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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

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A Communal Bill Injurious to unity, integrity and fraternity of the people

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IT is astonishing that a Bill like Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access To Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 which is flagrantly violative of the right to equality and patently discriminatory being violative of Article 15(1) could have been even thought of by the National Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Sonia Gandhi who has taken oath to uphold the Constitution and the Government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh who is also under similar oath and introducing it in the Parliament. To put it in a nut shell the Bill is intended to give immunity to religious minorities against serious criminal offences committed by violent groups among them against the life and property of majority and penalise the majority for the crimes committed by such militant groups among minorities and in adition to reward the culprits by providing compensation at the cost of exchequer.

Therefore if it were to be passed into Law; though it is difficult even to imagine that it will be passed by the Parliament; it would be void ab initio. Therefore this is one such Bill which should not be permitted even to be introduced in the Parliament.

The Bill is more disastrous than the Partition of India on communal lines as it is intended to divide us the people of India on communal lines; for by Partition India lost a portion of its territory but by this ill-conceived Bill the citizens who are all children of Bharatamata, stand divided on communal lines providing instigation to the militant and violent sections of minorities to indulge inviolence against majority with impunity.

A reading of the definition of the word group and of communal targeted violence in the Bill which disclose the entire mischief of the Bill read –

“Group means a religious or linguistic minority in any state in the union of India or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clauses (24) and (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution of India.”

Definition of the Communal Targeted Violence:

The communal target violence means and includes any act or series of acts whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation.

The above definition read with the various provisons of the Bill indicate that only minority group can be the victim of communal and targeted violence and only the majority indulge in or instigate communal violence.It is preposterous top resume, that the majority instigates violence against minority and not vice versa in view of the two definitions. It is therefore needless to analyse the various provisions of the Act to show how unreasonable and arbitrary they are , and how they are designed to destroy the unity and integrity of the nation and fraternity among the people which are the noble principles enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of India.Further the provisions of the Bill are designed to destroy the federal structure and render the states subordinate to the Centre.

I conclude this article by stating that the Bill is unconstitutional relying on the Constitution bench judgment of the Supreme Court of India in which an exactly similar classification was struck down as voilative of Article 15 of the Constitution(state of Rajasthan vs. Thakur Pratap Singh; AIR 1960 Supreme Court 1208)

Shortly after the commencement of the Constitution Congress Government of Rajasthan issued a notification under Sec. 15(5) of the Police Act after having levied the cost of additional police force stationed in certain villages, on the local citizens granting exemption to Muslims and harijans from such levy. The constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India stuck down the said notification. Relevant portion of the judgment reads:-

The State of Rajasthan in defence of the exemption stated thus ….

“The Harijan and Muslim inhabitants of these villages have been exempted from liability to bear any portion of the cost of the additional force not because of their religion race or caste but because they were found to be peace loving and law- abiding citizens , in the 24 villages where additional force has been posted” ..

The Supreme Court rejected the defence thus:-

“It would be seen that it is not the case of the state even at the stage of the petition before the High Court that there were no persons belonging to the other communities who were peace -loving and law- abiding, though it might very well be, that according to the state, a great majority of these other communities were inclined the other way, If so , it follows that the notification has discriminated against the law- abiding members of the other communities and in favour of the Muslim and Harijan communities, – (assuming that everyone of them was ‘ peace loving and law-abiding”) on the basis only of “caste” or “religion” . If there were other grounds they ought to have been stated in the notification. It is plain that the notification is directly contrary to the terms of Article 15 (1), and that Para 4 of the notification has incurred condemnation as violating a specific constitutional prohibition. In our opinion, the learned judges of the High court were clearly right in striking down this paragraph of the notification.

The present Bill proves that old habits hardly die

In the light of the law down by the Supreme court of India the present Bill in liable to be rejected at the stage of introduction itself.

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NAC proposals to strengthen MGNREGS

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New National Advisory Council(NAC)of India: So...

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SMITA GUPTA in The Hindu

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) — at the initiative of which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was rolled out in UPA-I — is taking a fresh look at how to strengthen it.

The NAC wants the scheme to move from its “relief work mode” to one that would blend “natural resources and labour to build productive assets.” When the NAC meets here on Thursday, the Deep Joshi-headed working group will suggest ways and means of strengthening the capacity of panchayats to implement the scheme more effectively.

Having finalised its recommendations for big-ticket laws on food security and communal violence, both currently with the government, the NAC will focus, over the next few months, on other smaller, but critical, aam aadmi issues. Besides proposing new guidelines for the MGNREGS, the council will deliberate on welfare interventions for de-notified tribes, social security for the unorganised sector and pre-legislative consultative mechanisms, sources in the NAC told The Hindu.

Three new working groups — on the northeast, minority welfare, and social protection for the most vulnerable groups such as street children and the homeless — will also be constituted.

WORKSHOP

In the run-up to Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Joshi, it is learnt, held a workshop in April, in which representatives of the Central and State governments, as well as NGOs, reviewed the MGNREGS. What emerged was that the annual budget of Rs. 40,000 crore could be better utilised with more effective planning. The sources said that though Schedule One of the MGNREG Act referred to conservation of natural resources such as rainwater, land, forests, this was not reflected in the works floated for the scheme. Thus far, the panchayats, barring those in Karnataka — and, to some extent, in West Bengal, thanks to the long years of Left rule — have “no experience at all in planning large-scale programmes.”

The current system does not have the space for any deliberation. The object, therefore, is to “enable” the panchayats to engage in better planning, giving them access to technical expertise and encouraging them to increase local consultation.

The second issue — how to improve the lives and livelihood of the roughly 13.5 crore-strong denotified tribes, whose members are yet to shed the colonial stigma of being described as criminal tribes — will be addressed by Narendra Jadhav, who heads the working group on the subject.

Spread over approximately 200 communities and several States and, being largely nomadic, at present they don’t enjoy the rights given to the tribal population.

Their status in different States varies: in some, they have been categorised as the Scheduled Castes; in others as the Other Backward Castes; and in some others, they have just fallen through the cracks.

Meanwhile, even as the government grapples with the controversial Lokpal Bill and its uneasy relationship with civil society, Aruna Roy, who heads the working group on transparency and accountability, will initiate a discussion on Thursday to put in place a framework to give non-state actors an institutional role in framing laws. The proposal emanated from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information.

As for the unorganised sector, UPA-II has already extended the benefits of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to the MGNREGS and domestic workers, but the NAC feels that other social security interventions should also be considered. Towards that end, the Mirai Chatterjee-led working group will put forward some draft proposals on Thursday.

SACHAR PANEL REPORT

Of the new working groups coming up, Pramod Tandon will head the one on the northeast, and he is scheduled to outline its concerns. Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi will head the one on minority welfare, which will look at how far the Sachar Committee’s recommendations have been implemented.