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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Anna Hazare had better hasten slowly

The neck-or-nothing attitude of Anna Hazare and the other members of his team is threatening to make a dog's breakfast of the exercise undertaken jointly with the five Ministers from the side of the Government to hammer out a Lok Pal Bill. Both sides are reportedly at loggerheads over some issues which Anna's team considers non-negotiable but at which the Government side is baulking.

The first such issue is the question of inclusion of the PM within the ambit of the Bill. From all published accounts, the Government itself had agreed to bring the PM within the scope of the Bill and the version of the Bill as drafted by the Government well before Hazare went on his indefinite fast had a provision to that effect.

Apparently, the Government has gone back on it for fear that it will make the PM's office “dysfunctional” by irresponsible persons invoking the Lok Pal's investigative authority against it with frivolous and vexatious allegations.

The fear cannot be dismissed as unfounded. There are other ways of holding the PM to account. The laws of the land are applicable to the PM as much as they do to every other citizen.

When it comes to the pinch, and if his misdemeanour is serious enough, the Lok Sabha can take recourse to a motion of no confidence and in exceptionally grave cases, the President can withdraw his pleasure, which is tantamount to dismissing him.

The law can then take its course, as it did in the case of P.V.Narasimha Rao. My sincere advice to the civil society members of the Joint Committee is not to carry the dissension on this score to a breaking point.

The Hazare team is not at all justified in insisting on empowering Lok Pal to inquire into the functioning of MPs within Parliament. The conduct of MPs within the confines of Parliament belongs entirely to the jurisdiction of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, as the case may be.

Such demands will only hold up the civil society members in a poor light, besides damaging their credibility.

As regards the judiciary, there is already a Bill to constitute a National Judicial Commission, and the aim should rather be to incorporate in it all the systems and sanctions leading to transparency in the selection and appointment of judges, enforcement of accountability to the people and quick action within a specified time frame on complaints of corruption and other types of misconduct.


The Hazare team is also impractical in demanding that the Lok Pal should be able to take action against all the thousands of officials of the Government at all levels all over India.

He will be caught up in wild goose chases in no time. His authority should extend only to administrative levels of Joint Secretary and above and to politicians in decision-making positions.

Likewise, taking up matters of day-to-day governance will simply drown him in minutiae. The Lok Pal's charter should be unrelentingly focused on eradication of corruption and he should have nothing to do with matters extraneous to it.

The Hazare team is wrong in presuming that a Lok Pal, to be strong and effective, ought to have under his overlordship all three branches of the Government, and the Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. At the most, he can have a small and compact investigative setup of his own to pursue cases coming to his notice.

The civil society members should curb their tendency to be overambitious. They should make a modest start and let the Lok Pal prove his mettle. By being wholehoggers, they will only have their good sense and judgment called into question. They should bear in mind that making the Lok Pal a sovereign and super-ordinate authority overstretched in every possible direction is the surest way of bogging him down and making him ineffective and weak

Is the govt afraid of Baba Ramdev?

The yoga guru has launched an agitation against black money stored in tax havens abroad and corruption. Now this might seem very close to what Anna Hazare started, but this time around the government is paying close attention and are doing everything they can to prevent him from going on a hunger strike. We discuss, is the government really afraid of Baba Ramdev?

Arrive at a meeting point

The efforts to draft a Lokpal bill acceptable to both the government and the civil society activists led by Anna Hazare seem to be going round and round the mulberry bush with the two sides seemingly unable to come to any agreement. The sticking point is the category of people who will come within the ambit of the bill. The government after initially going along with the demands of the Hazare-led group seems to have had a change of heart on including the higher judiciary, the actions of MPs inside Parliament and the prime minister in the bill.

This once again raises the contentious issue of bringing the judiciary into the public domain of accountability. Then there is the issue of the prime minister. He himself has in the past signalled his willingness to have his office open to scrutiny.

The government has to think of a way of getting around the possibility of the lokpal making the Prime Minister dysfunctional and his office eing hobbled by motivated charges. The government, which is on the ropes after a series of ugly corruption scandals, should not be seen to be obstructionist in setting up a mechanism which will ensure greater transparency and accountability.

The judiciary itself should perhaps come forward and accept that it should be monitored by an external body rather than plump for the government’s proposal of self-regulation. This could be observed more in the breach than the norm and will do nothing to add to the weight and credibility of the judiciary.

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, there is every likelihood that the June 6 meeting will result in a further hardening of positions. This could mean that the next session of Parliament will be held hostage to this issue.

However, the Lokpal has to have a clear line of command and has to be accountable. At the moment, the whole concept seems to be floating above the fray, fuelled only by the noble motive of cleaning up public life. If there is no accountability mechanism, the Lokpal could be subject to misuse and its value undermined.

However recalcitrant the government may be, Hazare and his followers would be well advised not to take to the streets as they have threatened.

Far-reaching legislations like the Lokpal can only be crafted after negotiations, gruelling though they may be, and not solely through agitational politics. Both sides have to come back to the drawing board with new suggestions on how to get around the sticking points.

The initial meeting may have been ‘disastrous’ but this should only spur both sides to stop moving on parallel tracks and work out a meeting point some way ahead.

Govt pacifies Ramdev, talks tough to Anna

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made an appeal to yoga guru Ramdev to call off his fast against black money. The appeal came after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee wrote to Ramdev on the efforts taken by the government to combat black money.
While the government has been aggressively pacifying Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare has been hearing some straight talk from the government.
At the heart of the dispute is whether the Prime Minister should come under the purview of the Lokpal Bill. While Anna and most of his team remain adamant on that demand, Baba Ramdev has shown some flexibility by saying that the Prime Minister and higher judiciary should be kept away from the Lokpal purview.
"All people holding constitutional posts should come under the Lokpal Bill. The inclusion of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India is a tricky question. If questions are raised on the integrity of a person sitting at the head of a democracy, then how will democracy survive? And if you doubt the head of the judicial system then how can you assume that the Lokayukta will be more honest?" Ramdev said.
These words by Baba Ramdev were like music to the ears of the UPA, which has been working overtime to break the ranks of the civil society groups. Within no time, the yoga guru's statement was interpreted by the government nominees on the Lokpal group of ministers as a split within the civil society.
Home Minister P Chidambram said, "There is no unanimity within the civil rights groups themselves on the crucial question of the Prime Minister being kept within the Lokpal or not."
Having paid a price for one fast, the government is edgy over Ramdev. Government sources are confident of stopping Ramdev and that they won't get it wrong again.
The BJP too got into the act with the party president writing a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to consider Ramdev's blackmoney campaign seriously. However, the BJP also stated that it was in favour of the Prime Minister being brought under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, "When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, he said that the Prime Minister should be brought under the ambit of Lokpal."
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has now written to all state Chief Ministers seeking their views on the matter. This comes as an indication that the government believes it has the upper hand in this battle.

Hazare asked to leave Swami Agnivesh

HARIDWAR: An apex body of sadhus and seers on Tuesday appealed to social activist Anna Hazare to leave the company of Swami Agnivesh as he had made "objectionable remarks" against a holy Hindu shrine.

"Agnivesh have made objectionable remarks on Baba Amarnath and its devotees. So he would not be allowed to enter in the forthcoming Kumbh Mela to be held in Prayag," Akil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP) spokesman Baba Hathygi said.

He also said Swami Agnivesh should be booked under the charges of sedition.

Agnivesh, one of the key activists associated with corruption crusader Anna Hazare, was recently heckled by a man at a public meeting for his remarks on Amarnath shrine.

Nitish Transfers IG (Jail) & DM After Killing Of A Jail Doctor

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered the transfer of two top officials in connection with the murder of a doctor by the inmates of a Gopalganj jail.

"It is a serious lapse on the part of the jail administration...there are several flaws cited in the inquiry report," Kumar said.

"I have taken the matter seriously and acted tough on the basis of the inquiry report of principal secretary (Home) Amir Subhani into the killing of a doctor in Gopalganj jail by inmates," he said.

Anand Kishore would be the new IG (Jail) replacing Ramesh Lal while Pankaj Kumar would be the new district magistrate of Gopalganj in place of Pankaj Kumar Pal.

Kumar said the state government would provide a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the bereaved family.

Why India needs an Arab Spring

India's democratic institutions are failing just as miserably as governments from Tunisia to Libya, Ranjani Iyer Mohanty argues in the Atlantic. And as voting has failed to do the trick, an Arab Spring-style revolution is needed to initiate change.

Here's Mohanty:

Indian students shout anti-corruption slogans in support of veteran Indian social activist, Anna Hazare at a garden in Amritsar on April 8, 2011. Indian social activist, Anna Hazare, who entered the fouth day of his indefinite hunger strike, has vowed to keep fasting to push for changes to a draft bill facilitating corruption complaints against the prime minister and cabinet. Hazare complained that the draft of the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill was formulated without the input of civil society groups and had been watered down by ministers

Those [same] failed government institutions, morally corrupt or at least morally inept, certainly exist here [in India] as well. Last year alone, the Indian government was implicated in corruption scams that amounted to billions of dollars swindled from the public. Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index ranks India at 87 -- below Serbia, Colombia, and even China. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, ranks 59. Even the families living under the overpass need to pay off the police to allow them to remain there.

India's failed institutions also include those that fail in their role of looking after a large section of the population. Two formal reports have independently estimated the proportion of Indians living below the poverty line as 77 and 50 percent, though the Indian government touts a third report, which found a more palatable 37 percent. But even this figure would put some 420 million Indians in poverty. Other statistics are equally galling. Even among BRICS -- the informal community of developing economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- India lags behind the other nations in, for example, literacy among women and girls in secondary school. The latest Global Hunger Index ranks India as 67 out of 84 countries -- far below neighbors China at number 9, Sri Lanka at 39, Pakistan at 52, and Nepal at 56. UNICEF reports that some 56 percent of Indian adolescent girls are anemic and 42 percent of children under the age of five are underweight. And food prices are rising.

There is a growing disconnect between India's affluent and its poor. One man who has lived in Delhi all his life told me icily that there are no beggars on the streets here. Is he being defensive, or has he just stopped noticing them? An elderly woman complains that servants are no longer what they used to be, i.e., content with their lot. They are demanding time off, asking for raises, and trying to buy a scooter. A well-to-do Indian family of four could easily spend on one dinner at a nice restaurant the equivalent of their housekeeper's monthly wages. A coffee in one of the city's elegant five-star hotels costs the same as one day's wages for the woman digging the ditch just outside in the sun, while her toddler sits bare-bottomed on the pile of rubble.

I have some sympathy for this view, of course. Democracy in India can seem like a revolving door -- as one corrupt and incompetent pol clocks out, another one clocks in, and no proof of wrongdoing is enough to kill a career.  But Mohanty may be looking to the wrong revolutionaries for a model. What's India after a dramatic call against corruption pulls down the government?  Some months back I was reading similar articles about Pakistan.... Why can't Pakistan have a jasmine revolution etc.  I said, it has, at least three times. Most recently, the anti-corruption lobby got itself General Pervez Musharraf.  Or maybe most recently the revolutionaries got rid of Musharraf and got Asif Ali Zardari.  But you see where I'm going here...

I'll go out on a limb and say the revolution is underway in India, but the one that will make the difference isn't being fought in the jungles with the Maoists or on the streets with Anna Hazare's corruption protesters.  It's being fought by newly emerging civil society groups that are creating the framework of democracy that is too often ignored -- institutions that are providing information that the media has not about the financial assets and activities of politicians, independent data and new ideas about India's big problems (poverty, food, education) and so on.

Professionals join Hazare’s war against corruption, form NGO

Very soon the following message will be seen in government offices: “We do not encourage corruption. We expect the same from you.” A group of professionals and housewives have decided to place this message on the desks of government officials to stop corrupt activities.

Inspired by Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, a group of professionals and housewives has decided to make June a corruption-free month. They have called it “One voice” as they aim to bring people from different fields and various organisations together and take a stand into making it a least corrupt nation.

This initiative was taken by Bhavik Mehta, a chartered accountant who discussed the idea with his friends and colleagues, and they decided to come together to work for the same. The word was spread and they are now a group of 100 along with the support of a few NGOs.

“We have decided to approach government officials and make them display our anti-corruption pledge on their desks. With this pledge in front of their eyes, they might feel guilty while accepting bribes,” says Rupal Desai, a housewife and supporter of this movement.

“We have collaborated with various organisations like Youth Against Corruption and have started a group on Facebook as well. We are trying to rope in as many people as possible and the first step will be to have a blood donation camp wherein every individual will sign an anti-corruption pledge and donate blood,” says Bhavik Mehta.

Rahul Shah, another team member said, “Organising this blood camp will not only help in spreading awareness about anti-corruption but will also help blood banks in the future. Other than these blood donation camps, starting from June 1, individuals can pin messages about staying corruption-free to their shirts throughout the month of June.”

Team members of the drive have unanimously decided to continue with it, even after the month of June, by organising integrity workshops in various government organisations and by carrying out peaceful protests outside government departments to bring awareness about corruption.

Nagpurians against corruption

NAGPUR: The clarion call given by Anna Hazare against corruption is resounding in Nagpur too. Earlier during his fast unto death stir, some citizens had taken out rallies and announced their unconditional support for the cause. However, now they have decided to launch a crusade against corruption on sustained basis.

People generally tend to enjoy their weekends either by hanging out with friends or catching up with the latest movies running in theatres. But some alert citizens of the city decided to utilize it in a novel way for a noble cause. The members of Indian Against Corruption (IAC) launched a drive on Saturday at Futala lake to spread awareness against anti-corruption.

They distributed pamphlets, stickers and badges to create awareness against corruption. Many people including college going students, doctors, lawyers, professionals, and bank employees showed zeal in allowing IAC Nagpur chapter members to stick stickers with the slogan "I am Anna Hazare - Stop Corruption" on their vehicles. But as usual lack of awareness and interest was evident when many four-wheeler drivers sped away. This did not deter the members and they pledged to continue their fight against corruption by drawing inspiration from social activist Hazare.

Three post graduate students of Nagpur University - Juhi Rai, Neelam Panjani and Archana Shinde - expressed concern over rampant corruption in every government office. They said it was unfortunate that people facing corruption charges were supporting Anna Hazare's agitation.

They further pointed out that people should fight against corruption to save the country. They called upon the youth to do their bit to curb the menace.

Not only students, but also teachers were seen actively participating in the drive to create awareness. A professor from Ramdevbaba Kamla Nehru Engineering College, Rajesh Raut, also took part in the campaign. He was seen explaining the nuances of Lokpal Bill. "If this Bill comes into force, the politicians won't be able to buy votes. I am the one who is being cheated, so I should take up the fight against corruption and campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill," he was found explaining this to many passersby.

Raut told TOI that it is the responsibility of every citizen to fight against corruption. Adman, Sanjay Arora, and Janmanch secretary, Rajiv Jagtap, who were present there, said that it is high time that all should stand up and fight against corruption.

About the response, Arora said though the response is not high, the activists are not disheartened as each brick slowly builds a house.

Ajay Singhi of IAC Nagpur chapter said the drive was launched across 200 cities in the country. It is a part of the national movement led by anti-corruption crusader for enacting a strong anti-corruption law in the form of Jan Lokpal Bill at the Centre and Jan Lokayukta Bill in the States. The entire country, including Nagpur, has supported the movement in a big way, said another member Ram Kumar Dubey.

Anup Dave, another active member of the chapter appealed to the people to join the movement by visiting the website - . He said that they can also follow the movement in facebook and twitter. Besides this, the IAC Nagpur is going to organize similar programmes outside government offices, said Singhi.

VS comes in support of Hazare

KOCHI: Once again V S Achuthanandan has voiced his strong affinity towards Anna Hazare. Even after the CPM leadership came down with strong criticism against Hazare, Achuthanandan reiterated his support to the Gandhian stating that Hazare’s hunger strike gave birth to a major move against corruption.
V S Achuthanandan told reporters here on Sunday that even while admitting the limitations for Hazare’s hunger strike, its ability to intervene in major issues cannot be neglected.
“The hunger strike by Hazare for Jan Lok Pal Bill gave birth to a major anti-corruption move across the country. Lakhs of youths, professionals and public who have not heard about Hazare joined the move. When the public protest became stronger the Prime Minister was forced to appoint a committee for Lok Pal Bill. It’s true that there are limitations for the fighting methods of people like Hazare. But its capability to intervene in issues cannot be neglected. Even though there is a negative side of staying away from party politics, Hazare’s strike could create a move against corruption in the Indian politics,” Achuthanandan said.
On the contrary stand taken by the CPM in the Hazare issue, Achuthanandan said, “being a Gandhian, he certainly has his own limitations. But even within his limitations he has staged a tremendous fight against corruption, which is surely appreciable.”

Sachin scores over Thackeray, Pawar, Anna

Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar has been voted as the most dynamic Maharashtrian by a survey conducted in the city recently. If around 12% respondents rated Sachin as the most dynamic Maharashtrian, Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar missed the coveted tag by one notch. The recent face of "divisive" regional politics, Raj Thackeray, who snatched the Marathi manoos plank from his uncle and Shiv Sena supremo, was ranked third with a paltry 7% votes. Other notable nominees for the coveted tag were Shivaji Maharaj, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Anna Hazare.
Among other startling facts that came forth during the survey -- conducted by students of the Rotaract Club of NM College -- includes that around 1/3 people, living in the city for the past 25 years, don't know that Maharashtra Day is celebrated on May 1.
The main motto of the survey was to find how much do people really know about the state and what do they feel about their city. 12 students of NM College interviewed around 524 people from different age groups and professions such as housewives, students, employees and businessmen in the last fortnight. The survey, which covered areas from Kalyan to CST and Virar to Churchgate, got some astounding yet candid answers.

The questionnaire included: When is Maharashtra Day? For how many years have you been staying in Mumbai? What is the most promising change you have seen since then? What do you think attracts people to Mumbai? Rate corruption in Maharashtra. Should Mumbai be made a separate state/union territory? What is special about Maharashtra? Who is the most dynamic Maharashtrian? Has inflation in India affected you and name the one thing that symbolises Mumbai and Maharashtra.
Shrey Jain, president of Rotract Club of NM College and third year BCom student, said, the survey called Jai Maharashtra was conducted by students aged between 16 and 19 years. They had prepared a brief questionnaire, which had eight questions in total. The survey was conducted at workplaces, malls, local trains, shops and colleges.
Taking strong exception to people's ignorance about the state and city, Isha Ayar, another member of the club, said, "Many people staying here don't respect our city and don't know its history. It is very important to respect the place where you stay and know its history and geography." According to the survey findings, only 65.72% people knew that Maharashtra Day is celebrated on May 1, the rest either did not know the correct date or had no clue about it.
Around 32% interviewees said that the Mumbai's food symbolises the city, while 27.20% thought is local trains, 17.87% voted for the sea link, 12.32% vouched for the city's night life. A staggering 48.28% people answered in the affirmative when asked if Mumbai should be made a separate state or a union territory.
Around 30% people come to the city as it provides better job opportunities, while 17.63 % said welcoming nature of the Mumbaikars attract outsiders. A skeletal 5.6% respondents said that Bollywood and the glamour quotient attracted them to the maximum city.
When asked to rate corruption in the state, around 66% people said graft was at its peak in the state. People are so upset with the string of corruption in the state that around 1/3 respondents termed corruption the most special thing of Maharashtra when asked about the most striking feature of the state. On inflation, 79.47% people agreed that inflation had affected their day-to-day life.

School students want prohibition lifted in state

VADODARA: Rights activist Anna Hazare may have recently criticised easy availability of liquor in Gujarat despite prohibition rules, but a group of students from the city have taken a stand completely opposite to the activist. These students have made a short-film - probably first on prohibition issue - to highlight the hypocrisy in the name of Mahatma Gandhi.

Two students and one alumnus from Navrachna School have made a short film that talks about how lifting liquor ban will benefit people and also help fill government coffers. The film has people's opinion from the city and also from Ahmedabad. "We are not against state government or its policies. Our view is that if the government has drawn up a policy then it should implement it effectively. If prohibition policy is not being followed properly then what's the use of having it?" questioned 17-year-old Avrit Golani.

"We decided to make a short film on the issue as it is the best and effective medium of reaching the message to people. It is our first experience in film making and we have learnt a lot after meeting people from all walks of life," Golani added.

The other students who are part of the short film making are Jonathan Lopes, 17, and Nupur Patel, 18. They sought opinions of dozens of people from the city and Ahmedabad about prohibition law and most of the respondents said that the law should be lifted. "It is a known fact that liquor is sold in our state. And, the prohibition law encourages sale of sub-standard liquor that affects health of citizens. By lifting prohibition, state government too will earn hefty revenues," said Patel.

The film will be screened to a select audience at M-Cube Mall on June 10 and the group plans to make more such films in future. "It took us one and half months to make this film. We got support from Rajiv Patel who too has been holding demonstrations to lift prohibition," Golani said.

The Anna conundrum

Once the shining light in India's crusade against the corrupt, is Anna Hazare slowly turning into a political yo-yo?

He came as a breath of fresh air in the dank quagmire of India's politics of corruption; he showed that change, once seemingly impossible, was only limited by resolve.

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it," said Paulo Coelho in his 'The Alchemist'. Anna Hazare proved it.

The 73-year-old activist's three-day fast took the country by storm, and managed to push an anti-corruption bill of, for, and by the people into the collective consciousness of one billion.

But now, two months after that historic fast-unto-death, holes have appeared in the Anna Hazare phenomenon. Anna called his fast the "second struggle for independence". It is now overshadowed by the great Medussa that is Indian politics.

It began with Narendra Modi. During his fast, Anna Hazare heaped praise on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The work done by Narendra Modi (and Nitish Kumar) should be done by chief ministers of all states, the veteran Gandhian said.

This glowing praise drew sharp criticism from media activists and the Congress alike. Digvijay Singh, the Congress general secretary, said, "There is no forum in Gujarat where people can complain against corruption. There are so many other allegations against Narendra Modi and his government, how can he be termed an honest man?"

45 days later, in the eye of a media storm, Anna backtracked.

Calling the nation to fight corruption

BANGALORE: Social activist Anna Hazare along with Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh, called upon Art of Living Founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to urge thousands of people gathered to stand strong against corruption.
The gathering was addressed at The Art of Living International Centre. Thanking the spiritual leader and thousands of volunteers for their immense support and guidance, Anna Hazare said, “Every single person should encourage others to join the movement and work for a corruption-free India. To lead the fight against corruption it  is important to abide by five things — good values, a clean background, love and courage to face insults and sacrifice. “
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar present at the event said, “Corruption begins where belongingness ends. What belongs to you will come your way, so make an honest living.”
Expressing his gratitude to Sri Sri, Arvind Kejriwal shared, “We didn’t know this fight would become so big. I thank The Art of Living and Sri Sri who guided us on every step.” Addressing the gathering, Swami Agnivesh said, “It is time now, we come together and wipe off corruption from the country with support of the common man and strive towards becoming a prosperous nation.” Anna also launched a book titled You-Turn India, written by Dr DK and Dr Hema Hari. The book focuses on the three waves of plunder that India has gone through — one during Mohammad Gauri, second during the British era and the third by the Indians themselves.
The Art of Living centers had played a vital role by participating in ‘India Against Corruption’ rallies in places like Shimla, Indore, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Nasik, and many areas of Uttar Pradesh.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Lokpal wants to probe bribe charges against MPs in House

In an ambitious proposal bound to raise eyebrows, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s team has asked for the proposed Lokpal to be empowered to probe the bribery allegations against MPs in return for asking questions, or voting inside Parliament after receiving gratifications. This surprising proposal is part of the fresh addition to their version of basic principles of the anti-graft Lokpal bill, which are expected to be taken up for discussion by the 10-member joint drafting panel on Monday.

“We want the misconduct of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, within the Parliament, in case it amounts to be an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, to be brought under the purview of the Lokpal,” states the document submitted to the government.

In its earlier draft, Hazare’s team had proposed that the Lokpal would only conduct any probe against MPs in case the matter was forwarded by the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha chairman.

It has, however, changed its position, “following the feedback from the public which wants strong action against corrupt MPs”, said a civil society member of the joint panel.

The move to allow the proposed Lokpal to probe complaints of graft against the MPs for their alleged wrongdoings inside Parliament could have far reaching consequences.

MPs, at present, enjoy immunity for their actions inside Parliament under article 105 of the constitution.

Though civil society activists are hopeful of finding the necessary political support for their drastic proposal, it will have to cross many hurdles. First, it remains to be seen how the government team in the joint panel will react to it.

Next, in case both sides agree to put it in the draft bill and the bill is introduced in Parliament with this contentious clause, for it to become a reality, the constitution would have to be amended.

A constitutional amendment has to be passed by a majority of two-thirds MPs in both houses of Parliament.

PM is good person but Sonia creating problems: Hazare


Anti-graft activist Anna Hazare today appeared to target Congress President Sonia Gandhi, saying "remote control" is creating "problems" even as he praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a "good person".

"Prime Minister is a good person. Prime Minister is not bad. Problem comes because of the remote control," he told a public meeting, in an obvious reference to the Congress President without naming her.

Then he went on to say: "Now, we are all confident that in every government, people's power is the strongest."

Hazare said if the Lokpal bill is not enacted by August 16, he would return to Jantar Mantar to hold fast-to-death protest and urged people of Karnataka for a "jail-bharo" (fill prison movement) then.

He also said six ministers had to resign because of his campaign. Without naming them, he said these six tried to take "revenge" on him but could not touch him because he was not tainted at all.

Dump NAC’s communal bill

In the wake of Anna Hazare’s recent fast over the Jan Lokpal Bill (which has some serious flaws), some angry critics asked: “Who are these unelected civil society representatives to coerce a democratically elected government to pass a particular law? They have no faith in the Constitution.” What these critics conveniently overlooked is that the UPA government itself has institutionalised a body of unelected representatives of civil society, the National Advisory Council, with the specific mandate to “provide policy and legislative inputs to Government.” There is no provision for NAC in the Constitution, and certainly not for a body whose chairperson wields more effective power than the Prime Minister himself. No doubt, some of its individual members are distinguished personalities from the domain of social-sector development, but the concept of NAC is nothing but an unconcealed and unacceptable deviation from the Constitutional scheme of governance and law-making.

In spite of enjoying enormous clout in policy review and law-making, NAC’s own functioning has, so far, never been subjected to any review by Parliament. Precisely because NAC and its chairperson enjoy authority without accountability, its policy pronouncements and draft bills exert subtle and not-so-subtle coercive pressure on the government. Have you ever heard a single Congress minister, MP or senior government official criticising NAC on any matter?

If Sonia Gandhi wanted her party to interface with civil society organisations and to use their inputs to provide suitable advice to government, it would have been laudable. After all, political parties (BJP included), their elected representatives and bureaucrats rarely seek policy and governance ideas from civil society groups. But she has done next to nothing to strengthen the interface between civil society and her own party and its MPs, MLAs and state governments. She has also done next to nothing to get her MPs and MLAs to better perform their primary functions of law-making, policy-review and monitoring of governmental activities. What she and the UPA government have done is to disempower MPs and empower an extra-Constitutional body in something as basic as drafting of legislations and reviewing the government’s flagship programmes. And this body claims to have expertise on diverse issues ranging from communal politics to land acquisition! Although NAC calls itself ‘National’, it is not broadbased in its membership and working groups, nor in its consultation with civil society organisations of varied ideological persuasions.

With these prefatory remarks on NAC, I draw readers’ attention to one of the most dangerous, discriminatory and ill-conceived draft bills ever to come up for consideration of the Union Cabinet since Independence. The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, prepared by NAC and cleared by its chairperson, reeks of the mindset of minority communalism, which the Congress has frequently appeased for vote-bank considerations. Some critics have slammed the bill for infringing on the powers of state governments. A valid criticism. However, the bill’s real danger lies in the fact that it holds individuals and organisations of only the majority community, and never the minority community, responsible for any communal violence. Thus, the perpetrators of the torching of the train at Godhra would not be covered under this proposed law, nor would those foreign-funded church organisations who are indulging in systematic conversion of the SCs, STs and the other poor in Hindu society based on clandestine hate propaganda against Hinduism. (They never target the Muslim poor since the repercussions of doing so would be predictable.) Stigmatising the majority community as ipso facto a victimiser in any incident of communal violence, irrespective of the facts of the case, and declaring members of a minority community to be always innocent victims is a perversion of all canons of law, besides being a terrible blow to India’s national unity and integrity. NAC’s law would not cover Shia-Sunni conflicts, nor incidents like the chopping of the hand of a Christian professor in Kerala last year by a Muslim radical group, since both the victim and the victimiser in such cases belong to minority communities. Similarly, it would not consider the derogative description of Hindus as kafirs and heathens as hate speech. It would also condone widespread discriminatory activities by minority educational institutions—something that prompted Sandeep Dikshit, a Congress MP and son of Delhi’s chief minister, to describe St Stephen’s College a “communal institution”. As regards the draconian punitive provisions proposed by NAC, they are an affront to a democratic state and society. The bill’s basic conceptual flaw is that it equates communal violence with terrorist violence. But none should be surprised if the Congress, which opposed an anti-terror law tooth and nail until 26/11, backs NAC’s politically motivated bill without the slightest demur.

Communal violence is a blot on India, irrespective of whether members of community A, B or C get killed. It must be put down with a heavy hand, irrespective of whether it is fomented by Hindu or non-Hindu communal organisations. But let us also remember that there are many effective ways, in addition to sincere implementation of the existing laws, to neutralise the poison of communalism. India’s age-old plural social-cultural-spiritual traditions provide rich and reliable resources to promote inter-faith harmony and peace. It is sad to see that the Congress party, which was once a natural political manifestation of these nationalistic traditions, is about to fall prey to a toxic legislative enterprise by a cabal of Hindu-bashing activists.

32 lakh netizens join Baba Ramdev's campaign against corruption

New Delhi: Ignoring the government's peace overtures, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev is determined to go ahead with what he calls a satyagraha against corruption and black money.

He plans to go on an indefinite fast from June 4 demanding that the government bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad.

His followers seem to be emulating social activist Anna Hazare and are going all out to drum up public support. Over 32 lakh people are believed to have registered for the nationwide campaign.

The government has briefed Ramdev about steps being taken to recover black money and the legal hurdles involved. The government says that even the suggestions made by the yoga guru have been incorporated.

"And so the satyagraha that we are starting on 4th, I just want to say that whatever they have consented to on certain issues, the fact is it's stuck within time and system. How will this black money come back?" Baba Ramdev said.

"We are waiting for the ratification of the UN convention in which there are 71 articles and according to that all the rules and regulations will be made. What I have spoken to government is all about black money and how this black money can be brought back," he added.

The newly formed ministerial panel on media met to discuss what could become another headache for the government.

After the public response to Anna Hazare's campaign, the government had to give in to the activists' demands- a repeat of that could prove costly for the them.

Some in the government feel such protests should be sternly dealt with while others feel the government must do all to convince Ramdev.

"Although, we meaning the Government or Congress party is not obliged to go to any individual, we have made it very clear, including the individual's name you are taking that every action in the field of corruption, elimination, control, reduction is happening. There is no magic button," Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Spokesperson, Congress said.

However, it waits to be seen if Baba Ramdev will be able to build the kind of momentum that Anna Hazare's campaign did.

"We are supporting Ramdev Baba, whoever stands to fight corruption it is important to support them... we have to remove corruption," Hazare said.

In the season of scams, the government cannot afford another major embarrassment over corruption but if they have a clear strategy in place or not is still not known.

Govt, AMC hampered Anna’s visit to city

Organisers were instructed to get Anna Hazare to talk about Centre’s corruption than focus on issues related to the state, reveal activists

It was not easy bringing Anna Hazare to Ahmedabad. Especially when you consider that the state government and the municipal corporation withheld permission at various stages for the activist’s public meeting.

Mansukh Sawani of Saurashtra Jal Kranti Trust, who is on good terms with Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had organised a programme in Surat on May 9. “The state government wanted him to take Anna to progressive villages of Gujarat,” informs Gautam Thaker, secretary of People’s Union Civil’s Liberties (Gujarat chapter).

When four activists told Anna that Sawani had taken government contracts to build dams, his credibility was affected. “Anna told Sawani he will get Chunibhai Vaidya and Mallika Sarabhai to show him the true picture,” Thaker said.

Allegedly irked by this, the government warned organisers against giving publicity to Anna. “They were instructed to get Anna to talk more about Centre’s corruption than focus on state issues,” he revealed.

The organisers even had to get their own security cover. “This even though intelligence bureau had informed city police that a huge row would take place in the evening function.”

Organiser Bharatsinh Jhala had a tough time getting permission to organise the event at Sardarbaug. Says Jhala, “I applied for permission from AMC’s Parks and Garden department on May 16 (invoice no: 418) and was asked to meet Director V K Padia. I did not receive any reply till May 25. Then, I was told to speak to DyMC S K Langha. Even he was unavailable!”

Organisers approached former councillor Ratna Vora but her attempts failed, too.

Says Jhala, “We sent SMSes, fax and mails. When we decided to go ahead with the event, I was warned that action would be taken against me. Since our May 20 petition to the police was approved the next day, we decided to go ahead with the meet.”

Jhala added, “Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind organised an event at the garden on April 17. Then why was permission denied to us?”

Meanwhile, DyMC Langha denied anyone had approached him for permission. He adds, “Organisers should have contacted Padia.” V K Padia was unavailable for comments.

Thousands went to see Anna, Hazare came to meet Dr Rao

Bangalore: It was a day cardiologist Dr B Ramana Rao will remember forever. Meeting the 'Gandhi-like' Anna Hazare on his farm where he also runs a free clinic every Sunday would remain a highlight in his career.

Dr Rao's work had drawn Hazare to this tiny village. Rao has been running a clinic for 36 years. "People with simple health issues come to me. This can be fixed with a little bit of attention," he said.

The most common problem is asthma. The village's proximity to Bangalore has something to do with it. Arthritis, usual infections, gastritis, osteoporosis, anaemia, and cataract are other complaints that Rao sees in the almost 700 to 1,000 patients that he sees every Sunday. "The population of this village is about 400 to 500. On some days, we see as many as 1,000. That means people in the 30km to 60km radius are coming here. This shows that the area lacks basic medical care," Rao said.

Despite the work that has gone on for close to four decades, little has changed in the village. Infrastructure, transport, medical facilities are scarce. Buses could ply more frequently for the benefit of the hundreds. Every Sunday, transport from Dobbespet, Nelamangala to this point could be organised.

"On an average, patients and attendants spend about Rs 160 to come here and return to the village. If their commute is made easier, it would make a big difference to them," he said.

Anna a tourist attraction

UK couple Steve and Thaya ecstatic after catching a glimpse of India’s anti-corruption crusader at the BIA

It is not just college students and techies who waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare as he landed at the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) on Friday. Even foreigners did.

Steve and Thaya — a UK couple touring India — came to the BIA just to see the ‘aged-man who is waging the war against corruption’ after learning from newspapers that he was visiting the city.

Thaya said: “We were reading about him for quite some time. It is unbelievable that one individual can bring about a sweeping change. He has energy to do more. We have to follow him.” Steve said: “Corruption is a world-wide issue. We don’t get to see people like him in other countries.”

They figured out that their best chance of seeing Hazare was when he walked out of the terminal building. Though BIA security personnel did not allow them to get close to Hazare, the couple was excited that they at least got to see him.

Several other overseas-bound travelers at the BIA also tried to catch a glimpse of Hazare. A passenger was overheard telling his friend: “This is a beautiful city. Not only do we give a grand welcome to scam-tainted politicians and film-stars but also to Gandhians.”

In fact, the airport’s arrival lobby was filled with Hazare’s fans holding anti-graft posters. Some people had also come with representations to be given to Hazare. But heavy security prevented them.

Hazare was escorted to T Begur near Nelamangala where he visited a charitable health care centre run by Dr Ramana Rao.

Though the police piloted the convoy, Hazare requested the cops not to switch-on the blaring siren. A cop remarked: “A VIP would love to be driven around with the beacon light on and the siren blaring, but he is the first VIP who did not want any.”

Hazare is on a two-day visit to Bangalore to discuss with civil society representatives how to strengthen the nationwide anti-graft campaign. He will hold a public meeting in the National College grounds at 2 pm on Saturday. This is Hazare's first visit to Bangalore after his five-day fast in New Delhi led to the setting up of a 10-member panel to draft the Lokpal bill.

Corruption is a world-wide issue. We don’t get to see people like him in other countries

Steve, Uk citizen

Bangalore: Bangaloreans contribute to Hazare's anti-graft campaign

Bangalore: Scores of Bangaloreans are chipping in with money and time to drum up support for the battle against corruption and to welcome social activist Anna Hazare to the city.

Hazare will land in Bangalore Friday and head to Nelamangala, about 40 km away to address farmers.

On Saturday he, along with Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, social activist Swamy Agnivesh and former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi, will address a public meeting in Bangalore.

"Over Rs.60,000 have already been donated by various people including labourers and auto-drivers," a member of 'Saaku' (Kannada for 'Enough'), an organization active in anti-graft campaign in Karnataka, told IANS Thursday.

Saaku is helping organise the Saturday public meeting at the National College grounds in south Bangalore and the donations are to meet part of expenses for it.

The organization opened the account 'Corruption Saaku' (Enough of corruption) in a private bank about ten days back and sought donation though cheques or e-transfer.

It is also using the net and cell phones to spread its campaign.

A call to a toll-free cell number it has listed on the site gives out the message to turn the mobile into a weapon to fight corruption and the voice against graft will reach the prime minister.

Hazare, Kejriwal and Bhushan along with senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde are civil society members of the 10-member panel set up to draft the Lokpal bill to fight graft at the national level.

This will be the first visit of Hazare to Karnataka after the setting up of the Lokpal bill draft panel, following his five-day fast in New Delhi.

Centre fails to mollify Ramdev, fast plan on

NEW DELHI: Baba Ramdev has snubbed the government's peace overtures, and would go ahead with his indefinite hunger strike from June 4 against bringing back black money home.

The yoga guru's followers are emulating social activist Anna Hazare's tactics in garnering public support. Cellphone is the best enabler to drum up support, and about 32.56 lakh people are believed to have registered for the nationwide campaign.

Ramdev's spokesman S K Tijarawala said: "There is no room for calling off the satyagraha because nothing concrete has happened till date. Around 1 crore people from all over the country will join Baba Ramdev in his protest against corruption, and the government's inability to bring back the black money stashed in tax havens abroad."

The government, which gave into Hazare's demand of constituting a joint panel for drafting the Lokpal Bill, recently briefed the wellness expert about the legal hurdles in getting the black money back. Senior government officials, including chairman of the central board of direct taxes Sudhir Chandra, tried to explain the legal implications to Ramdev. Though the yoga guru hailed the talks as "very positive", he has refused to change his plans till some action is taken. He is demanding that the Rs 4 lakh crore stashed in foreign banks rightfully belongs to India citizens, and should be brought back and used for the nation's development.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had fired a salvo at Ramdev. He had claimed that the anti-graft crusader should call off his fast since nobody would come forward to break it.

Invoking Gandhiji, Ramdev had earlier written to the prime minister, spelling out his protest plan that would be joined by "lakhs and crores" of people. He had threatened that if there were any casualties during the stir, the government would be held directly responsible.

Since last year, the yoga guru has been on a nationwide tour and his organization has collected signatures, pleading the PM to end graft and bring back black money.

Though the petition was submitted to the President in February, the government swung into action only after Hazare's protest helped it see merit to win over Ramdev with a huge group of followers.

I am with you, Anna Hazare tells Gujari bazaar slum dwellers

Anna Hazare, who shot to fame with his campaigning for the Lokpal Bill, made a surprise visit to the Sabarmati Riverfront in the city. Hazare met slum dwellers of Gujari Bazar, who recently lost their homes in the AMC's demolition drive, on Wednesday. After hearing out the slum dwellers Hazare extended his support to them.

In a briefing, Hazare said he will take up the issue and make sure that justice is done. "I understand your problem, but do not worry as I am with you and I will fight for you," said Hazare. His assurance was well received by more than 300 slum dwellers. Hazare is in the city for a day-long programme organised by different organisations. And since he was coming to the city, social workers had asked Hazare to look into the problems of slum dwellers.

Thus he made a surprise visit to the riverfront immediately after he landed in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. He visited the riverfront at 6 pm and stayed there till 6:30 pm. Hazare was accompanied by Lokpal committee members Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal.
The slum dwellers had started preparation for Hazare's grand welcome as soon as they got to know of his visit to the city. They made posters and banners denouncing the AMC for demolishing their slums and not allocating them alternative accommodation. According to Ashok Vaghela, a local representative of slum dwellers association.

AMC officials adopted corrupt measures during the process of allotment of the alternative housing. "We wanted to tell Anna about the corrupt practices of the AMC and inhuman approach adopted by their officials which has forced us to live in such miserable conditions," said Vaghela, who gave a memorandum to Hazare.

Swami Agniwesh also made stark comments on the alleged corruption and atrocities by the authorities. "I can see the atrocities being committed against the poor. I am amazed to see how law is misused in Gujarat to favour a few," said Agnivesh. He pointed to a bulldozer which was clearing debris close to their gathering. "It proves that the government is not following the high court's order. It is a clear case of contempt of court" said Agnivesh adding that the money allotted to develop the riverfront should have been used for the welfare of the slum dwellers.

Hazare's surprise visit was the result of efforts put in by the city social workers. They included Mallika Sarabhai, Prakash N Shah, Democratic Youth Organisation Secretary Jayesh Patel and many more. "We mailed the details of the problems faced by the slum dwellers to Swami Agnivesh few days back. In response to which Agnivesh and Anna assured us of their visit to the place whenever they come to Ahmedabad," said Bhavik Raja of Democratic Student's Organisation.

Donations pour in for Anna event

BANGALORE: With just a day to go for Anna Hazare's visit, there seems to be no end to donations and volunteer support from across the city and state. The new public account opened by organisers to pay for the event already has Rs 59,000 through e-transfers and cheques. Small contributions from Rs 100 to Rs 500 have all added up. Some contributions have broken the rule and contributed Rs 10,000 or more.

The expenses are estimated to be around Rs 5 lakh. But many things have been executed without spending a rupee. "None of them asked for money nor did we have to hunt for volunteers. Now, we want to pay them back through this public account. Within hours of sending out emails, the account had Rs 20,000,'' an organising committee member told TOI.

Donors include an autorickshaw driver who gave one day's income. Early birds to contribute include Dharmaraju from Tiptur -- he had fasted for four days at Freedom Park in April in support of the nationwide campaign against corruption. The public account opened to fund the protest then mobilized Rs 1.16 lakh on a single day.

Over 300 volunteers have signed up and working on the ground for this week's event. At least 2,000 people from different districts have confirmed their participation for the Saturday meeting at National College grounds in Basavanagudi.

Anna Hazare, team in Ahmedabad crusade

Anna Hazare, the man who galvanised a nation against corruption, is on a two-day visit to the city. Anna, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh arrived in the city on Wednesday to meet and know Gujarat's voice against corruption.

Many civil society organisations have prepared their representation on various aspects of the state which will be submitted to Anna.

Surprisingly, chief minister Narendra Modi, who had written a personal letter to Anna, will not be meeting him during his visit. Citizens hosting Anna said, "We have not received any official intimation from the chief minister's office about Anna's visit nor has the veteran crusader's office in Delhi."

Soon after reaching Ahmedabad, Anna and his team visited the Sabarmati Riverfront near Victoria Garden, where houses of slum dwellers were razed during the demolition drive.

They were accompanied by local civil society activists like Mallika Sarabhai, Prakash N Shah and Jayesh Patel among others. After spending half an hour at the riverfront and lending his support to slum dwellers, Anna and his team left the place.

On May 26, Anna and his team will attend a public hearing (Jan Sanvani) - people's representation at Gujarat Vidyapith at 11am.

After that they will attend a discussion with activists and intellectuals on the draft for the Janlokpal Bill at Gajjar Hall between 2:30 pm and 4 pm. Anna and his team will interact with the media at 4:30pm and in the evening Anna, Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh will address a public rally at Sardarbaugh at 6pm.

Monday, 16 May 2011

No For 'Anna Hazare' Title

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce has strictly said ‘No’ to Anna Hazare title. ‘I am keeping the legend as inspiration for the film’ – I am not bringing black spot says producer Sampath Kumar. Sampath Kumar has produced films like Thimma, Channa and Prem Nagar. He is also director of Kannada film ‘Prem Nagar’ that stars Arjun and Varsha.

Sampathkumar has submitted the script to the KFCC for title approval. According to Sampathkumar five youths from affluent section of the society take a major step in their life to bring the parents – corrupt ones. They are inspired from the Anna Hazare formula. What Sampath Kumar says is that the youths should stand up against corruption. When the corrupt father becomes low in front of his children he is left with an alternative life. That alternative life is nothing but going in right direction in life.

When the KFCC has approved titles with names of disgruntled personality’s names – for example ‘Veerappan’ in the past why is it disturbing the most lovable personality title that would bring some changes in the society – Sampathkumar is furious on KFCC not approving the title.

‘I have already consulted some of the big stars for this movie’. To my fortune they have consented to act only because of the title ‘Anna Hazare’ says Sampathkumar.

‘Anna Hazare’ runs into trouble

Trust Sandalwood to try and cash in on any hot topic. The latest is producer Sampath Kumar’s effort to make a film named Anna Hazare. Whether the movie has anything to do with the anti-corruption crusader or not, he aims to reap full benefit from the aura surrounding the name.

But the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) will have none of it, and has rejected the title.

A KFCC functionary said, “The rules are clear. Prior permission is required for titles that have names of celebrities. Apart from that, we require the synopsis of the film before approval so that the film does not damage their reputation. Then there are some people who come up with ridiculous and vulgar titles. Recent rejects include, Tale Burude, (Skull) and Electric Kamba.”

Not to be cowed down, the producer is set to fight it out in topical Anna Hazare style by going on a fast in front of the KFCC shortly.

Sampath Kumar said some big stars agreed to star in his film only because of the title, and without it there would be little chance of making the multi-starrer. But the KFCC is unmoved; last year, it faced a problem with cop Kiran Bedi, when someone came up with a film in her name. KFCC rules expressly prohibit film titles with names offamous personalities unless their written permission is obtained. Kiran Bedi became Kannadada Kiran Bedi after producers had some backdoor negotiations with the cop.

According to sources, Sampath Kumar had even submitted the script of his film to the KFCC. The film is about five youths who take on their corrupt parents after being inspired by Anna Hazare. Kumar is angry that the KFCC which had approved titles like Veerappan earlier is not relenting now. The KFCC was involved in another controversy recently after producer Dwarakish decided to name his film Vishnuvardhana, apparently trying to capitalise on the popularity of late actor Vishnuvardhan. Now he has been asked to add a prefix ‘Raja’ or ‘Veera’ before the name, as a compromise solution.

When it comes to cashing in on a current event, veteran director S Narayan proved that he can be quick off the block, by announcing plans to make a film on Raghu, the tragic lover who was blinded when he tried to attend the wedding of his former lover Anusha recently. Narayan met Raghu in the hospital, and announced a film with his son as the lead actor.

new delhi 'Anna effect' led to govt’s GoM media plan

On every weekday noon, seven senior Union ministers will meet under the auspices of the information and broadcasting ministry to chart out the strategy of dealing with the media. “For quite sometime, the government’s inept handling of the media had been a subject of discourse in the top government echelons and the Congress party high command. It took the Anna Hazare episode to kickstart the entire process resulting in formulation of the regular briefing framework for the media by senior ministers,” admits a government official in the know of things referring to varying statements by various ministers leading to a lot of confusion on what the government stand and policy was.

“There will be a formal approach of media-handling now. Before this, the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing.”

Public Accounts Committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi’s diatribe against the government on the spectrum issue further hastened the process.

The quick deliberations will include decisions on whether there is any need of a media briefing that very day, what is to be the central issue, what stand to take, and who will address the media.

This media-handling framework that took off Wednesday, has been devised and cleared at the highest political levels.

The seven-member group of savvy and articulate ministers comprises home minister P Chidambaram, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, minister of state in the PMO V Narayanswamy, parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, and water resources minister Salman Khursheed.

Ramdev's agitation won't get same response as Anna: Digvijay

Taking a potshot at Baba Ramdev, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh today said it is better if the yoga guru doesn't go for his proposed fast-unto-death against corruption as he might not get the same public response as Anna Hazare.

"Many people had requested Hazare to end his fast but in case of Ramdev, no one might come to him asking for ending the fast. So it will be better if the yoga guru shun the idea," he told reporters here.

There was huge mass support for Hazare's agitation but it will not be the same for Ramdev, he said.

Demanding that the black money deposited in foreign banks be brought back, Ramdev had vowed to fast-unto-death in New Delhi on June 4 as part of his 'Bhrastachar Mitao Satyagrah', a drive to remove corruption.

We need a strong Lokpal, not toothless tiger

India has always been a slave to corruption. Today, the growing middle class has registered a protest by supporting Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption. Without the media’s support, however, Hazare’s protest would have ended with him being arrested, taken to a government hospital, and put on the drip.

That did not happen because commentators, news channels and editors committed themselves openly and vociferously to the movement for a strong Lokpal Bill and sank their teeth into public scandals, refusing to let go. Traditional, passive journalism restricted to reporting events and avoiding value judgments had been finally discarded.
We must remember that caste-, religion- and poverty-based vote banks are still intact. So are mafia outfits serving political parties. The poor do not see the relevance of corruption though they are its victims. Thus, to organise mass support in rural areas for the Lokpal movement might be an uphill journey. However, this movement has a sustainable base.
If the often spontaneous outpouring of support to Hazare’s movement is any indication, mass support will be forthcoming readily and at short notice in urban and semi-urban areas whenever required with continued media support. Anticipating the rapid rise of such a wave, the government surrendered.
The key to sustainability lies in ensuring honest leadership, especially for a movement dedicated to enforcing integrity. Therefore, pushing the father-son duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan into the drafting committee was a bad move. The fact that the Bhushans did not step down after failing to defend the UP government’s allocation of farm plots in Noida to them was worse. (When land allotment is opened to the general public, it must be done by drawing lots. If given to favourites, it is just corruption.)
Leaders must be able to defend their honesty convincingly before the media and clear any smears. The pathetic response that the allegations were meant to derail the movement was no defence and will weaken the movement.
There are multiple institutions in the country that are ostensibly engaged in the task of delivering justice. The jurisdictions of many of them overlap. Human rights commissions at the Centre and in the states, women’s commissions, and vigilance commissions with vigilance officers strewn in every department are examples of organisations advertised by a corrupt system to erect the facade of good governance.

They are carefully crafted to be toothless and ineffective and are manned by proven docile bureaucrats least likely to confront the establishment.
These institutions are glorified post offices that receive complaints that they then pass on to state government departments or the police. Ironically, they were set up to rectify the malfunctioning of these very agencies. They are not equipped to carry out investigations and prosecution in a law court. The annual report of the Central Vigilance Commission is stuffed with meaningless statistics of cases and recommendations sent to governments for “further action” and reports called for from them. Thus an independent and adequately empowered Lokpal is essential.
There is a school of thought propagated mainly by the bureaucracy which argues that if the Lokpal were empowered to enquire against senior public servants, it would bring decision-making processes, recommendations and file notes into the open and make them subject to challenge. This, they argue, would paralyse the administration because almost every decision pleases some segments while displeasing others. Offices would be loaded with complaints, there would be a flood of allegations against public functionaries, and decision makers would avoid making decisions or be under pressure to make decisions that are popular but not always the best.

These arguments are false, for the following reasons:
1. There are already laws in place to punish defamation, false complaints and so on. Therefore, unfounded allegations will not be generated though complaints will certainly rise, which should be welcome.
2. Transparency in decision making is desirable though offensive to a corrupt establishment because bureaucrats are comfortable working in dark corners.
3. Bureaucrats are already under pressure from ministers, MPs, MLAs, corporation members, corrupt bosses and powerful vested interests behind closed doors in the present system. If more decisions are opened for public debate through the Lokpal, this sinister pressure caused by secrecy will be reduced.
4. By uniting the executive and the legislature, the party system has lodged immense power in the Indian executive and degraded the legislature to a debating society. A strong Lokpal will be a major step towards diffusing power. It will introduce checks and balances that are crucial for good governance.

Judges, including those of the Supreme Court, cannot enjoy immunity because the judiciary is an important safeguard against arbitrary rule and must not be above investigation, and because courts have themselves now become corrupt. The present procedure is that a judge cannot be investigated without the permission of the chief justice. When the investigating officer (Anti-Corruption Bureau) seeks permission to investigate corruption charges against a judge (on suspicion or complaint), the officer is required to provide evidence first to justify the request. But very often, without some inquiry evidence will not emerge. In this comical situation, it becomes easy to deny permission. The Lokpal will dispense with this procedure.

Ultimately, the Lokpal will only be empowered to investigate and conduct prosecution and not to conduct trial. The main point is that barriers to investigation that protected corrupt public servants for years will be knocked down. These barriers include the procedure to proceed with investigations against judges accused of corruption and the notorious section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that prohibits criminal prosecution of a public servant by a citizen without the permission of the appointing (higher) authority.

It is preferable to give such power to a committee instead of an individual to prevent arbitrariness or capture by vested interests. There could be many models to select members, including the prescription of a qualifying exam and selection by draw of lots. The committee will head a fully equipped team of professionals recruited from the police force and the private sector who will constitute an independent cadre not linked to the department.

The term for the committee members could be six months. If a citizen jury in America can pronounce judgments, let us not fear participatory governance. It is the way to the future.

Finally, let every honest Indian support the demand for a strong Lokpal and not allow the establishment to impose on us yet another sycophant with a title, nominated by those he is mandated to confront in moving against corruption.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Police reforms: Need for Anna Hazare-type movement

By Balaji Chandramohan, IANS,

If corruption is a buzzword after Anna Hazare's campaign, then it's nowhere better reflected than in Indian police. The recent Transparency International India puts policing at No.1 in the corruption stakes and most of the complaints received by the National Human Rights Commission since its inception in 1993 are on police abuse.

The year 2011 will also mark the 150th anniversary of the Indian Police Act enacted along with the Indian Legislative Act, 1861, to rule the colonial British India.

Most of the problem in Indian policing has to do with the constitutional problems from where it stems. The Indian Police Act enacted by the colonial British government is 150 years old. One can understand the history surrounding the act as just before the Indian Police Act 1861 the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 took place.

The act was enacted taking into consideration that revolts needs to be crushed. Its aid was to quell natives. Constitutionally, the act was enacted to give more powers to the executive and not for the ordinary citizen. That's precisely the reason why since independence and India's becoming republic in 1950, no serious political discourse has taken place as politicians find it convincing to use and manipulate the police forces.

So the question arises whether there's any other alternative. The alternative is found in the British London Bobby system itself where supposedly a constable would be patrolling the streets unarmed. Under this system, the police are held accountable to the people.

In India, much talk on the police reforms was centred on judicial activism. For instance, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgement Sep 22, 2006, in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case.

Though it took the court nearly a decade, this landmark decision served as a catalyst for reforms. The honourable court instructed the central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives which, if implemented as a package, would lead to better policing.

The seven directives in a nutshell are:

1. Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:

Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police;

Lay down broad policy guideline; and

Evaluate the performance of the state police.

2. Ensure that the director general of police is appointed through a merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.

3. Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including superintendents of police in-charge of a district and station house officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.

4. Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.

5. Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of deputy superintendent of police.

6. Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of deputy superintendent of police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the personnel below the rank of deputy superintendent of police in cases of serious misconduct.

7. Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the central police organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

All this was in 2006. It was hoped that the court's directives would act as a catalyst to push-start real reforms. But this has not happened. The court's directions have been repeatedly challenged by state after state.

With no joy from that, despite the presence of a monitoring committee coming back with a report of dismal compliance, states have either complied on paper and not implemented on the ground, or complied on some directions and refused on others, thereby making a nonsense of the scheme, or not complied at all.

This includes the central government which could have been the model for enthusiastic reform in a capital city where the people feel as unsafe from the police as from criminals.

The problem is more compounded by the fact that policing comes under state subject as per the Indian constitution. Resistance to reform comes from all quarters; the politicians want absolute control over the police; the higher echelons of the police have long made their peace and their bargains with their political masters and are locked into cosy compacts of mutual benefit.

Even those who would want some relief from this stranglehold are not keen on more accountability to courts and complaint authorities. The bureaucrats are comfortable with a police that is in their grip through the executive.

The harassed and discontented public seems not to count. The rich keep out of the way and the poor are too oppressed and powerless to take on the police or face off with an obdurate government that does not take note of their pain. Perhaps the only way to ensure change is through a movement like the Anna Hazare campaign against corruption.

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejrewal to visit Odisha on May 24

Bhubaneswar:  Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejrewal will visit Orissaa on May 24 as part of their nation-wide tour to strengthen the resolve of the common man to fight against corruption and consolidate the campaign.

They will be addressing a public meeting at Lower PMG Square here at 11 am and interacting with the volunteers in the evening at 5 pm.

Here we have an open platform and request everybody to give his/her time and energy to make the campaign a success and bring in structural changes against corruption in the form of Jan Lokpal Act, a release by the India Against Corruption said.

As public anger increases, corruption falls

The electoral debacle of the DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu highlights public disgust with corruption , and underpins the Anna Hazare anti-graft crusade. But is corruption really worsening, or is the public simply angrier about it?

Most survey data suggest, surprisingly , that corruption has been declining . Crooked politicians look enormously richer than ever before. Corruption has surely skyrocketed in real estate, natural resources and government contracts. But it has disappeared in deregulated areas like industrial and import licensing and foreign exchange.

Falling import duties have almost killed smuggling.

The annual corruption perception index of Transparency International (TI) gives country scores for corruption on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being most corrupt and 10 being least corrupt. India has gradually improved its score, from 2.78 in 1995 to 2.8 in 2000, 2.9 in 2005 and 3.3 in 2010. This is modest improvement .

In 1995, India was ranked 34th of 41 countries surveyed, near the bottom. But subsequent surveys covered many more countries, most of whom were far more corrupt than India. In 2010, India came 87th of 178 countries, halfway down the list. This is no cause for rejoicing: a score of 3.3 is pathetic when the best countries score 9. But it's a small mercy if things are getting a bit better.

In 2010, China (3.5) scored marginally more than India. Much worse were Vietnam (2.7), Pakistan (2.3) and Russia (2.1).

TI has a separate bribe payers index ( BPI), measuring the willingness of a country's businesses to pay bribes abroad. The latest list for 2008 list covers only 22 countries. The most willing to bribe abroad is Russia (5.9) followed by China (6.5), Mexico (6.6) and India (6.8). So, India is pretty bad, but not the worst. Its score has improved from 4.2 in 2006 to 6.8 in 2008, and it has overtaken China, Mexico and Russia in the process.

Ordinary Indians worry most about the small local-level corruption that extracts money directly from their pockets for services that should be free. TI surveys show that people perceive corruption to be rising in the vast majority of countries, even the most honest Scandinavian countries, and it's unclear whether such perception is mostly emotional or factual. More reliable than perceptions are data on the proportion of households who actually paid a bribe in the last year.

TI brings out a Global Corruption Barometer. This suggests that bribes paid by ordinary Indians for access to government services have shot up from 16% of households in 2003 to 54% in 2010. That sounds absolutely calamitous.

But the very opposite is suggested by surveys conducted by CMS, a wellrespected survey organization. CMS suggests that the proportion of Indians saying they paid a bribe in the 12 months literally halved from 56% to 28% between 2005 and 2010. This looks like a fabulous outcome. Ironically, the CMS report was released by the local head of Transparency International , with no sense of the glaring contradiction between the two reports .

The TI surveys have a small sample size of around 1,000 people. CMS, on the other hand, surveyed almost 9,000 people in 2005 and 10,000 in 2010, and therefore boasts a more robust statistical base. The CMS also has a more rural focus.

The CMS survey asked about bribes in relation to four government services – the public distribution system for food, education, water supply and health. The TI survey covered nine areas, including the police , courts and registry officials. Can this explain the difference in outcome of the two surveys? Not really , it is implausible that the four areas surveyed by CMS could have improved dramatically while the others surveyed by TI worsened dramatically : quality trends in administration tend to be similar across sectors .

Surveys can be contradictory. We cannot ignore the Barometer's survey . Yet the positive trends of the CMS survey are more in line with TI's corruption perception index and bribe payers index, both of which show corruption decreasing. CMS gives several possible reasons for declining bribes, such as improved technology and media activism . Nonsense, say sceptics, politicians are making unprecedented billions today. The debate will continue .

Whatever the truth, we can celebrate the CMS finding that media and TV coverage of corruption has risen fourfold in five years! This suggests a social revolution. Fast GDP growth has created a rising middle class that refuses to sit back and accept corruption as "chalta hai." TV is amplifying this middle class anger into political change, first in Anna Hazare's coup and now in the DMK defeat. Hurrah! Let's build on this anger : we have a long way to go.

India: Anna Hazare And His Times – Analysis

Oscar Wilde has one his characters declare in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “I can resist anything but temptation.” The temptation to enter the debate on the Anna Hazare controversy is too great to resist despite several weeks having elapsed since it started. In the meantime, the chasm between the protagonists of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign and those holding it to be unconstitutional and undemocratic has widened. The latter argue that the correct forum for debating the Lokpal Bill is Parliament. Yielding to public agitations, however laudable their objectives, will establish an unhealthy precedent. On the other hand, the protagonists point out that Parliament is dysfunctional and will not act until it is compelled. The rapid enlargement of this agitation to acquire an all-India character reveals that public corruption has become so pervasive in India as to evoke national exasperation. Anna Hazare is a beacon of hope now.

All this has been reported ad nauseum in different forums. The dirty tricks department has been unleashed against Anna Hazare’s supporters, which is par for the course. The corrupt are unlikely to yield their hard-earned ill-gotten gains. So, what remains to be said at this juncture that is either new or worth saying? Three issues need, additionally, to be illumined.

First, what do Anna Hazare’s campaign for the Lokpal Bill and the huge support received for his anti-corruption campaign inform us about the Indian polity? Transparency International accords India a high rank on its corruption index, which is based on public perceptions. Clearly, there is widespread disgust in the people with public corruption in India. But, there are many who are unconcerned and unaffected. Who are they? They are identifiable as the growing minority with the ‘influence’ or ‘clout’ to wield power and patronage, which insulates them from the tentacles of the corruption network. The silent majority, however, suffers its exactions whenever the citizen has to deal with public authority. And, public authority is both insidious and all-encompassing in India with its unique system of over-legislation but under-regulation of every conceivable human activity. Clearly, public corruption is not unknown in settled democracies like Japan and the US. But, their difference with India arises because corruption in these countries occurs at the higher levels of political patronage and dispensations of large commercial favours. Exactions at lower levels are practically unknown, which is a peculiarly Third World phenomenon – China and Russia are no exceptions. But, this is especially true of India. Willy-nilly the citizen is forced to interface with authority in district and subordinate offices, police stations, civic facilities, registration offices, educational or health institutions and so on. And, as a prominent political leader keeps saying, “Every time a citizen enters an office, he will only come out after being ‘stung’.” The limited point being made here is that Anna Hazare has lit a spark that has grown into a prairie fire. But, that prairie fire would not have started and spread unless the grass was dry and combustible.

Second, is Anna Hazare’s crusade unique? Or, has all this happened before with varying degrees of success? Protagonists have given his campaign a grand remit by comparing it to the Quit India movement, an obvious exaggeration. It has also been compared more routinely with the JP movement against misgovernment and corruption in the early seventies; it gave Indira Gandhi the excuse to impose her infamous Emergency when the Allahabad High Court set aside her election. It has also been compared to the VP Singh-blessed Mandal agitation in favor of greater reservations, which led to the tragic self-immolation of many young persons. What did these major agitations achieve? One can argue that the JP movement catalyzed the break-up of the Congress party and the emergence of regional parties that are now competing for power at the Centre and in the States. The Mandal agitation led to a further splintering of political parties, with the politics of caste getting firmly embedded in the national polity. In other words, these public agitations severely challenged the basic structure of the Indian democracy. Whether this was good or bad for India would be demanding a value judgment regarding an essentially political phenomenon.

Third, can it be said that Anna Hazare’s movement is unconstitutional and undemocratic? After all, the NDA government in the Centre and those ruled by different political parties in the States were duly elected. No doubt, the elections lack total credibility. They are visibly vitiated by money and muscle power, liquor and cash are used to buy votes; and, once in office, the elected representatives are too busy with other activities to care about their constituencies. All this is true. But, does it justify forcing a duly elected government to act in a pre-determined way by exercising ‘people’s power’? Here, one might recollect the Congress-led agitation in 1959 against the Namboodiripad government in Kerala. It was directed by one Mannath Padmanabhan against its agrarian and educational policies. Indira Gandhi, then Congress President, had actively inspired this agitation. After it reached suitable proportions, Nehru decided to dismiss the State government; an action which his biographer Sarvepalli Gopal holds “tarnished Nehru’s reputation for ethical behavior.” Now, the Congress party finds Anna Hazare’s public agitation to be unconstitutional and undemocratic!

What is the greatest danger confronting the Anna Hazare ‘revolution’ in the light of these examples? Undoubtedly, it arises from his supporters getting embroiled in the minor skirmishes that will be launched by the counter-revolutionaries to deflect their attention from the main issue of public corruption. But, an equal danger arises from their getting too deeply embroiled in the minutiae – the phrases and punctuation marks of the Lokpal Bill. Hopefully, the revolutionaries will fight the dragon of public corruption with appropriate strategies. Like launching public campaigns giving details of malfeasance against specific offices and officers. And, holding dharnas before these offices and officers to highlight their misdoings.

A functioning anarchy with a million mutinies is the best prescription for reforming a dysfunctional democracy.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Hazare can not make meeting in Goa due to ill-health

Panaji, May 13 : Social activist Anna Hazare could not make it to a meeting of anti-corruption activists here due to health reasons. The meeting was addressed by other prominent activists including Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal. Hazare was supposed to kickstart nationwide anti- corruption campaign from Goa today. Bedi told reporters here that Hazare was unwell, due to the hot weather. The 72-year-old Gandhian activist, in the limelight recently after his hunger strike over Lokpal Bill, is also known to have a knee-problem.

Anna Hazare is anti-Dalit: Mayawati

LUCKNOW: Social activist Anna Hazare has laid bare his anti-Dalit mindset by not including even one member from the community on the anti-graft Lokpal Bill drafting committee , Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati said Friday.

Addressing a special function to mark the completion of four years of her government here, she said: "Just as the Congress-led central government displayed its anti-Dalit approach by not caring to include a Dalit in the Lokpal Bill draft committee, so did Anna Hazare, by not bothering to have a Dalit on his civil society panel, which reflects his anti-Dalit mindset."

According to her, "the exclusion of Dalits from the draft committee as a whole is a betrayal of the entire Dalit population of this country".

"While I welcome the various anti-corruption movements across the country, I am intrigued about the intent behind Anna Hazare's move to use Uttar Pradesh as a launch pad for his movement.

"Even though Anna Hazare belongs to Maharastra, where there is no dearth of scams, and likewise, there are scams in several other states too, yet he launched his anti-corruption campaign in UP, where not a single scam has taken place," the chief minister said.

"It appears that some people in Anna Hazare's civil society were politically motivated and they had chosen UP as a battleground for their campaign only under the influence of certain political groups.

"No wonder, the much hyped anti-corruption campaign is fast getting reduced to an anti-Dalit exercise," she said.

There is a political game plan and political manipulation behind Anna Hazare campaign: Forward Bloc general secretary

KOLKATA: At a time when Anna Hazare is being hailed across the country as an anti-corruption crusader, the Forward Bloc, a member of the ruling Left Front in West Bengal, says his movement is backed by a "vested political game plan".

"Corruption is a serious issue. All the Left parties are also very much concerned about it. But the way Anna Hazare projected the thing, there must be a political game plan and political manipulation. I have serious doubts about his movement," Forward Bloc national general secretary Debabrata Biswas told IANS in an interview.

The 73-year-old Hazare's 97-hour hunger strike in New Delhi in April forced the union government to name a joint panel that included five ministers and five members of the civil society tp draft a stringent Lokpal Bill.

Asked to react on the recent corruption allegations against the Lokpal Bill drafting committee co-chairman, Shanti Bhushan, Biswas said: "There is a political game plan behind this whole movement." But he would not elaborate.

With the results of the assembly elections to be announced Friday, the Left leader sounded hopeful about prospects despite the series of electoral debacles the Left front faced over the last two years.

Biswas said: "We have learnt from our mistakes and we have rectified them. So people now realise they cannot punish the Left Front for a few mistakes committed by a handful of people."

Forward Bloc is an important constituent of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led front which is facing a tough challenge against a determined charge of the opposition Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.

Referring to the "mistakes" committed by the Left Front in its three-decade old rule, Biswas pointed out that contradictions between leftism and Left Front is the root cause of the problems the combine is currently facing.

"In the last 34 years some faults in administration, deviations and opportunism of a section of left activists have led to a contradiction between leftism and Left Front. That is why we have not been able to get the total support of the working class," said Biswas.

Biswas was one of the architects of the decision to withdraw the support from outside provided by the Left parties to the Manmohan Singh government over the India-US nuclear deal in 2008.

Asked whether he regretted the decision as it paved the way for the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance, Biswas said: "It's true that we failed to make the people understand our decision. But I stand by our decision.

"Withdrawing support was necessary as we cannot be a party to surrendering India's sovereignty and independent foreign policy to US."

"We faced debacle not for the central policy of the left but for the state related issues," said the leader.

Biswas also asserted that the Left Front will remain united whatever be the results of the assembly elections as it is a product of the struggle of the toiling masses.

"The best thing about Left Front in Bengal is that it in itself is a ruling front and an opposition party. It was the allies of Left Front who have opposed various decisions of the front and the government and later those decisions were either amended or taken back.

"Whatever the results, the Left Front will remain united," Biswas said.