Finally the Indian Parliament has bowed down to listen to people’s voice on corruption and resolved to frame a strong anti-corruption legislation. Following a massive protest spread across the huge country led by Gandhian Anna Hazare, both houses of Indian Parliament had agreed to go for an effective Lokpal (ombudsman) to check corruption in every level of the populous country.
Fasting for 12 days, Anna Hazare, 74, decided to end his hunger strike on Sunday (August 28) morning only after receiving a letter from the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The Indian Premier assured the strict follower of Bapu (India’s Father of the Nation) that the Parliament had accepted all major issues raised by Anna Hazare for discussion for enacting the anti-graft law. For the last two weeks, the world media has witnessed how millions of Indians had collectively risen for a corruption-free India (Bharat).
Under the leadership of Anna Hazare, the up-charge had taken the shape of another Freedom Movement. While Anna and his team led protest demonstration in New Delhi, various groups organized demonstrations in every important city and towns of the country for a strong ombudsman that has the authority to investigate and punish the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats including that of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mentionable that India was in 87th position (out of 178 countries, where Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore topped the list) in the last (released on October 2010) Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. The global watchdog made an observation that India went down in the ranking and it was a matter of concern and regret. Mentionable that India was in 84th position in 2009 corruption index. Of course, except Bhutan (ranked 37 in 2010 corruption index), all South Asian countries showed bad performance than India.
The UPA government led by Indian National Congress in New Delhi initially overlooked the public sentiment and submitted a seemingly week anti-graft bill in the Parliament. Some of Congress leaders even made ridiculous statement that Anna Hazare himself was a corrupt person and so he does not have right to speak against corruption. The anti-corruption crusader was also put in Tihar jail for some time, but soon the government faced the hit and was compelled to retreat.
Meanwhile the civil society groups under the banner of India Against Corruption, which drafted a pro-people Lokpal Bill, have poured their supports for a powerful anti-corruption law. Among many others yoga-guru Ramdev, Art of Living preacher Rabishankar and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar also extended their whole hearted supports to the cause. Emerged as a living legend for over one billion Indians, Anna Hazare with his trusted associates Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan, Manish Sisodia, Akhil Gogoi etc continued the protest in the form of hunger strike in the capital city.
The governments argued that they too want to eradicate corruption from the country. But then the government wanted the Lokpal to function as an advisory body without having the authority to prosecute any MP or MLA without the permission from the PMO or the Speaker. Moreover, the government wanted the PMO and senior-most judges to be out of Lokpal’s ambit.
However, Anna Hazare insisted that the Lokpal should be independent to punish anyone without any fear and hindrance. Moreover, Anna advocates harsh punishments to the guilty politicians in power, such that it can set an example in socio-political life.
Anna Hazare even declared that his fasting would continue until the parliament enacts the Jan Lokpal by August 30. If it was not entertained his supporters were advised to go for Jail Bharo (courting arrest) programme nationwide.
Under pressure, Prime Minister Dr Singh had to open up his mind emphasizing on dialogue with the team of Anna Hazare to bring an end to the difficult situation for the government. Dr Singh, while claiming that his government was seriously undertaking the matter of corruption, however insisted that making a law needs time as the bill has to pass through various necessary steps.
The author is Contributing Editor of Eastern Panorama, a pioneer News Magazine of Northeast India