29 nov 2011
Lokpal draft: Govt betrayed us, says Anna; threatens fresh movement from Dec 27
New Delhi: The government is bracing for a winter of severe discontent. In Parliament, it’s battling a united Opposition over its decision to allow more Foreign Direct Investment in retail.
And this evening, Anna Hazare announced “The government has betrayed us” and threatened to anchor a huge new mass movement against corruption starting December 27.
The Gandhian has rejected the draft of the Lokpal Bill that has been prepped by a parliamentary committee. This draft will be presented to Parliament for consideration. And it excludes many of the features that Team Anna holds essential for tackling corruption among government servants.
For example, the draft decides that the Lokpal – an ombudsman agency – will not have jurisdiction over junior bureaucrats – Group C and D employees. “This means people will have no relief from the nearly 30,000 cores that is looted from schemes aimed at providing subsidised food to the poor,” said Anna’s close aide, Arvind Kejriwal. He estimated that nearly 95% government employees across the country would be out of the Lokpal’s purview if the draft is accepted.
The 31-member committee that’s working on the bill has agreed that judges will not be covered by the Lokpal and that the CBI should be allowed to retain its autonomy. It has also ruled that NGOs that receive significant foreign donations or government funds should be accountable to the Lokpal.
But there is no agreement on the key issue of whether the PM should be covered by the Lokpal. The government wants the PM to be investigated after completing his or her term; parties like the Left and the BJP, who are represented on the 31-member committee, have backed the need for the Lokpal to be able to investigate the PM, except on matters of national security.
Mr Kejriwal is also worried that the draft does not ask for the CBI’s anti-corruption wing to report to the Lokpal. It says the CBI will remain autonomous, but must keep the Lokpal updated on its cases. That, according to Team Anna, means that the investigating agency will remain vulnerable to political pressure.
“The Lokpal will be reduced to an empty tin box if this is not done,” Mr Kejriwal said.
In August, Anna’s epic fast in Delhi ended only when Parliament agreed to consider his vision for the Lokpal Bill. The activist says that promise has been broken. He had earlier threatened to personally campaign against the Congress in states like UP that are headed for elections if a tough Lokpal Bill was not passed during this session of Parliament. So far, there has been no business transacted in Parliament, thanks to the stand-off over FDI in retail. And the government may find an opportunity in that to blame the Opposition for putting the Lokpal Bill at risk.