Political Corruption and Update on Anna Hazare

From The Hindu:

The government is now allowing activist Anna Hazare to carry on his fast for two weeks, and then they will ‘review’ the situation. Hazare says the government has not yet attempted to discuss the anti-corruption legislation with him.

Supporters of Hazare are asking why the government had the power to arrest Hazare and then release him two hours later, claiming that this reactive action was illegal, undemocratic and “smacks of dictatorial tendencies.”

Solidarity.

India has a history of corruption from the Prime Minister to the government schoolteachers. Corruption is a difficult thing to curb, as it is much easier to punish the act than it is to prevent it. Nevertheless, accountability is virtually non-existent in India. This bill aims to ameliorate this problem. It is a start to win back the trust of the people. A Lok Pal is an ombudsperson, a referee, a neutral rule-enforcer. This bill would install a lok pal with powers of investigation.

Activists from the Samajwadi Abhiyan (Socialist campaign) protest against Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi and Congress-led UPA government during a demonstration in 2006

(sify.com)

Take a look at this comparison chart to see how much the Lok Pal anti-corruption bill would improve:

Existing System

Lok Pal System Proposed 

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 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.

Peaceful Protest Against Govenment Corruption

from the Aug 16th New Indian Express

New Delhi:  The longtime Gandhian activist Anna Hazare has started a hunger strike on the anti-corruption bill that is in Indian Parliament now. This stand-off has grabbed headlines for a few weeks now, with Hazare threatening to hunger-strike. He started yesterday on Independence Day. Passerbys were surprised to see Hazare quietly meditating in the light rain, and quickly thousands of people gathered on the lawns of Gandhi’s samadhi in New Delhi. A few hours later, he was ‘preventively’ arrested by police, to the outcry of major political parties, NGOs and thousands of citizens, including the crowds outside the prison where Hazare is being held. By nightfall, the government backpedaled, issuing Hazare’s release. Parliament and the Prime Minister are in a tight spot, sitting on their hands for now.

The country is blowing up, with protests and demonstrations happening in cities everywhere. “Team Anna” is calling for government workers to not go to work today, while the government is predictably labeling this call to action as ‘the wrong call.’

In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh challenged Hazare’s tactics in his annual address to the nation, saying that  “We are taking the swiftest possible action in cases of corruption that have surfaced…we will put an end to such powers whenever possible…Hunger strikes do not solve the problem of corruption.”

Ok, then what will exactly? If the people do not put external pressure on their government, what will make legislators raise their heads and look up from their own self-interest and petty quibbles? I understand that doing things the right way, that the process is important, but sometimes a bit of urgency is necessary. Parliament wants Hazare to go away and let them do their jobs, but I would argue that paying some heed to the civil disobedience of the people is their job. This reminds me of the time that ASUO Senators got annoyed by OSPIRGers lobbying them for funding. It is your job to listen to your constituents, not only when you agree with them. I find it ironic that a day after celebrating India’s peacefully-won independence, the government is so quick to condemn the actions of someone who walks in the same footsteps as the freedom fighters of the 1940s.

Peaceful disobedience is much more powerful and scary for governments than violent riots, like those that have taken place in London.  Violent protesters do not hold much long-term credibility. In peaceful protests, all can participate, lving their enemies at the same time that they are pushing the envelope. Police efforts to subdue a peaceful crowd are seen as oppressors. Gandhi speaks beautifully of this power. From my new favorite book, Autobiography of a Yogi, the author Swami Yogananda talks to the Mahatma, or ‘great soul’:

“Non-violence is the natural outgrowth of the law of forgiveness and love. If loss of life becomes necessary in a righteous battle, one should be prepared, like Jesus, to shed his own, not others’ blood. Eventually there will be less blood spilt in the world.” 

He celebrated the beauty of President Wilson’s fourteen points, but said that he would reverse Wilson’s qualification that ‘we have our arms to fall back upon ‘if post WWI peace were to fail.’ “Our armaments have failed already. Let us now be in search of something new; let us try the force of love and God…we shall want nothing else.”