Anna Hazare’s Crusade
SAARC should seriously consider introducing the Most Clumsy Award, to be given to a SAARC member country PM at the time of the annual summit. And this year’s award should obviously go to the Indian PM Manmohan Singh for his handling of Anna Hazare and the Lok Pal bill. Pakistanis need not worry as our PM Gilani will give him a tough fight for the award till the end.
It goes to the credit of our rulers that they introduced laws relating to accountability before the Indians. And our lawmakers did not take as much time as the Lok Sabha appears to take each time there is a slightly controversial piece of legislation, whether it is one relating to corruption or in respect of women’s representation in the Parliament.
This Lok Pal ( meaning Ombudsman) bill has been pending for 40 years and no government, including both Congress and the BJP-led ones, seriously tried to pass it. The draft of the law was introduced as an outcome of the findings of the Santhanam Committee for the Prevention of Corruption in 1966. All major political parties included the passage of the Lokpal bill in their election mani- festo, but none implemented it.
The current Lokpal draft is being criticized by its critics for failing to cover cases of corruption against the Prime Minister and the judiciary. Dissatisfied, a former judge of the Supreme Court, N. Santosh Hegde, and a lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, along with some members of India Against Corruption movement drafted an alternate bill, named as the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Anna Hazare (Kisan Baburao Hazare), a social activist born in 1938 and a recipient of Padma Bhushan in 1992 for his social activism, is calling for the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill or at least getting its salient features included in the government’s bill.
The Manmohan government first opposed Anna, then agreed to negotiate with him after forming a committee and then abruptly called off the talks and introduced its own version of the law in the Lok Sabha. It takes the position that it is the prerogative of the parliament and not of Anna and his supporters to make laws and that the latter cannot dictate to the legislature.
The hunger strikes by Anna for passage of the anti-corruption law are not the first in his life. He had gone on hunger strike in 2003 to get the Right to Information bill passed and more than getting the bill passed, he traveled about 12,000 km to create awareness about it. He was thus successful earlier and has partly already succeeded by at least getting the Lokpal Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha. His agitation is now relating to the loopholes in the law.
The government is at a loss to handle this former army truck driver who participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak war at the Sialkot sector. Anna is old and a prolonged hunger strike may threaten his health. At the same time, he cannot be allowed to succeed each time in blackmailing the government by fasting unto death.
But the media is with him. The people are not supporting him to as large an extent as being portrayed particularly by the news channels but the situation is obviously being exploited by the opposition and may escalate and get out of hand. The media is sticking with the issue and demonstrations by a few hundreds or thousands in Anna’s support is being given 24-hour coverage. The Congress media wizards instead of doing anything about it are adding fuel to the fire by themselves appearing on these channels to give their points of view. This is actually exacerbating the situation. The harm has already been done and the Manmohan sarkar is in a no-win situation. The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writing for various publications for more than 20 years and has authored several books.