No Anna or Irom Sharmila, no amount of hunger strikes or street protests will be able to clean our democracy whose virtues are slowly being spilled into the greater drains of capitalism, nepotism and imperialism.
By – Priyankan Goswami
The version 3.0 of Anna Hazare fasting for Lokpal bill has come to an end, even as a weak Lokpal Bill goes live from the Lok Sabha to be rejected in the Rajya Sabha. Anna, who rose to super-glorious heroic status by staging hunger strikes as a means to curb corruption ended the year 2011 amidst strange rejection and embarrassment as the turnout in the Mumbai MMRDA grounds was an all-time low. Former IPS Kiran Bedi, eminent member of Team Anna tried her best to prove that the no-show of public in Mumbai should not be mistaken as an example of people losing faith on them as there were still thousands who gave them online support via internet and millions who watched their protest live in television. But with Anna now declaring to campaign against the congress across five states in elections next year, the conclusion has already been drawn. Team Anna’s Mission; at least what they claimed so, for 2011: Tame corruption in India through a Lokpal Bill is over.
Team Anna however succeeded in several other things. Anna Hazare replaced Baba Ramdev’s epic struggle against corruption all of a sudden, to the delight of the Sonia Gandhi & other Congress Leaders, who were otherwise threatened to existence with Ramdev’s campaign to probe on the Swiss Bank black secret wealth. The efforts of Dr. Subramanian Swami, who had led to the exposure of 2G scam leading several big-shots of Congress to get behind bars, was forgotten by the media and the public. The big names accused in the 2G scam are now coming outside of the jails where they deserve to be for the rest of their lives, yet not much of hype. All because of a false hope to the masses that Lokpal bill and an aged Gandhian who is fighting for it will be able to change everything that people wanted.
If one really analyses, if anyone actually gained from the entire Lokpal Saga either from the protesting streets or in the parliament, it was one else than the Congress. Weak or not, they can claim tall about bringing in the Lokpal system in the country and blame it in the opposition for not allowing to make it constitutional. Pranab Mukherjee and the likes have already termed it a sad day for democracy because the BJP and other opponents of Congress did not vote to make the Lokpal constitutional. With the communal flavors added successfully to Ramdev’s movement and now almost all prominent Muslim organisations slamming the doors to Team Anna due to its anti-congress stand, BJP and its allied forces have lost ground further. Congress is at the advantage. Further, they have agreed to bring the Prime Minister under the Lokpal (to some extent) as well, a trump card which they would use by all means at a given opportunity.
What Team Anna should have probably done is fight to bring the Right to repeal an elected candidate before asking for the Lokpal rather than considering it as the secondary priority. Also for any future movement to take place in the country, the first and foremost necessity must be to formulate a way so that the elected representatives of the people are compelled to table and enforce the right bill, the right and meaningful laws and acts; not the wrong and misleading ones.
Leave alone the Lokpal, there are examples in the recent past and during the winter session itself when the wrong bills were enacted and brought into force. For example, the recent Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Amendment Bill 2010, passed by the Lok Sabha in this session now considers the act of damaging oil pipelines punishable with imprisonment for life or death. No doubt that militants or terrorists damaging such important property has to be strictly punished; however in states like Assam where such oil pipelines run across paddy fields, by roads and close to residential localities, a chance of an accidental damage is really high. Making it an offence punishable even to death, there is always a chance for an innocent to be penalized. But the common people have no part in such law-framing and so no questions rose.
Similarly, Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory council (NAC) drafted the new bill called Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence, which is accused of being biased against Hindu organisations! Some claim it is done to tame down Narendra Modi & Co. There are many rules and laws which are completely undemocratic and unquestioned. One cannot file a police complaint against a chief minister without approval of the Governor of the state. So if one is hit by the convoy of a chief minister on the road, he or she has to first inform and take a nod from the governor before filing a complaint against the chief minister! The same applies to a Prime Minister. No one questions how a scam of thousands of crores like the 2G scam was unnoticed by the Prime Minister, not because everyone believes he is honest; but because he is almost untouchable by the public.
In North East and J&K, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been called draconian because of its undemocratic nature; for often giving immunity to army personnel even if they engage in crimes such as rape, robbery or killing of innocent. Yet, the citizens are unable to make the Government withdraw it; just because the Government or the elected representatives are not compelled to work accordingly. There is no control and no mechanism to penalize rather than waiting for five years for elections. Whether it is to effectively curb down corruption or to make laws bring more meaning to the democratic structure of India, a Lokpal cannot be the best solution simply because it can be crushed to vile dust any day with a mere amendment or withdrawal of the system in the house.
First of all we must have the right to de-elect or call back the elected leaders if they are not working to the people’s aspirations and wishes. The people should not wait for 5 long years to remove someone who is not working, it should be done as and when necessary; of course with a strongly formulated policy that people with vested interest do not take advantage.
Secondly, it should be made mandatory to take public opinion before implementing any important acts, policies or rules. For this, it need not be the entire nation whose opinion is required but mandatorily of those who are to be affected. For example, in Assam there was a huge row and public outcry some months back when the land swap deal with Bangladesh took place. In an ideal situation, the opinion of all people concerned, different civil bodies and organisations should have been taken before transferring the concerned land to Bangladesh. Most importantly, the opinion of the people living in those areas whose lives were affected completely due to the national border now changing should have been considered by all means. In the same way, public opinion of all concerned should be taken when creating a new state. For example, consideration should be given to and opinion must be taken from not just those demanding furiously for a Telengana or a Bodoland, but everyone who would be affected; such as the Non-Bodos in proposed Bodoland who might be affected adversely if a new state for Bodos is curved out of Assam.
For those who would might question the feasibility of carrying out such expensive programmes of taking public opinion before implementing major changes or new rules, the answer is, – this is not waste of funds but an investment for a noble cause, for a better democracy. If the nation can waste hundreds of crores of money in buying redundant old artillery from Russia, maintain and feed an almost good for nothing force such as the SSB, waste thousands of crores worth money for mere political gains (for example, Narendra Modi’s symbolic Sadbhavana Fast costed his state 130 crores in just one day), waste thousands of crores on investigations that does not give results (CBI wasted around 300 crores to enquire the Bofors Scam only to reach a big zero when almost everyone in India knows that the Gandhi family was involved); investing to get the correct public opinion before formulating acts and policies would not only lessen most public grievances but help our democracy a long way.
If we cannot dare to demand this, no Anna or Irom Sharmila, no amount of hunger strikes or street protests will be able to clean our democracy whose virtues are slowly being spilled into the greater drains of capitalism, nepotism and imperialism. Let all important decision making, rules and policies be done with the alignment of people and not just the random manipulative thoughts of the few hundred Indian rulers.