Punish the guilty. Period.
Prasanna Mohanty | January 31, 2011
‘March against corruption’ across several cities of the country last Sunday, which was spearheaded by RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and in which anti-corruption crusaders like Prashant Bhushan, JM Lyngdoh, JF Ribeiro and Medha Patkar, among others, participated, makes two broad points. One that corruption is no longer a non-issue and that people are angry enough to come out to the streets in thousands (about 25,000 participated in the march in Delhi, according to Kejriwal) to register their protests. And secondly, that a pitch is being laid for an eventual enactment of the Lokpal as the apex anti-corruption watchdog.
The last time corruption was a big issue and shook the establishment, leading to the enactment of the central vigilance commission (CVC), was in 1995 when the Jain Hawala scam broke out. Delhi-based businessmen, the Jain brothers – SK Jain, BK Jain and NK Jain – were accused of paying Rs 65 crore to political bigwigs that included LK Advani, Madan Lal Khurana, VC Shukla, Arif Khan, Sharad Yadav, Balram Jakhar, P Shiv Shankar and more than 100 others. A bulk of it was through the hawala routes and included suspected money transfer to the Hizbul Mujahideen militants. Vineet Narain, a journalist, spearheaded the crusade that led to a historic Hawala judgment of the supreme court – which prepared the ground for legislating CVC to insulate CBI and ED and fixed two years' term for the directors of CBI and ED.
Given the similarity of the run-up to the historic Hawala judgment, I called up Vineet Narain to ask if he participated in the march and if not why not. He said he did go to the function but walked away because he thought it would lead to nowhere, just as it was then in mid-90s.
Narain makes two broad points to justify his walkout. One, he says setting up an institution, Lokpal in this case and CVC in the earlier instance, will serve no purpose. “I had asked the supreme court at that time: What is the need for CVC? If you want to empower the CBI, give it autonomy!” He laments how the entire establishment got busied with preparing the CVC Act, ignoring the actual investigation and prosecution of the accused. The CBI didn’t provide evidence in the court, except for the Jain diaries which had mentioned details of the payment. The courts acquitted all the accused citing lack of independent corroborative evidence.
Narain also laments that had enough attention been paid to punishing the accused, things would have been different. “Did CVC make any difference?” he asks as he points to the fiasco over the appointment of current incumbent, PJ Thomas, and wonders aloud: “Who knows when the Lokpal will come into being and what kind of man will he be.”
Narain has a simple solution to fight corruption and illustrates it through a well-known quiz for the kids: After a hunter shoots and kills two of 100 birds sitting on a tree how many will be left on the tree?
He is for the hunter’s approach. Take up three or four high-profile corruption cases (and there are plenty of them now – 2G, CWG, Adarsh society, IPL, Swiss account etc), make exemplary cases of them by punishing the guilty and things will fall in place!
Last Friday, the prime-minister-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi addressed people on the corruption issue and said “systemic reforms” were needed to root it out. Earlier UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had forwarded her "5-point agenda" to fight corruption. Following this the prime minister set up an empowered Group of Minister (eGoM) under his number 2, Pranab Mukherjee, to find ways and means to do so. Kejriwal and others are batting for their version of the Lokpal bill.
But I would rather endorse Narain's: Forget eGoMs, systemic reforms and Lokpals. If you are serious, focus all your energy on fixing responsibilities and giving exemplary punishment to those involved in 2G, CWG, Adarsh society and other scams. That will scare away the birds of similar feathers!
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