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Posts Tagged ‘Lokayukta

Teaching a hard lesson

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SUDIPTO MUNDLE in TOI

Shehla Masood was killed in Bhopal recently, yet another RTI activist who lost her life in the battle against corruption. The Lokayukta report has brought down the chief minister in Karnataka. A high court judge is being impeached in Parliament. The Comptroller and Auditor General and the Supreme Court are in hot pursuit of mega scams. The CBI has charge-sheeted and locked up top executive honchos, MPs, even a cabinet minister. India is at war against corruption.

Now we have Team Anna’s much celebrated victory. His hunger strike and arrest galvanised a whole nation. Nothing like this had been seen since the freedom movement led by Gandhi, except perhaps the JP movement. Cong-ress leaders were clearly shocked. As the rallies swelled and Team Anna grew more stubborn, the party swung from hard line to soft line to hard line again.

Finally, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – much vilified in recent times even by his well-wishers for neither leading nor resigning, and presiding over a corrupt regime – who did the right thing. At his instance, alternative proposals for the Lokpal Bill were discussed in Parliament, and an all-party resolution passed that supports the three key issues raised by Team Anna. He then reached out to Anna, requesting him to withdraw his fast.

Anna responded by congratulating Parliament and breaking his 12-day fast while the nation rejoiced and heaved a collective sigh of relief. The prime minister’s approach preserved the authority of Parliament, yet ensured that Parliament was responsive to a popular non-violent movement. Between Anna and him, they have led the people and the Parliament of India to the finest moment of our democracy as the world has watched and applauded us.

The Parliament resolution is a giant leap for Indian democracy, but only one big step in fighting corruption. The hard work starts now. As the standing committee gets down to the nitty-gritty of drafting the revised Lokpal Bill, it is a good time to look at the insights on corruption containment offered by a cross-over subject called Law and Economics.

The organising theme underlying this approach is the pleasure-pain calculus attributed to philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The idea that all human behaviour is driven by this calculus is controversial. But it seems reasonable to suggest that crimes like corruption are indeed driven by the criminal’s perception of potential gain and the loss if caught: pleasure and pain. Much insight on how to contain corruption derives from this simple principle. However, corruption takes many forms and no matter how clever a policy, the criminal mind can be equally clever. Also, beyond a point, the costs of further reducing corruption could exceed the loss from corruption. Hence, corruption can be contained, possibly minimised, but not entirely eliminated. With this caveat, the following broad proposals can be made.

First, there is the widespread phenomenon of citizens having to pay a bribe to get what they are entitled to by right, e.g., timely delivery of pensions, ration cards, passports, etc or the timely restoration of power, phone lines, water supply, and so on. In such cases, the bribe payer is actually a victim of extortion. In a recent paper, economist Kaushik Basu has proposed that acts of bribe-giving in such cases of ‘harassment corruption’ should not be considered a crime, as at present. Instead, the punishment for the bribe seeker should be significantly enhanced. Such an amendment of the relevant law could vastly reduce ‘harassment corruption’ because the potential extortionist would be deterred by his knowledge that bribe-givers are likely to blow the whistle after getting their job done.

For other forms of major corruption, the pleasure-pain calculus has generated three basic approaches for containment: high civil service pay to moderate the lure of illegal gratification; laws prescribing very harsh punishment and/or strong law enforcement to enhance the probability and expected pain from being caught, compared to the potential gain; and strong competitive structures with transparent non-discretionary rules to minimise the opportunities for gain from bribe-driven decisions. International evidence reveals two cases of high civil service pay and low levels of corruption, Singapore and Hong Kong. However, both these places also have strong laws against corruption, strict enforcement and open, competitive market structures. Hence, the individual effects of each of the three approaches cannot be disentangled in either of these cases.

Evidence from other countries indicates that strong laws, strict enforcement and competitive structures each individually and significantly contribute to curbing corruption. In most developing countries, including India, poor enforcement of laws is the norm. Turning that around would be very costly in resources and a great administrative challenge. By comparison, enacting strong laws or introducing reforms to strengthen competitiveness are relatively costless and administratively less challenging.

These should be our strategic priorities in fighting corruption. The former requires a revised Lokpal Bill that provides for very stiff punishment of corruption. The latter requires other urgent reforms to strengthen competitiveness through transparent, non-discretionary regulations that are not unduly restrictive. While these should be our priorities, enforcement too has to be strengthened to the extent our fiscal and administrative capacities permit.

The writer is emeritus professor at the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, New Delhi.

COURTESY: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Anna Hazare fast: Lokpal debate in House unlikely today over procedural delays

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IIT-Delhi faculty and students show support for Anna Hazare

A debate scheduled in Lok Sabha on various versions of theLokpal Bill, including that of fasting anti-corruption activistAnna Hazare, was unlikely on Friday because of procedural delays. Soon after the debate began, the House was adjourned till 3.30 pm following uproarious scenes by the Opposition.

Parliamentary Affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the debate may now be held on Saturday. He expressed displeasure over the functioning of the House.

‘Anna ready to break fast’
The developments came as Hazare’s fast entered its 11th day at the Ramlila Maidan. Hazare’s associate Kiran Bedi said the Gandhian activist would end his hunger strike once Parliament passed a resolution that met his demands. These are: the inclusion of lower bureaucracy under Lokpal, a citizens’ charter and the setting up of state Lokayuktas.

“Today is a key moment for India’s future. The resolution by MPs will be victory for every Indian,” Bedi said.

Prashant Bhushan, another Hazare associate, said: “A mere discussion will not do. Parliament will have to pass a resolution indicating that the Lokpal Bill covers the three issues raised by Anna.”

Hazare’s team demanded that Parliament, if need be, hold the debate on Saturday too, saying Hazare’s health was precarious and corruption was a critical issue.

Rahul suggests Lokpal on lines of EC

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha.

Hazare’s ongoing fast was lauded by Rahul in his Zero Hour speech in Lok Sabha, but he emphasised that the fight against corruption had to move beyond setting up an effective Lokpal.

“We can’t wish away corruption. It will require a comprehensive programme of action. There is a perception that enactment of single Bill will eradicate corruption. I have serious doubts about that,” Rahul said.

“The Lokpal law is just one element in the fight against corruption. Laws are also required on government funding of elections, land issues and mining,” he said, reminding MPs that they had the responsibility of allowing Parliament to function so that such laws could be enacted.

“Why not make the Lokpal a constitutional body like the Election Commission?” asked Rahul, all the while being backed by Congress MPs.

“Democractic processes cannot be undermined. Underming Parliament’s supremacy is dangerous for democracy,” he cautioned. “Let us commit ourselves to truth and probity in life. We owe it to the people of India.”

BJP MPs interrupt Rahul speech
Rahul’s statement sparked off an uproar in the House, with BJP MPs rising from their seats and shouting slogans. His speech was interrupted several times. BJP leader Ananth Kumar later stepped up the attack on the Congress by asking if Rahul or the prime minister was running the government.

Earlier in the day, Rahul met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, apparently to discuss the Lokpal Bill.

MPs seek debate under Rule 193

Doctors examine Anna Hazare
Doctors examine Anna Hazare at the Ramlila Maidan.

As the Lok Sabha session began on Friday, Congress MPs Jagdambika Pal, Anu Tandon and Sanjay Nirupam gave a notice to Speaker Meira Kumar, seeking a debate on the Jan Lokpal Bill under Rule 193.

This was after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal expressed doubts whether a debate could take place on Friday as there was no notice for it.

The government had on Thursday agreed to a debate on three versions of the Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha, giving rise to hopes of a resolution of the ongoing crisis.

Hazare’s team has demanded a Parliament debate under Rule 184, which allows voting.

Team Anna’s draft resolution for Parliment

Supporters of Anna Hazare
Supporters of Hazare in New Delhi.

Hazare’s team has proposed a resolution for Parliament. It reads as:
1) A Lokpal Bill shall be passed by Parliament in the ongoing session, which will set up an independent Lokpal institution at the Centre and an independent Lokayukta institution on the same model in each state.
2) The House further resolves that Lokpal shall have jurisdiction over all public servants at the Centre and the Lokayukta shall have jurisdiction over all public servants in respective states.
3) Such law would require that all government departments make Citizens’ Charters to give information about which public-dealing work being done in how much time and by which officer. Violation of the Citizens’ Charter shall be penalised by Lokpal or Lokayukta.

Anna writes to PM
Hazare also wrote a letter to the prime minister, which was taken to him by Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The highlights of the letter are:
– I am not sitting on a fast for serving my selfish purpose. I am just a common man and I want to help the poor people of this country. I have no partaking in power politics.
– Our movement is not against any person or any party. We want to fight and remove corruption. During this movement, if anything said by any of the team members has hurt your sentiments, then I apologise on their behalf.
– The common man is getting affected on a day-to-day basis due to corruption.
– (Mentioning the three demands on Lokpal Bill) If these can be accepted by Parliament, I will end my fast. Else I will keep sitting at Ramlila Maidan.

Govt wants assurance from Anna

Supporters of Anna Hazare
Supporters of Anna Hazare shout slogans outside the PM’s residence.

The government has sought a concrete assurance from Hazare that he will break the fast after Parliament takes up his Jan Lokpal Bill.

Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit, one of the negotiators for the government, said Hazare should keep the sanctity of his fast and stick to his words.

“This hunger strike has been an ideal for all. Anna is kind-hearted, I appeal to him to break his fast. He had said he will end his fast as the discussion begins. Since everybody is ready for the discussion, he should end the fast,” he said.

Ministers continue with meetings
Law Minister Salman Khurshid met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss a way out of the deadlock. “We want a collaborative, cooperative resolution in the House. The whole House must be party to it,” Khurshid said.

Team Anna meets Left leaders
A day after meeting the BJP top brass, Hazare’s team met CPI(M) leaders on Friday.

“We are going back to all political parties to ask which provisions of the Lokpal need more clarification,” said Bedi.

After meeting CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat, Bhushan said, “I have given clarifications that the CPI(M) sought. The party has indicated that they by and large support the Jan Lokpal Bill.”

COURTESY: INDIA TODAY

Beware of the Government Lokpal Bill

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Corruption

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ARVIND KEJRIWAL IN LIEU OF ANNA HAZARE AND INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION

I reviewed the Government’s Lokpal bill in great detail. I am deeply concerned and not to mention alarmed with what I learned from it. Government has completely ignored the wishes of the common man and made a mockery of our hard fought struggle for strong anti-corruption laws. I have summarized the most troubling aspects of the government version here and suggested possible steps that everyone of you can take to help in this movement.

We had been demanding that an institution called Lokpal should be set up for central government and a Lokayukta should be set up for each state government through the same Bill. Lokpal would receive and investigate corruption complaints against central government employees and politicians. Lokayukta would do that job in respective states. However, the Cabinet has rejected our demand. Only a few senior-most officers in central government have been brought within the jurisdiction of Lokpal. All officials and politicians in state governments have been left out.

What does that mean?

  • It means that rampant corruption in Panchayat works would continue as it is. Through the use of RTI Act, many people across the country have revealed how payments are routinely made for ghost works. Check dams exist only on paper. List of beneficiaries of various government schemes contain bogus names. Wages of poorest people are denied and siphoned off under NREGA. Social audits in several states have exposed corruption running into thousands of crores in NREGA. Medicines are routinely diverted to black market from government hospitals. Teachers do not turn up in government schools. They pay a part of their salaries to Basic Shiksha Adhikari to mark their attendance. 80% of Rs 30,000 crores of ration subsidy is siphoned off. People living below poverty line are turned away by ration shopkeepers because their rations are diverted to black market. Much of this money reaches the party coffers or the senior-most politicians. All this will continue even after the enactment of government’s Lokpal Bill because all of this is outside its jurisdiction.
  • In cities, roads would continue to break after a few months of being constructed. Flyovers would continue to collapse. Streetlights will still not light up. Parks would continue to remain dilapidated. The builders would continue to fleece ordinary consumers. You would still need to pay bribes to get your passport or income tax refund. Building plan will not be passed without a bribe. Government’s Lokpal Bill does not cover any of this.
  • Adarsh Housing scam is not covered under Government’s Lokpal. Reddy brothers will continue to loot our mines and minerals. Commonwealth Games, Fodder scam, Taj Corridor Scam, Yamuna Expressway scam, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha scam, Cash for vote scam – none of these scams are covered under Government’s Lokpal Bill.
  • Members of Parliament and MLAs would continue to take bribes to ask questions or vote in Parliament and legislative assemblies because Lokpal would not have the powers to investigate them.
  • Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, MPs, MLAs, municipal councilors, sarpanches, judges, all state government employees, all Group B, Group C and group D employees of the central government – all are out of the jurisdiction of Government’s Lokpal Bill.
  • Interestingly, if any citizen makes a complaint of corruption against any official to Lokpal and if it lacks adequate evidence, then as per government’s bill, the citizen would face two years of minimum imprisonment. And the government would provide a free advocate to the corrupt official to file a case against the citizen. But if the citizen is able to prove that the official has indeed indulged in corruption, there is just six months of minimum imprisonment. Therefore, rather than the corrupt and corruption, the government bill is targeted against those who dare raise their voice against corruption. In short, it discourages people from reporting acts of corruption!
  • 13 people, who had dared to raise their voice against corruption, were murdered in the last one year. We had demanded that Lokpal should have the powers and duty to provide protection to such people. Government Bill does not have any such provision.
  • Government has retained its control over CBI. So, CBI would continue to avoid taking action against a future Raja until Supreme Court admonished them. Accounts of Quattrochis would continue to be defrozen in secrecy against national interests. CBI would continue to be used to arm twist Mayawatis, Laloo Yadavs, Jayalalithas and Mulayam Singhs into submission. Corruption money would continue to be siphoned off to Swiss accounts.
  • Government’s Lokpal Bill is also unconstitutional. Prime Minister does not enjoy any immunity from investigations under the constitution. Exclusion of Prime Minister from Lokpal Bill is unconstitutional.
  • Selection and removal of Lokpal members will be completely in the control of the government. Out of 9 member selection committee, five will be from ruling establishment, thus effectively giving powers in the hands of the government to appoint the most corrupt, pliable and politically loyal people as Lokpal members.
  • High Courts and Supreme Court would continue to take more than 20 years to dispose appeals in corruption cases because our plea to set up special benches to hear such appeals has also been turned down.

Government says that there are 1.25 crore government employees in the country. Government refuses to bring them under Lokpal Bill because it would need large number of anti-corruption staff to keep a check on them. Isn’t that an absurd excuse? India is a huge country. Obviously, it has large number of employees. Can the government leave them unchecked and allow them to loot the people and the country? Under law, corruption is a crime – as heinous as murder or rape. If tomorrow, the incidence of murders or rapes increases as much as we have corruption now, would the government turn around and say that this country has 120 crore population and since they would need large number of policemen to check crime, they would not do it?

The country seems to be in the clutches of highly corrupt people. It has been reported that in the Cabinet Meeting, the Prime Minister, including some of his other Cabinet colleagues, kept pleading that PMbe included within the Lokpal Bill. However, the corrupt within the Cabinet had the last say. The Prime Minister was rendered helpless, though one wonders the reasons for his helplessness.What are our options?  Some people feel that Anna is unreasonable. They say that an indefinite fast is a brahmastra and should be used as a last resort. Haven’t we already reached the end of the road?Friends, I must confess, that the road ahead is extremely challenging. Government is on a path to try and crush the movement at any cost. We need the active participation of every single Indian in order to fight back. If the Government’s bill becomes law we are literally gifting our country to the corrupt people to further plunder our resources.
Like I have said before its now or never.Let every citizen in this country take one week’s off from his normal work from 16th August, the day Anna starts his indefinite fast, and take to the streets – in front of his house or at the crossings or in parks – with a tricolor in his hands shouting slogans against corruption. Let students take off from their schools and colleges. Let everyone take to streets. If this happens, we will achieve our goal within a week. Government can crush one Anna but it cannot crush 120 crore Annas. Government can impose section 144 on one jantar mantar. But it cannot impose a curfew on the whole country.Can we count on you support to participate in one final attempt to save our country from the corrupt?
Arvind Kejriwal
India Against Corruption (IAC)
http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org
Give missed call at 022-61550789 to stay connected
Signing Common Platform Petition to PM at :<<LINK>>
Email :indiaagainstcorruption.2010@gmail.com
LINK TO GOVERNMENT LOKPAL BILL 2011

 

Two faces of Lokpal, Lokayukta Mother India

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santosh hegde, former lokayukta of karnataka, ...

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Editorial in the Shanghai Express

A toast is well deserved. Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Santosh Hegde is certainly the man of the hour, courtesy the effective enforcement of the clau- ses contained in the Lokayukta in Karnataka.

However before the toast is raised, before the congratulatory notes start pouring in, it would be worthwhile to take certain things into consideration, study them and digest them. Largest democracy in the world.

Island of democracy in a sea of Nations where democracy has more often failed than succeeded, one of the few developing Nations (when this term was politically acceptable in 1947) where the rule of the ballot has never been disrupted by spells of military rule and the largest democracy in the world.

These are some of the epithets that sit pretty comfortably in the crown of Mother India and to top these is the reputation earned in the last decade or so as one of the fastest emerging economic powers in the world. So as Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa faces the heat in the face of the damning indictment issued by the Lokayukta of the State headed by Justice Santosh Hegde, this should be the ideal time to ponder over some uncomfortable questions.

As a Parliamentary democracy, India rightfully believes that the ballot or the EVMs are the final arbiter of the performance of a Government or more specifically a political party. This means that every five years a sort of a referendum on the performance, governance, character etc of a Government or a political party and at the micro level a politician is held and the verdict of the people is supposed to reflect the points we have just mentioned.

This has been the case ever since India attained independence more than 60 years back yet the five yearly elections have never been able to address certain questions and to this day this failure is reflected in the atrocious positions of women in society, the fate of the girl child, the caste structure which has mutated to caste based politics and probably the most niggling of them all- institutionalisation of corruption.

This is the reason why the word of caution against raising the toast was issued in the first place. In many ways the growing need of Bills or Acts like Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the States is a damning testimony that the mechanisms of power available to the people through the universal adult franchise have been manipulated and distorted by the political class to such an extent that today this democratic exercise has failed to check corrupt practices such as money laundering, bribery, financial misappropriation, stashing black money in foreign countries etc.

In as much as the average man on the street may feel a sense of vindication in the damning indictment of Yeddyruppa, the overwhelming sense of a loss or indignity forced on the Nation cannot be brushed aside. Should the indictment be a time for celebration or should it be a time to reel in a sense of shame that a person who was elected to the position of the leader of the people should be found dipping his dirty hands in the pie ?

The need for raising this very question is necessitated by the uncomfortable fact that Yeddyruppa is but just a small fish netted from the cesspool of corruption which is patronised by the political class and ably aided by a system which is personified by the Babudom. An understanding of this ugly reality is therefore necessary to understand why the Congress led UPA Government is dragging its feet and demonstrating that it is not at all interested in passing a Lokpal Bill which has teeth and muscle.

The adamant stand of the Government is necessitated by the benefits that the politicians stand to gain as long as the status quo is maintained and this is the very reason why Ana Hazare has been able to capture the imagination of quite a large number of people and why a Baba Ramdev nearly succeeded in stealing the thunder from the issue at hand.

In the beginning when innocence was still a virtue there was nothing wrong in bringing the Anti-Corruption branch and the Central Bureau of Investigation under the Government and this means that these two agencies cannot work at their own initiative.

The Lokpal at the Centre and the Lokayukta at the States look to undo this and this means that once these two agencies become independent entities they can initiate action against the top rung officers or any politician without much interference. This is not all.

The Central Vigilance Commission, which is the authorised body at the Centre to recommend the dismissal of a corrupt officer, has been reduced to the status of an advisory body, but Lokpal and Lokayukta will have the authority and the independence to dismiss the corrupt.

Judges can be tried and prosecuted by the Lokpal and the Lokayukta and politicians will have no say in the selection and appointment of chairpersons and members of these two bodies. It is easy to see why the UPA Government has developed cold feet in going full steam ahead with the Lokpal Bill at the Centre and this is totally in line with the political culture that is associated with a Yeddyruppa.

The question is whether it is the system which has given birth to the Yeddyruppas or whether it is the Yeddyruppas who have scripted the system. Karnataka has shown that its Lokayukta is alive and kicking and the natural question that follows is, what about here, in this kingdom of Mr Okram Ibobi ?

Karnataka CM defiant even after BJP asks him to resign

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The BJP parliamentary board on Thursday asked tainted Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to tender his resignation immediately, following the indictment by the Lokayukta over illegal mining in the state.

Briefing mediapersons, BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said that the party has decided that it was time for a change in the Karnataka BJP leadership. He also said that Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh will go to Bangalore on Friday to choose an alternative leader.

The meeting was attended among others by LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu.

Even as BJP bosses have officially asked Yeddyurappa to step down, the Karnataka chief minister is defiant and is threatening to play spoil sport for the party.

Soon after his abrupt return from New Delhi, Yeddyurappa convened a meeting of MLAs at his residence and also announced he would go ahead with scheduled plans of his cabinet meeting.

State BJP unit KS Eshwarappa, who is also in Delhi issued stern warning to MLAs not to attend the meeting called by Yedddyurappa.

Though there are 25 MLAs and 6 ministers attending Yeddyurappa’s meeting, party sources said it was just a courtesy call and many would side with the party once an alternative leader was announced.

Senior leaders Ananth Kumar, KS Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar are the frontrunners for the post of chief minister.

Former state BJP president D V Sadananda Gowda is seen as a dark horse.