Jan lokpal Bill. Not only that, the Anna led team asked the Government to formulate a Joint- drafting committee, including five members from the Government and five members from the Civil Society to draft the Lokpal Bill. This is the very first unconstitutional move taken by the Anna led team. For, in Representative democracy like India, non-elected members cannot draft/formulate a law. Drafting of a law comes under the jurisdiction of the legislature. But, to decrease the furor, the Government agreed to formulate such a committee and also agreed to give this committee an official notification.

Secondly, the Anna led team, came up with nationwide protests in favour of their version of the bill be passed. Half the country’s population, having no political or legal knowledge to judge the accuracy of the proposed bill, blindly supported the movement and what was more disturbing was that instead of making the supporters understand the positives of the bill from legal and political perspectives, which would have worked for them, instead, the supporters were given inflammatory speeches against the government, they were made to wear Gandhian caps, certain catchy, short slogans of “I am Anna”, “Bill pass kar nahi to khursi chod”, were made, call was given for a hunger strike unto death for the cause of nation, supporters were made to believe that this fight for corruption is a second freedom struggle. All such acts/methods caught the imagination of teeming millions of urban middle class. Who decided to take the course of action without being critical of the repercussions of the means (Lokpal bill) to an end (corruption). The Jan Lok Pal bill is not a solution to the problem of corruption. It risks making matters worse. Hunger strikes are not the right means to promote a policy agenda in a constitutional democracy like ours. The promoters and supporters of Jan Lok Pal and the public agitation to achieve it are profoundly misguided.

To protest is still legitimate but to protest and go on a hunger strike unto death till their version of the bill be passed is resorting to blackmail the Government and then this is unconstitutional. The inability to formulate and implement the bill is no excuse for resorting to civil disobedience or, as it happens in other countries, calling in a dictatorship of the proletariat, the military or the priesthood. A bill of such a national importance cannot be passed within a certain time frame and moreover, pressurizing the government to pass or the movement and the fast will continue, is certainly, unconstitutional in nature.

Yet another ploy was sending e-mails and SMS that left innocent public bewildered by the amazing benefits they are going to get once corruption ends and black money stashed abroad is brought back. Check out this message: 1,456 lakh crore comes back?” India will “financially” be “number one”. Each village, we are told, will get R100 crore; there will be no need to pay electricity bills or taxes for the next 20 years; petrol will cost R25, milk R8; India’s borders “will become more stronger (sic) than the China Wall”; we can build 28,000 km of “rubber road (like in Paris)”; houses for 100 million people; 1,500 “Oxford-like universities”; 2,000 free hospitals. (Source: Hindustan Times) Thus there was a mad rush to click on the like buttons in facebook and follow buttons in twitter. More than, explaining the public about the positives of the bill from the accurate perspectives, the India Against Corruption team, resorted to such advertising and PR and social networking gimmicks as if the Lokpal bill was a commercial commodity to which the people were being attracted through such means.

There are several issues that can be pushed by similar individuals and groups who can draw a much bigger crowd. Some of these issues are recognised as desirable in the Directive Principles of our Constitution and have been dormant since 1950. The women's reservation bill appears to have the backing of all major political parties with a two-thirds majority in Parliament but it is yet to come up before the Lok Sabha and far from becoming a law. What will happen if some people start similar agitations seeking to get these measures passed as law within a given time? What will happen when someone goes on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar asking “total independence” for Kashmir and someone else sits on a similar fast demanding abolition of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir? Political maturity lies in the fact that solutions can be brought by dialogue and constitutional means rather than losing hope and resort to dharnas, hunger strikes and sheer blackmailing.

All in all, Hazare has achieved to have awakened a large number of urban populace to the urgency of curbing corruption. It would have been advisable for him to leave the matter to the Parliament and the government to come up with their solution and keep up the awareness campaign till the next election. He should contest the next election with his followers or force the political parties to adopt his solution in their manifesto and then canvass for them.

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