His fast-unto-death may be way to ensure greater say for people in policy-making
Prasanna Mohanty | April 8, 2011
The indefinite fast by 72-year-old social activist Anna Hazare is the beginning of a new phenomenon, which is, insistence of the civil society to have a decisive say in the way laws and policies are framed and finalised in the country. His fight is as much to bring about this shift as to fight corruption.
For quite some time, civil society activists, including some of the National Advisory Council members like Aruna Roy and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal have been asking the government to conduct pre-legislative, pre-policy formulation consultations with people in whose name such policies and laws are made. The government has ignored it.
The immediate provocation for Hazare to go on fast is to force the government to bring in an apex corruption watchdog, the Lokpal. For 42 long years, the government has been dithering on the Lokpal on of some or other pretext. Eight bills introduced in Lok Sabha ever since such a proposal was made by the administrative reforms commission headed by Morarji Desai in 1996 have lapsed. The real reason is, however, the reluctance of the political and administrative executive to subject themselves to a powerful watchdog.
Why Hazare wants redrafting of the Lokpal Bill
The latest draft of the Lokpal Bill is a toothless recommendatory body with no suo motu power to inquire into corruption. It only covers the political executive but not the bureaucracy.
Hazare and his associates want several changes. One, they want Lokpal to have suo motu power to register FIR, investigate and prosecute the suspects. Two, it should be an independent, permanent and constitutional body. Three, appointment of the Lokpal should involve consultation with people and transparent.
Why government is not willing
To begin with, the political parties don’t want a powerful corruption watchdog. Secondly, they don’t want people’s involvement in policy and law formulation as that would, they fear, encroach on their job of legislating laws and making policies.
Why Hazare is upset with GoM on Lokpal
Hazare has questioned the motive of the government by saying that since the GoM includes ministers who have serious corruption charges against them, including Sharad Pawar, he doesn’t expect the GoM to do an honest job.
What he wants
He wants equal representation of the civil society in the committee to redraft the bill. The ruling Congress party has dismissed this suggestion saying that there is no such precedent and it encroaches on the legislative’s domain.
Why the government said his fast is premature and unnecessary
This is ridiculous. Hazare was to go on fast on March 5. He deferred it for a month when the prime minister intervened. He went ahead with fast because he was unsatisfied with the response of the prime minister in his subsequent meeting. Besides, the demand for Lokpal has been going on since 1966. So, his demand is netiher premature nor unnecessary, especially when the UPA II government is beseized with several massive corruption cases - 2G scam, CWG scam, Isro spectrum scam, Adarsh scam and so on.
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