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It is a long journey ahead: Kejriwal

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ARVIND KEJRIWAL

‘We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens.’

Arvind Kejriwal received the Magsaysay award in the Emergent leadership category in 2006. A mere five years later, he has far surpassed that milestone, winning acclaim and notice for the way he conceived and crafted Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement. He talks to Vidya Subrahmaniamabout the Jan Lokpal campaign, what it accomplished and why it often became controversial.

The scale and spread of the Anna movement have baffled many. How did this happen?

A movement cannot be created out of nothing. In this case, anger against corruption was at the point of eruption. Then two things happened. One, instead of merely echoing the anger, the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) offered a solution. Second, Anna emerged as a credible leader at a time of huge leadership crisis in politics. See, people did not understand the details of the JBL. They simply saw it as a “dawai” [medicine] for corruption. It is the combination of a solution and a figure like Anna — who lived in a temple with no assets — that clicked.

When we conducted referendums on the JLB, we used to try and explain its contents to people. But they said they did not want to understand the details. They just wanted to put a mohar [stamp] on Anna.

How did you communicate your message to such a large number of people?

Technology played a key role in this. When in January this year, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Shivendra suggested to us that we use Facebook to publicise our rallies, I dismissed it saying Facebook has a limited, urban following. But Shivendra went ahead. We had planned a single rally on January 30 at the Ramlila Maidan. But because we connected on Facebook, we were able to conduct simultaneous rallies in 64 cities. SMS texting also played a critical role. Our SMS communication was designed very intelligently. A company in Mumbai suggested we ask for missed calls as a mark of solidarity. Missed calls cost nothing. In March, we sent out two crore SMS messages and got 50,000 missed calls. Then we targeted the 50,000 callers, asking if they would like to enrol as volunteers for IAC. Initially 13 people responded. We sent two more rounds of messages to the 50,000 callers. And in just one week, the number of volunteers swelled to 800.

Surely television played a disproportionate role in projecting the movement.

TV certainly helped, both when Anna sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar and then at Ramlila Maidan. But the media cannot create a moment. They can at best magnify it. The crowds at Ramlila and the crowds that followed him when he left for Medanta hospital were not manufactured.

There have been reports of dissensions within the Anna camp. Also that the deadlock was broken only because Congress/government negotiators spoke directly to Anna.

Anna appointed Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and me to negotiate with the government. One day I was very tired and Kiran was also not around. So, Medha and Prashant went for the meeting. The next thing we hear [from the media] is that Kiran and I have been sidelined, that we are hardliners, and we are deliberately preventing Anna from breaking his fast. This was disinformation by the government.

You started with the maximalist position of “Jan Lokpal Bill by August 30 and any amendments only with Anna’s permission.” From that to accepting a “sense-of-the-house” resolution that was not voted upon — wasn’t it a climbdown?

When we started on August 16, there was such an overwhelming response that we thought the government would agree to our demands. People wanted the JLB. After a few days we realised that there was a serious leadership crisis in the government — negotiators were constantly backing off. In the last three days of the fast, it happened four times. The Prime Minister made a conciliatory statement, Rahul Gandhi went off on a tangent. Salman Khurshid, Medha and Prashant sat together and drafted a resolution. Next day [August 27], at 1.30 p.m., Salman said no resolution. It became clear to us that what we wanted — Parliament voting on a resolution containing Anna’s three demands — was not going to happen. Therefore we had to change our strategy.

Are you satisfied with the resolution that was adopted? It is not categorical and leaves escape clauses.

We are satisfied because it contains Anna’s three demands. It will not be easy for the Standing Committee to renege on Parliament’s commitment. We will be keenly watching the Committee’s proceedings and the MPs also ought to know that they are on watch. I know, of course, that it is a long journey ahead.

Kiran Bedi told a TV channel that at one point when all seemed lost, a miracle happened: L.K. Advani called her and gave her his word that a solution will be reached by the following evening [August 27]. She also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which until then was ambiguous on the JLB, changed its stand and offered full support to Anna.

We met the leaders of the main political parties thrice and as part of this we also met Mr. Advani. However, we have been clear that no BJP leader or leader of any communal organisation will share the stage with us. This is the decision of our core committee. As for Kiran talking about Mr. Advani, please put that question to her.

So are you an apolitical movement?

No, we are political but we are concerned with people’s politics. The movement will always remain outside of political parties and outside of electoral politics.

You will not float a political party?

No, never. We don’t need to get into the system to fight it. We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens. Everyone who has a dream need not get into politics.

Doubts have been raised about the credentials of those who have donated money to IAC. Sometime ago, a citizens’ group from Hyderabad wrote to you saying it was shocked to see some very discredited names in your list of donors.

A number of people have contributed money to the Anna movement. There is complete transparency from our side. Our receipts and expenditure are transparent. But we have no mechanism to go into the antecedents of our donors. And donations are streaming in, making it impossible to keep track. If there is a glaring case, we will certainly investigate it. I know, for instance, that there has been talk of the Jindal group. But those who donated to IAC are from Sitaram Jindal, not the Jindal mining group.

Your entire fight is about transparency and accountability. One of your NGOs, Public Cause Research Foundation, received donations on behalf of IAC and issued receipts in its name. But until August 29, there was no mention of Anna or the donations on the PCRF website.

That is an oversight. We will immediately update the website and provide a link to IAC.

Another of your NGOs, Kabir, received grants from the Ford Foundation (FF). According to the FF, Kabir received $172,000 in 2005 and $197,000 in 2008. The FF also sanctioned an “in-principle” grant of $200,000 for 2011, which you have not accepted so far. Why does Kabir not mention the FF and these specific details on its website?

We did not give the specific details because we also got some other NRI contributions and these were clubbed together. I will make sure that the website gives the break-up.

Fears have been expressed about the form of mobilisation we saw over the last four months. There was anger and impatience and, some would say, coercion in your methods. During the Ram Rath yatra, too, the BJP said people were angry because the mandir had not been built for 40 years. Aren’t you setting a worrying precedent?

The two situations are not comparable. One was communal and divisive and went against the grain of the Constitution. We are not asking for anything illegal. Our demands resonate with the people and our movement has been unifying, non-violent and entirely within rights given by the Constitution. What is wrong if people demand a strong law against corruption? What is wrong if they ask for the Jan Lokpal Bill?

Why did you ask for Parliamentary due process to be suspended? You didn’t want the JLB to go to the Standing Committee.

The JLB was drafted after wide consultations; it underwent many revisions based on feedback. Where is this kind of discussion in the drafting of anysarkari Bill? The purpose of the Standing Committee is to take multiple views on board. But not all Bills reach the Standing Committee, and in 90 per cent of the cases, the government does not accept the Committee’s recommendations. So why the fuss only for JLB which has been widely discussed and debated?

COURTESY: THE HINDU

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Messianism versus democracy

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ANNA HAZARE SUPPORTERS AT RAMLILA MAIDAN

PRABHAT PATNAIK in THE HINDU

The substitution of one man for the people, and the reduction of the people’s role merely to being supporters and cheerleaders for one man’s actions, is antithetical to democracy.

The Central government’s flip-flops on Anna Hazare are obvious: it went from abusing him (through the Congress spokesperson) for sheltering corruption, to extolling him for his idealism; from arresting him, without any justification, and getting him remanded to judicial custody for a week, to releasing him within a few hours. But the Anna group’s flip-flops are no less striking: it moves from “we-have-a-democratic-right-to-protest-and-place-our-views-in-public,” which is an unexceptionable proposition, to “Anna-will-keep-fasting-until-his-bill-is-adopted-or-amended-with-his-permission,” which amounts to holding a gun to the head of the Centre, and by implication of Parliament, and dictating that the bill it has produced must be passed, or else mayhem will follow. The government’s flip-flops are indicative of incompetence; the Anna group’s flip-flops arise because of the compulsions of a particular style of politics on which it is embarked, which can be called “messianism” and which is fundamentally anti-democratic. The fact that it is striking a chord among the people, if at all it is (one cannot entirely trust the media on this), should be a source of serious concern, for it underscores the pre-modernity of our society and the shallowness of the roots of our democracy.

Democracy essentially means a subject role for the people in shaping the affairs of society. They not only elect representatives periodically to the legislature, but intervene actively through protests, strikes, meetings, and demonstrations to convey their mood to the elected representatives. There being no single mood, freedom of expression ensures that different moods have a chance to be expressed, provided the manner of doing so takes the debate forward instead of foreclosing it. For all this to happen, people have to be properly informed. The role of public meetings where leaders explain issues, and of media reports, articles, and discussions, is to ensure that they are. The whole exercise is meant to promote the subject role of the people, and the leaders are facilitators. Even charismatic leaders do not substitute themselves for the people; they are charismatic because the people, in acquiring information to play their subject role, trust what they say.

Messianism substitutes the collective subject, the people, by an individual subject, the messiah. The people may participate in large numbers, and with great enthusiasm and support, in the activities undertaken by the messiah, as they are doing reportedly at Anna Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila grounds, but they do so as spectators. The action is of the messiah; the people are only enthusiastic and partisan supporters and cheerleaders. If at all they ever undertake any action on the side, this is entirely at the messiah’s bidding, its ethics, rationale and legitimacy never explained to them (no need is felt for doing so); whenever they march they march only in support of the messiah, not for specific demands that they have internalised and feel passionately about. When they gather at the Ramlila grounds, for instance, the occasion is not used to enlighten them, to bring home to them the nuances of the differences between the government’s Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill, so that they could act with discrimination and understanding. On the contrary, the idea is to whip up enthusiasm among them without enlightening them, through the use of meaningless hyperbole like “the government’s bill is meant not for theprevention but for the promotion of corruption”, and “Anna is India and India is Anna”. If the venue was one where discussions, debates, and informative speeches were taking place, the matter would be different, but those alas have no place in the political activity around messianism.

Informative speeches have been the traditional staple of political activity in India. Maulana Bhashani, a popular peasant leader in what is now Bangladesh, used to give marathon speeches that were interrupted when people went home for lunch or dinner, or even for a night’s rest, and resumed when they re-assembled afterwards; and the speeches contained much information about everything, not just politics but even crop-sowing practices and the best means of irrigation. A speech was virtually a set of classes; it had an educative role. I myself have heard election speeches in West Bengal by the inimitable Jyoti Basu, and also others. The speeches were based on solid homework, and conveyed information and argument to the audience. They also sought to rebut what was being said by the opponents, and hence carried forward a debate in public. Political activity of this kind assumed a subject role of the people and prepared them for it; it was quintessentially democratic. Messianic political activity does no such thing; it quintessentially creates a spectacle, not just for the audience but above all for the TV cameras upon whose presence it is crucially dependent.

I am not concerned here with whether the Jan Lokpal Bill is the best piece of legislation on the subject; nor am I concerned with the possible RSS links of the Anna campaign. These issues, though important, are not germane to my argument. My concern is with the “dumbing down” of the people that messianic political activity entails: “leave things to Anna but do come to cheer him.” Just as in a potboiler Hindi film the hero single-handedly does all the fighting required to rid the locale of villainous elements, messianic activity leaves all the fighting, that is, the subject role, to the messiah. The people stand around with sympathy, and cheer. When the Anna group announces that he will take up issues like land reforms, corporate land grab, and commercialisation of education, once his fight against corruption is over, one almost feels that Shekhar Kapoor‘s “Mr. India” has finally arrived on the scene! The problem, however, is that “Mr. India” is a negation of democracy; and relying upon “Mr. India”, like relying upon the arrival of an incarnation of Vishnu to cleanse the world of evil, is a throwback to our pre-modernity. It is not just an admission of a state of powerlessness of the people that may prevail at the moment; it reinforces that powerlessness.

Messianism is fundamentally anti-democratic because it is complicit in this objectification of the people, this self-fulfilling portrayal of them as dumb objects that need a messiah. When the Anna group uses the term “people” as a substitute for itself (referring to its own bill as “the people’s bill,” its own views as the “people’s views”), it is implicitly carrying out a conceptual coup d’etat, namely, that messianism is democracy! But quite apart from the fact that the messiah is not elected by the people, a point made by many, there is the basic point that nobody, whether elected or not, can substitute for the people in a democracy.

This presumption, however, explains the flip-flops made by the Anna group. If Anna is the people, then democracy, where the people are supreme, demands that his version of the bill must be accepted over any other version, including what the parliamentary Standing Committee may come to formulate. The people’s supremacy over Parliament entails ipso facto Anna’s supremacy over Parliament. Messianism necessarily implies an “Anna’s-bill-has-got-to-be-adopted” position. Members of Anna’s group, many of whom have been associated for long with people’s causes, may have occasional discomfort with this messianic position, and may retreat to a “we-are-only-exercising-our-democratic-rights” stance; but since they do not repudiate the messianic position, they perforce come back to the “Anna-is-the-people-and-hence-supreme” stance. To accept that Anna’s version of the bill is only one of many possible versions, which the final bill could draw upon, amounts to seeing Anna as one among equals, and not as the messiah, that is, to an abandonment of messianism; the Anna group is loath to do this. “Negotiations” with the government therefore come to mean negotiations to make it accept Anna’s version; “compromise” comes to mean a compromise that makes Anna’s version final.

It may be asked: if the people prefer “messianism” to “democracy,” then what is wrong with it? Those thronging the Ramlila grounds or marching in support of Anna in the metros are not necessarily “the people” of the country, and it is dangerous to take the two as identical. Besides, even if a majority of the people genuinely wish at a particular time to elevate a messiah over Parliament, this is no reason to alter the constitutional order, just as a majority wishing to abandon secularism at a particular time is no reason to do so. The Constitution is the social contract upon which the Indian state is founded, and it cannot be overturned by the wishes of a majority at a particular time. If perchance the government accepts messianism out of expediency, it would be violating the spirit of the Constitution and undermining democracy. Besides, any such licence will make multiple (quasi-religious) messiahs sprout, who would compete and collude, as oligopolists do in the markets for goods, to keep people in thralldom.

(Prabhat Patnaik recently retired from the Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2389694.ece

Ministers, MPs face ‘aam aadmi’ protest

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People protesting for Jan-Lokpal Bill supporting Anna Hazare

Top ministers, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and some MPs on Monday faced protests on the issue of the Lokpal Bill after people gathered in front of their houses here following a call by Anna Hazare.

People protested in front of the residences of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Ms. Dikshit and some MPs.

The first to face the ire of people was Mr. Sibal. Around 40 protesters staged a protest outside his Teen Murti residence seeking his support for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

The protests came following Mr. Hazare’s call to stage demonstrations outside the residences of ministers and MPs to ask them their stand on the Lokpal bill.

“We have come here to request Sibal to support the Jan Lokpal Bill. This is a good bill and everybody should support it,” a protester outside Sibal’s Teen Murti residence said.

On Sunday evening also several people had gathered outside the residence of Mr. Sibal and shouted slogans against him. They left before the police could come to the spot.

People also gathered outside the Talkatora residence of Mr. Mukherjee, who was member of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill along with Mr. Sibal, and shouted slogans against the government.

Police was deployed outside their residences.

Protesters also staged demonstrations outside Dikshit’s Motilal Nehru Road residence. They shouted slogans against the Chief Minister and also mentioned the CAG report on Commonwealth Games.

A protest was also held outside BJP MP Ashok Argal’s residence.

COURTESY: THE HINDU

Aruna Roy: Jan Lokpal Bill impractical, undemocratic

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BATTLE OF JAN LOKPAL BILL

Terming Anna Hazare‘s Jan Lokpal Bill “impractical and complicated”, noted social activist and National Advisory Council ( NAC) member Aruna Roy said that giving widespread powers to an unelected body is a “threat to democracy”.

“Jan Lokpal is a bill impossible to implement. Also, it derails the checks and balances between the judiciary, executive and other organs of the democratic structure,” Roy, 65, who pioneered the right to information (RTI) movement in the country, told IANS in an interview here.

“Not that we agree with the government Lokpal Bill. The Lokpal legislation should be thoroughly deliberated again by activists, lawmakers and all other stakeholders.

“We of course support the democratic right of Hazare to hold demonstrations and fast against the government. That is why we condemned the arrest of Hazare,” she said.

“But we have no meeting point with them, though we keep meeting each other at functions and meetings of common interest,” she added.

Asked about the huge public support Hazare has drawn, Roy said: “There have been huge gatherings in support of NGO-sponsored agitations, like the Narmada Bachao movement. It might not have got similar publicity, as live TV was not there then.”

Roy and her fellow activists in the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) have prepared an alternate version of the Lokpal bill, which will be presented to parliament’s standing committee.

Roy, a Magsaysay award winner, said the Jan Lokpal bill is a “giant, complicated exercise” as it tried to extend from the prime minister to a peon.

“It wants to bring the higher judiciary into its ambit, which otherwise should have been under the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010,” she said.

She felt that the suggestion of dual duties — curbing corruption and redressing grievances — under the Jan Lokpal was not feasible.

“The Jan Lokpal is a threat to democracy as a powerful, non-elected agency can lead to abuse of power and abuse of authority. Power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely,” she quipped.

“Grievance redressal should not be the role of the Lokpal; it should be the work of the executive.

“See, wages of lakhs of workers in the NREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Rajasthan have not been paid. But that is because the shortage of bank staff and other bureaucratic delays,” she said.

The massive organisational setup suggested in the Jan Lokpal will lead to corruption and inefficiency, she cautioned.

“You may be able to find 11 Lokpal members of integrity, but it is difficult to create a clean set-up of thousands of staffers and hold them accountable,” Roy said.

The government-drafted Lokpal is also deficient on several fronts, she added. Since it excludes cases under the state governments, there can be no probe against cases like the Adarsh housing society scandal, the Commonwealth Games scam and illegal mining in Karnataka.

She said excluding the prime minister and the higher judiciary was wrong. “This is a wrong practice. Nobody should be above the law,” she said, adding that there should be certain safeguards. “Like both the Lokpal and the Supreme Court should agree on a probe against the prime minister.”

Roy also suggested that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill should be revised to facilitate effective action against the higher judiciary while the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) should be strengthened to probe junior officials.

The whistleblowers’ protection bill too should be revised to deal with the increasing attacks and threats against RTI activists, she suggested.

“The Lokpal bill should not become an issue of adamant stances, political rivalries and personality-driven agitations. What we need is a sincere, detailed debate for legislation of immense social significance and public concern,” she said.

Roy, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from 1968 to 1974, resigned from the government as the clouds of Emergency were gathering. She took to social work in the Social Work Research Centre in Tilonia in Rajasthan, founded by her husband Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, another Magsaysay award winner.

However, she professionally disassociated from her husband in 1983, reportedly for ideological reasons, and founded the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (Workers and Peasants Strength Union) in 1990 in Devdoongri in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan.

Roy’s campaign for right to information led to the enactment of the RTI Act – in Rajasthan in 2000 and five years later at the national level.

COURTESY : ECONOMIC  TIMES

Ramlila Maidan becomes a learning ground too

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ANNA HAZARE AT RAMLILA MAIDAN

The battleground of the crusade against corruption a learning ground too for discipline and collaboration.

Ramlila Maidan, where activist Anna Hazare continues his fast, is probably one of the rare places in the country today where people are willing to stand in queue and patiently wait their turn.

On Saturday, as Anna’s fast entered the fifth day, people turned up in droves, curbing their instincts to jostle and jump the serpentine queues. Standing in the blistering heat, they kept the morale up by raising slogans, but gave the police and the organisers little to complain about as they were ushered in and frisked.

Inside the ground, volunteers were busy cleaning the place, serving food and water, helping supporters find a place, answer queries on the Jan Lokpal Bill. On the peripheries of the “maidan,” doctors attended to the unwell.

“It is indeed a rare sight. Where do you see such regulation without a danda [stick] these days? People are willing to cooperate. Yes, there have been complaints of some mischievous elements creating a nuisance, but those have been too few and far in between,” said a volunteer of India Against Corruption.

Periodically requests were made on the public address system, urging the visitors not to litter the “karmbhoomi” (place where one works) and cooperate with the volunteers. Anna’s supporters are learning. “The one thing that we need to learn from Anna is discipline. Have you ever seen a place where people willingly stand in a queue? Look around today and you will see how everyone is trying to fall in line. Our society lacks discipline and if each one of us and our leaders become more disciplined, things will gradually fall into place,” said Rahul, an IT professional who came with this wife to show solidarity.

At the free kitchen, where the queues again were long and winding, there has not been a moment of rest; food is served without a pause. “We are not even keeping track of how many are eating. Till there is food, it will be served,” said a volunteer at the kitchen, who also runs a food service during the Amarnath Yatra.

From morning till late afternoon, five quintals of rice had been consumed. “People are donating whatever they can, we are providing what we can, it is an ongoing process and we don’t even want to keep count of what is being consumed,” he said.

Dr. Kamal from Jodhpur has been sitting under a canopy handing out medicines, checking people for ailments. “Since morning, 15 people have been sent off to hospital because their condition was serious, otherwise we are equipped to deal with dehydration and the minor cuts and bruises that are the common complaints,” he said. The medicines have again come from voluntary donations and arranged for by the doctors themselves.

There are, however, reasons to complain too. While some women have had to deal with unwanted attention from the anti-social elements, a large number of people are unhappy with the inadequate arrangements for sanitation. “There is a huge problem of clean toilets. For those of us who are staying here for longer periods, and for women and children in particular, it is definitely a put off. But when you see a 70 plus person sitting in the sun, hungry, you can complain only so much,” said Sanjay Dhiman, a mechanical engineer from Hardwar.

COURTESY: THE HINDU

Anna Hazare rides wrath yatra, ups ante on Jan Lokpal Bill

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ANNA HAZARE DEMANDING FOR JAN-LOKPAL BILL

Emboldened by the swelling crowds at Ramlila Maidan, Gandhian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare upped the ante within hours of emerging from Tihar Jail on Friday. He set a three-week deadline for Parliament to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, pending which he wouldn’t budge from the ground. This was not only contrary to his group’s commitment to vacate the protest site by August 31, but was also seen to be brushing aside parliamentary processes as no such deadline is set for standing committees to study draft legislations in detail.

The ultimatum marks a hardening of stand which could queer the pitch for negotiations and a settlement to the dramatic face-off. While Team Anna has insisted on the Lokpal Bill being passed in the monsoon session ending September 8, it had refrained from setting a deadline for the passage of their version of the bill, maintaining that they respected Parliament and would abide by its decision.

Anna also gave a call for a jail-bharo campaign if the deadline was not met. Although his associate Prashant Bhushan said they were open to negotiations with the government, the ultimatum narrows the scope of a settlement. Taken by surprise by the groundswell of support for Anna, government leaders seemed inclined to wait out Anna’s protest, reckoning that it would be difficult for his team to sustain this level of popular support.

Addressing the media at Ramlila Maidan, the 74-year-old Anna said: “I have made the decision of my life. It is up to the government to pass the (Jan Lokpal) bill. If it is not passed in this session, I will continue my fast till my last breath.” The pledge drew huge applause from his growing band of supporters. His aide Arvind Kejriwal brazenly declared the group’s lack of faith in parliamentary democracy. “Parliament is not supreme, the public is,” he said. “It’s our right to raise our voice against corruption and the elected representatives must hear it.”

Asked if the three-week deadline was not impractical, Anna shot back that it was the government’s headache. “They have the majority in Parliament and it is up to them to see how they get the bill passed,” he said.

There is, however, a view that two private member’s bills – introduced by BJP’s Varun Feroze Gandhi in Lok Sabha and independent member Rajiv Chandrashekhar in Rajya Sabha — can offer a way out.

Varun plans to move the Jan Lokpal Bill as his bill, while Chandrashekhar’s bill has incorporated features of civil society’s version of the legislation.

Since the grouse of the civil society is that Parliament won’t get to debate the merits of their bill, the two private members’ bills can give the two Houses an opportunity to assess the merits of the two rival pieces of legislation, potentially clearing the way for a resolution.

However, procedures and conventions may come in the way. A private member’s bill can be introduced in the House only after a month’s notice. While Varun Gandhi hasn’t yet formally sought the Speaker’s permission to move the bill, Chandrashekhar submitted his bill in the first week of August. So, neither has a month’s time to be taken up for adoption in this session. Still, extraordinary situations often lead to “creative” solutions. Perhaps, with the House’s permission, the process may be fast-tracked.

Prashant Bhushan told the media: “We are not afraid of discussions. If somebody from the government wants to discuss, we have no problems. But we are not ready to compromise on corruption.”

Kejriwal added that nobody from the government has approached them so far for discussions.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Anna-Hazare-rides-wrath-yatra-ups-ante-on-Jan-Lokpal-Bill/articleshow/9666529.cms

Manmohan for strong, effective Lokpal Bill

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PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH

Affirming his commitment for a strong and effective Lokpal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said there is a “dynamic” in the legislative process which takes time.

In an apparent reference to Mr. Anna Hazare demand for passing the Jan Lokpal by this month-end, Singh said he does not want to controvert anything that was being said on it.

He said all the parties should work together to push for a “strong and effective” Lokpal and remove the “obstacles” in the way.

Observing that there was a “lot of scope for give and take”, the Prime Minister said the government was “open to discussion and dialogue” as it wants a national consensus to emerge.

“We are all in favour of a Lokpal, which is strong, which is effective,” he told a group of journalists after a full Planning Commission meeting while answering questions on the Hazare agitation.

“We are open to, I think, discussion and dialogue. We would like…a broad national consensus to emerge,” Dr. Singh underlined.

“Therefore there is a lot of scope for give and take. Our hope is that we can enlist the cooperation of all thinking segements of Indian public opinion to ensure that the end product is a strong and effective Lokpal which all sections of our community want,” he said.

He noted that the government had presented a Lokpal Bill in Parliament which was the demand of all political parties voiced at a conference convened by him.

“They (parties) said we cannot give you our view point unless and until you come out with a draft. We have fulfilled that obligation,” he said.

Panel seek suggestions

Earlier a Parliamentary committee examining the Lokpal Bill on Saturday sought suggestions from public within 15 days, making it clear that the August 30 deadline set by Anna Hazare on passing the anti-corruption legislation would not be met.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Personnel issued an advertisement in dailies outlining salient features of the Bill and asking people to send their opinions and suggestions within 15 days.

While 15 days is the standard time given by Parliamentary panels to people or organisations to send feedback on bills, the time-frame in this case makes it clear that the deadline of August 30 set by Mr. Hazare for passing the Lokpal Bill will not be met.

Soon after the bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 4, the Rajya Sabha Chairman had referred it to the Committee and given it three months to give recommendations.

The Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Personnel is serviced by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and is headed by a Rajya Sabha member — in this case Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Soon after the bill was referred to it, the Committee had invited team Hazare to place its views before the panel. The Hazare team appeared before the Committee later.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram recently said Mr. Hazare was free to give his views to the panel once again.

Reacting to the newspaper advertisement, Mr. Hazare`s associate Arvind Kejriwal said it appeared to be an exercise which will waste the time of people and Parliamentarians.

“We appeared before the Standing Committee earlier and told them that the present bill is actually for promotion of corruption and save the corrupt people,” he said.