Civil society organisations and politicians protest against Modi government for weakening anti-corruption institutions and ask to strengthen accountability
Civil society organisations organised Ghotala Rath Yatra in Delhi to protest against Modi government’s alleged attempt to deliberately weaken anti-corruption institutions and its indifference towards introducing laws to strengthen accountability in the government machinery.
“Five years ago people came together for a mass movement to demand a law for setting up a Lokpal [parliamentary ombudsman]. It culminated in passing of the law in the Parliament. However, even after three years the government is yet to appoint Lokpal,” said Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer and president, Swaraj Abhiyan. The whistle blowers law was passed in 2014. This too hasn't been notified yet, he added.
He further said that the Modi government has destroyed the corruption watchdog: central vigilance commission (CVC) by appointing two corrupt officials at the commission. A proposed amendment in the prevention of corruption legislation requires investigation agencies including Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take prior permission from the government before probing any senior government official, he added.
The protest was organised by National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), Anti-Corruption Team (Swaraj Abhiyan), Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform (CJAR) and National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM). Among civil society activists and politicians present at Jantar Mantar were Aruna Roy, Prakash Karat, Yogendra Yadav, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bharadwaj.
“We all have heard about Bofors scandal. But Modi government presides over the biggest defence scandal in the history,” Bhushan said, referring to the Rafale fighter jets deal.
One year after being in the government, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said that one plane will cost Rs 900 crore. Later the cost was revised to Rs 1,700 crore per plane and a contract was given to a company owned by Anil Ambani that has no experience of making defence products.
“I wrote a letter to PM Modi, giving him details of the Rs 4,000 crore black money related to Anil Ambani. Nothing happened after that,” he said.
“The irony is that the BJP came to power promising zero tolerance towards corruption. Modi said, ‘Na Khaunga Na Khane Doonga’. Recently, the government passed a law which exempted public servants from disclosing property and assets owned by their spouse and family,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of the NCPRI.
The government has also made changes in the proposed whistleblower law wherein if a government official gives out information or makes a complaint he or she can be sentenced for 14 years, Bharadwaj said.
Aruna Roy, cofounder, MKSS, said that the government is trying to curb people’s right to freedom of expression and dissent. In Rajasthan, if a dharna has to be organised one first needs to seek government’s approval. The authorities demand an affidavit from the organisers that they would not speak anything against the government, Roy said.
She said that the government is trying to mislead people that machines will reduce corruption. “Aadhaar and Jan Dhan have failed to curb corruption and Rajasthan is an example,” she said.
She said that since Parliament sessions have started, the protesters would remain at the Jantar Mantar to remind the government of these demands towards bringing greater accountability in governance.
The protestors were present in few hundreds and came from different Delhi slums. They complained about the lack of access to clean and drinkable water and sanitation facility. A significant number of protesters were Yogendra Yadav supporters who had joined the rally to make it a success. They held placards, stating, “Adani Ambani Ke Karze Maaf, Kisano Ke Kyun Nahi”, ‘Appoint Lokpal’, ‘Pass Grievance Redressal Law’, amid slogans of “Modi Sarkar sharam karo, sharam karo”.