Anna Hazare – the New Gandhi ?

The biggest deterrent factor for small and medium businesses as well as larger companies in India is the prevalent corruption in the country. Wonderful technological innovations are coming out of the country and in the mean time, corruption is stemming the growth. It’s been a long time that someone in India has taken a strong initiative to battle corruption, Last week was the week of Anna Hazare. On Saturday morning (9th April 2010), Veteran social activist Anna Hazare broke his fast after over 90 hours of spearheading the campaign against corruption after government issued a gazette notification constituting a 10-member joint committee of ministers and civil society activists, including him, to draft an effective Lokpal Bill. But most of do not know who is this Man and What are the details of the bill, here is my attempt to provide some clarity.

1. Who is Anna Hazare?

An ex-army man. Fought 1965 Indo-Pak War

2. What’s so special about him?

He built a village Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahamad Nagar district, Maharashtra

3. A village, its not great right ?

This village is a self-sustained model village. Energy is produced in the village itself from solar power, biofuel and wind mills. In 1975, it used to be a poverty clad village. Now it is one of the richest village in India. It has become a model for self-sustained, eco-friendly & harmonic village.

4. Oh really,…?

This guy, Anna Hazare was awarded Padma Bhushan and is a known figure for his social activities.

5. What is he fighting for?

He is supporting a cause, the amendment of a law to curb corruption in India.

6. How that can be possible?

He is advocating for a Bill, The LokPal Bill (The Citizen Ombudsman Bill), that will form an autonomous authority who will make politicians (ministers), beurocrats (IAS/IPS) accountable for their deeds.

7. It’s an entirely new thing right..?

In 1972, the bill was proposed by then Law minister Mr. Shanti Bhushan. Since then it has been neglected by the politicians and some are trying to change the bill to suit their theft (corruption).

8. Oh.. He went on a hunger strike for that whole thing of passing a Bill ! How can that be possible in such a short span of time?

The first thing he is asking for is: the government should come forward and announce that the bill is going to be passed. Next, they make a joint committee to DRAFT the LOK PAL BILL. 50% goverment participation and 50% public participation. Because you can’t trust the government entirely for making such a bill which does not suit them.

9. Fine, What will happen when this bill is passed?

A LokPal will be appointed at the centre. He will have an autonomous charge, say like the Election Commission of India. In each and every state, Lokayukta will be appointed. The job is to bring all alleged party to trial in case of corruptions within 1 year. Within 2 years, the guilty will be punished. Not like, Bofors scam or Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, that has been going for last 25 years without any result.

10. Is he alone? Whoelse is there in the fight with Anna Hazare?

Baba Ramdev, Ex. IPS Kiran Bedi, Social Activist Swami Agnivesh, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and many more. Prominent personalities like Aamir Khan is supporting his cause. He needs more support. Here is a letter from Aamir Khan providing support for the movement.

Mumbai,
6th April, 2011.

Dear Mr. Hazare,

Over the last few days I have been following, through the media coverage,
news about your struggle against corruption and the fast that you have
undertaken.

I have been through your appeal.

I have been through the draft provided by the media of the government proposed Lokpal bill, which is under consideration of the government, which you are opposing.

Through the internet, I have also been through the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill as drafted by the members of the Civil Society, which you are supporting.

I would like you to know that I am amongst thousands who are fully supportive of your efforts. The crusade that you have begun is an extremely important one, and I would like to extend my support to you.

For your information, I have written to our Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh requesting him to pay heed to your appeal. I am attaching my letter to him for you to read.

You are an inspiration for the youth of this country and my prayers are with you.

Like the country has supported the Indian Cricket team in their struggle to win the World Cup, I hope and pray that your struggle, which is infinitely more important, and affects each and every one of us, will get an even greater support.

Jai Hind.

Yours sincerely,
Aamir Khan

For people in Karnataka, the Lokayukta is not really a new concept. Karnataka introduced a Lokayukta about 10 year ago, but the effectiveness of the gesture was reduced due to the powerlessness of the Lokayukta. On the other hand, some people within the Lokayukta began blackmailing politicians for personal gains, based on the position that they held. However, for lack of action, taking no action is even worse, Just to give a better idea on the Bill, here are some details of the bill noteworthy. This Bill is pending for over 42 years. The old bill needs to be amended and a stronger bill must be passed. some of the key points are mentioned below:

Existing System System Proposed by civil society
No politician or senior officer ever goes to jail despite huge evidence because Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) and CBI directly come under the government. Before starting investigation or initiating prosecution in any case, they have to take permission from the same bosses, against whom the case has to be investigated. Lokpal at centre and Lokayukta at state level will be independent bodies. ACB and CBI will be merged into these bodies. They will have power to initiate investigations and prosecution against any officer or politician without needing anyone’s permission. Investigation should be completed within 1 year and trial to get over in next 1 year. Within two years, the corrupt should go to jail.
No corrupt officer is dismissed from the job because Central Vigilance Commission, which is supposed to dismiss corrupt officers, is only an advisory body. Whenever it advises government to dismiss any senior corrupt officer, its advice is never implemented. Lokpal and Lokayukta will have complete powers to order dismissal of a corrupt officer. CVC and all departmental vigilance will be merged into Lokpal and state vigilance will be merged into Lokayukta.
No action is taken against corrupt judges because permission is required from the Chief Justice of India to even register an FIR against corrupt judges. Lokpal & Lokayukta shall have powers to investigate and prosecute any judge without needing anyone’s permission.
Nowhere to go – People expose corruption but no action is taken on their complaints. Lokpal & Lokayukta will have to enquire into and hear every complaint.
There is so much corruption within CBI and vigilance departments. Their functioning is so secret that it encourages corruption within these agencies. All investigations in Lokpal & Lokayukta shall be transparent. After completion of investigation, all case records shall be open to public.  Complaint against any staff of Lokpal & Lokayukta shall be enquired and punishment announced within two months.
Weak and corrupt people are appointed as heads of anti-corruption agencies. Politicians will have absolutely no say in selections of Chairperson and members of Lokpal & Lokayukta. Selections will take place through a transparent and public participatory process.
Citizens face harassment in government offices. Sometimes they are forced to pay bribes. One can only complaint to senior officers. No action is taken on complaints because senior officers also get their cut. Lokpal & Lokayukta will get public grievances resolved in time bound manner, impose a penalty of Rs 250 per day of delay to be deducted from the salary of guilty officer and award that amount as compensation to the aggrieved citizen.
Nothing in law to recover ill gotten wealth. A corrupt person can come out of jail and enjoy that money. Loss caused to the government due to corruption will be recovered from all accused.
Small punishment for corruption- Punishment for corruption is minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years. Enhanced punishment – The punishment would be minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment.

More details on teh bill can be seen here : http://indiaagainstcorruption.org/

When you look at it, this Bill is really long overdue, and needs to be bought into action. What it also brings into notice is the Indian system which does not have a review system, no cause and effect analysis done, and not even internal scrutiny from senior members in the Government. All the politicians are hand in glove when it comes to corruption. Adopting a Gandhian model of Hunger Strike, Anna Hazare has shown the Mahatma’s ways are still applicable in a ever changing world.

Like the video says, “Be the Change you want to see” and for this we as Indians need to change, we should not give bribes and take them. Although small and insignificant, gestures like spreading awareness about this bill, providing support to Mr. Hazare, through status messages on FB, sharing links and videos to help him in this cause will only benefit from all of us. There is one among us who has decided that it’s time to take matters of cleaning up the house, in our own hands. He needs help, and we need to give it. I know this post is kinda off topic, but seriously the need of the hour for India to progress is to address Corruption, like a disease.