Anna Hazare’s Cru­sade

Southasia - - The last stop - By Anees Jil­lani

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.

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