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Issues Involved in Present Anti-Corruption Movement
A concept of Lokpal itself does not comprise institutional mechanism to annihilate corruption at all the levels and in every field. It is conceived, primarily, as a tool to check the corruption at high executive officer's level.
THE PRESENT anti-corruption movement has divided India into two categories. The usual ‘chalata hai’ type to ‘sare neta chor hai’ believers to ‘desh ke liye kuch karana hai’ aspirants to dedicated professionals to the romantic revolutionaries to sizable chunk of Aam Adami are in the seventh sky, firmly standing their ground on Jan Lokpal. The astonishing unity among them and pouring of support from all over has ignited a dream of total revolution among its leaders.  
Comparatively minority, but significant, sections of society are not only skeptical of the Jan Lokpal but highly critical of the movement led by Team Anna terming it as coercive to anti-constitutional to anti-democratic to anti-deprived sections. Interestingly, these critics, a highly political class in themselves, are neither supporter of the UPA government nor defending the incumbents in the power, even though the ruling party spokespersons are heavily borrowing arguments and terminology from them.  In the context of this intriguing division, it is imperative for all to revisit the issues involved in maximum dispassionate manner.
The core and only issue raised by the Team Anna is effective institution of Lokpal. Sporadically it speaks about electoral reforms, bringing back the black money and, now, of self-sufficient village centric economy. However, the mass support is generated around the Lokpal demand. Proposal of such ombudsperson has been doing round for last 40 years, however, successive governments had ducked the issue. Team Anna deserves credit for pressuring the Central Government to prepare and introduce a Lokpal bill in the Parliament.
At the same time, skeptics and critics have pointed out that the Lokpal is not a panacea and Team Anna is being accused of creating unnecessary hype around it. But, Anna Hazare, at least, does not differ with this opinion, who has said that Lokpal will curb corruption up to 65 per cent. The mass behind him is even not concerned with the percentage but want to see that corrupt are not enjoying the power, and if possible, being punished under the rule of law.
A concept of Lokpal itself does not comprise institutional mechanism to annihilate corruption at all the levels and in every field. It is conceived, primarily, as a tool to check the corruption at high executive offices and by the people holding high political positions; with the perception that Ganga of corruption flows from top to bottom, hence to shut its source at the top. Therefore, the first among the equals, Prime Minister of the country, cannot be exempted from the purview of the Lokpal.
On this point, Team Anna has scored a second goal as it has compelled major political parties to take position on Prime Minister’s inclusion. Left has always supported the inclusion, BJP and some other parties are forced to rally behind Team Anna on this matter and Congress vehemently opposing it. The ruling party’s argument that bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal’s purview will compromise the Chief Executive’s efficacy is fallacious. In fact, inclusion will provide an opportunity to the Prime Minister to continue in the office until Lokpal finds him guilty of prosecution.
Otherwise, in the absence of any mechanism for the Prime Minister, it will become necessary for him/her to step down to face enquiry once concrete allegations of corruption are leveled. Non-inclusion of Prime Minister will also set a wrong precedence culminating in exclusion of post of Chief Minister from the ambit of State Lokayukta.
On the other hand, it is erroneous; to expect from the critics and to demand from the proponents, that Lokpal should provide direct relief to poor who face corruption in day today life, much in petty and crony format. Lokpal is not meant to perform functions of anti-corruption squads in all the government and non-government departments and offices but is neither an obstacle in creating multiple mechanisms to curb corrupt practices at the ground level. 
Similarly, there is no point in bringing the NGOs and judiciary under its scanner even while sections of both are involved in monetary corruption to a great extent. The existing government mechanism, with the political will, is sufficient to tackle menace of corruption in NGO sector and the proposed National Judicial Commission can be tasked to deal with corruption in the judiciary. While Lokpal is for the Executives, different mechanisms required to evolve to maintain probity among different stake holders.
Conduct of elected legislatures inside the Legislative Bodies is another arena of tussle between the Government and the Team Anna. The autonomy and sovereignty of Parliament is non-compromising issue and the august Houses need to evolve more effective mechanism instead of bringing in any other party into its disputed matters.
Comprehensive electoral reforms will automatically reflect into better conduct of elected Members and the business of the Houses. This makes it imperative on the anti-corruption crusaders, who have catched the imagination of the nation, to diversify and broaden their demands rather than glorifying and hardening position on Jan Lokpal.
Lokpal’s mandate must be limited to the executives with CBI’s anti-corruption wing under its command. Apart from Lokpal, there is urgent necessity of initiating judicial accountability and transparency through National Judicial Commission and comprehensive electoral reforms to eliminate money power from elections. Sanity, probity and transparency at the top will certainly reflect in introducing various methods to curb corruption at the grass root level, like providing more teeth to RTI Act, easy and accessible banking for the poor and utilizing UID project to this effect etc.
Expecting and demanding everything from the Lokpal will either entirely dilute its functioning or turn him into an extra-Parliamentary, extra-judicial monster. On the other hand, articulation of demands for electoral and judicial reforms will increase the moral and numerical strength of present anti-corruption momentum that has already acquired a shape of mass movement.
This movement has thrown up two pertinent issues that will have bearing on democratic character of Indian state and society. One, can government arbitrarily curtail right to protest, that too of the protests by peaceful means? Two, what is and should be the law making process?
UPA government was caught on a wrong foot when it detained Anna Hazare and his associates. If the government was allowed to go ahead with its intension of disallowing peaceful protest, particularly the one deriving its authority from popular anger against widespread corruption at the upper power echelons, this precedence would be used in the future to curtail protesting rights of other sections and organizations. Unfortunately, many, championing the cause of poor, workers and deprived sections, could not visualize it. People did.
Anna phenomenon is temporary, the Indian state is permanent. Antagonism towards Team Anna’s methods and vocabulary, whether justified or not, must not have resulted in isolation of progressive people and organizations from the popular upsurge against corruption and trampling of democratic rights. On the other hand, what signal government’s high-handedness has given to those engaged in violent and armed conflict with the Indian State? It strengthens the perception that violence can only make the Indian state understand their demands and compels the government to invite them for negotiations.
Mass movements and people’s active participation in pressing certain demands with the government is part and parcel of democratic process. In many instances, it is precursor to birth of new political formations or parties. Rigidity in a democracy, forcefully restricting the protests and legally limiting the number of political players, is nothing but elected authoritarianism, which has been the character of Congress party since independence. It is but natural for the Congress, which has not been part of any mass movements since independence, to impress upon the people that law making is the sole priority of the elected representatives.
It is, indeed, the sovereign right of the Parliament to form, annul or amend the law. However, government is the agency that has to initiate law making process; therefore, any such demand is always directed towards it and not the Parliament. Apart from ruling party’s will, democratic governments all over the world initiates the law making process in the Parliament on two counts; directions or rulings of the Apex Court and popular demands that could be manifested in the form of mass movements and pressure groups.
Therefore, the debate over prerogatives of law making is not only misleading but subtly confines people’s political participation only in the election and voting process. This has serious implications for trade unions, farmers’ organizations, religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities and deprived sections.
Popular resentments in some of the European countries against the economic policies and popular uprisings in many Arab countries against despotic regimes, which are hailed by progressives sections in India, are not led by political parties or formations or directed by the Parliaments in those respective countries.
However, the same progressives seem to have separate yardstick for gauging legitimacy of the present popular protest in India. People not only have the right to protest when the bill is introduced in the Parliament but even after the bill becomes an Act and thus; in some cases becomes part of the Constitution, the people have the sovereign right to protest against it.
The present anti-corruption movement has come under scathing attack from some Dalit groups and intellectuals, which is robbing off its legitimacy to certain extent. The criticism is posed on two fronts; one, the anti-reservation sections are driving force behind anti-corruption mass mobilizations and, two, Satyagraha is a Gandhian tactic and hence unacceptable.
The Team Anna, much to the dismay of these intellectuals and organizations, has not taken any position on the issue of reservation. But it has not taken any position or formulated any demands vis-à-vis many other burning issues in Indian society. At the same time, Team Anna has not given any statement or formulated any demand, so far, against caste based reservation. Importantly, the present mass mobilizations are far bigger than the anti-reservation mobilizations that took place 4-5 years ago. The anti-reservation mobilizations, surely, affected effective implementation of reservation but has not resulted in change of government policy.
The political parties remained united on the necessity and utility of reservation policy. The scale of present anti-corruption mass mobilizations, on the other hand, has the potential not only to change the policies but the governments on the issue of corruption. Therefore, it is improper to compare it with anti-reservation movement.
The Team Anna also needs to understand that their movement is against corruption and any attempt to broaden its horizon into Total Revolution will confront with the issues that are beyond its comprehension and will weaken the anti-corruption momentum.
Gandhi and Satyagraha are anathema to dalit movement and left movement for historical reasons. As a result, they are maintaining uncomfortable distance from present anti-corruption mobilizations. However, objections of both the movements seem to be more to usage of symbols and terminology than to the form of the protest. The majority of dalits and mainstream left, like the present anti-corruption movement, are averse to armed conflict and sustained violence against the state.
Again, fasting, marches and sit-ins, called as satyagraha in Gandhian terminology, are not restricted to Gandhi and his movement alone. Bhagat Singh and his comrades, who undertook historic 63 days fast in the jail, were no way Gandhian.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar always resorted to democratic and constitutional means to challenge the rigid caste system. On this count, the Team Anna has drastically fallen short of creating inclusive symbols and terminology of the present anti-corruption movement. This is a long battle, and it is an opportune time, to rethink the tactics and make the anti-corruption movement ever larger and inclusive.
At a time, when UPA government is thoroughly exposed due to its neck-deep involvement in the scams and undemocratic attitude towards people’s demands, it is imperative for the entire progressive and democratic sections to stand against it, while constructively engaging in various forms with the present anti-corruption movement. Inability to do this will serve the purpose of authoritarian government and desperate right wingers.
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