Sunday, August 14, 2011

India marches against corruption

Prominent citizens from Delhi, Mumbai and about 40 other cities across the country will take to the streets on Sunday as a part of an “India marches against corruption” programme.
The demonstration, organised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), will push for a law to set up an effective anti-corruption body to cleanse the system. Corruption seeping across the governments at the Centre and states should be the focus and target both politicians and bureaucrats, said organisers.
Organisers, who were quite optimistic of India’s economic turnaround if the country has a body on the lines of one the Hong Kong government introduced after hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets, have already petitioned the government with a citizens-drafted bill for enactment to effectively curb corruption.
“There was much worse corruption in Hong Kong in the 1970s than we have in India today. Lakhs of people came on the streets. As a result, the government had to set up an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which was given complete powers. In the first instance, ICAC sacked 119 out of 180 police officers. This sent a strong message to the bureaucracy that corruption would not be tolerated. Today, Hong Kong has one of the most honest governance machinery,” the organisers said in a statement.
It is the same group of the NGOs that petitioned the group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee and set up by the Prime Minister early this month to tackle corruption, submitting its own draft of the bill that can create an effective authority unlike the recommendatory Lokpal the government is planning.
The march in Delhi from the Ramlila Grounds to Jantar Mantar on the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary will be led by Delhi Archbishop Vincent M Concessao, social activists Swami Agnivesh, Anna Hazare, Mahmood Madani and Syed Rushaid Kalbe Rizvi, among others.
It is part of a nationwide movement called “India Against Corruption” started, among others, by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev, Concessao, former police officer Kiran Bedi, Hazare and dancer Mallika Sarabhai to build pressure on the government to enact the law that can help plug corruption.
The marchers across the country will be carrying copies of a draft bill prepared by Justice Santosh Hegde, Bedi, former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh and others for appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lok Ayuktas in the states.
The organisers said that the Lokpal Bill that the government has been talking about all these years is only a showpiece providing for only an advisory authority with jurisdiction only over the politicians in power.
“The proposed Lokpal will recommend to the government to prosecute its ministers. Will any prime minister have the political courage to do that?” the organisers asked. They have, therefore, drafted a Bill that provides for an independent authority that will not only investigate but prosecute the corrupt and ensure they go to jail within two years. “This campaign is neither aligned to nor against any political party. We feel that every political party has misused its position whenever they have been in power or otherwise. Therefore, it is extremely important that the citizens of this country unite to demand systemic changes,” the organisers underlined.
Pointing out that no politician or senior bureaucrat ever goes to jail despite huge evidence because the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) directly come under the government and its permissions are necessary at the stage of investigation and prosecution.
The law proposed by the organisers envisages the Lokpal as an independent body with the CBI, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and ACB merged into it and with powers to initiate investigation and prosecution against both politicians and officers without needing any permission. The bill envisages completion of probe within one year and completion of the trial in the next one year so that the corrupt go to jail within two years. Currently, no corrupt officer is dismissed because the CVC, which is supposed to dismiss the corrupt, is only an advisory body, while the organisers’ bill gives complete powers to the Lokpal and Lok Ayuktas to order dismissal, and they will have powers even to investigate and prosecute the judges without requiring any permission.
Today, no action is taken against corrupt judges because permission is required from the Chief Justice of India to even register a first information report against corrupt judges. Citizens exposing corruption find no action on their complaints, while the proposed law will require Lokpal and Lok Ayukta to probe and hear every complaint.
While the CBI and vigilance departments function in secrecy, which breeds corruption within, the proposed law envisages all investigations to be transparent and all case records made public after the probe is completed.
The proposed law also envisages that politicians will have absolutely no say in selection of the chairman and members of the anti-corruption body as they will be selected through a transparent and public participatory process.


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