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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

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Judicial Overreach

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SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

One of the strongest and most admired pillars in the country’s constitutional edifice is the Supreme Court. Despite some rare egregious failings, it has served as a solid bulwark against open or insidious assaults against the citizen’s rights and freedoms. When the State has failed to act with circumspection or expedition, the Court has admonished it and issued directions calling for specific actions and timetables under supervised oversight mechanisms. These have served society well and upheld and enhanced constitutional values.

The last week, however, has seen the Court issue certain orders and indulge in obiter dicta that carry overtones of judicial overreach. The first is with regard to a petition by Nandini Sundar, Ram Guha and E.A.S Sarma against the depredations of the Salwa Judum, a vigilante group that had gone out of control in the earlier stages of the state government’s campaign against the Naxalites in Chhatisgarh. What was in origin something of a spontaneous uprising of tribal communities against Naxal oppression in parts of Dantewada district was soon “nationalised” by the administration with major opposition support.

The tribals were forced to abandon their hamlets to be “regrouped” along roadsides in ill-prepared rehabilitation villages.Youths were “recruited” as Special Police Officers, given some paltry training and honorarium , provided guns – though quite a few only carried bows and arrows and lathis – and sent out to confront the Naxalites as combatants, guides and spotters alongside the police and paramilitary forces.

As a member of a fact-finding team with the petitioners, this writer can testify to the abject failure of the experiment. Tribal society was divided; the

Salwa Judum became a rabble and a law unto itself; there was enhanced insecurity; living conditions in the camps left much to be desired; and the local economy was derailed. Indeed, the record was so poor that the Salwa Judum experiment was not extended beyond Dantewada.

The Supreme Court last week passionately and eloquently ordered that the Salwa Judum be dismantled and the militia not be used as SPOs in anti-Naxal operations, which it declared unconstitutional. The state’s inability to pre-empt social unrest or build capacity to control it had led to “privatisation” of security. Worse, the rot stemmed from “the amoral political economy that the state endorses and the resultant revolutionary politics that it necessarily spawns”. Theneo-liberal development paradigm postulated rapid growth “via rapid and vast exploitation of natural resources” to meet global competition and accumulate the wealth needed to overcome poverty.

With respect, Judges are surely entitled to their views and to strike down whatever is ultra vires. But the country could be in deep trouble if the Court were to adopt ideological positions and lay down economic policy. Likewise, the Salwa Judum can be arraigned for any wrongdoing. Again, SPOs, properly recruited and trained, have been a lawful and recognised adjunct to the police over decades in many parts of the country under a variety of names such as village volunteer force, village guards and so forth. The Territorial Army, honorary magistrates, resident welfare associations, and recognised NGOs are all variants of legitimate civic institutions that may be called upon to aid the state. To exclude legitimate and licensed civic action would be to leave everything to a monolithic state.

The same ideological animus against “the neo-liberal paradigm” appears in the Supreme Court’s observations on the black money case where it has ordered that the “slow-moving” High Level Committee appointed by the Centre to pursue the matter be subsumed in a new Special Investigation Team that it has named. It has dismissed the Government’s plea of confidentiality regarding the names of foreign account holders disclosed to it under bilateral agreements with foreign entities, albeit with certain safeguards. Further it seeks a comprehensive action plan with an implementation machinery to curb black money in the future.

Here again, their Lordships are tending to assume wide executive powers and seeking what appear to be simplistic solutions to complex problems that are better left to domain experts. Parliament is seized of the matter of unaccounted money in foreign banks and related issues and the Government is now moving forward under relentless public pressure and scrutiny.

How the Government responds remains to be seen. Constitutional clarity is required. There is reason to pause and examine where we are headed. This is not to exonerate the Government for lethargy, laxity or worse but to avoid the danger of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater, leaving the judiciary to run the country and ordain its governing philosophy.

The Greater Noida land acquisition seems also headed the same way with judicial obiter dicta and Congress politics coming together in a heady mixture. Rahul Gandhi’s latestpad yatra seems more geared to next year’s election in Uttar Pradesh than anything else. This betrays a cynical disregard for governance or development in favour of squeezing political mileage anywhere, anyhow, and play-ing a weak Dalit card in whose name he claims to speak.

Inthe 2G case, the CBI’s findings have finally forced out yet another Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, from the Cabinet. This will not rock the UPA too much as the development was long seen coming and the DMK has lost its power to blackmail. In any new cabinet making that follows, no coalition partner, now or ever, should be allowed to dictate terms regarding the number, rank and specific portfolios to be given to its members. There have been many cases of square pegs in round holes and even now we have Alagizhi, the last remaining DMK Minister, who has played truant from work on the ground that he knows neither Hindi nor English. Why then is he there?

An amusing sidelight in the Supreme Court hearing of the 2G matter was the stern admonition to counsel to reject outright opinions taken from retired judges and jurists in the case. This, even as another Bench sought to appoint two retired judges to the black money SIT it proposed, one of them as chairman.

Finally, the last week witnessed the country’s best athletes fail dope tests. The athletes pleaded not guilty and blame was shuttled between the Sports Authority of India, coaches who were said to have recommended performance enhancing drugs and unscrupulous chemists who sold steroids and other banned substances across the counter. This is a shame. Everywhere in India, sport, especially cricket, is being reduced to money and glory at any cost. Faded politicians have captured power in most sports organisations, treating them as personal fiefdoms. A clean up seems necessary, starting from a dysfunctional Union Sports Ministry.

 

Anna Hazare’s August 16 agitation unjustified: Govt

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Government today said that Anna Hazare‘s plan to go on fast from August 16 on Lokpal issue is “unjustified” at this stage, when it is moving forward on the passage of the bill.

“At this stage an extra Parliamentary protest seems unjustified,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said when asked how the government views Hazare’s proposed agitation at a time when the draft bill for Lokpal is being deliberated before the Standing Committee.

Noting that “everybody has a right to protest and the context and circumstances will decide whether the protest was right or not”, Chidamabram said Hazare team’s earlier fast, when the Lokpal bill was not in place, was perhaps right but not now when a bill has already been introduced in Parliament and the government has “moved forward” on it.

Addressing a press briefing of the Group of Ministers on Media, the Union minister said that the government’s draft Lokpal bill will receive many suggestions in the Standing Committee as well as in Parliament from the opposition parties and some of these may also be accommodated.

To another question on whether the government can intervene in case Hazare’s health is affected, the home minister said, “Certainly, if anyone’s life is in danger, the government has not only a duty but a right to intervene.”

He was, however quick to add that the statement was not in context of Hazare but a general one.

To queries about the delay in permission to Hazare to hold fast and how the government intends to tackle the stir, the home minister said that the matter rests with Delhi police commissioner and the government was “not tackling or pushing any one”.

“I think we are jumping the gun. He wants to have a protest fast and has applied for permission before the Delhi Police. The application is under process. Police commissioner has to decide. See what he decides,” he said.

Asked about Team Anna’s claims of 90 per cent support in Rahul Gandhi‘s constituency Amethi for Jan Lokpal Bill, the home minister said that he can only repeat what Union Minister Kapil Sibal had earlier said that “we are surprised it is not 100 per cent”.

The home minister said people of the country are “reasonably satisfied” with the government moving forward on the Lokpal Bill.

Asked whether the ministers can claim to have gauged the mood of the voters in their constituencies on the Lokpal issue especially in the backdrop of Team Anna’s surveys in Amethi and Chandani Chowk showing people’s support for Jan Lokpal Bill, Chidambaram said that there are no such methods before MPs to conduct any referendum.

There is also no legal mechanism for it but the interactions with party workers and voters give an indication that people are satisfied with the government’s initiative on the issue, he said.

When in power, people start making money, Maran told U.S. Political Officer

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Election symbol of DMK

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SURESH NAMBATH in The HIndu

In a candid conversation with the American Political Officer in February 2008, DMK Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran spoke of corruption in his party and the increasing anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu.

Consul General David T. Hopper, in a cable dated February 23, 2008 accessed by The Hinduthrough WikiLeaks [142702: confidential], informed the U.S. State Department that Mr. Maran predicted that in Tamil Nadu the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its partners “would lose about half of their [Lok Sabha] seats if things continue as they are.” Further, “talking about the increasing anti-incumbency factor in the state, Maran alluded to the general impression that the DMK is especially corrupt, saying ‘when people get into power they lose concentration and start focusing on making money.’”

The cable, which was coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, explains that on February 15, 2008 the Political Officer at the Chennai Consulate-General met with Mr. Maran “for the first time since he was sacked in May 2007 as the Union IT and Telecommunications Minister following a dispute with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi.”

Mr. Dayanidhi Maran also spoke about the perils of providing freebies. “The problem when you come to power by promising people free TVs,” he is quoted as saying during the meeting, “is that people soon forget the TVs you gave them and then ask ‘what are you doing for me now?’”

Mr. Hopper reported the estranged DMK M.P., who is now back as Union Textiles Minister, as being “very downbeat” about the United Progressive Alliance‘s prospects in the 15th Lok Sabha election, observing that “the UPA is in tough shape, especially after Gujarat.” Surveying South India, Mr. Maran also “expected significant losses for the UPA partners.” He was “pessimistic” about the Congress’s prospects in Andhra Pradesh, “saying Chief Minister YSR Reddy’s popularity is on the decline and that he expects Congress to lose a substantial number of the 29 Lok Sabha seats it currently holds. But he was quick to add that in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the UPA’s predicted losses stem from failures of the DMK and Congress parties and not from effective opposition.”

The Chennai consulate cable reported Mr. Maran as going on to assert that “the opposition AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh have floundered” and that “any UPA losses will have ‘nothing to do with Jayalalithaa (the AIADMK leader) or Naidu (the TDP leader).’” Further, he “acknowledged that the INC would likely pick up seats in Kerala at the expense of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) but said the gains would not be nearly enough to offset UPA losses in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.”

Mr. Hopper, the experienced diplomat, noted that Mr. Maran’s falling out with the DMK leadership was in part due to financial reasons, and so “his swipe at DMK corruption, although largely accurate, reflects some sour grapes.” Moreover, the Consul General pointed out in the cable, when in favour with DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, “Maran joined in the TV and other give-away schemes that helped the DMK win the 2006 state elections.”

Interestingly, while the DMK M.P. was scathing about the DMK, he was all praise for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, arguing that the Congress party needed to name him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Although he recognised that it would be a long shot, Mr. Maran contended that “Rahul is the only chance they’ve got.”

Rahul, Mr. Maran added, would benefit from the legacy of his father Rajiv Gandhi’s popularity in South India. The dynastic element of Rahul’s elevation would play well down south, he remarked. “If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have much of a problem with dynastic politics down here. In fact, we seem to like it.”

The cable also reported Mr. Maran as saying that projecting Rahul as the Congress’s candidate could help motivate young voters, but he was being held back by his handlers, who were managing him too closely and keeping him cloistered. “Rahul’s big problem, Maran said, is that ‘he doesn’t get to see real people.’”

Consul-General Hopper, too sharp not to detect a subjective element in the insights provided by Mr. Maran on Mr. Rahul Gandhi, supplied this comment towards the end of the cable: “His views on the likelihood of Rahul Gandhi taking the reins in Congress are perhaps colored by his view of himself as part of a new breed of young Indian politicians, playing a similar role in Tamil Nadu’s DMK as Rahul does for the Congress party. To the extent he sees Rahul going places, he is seeing a brighter future for himself too.”

By December 1, 2008, Mr. Maran was back in the DMK fold and in his grand-uncle M. Karunanidhi’s favour. When it came to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, his prediction was off on Tamil Nadu where money power played a huge role – and the DMK bagged 18 seats against the AIADMK’s 9, and the DMK front bagged 27 against the rival front’s 12. Mr. Maran’s “pessimism” was way off on Andhra Pradesh where the Congress, led by a hugely popular YSR, took 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. He completely misread the role of the AIADMK leader, Ms Jayalalithaa, in creating the groundswell that was in its early phases in mid-2009. But his prediction that the DMK was heading for a downfall on account of the corruption issue came true with a vengeance in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election of mid-2011.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2040630.ece