In the past few months, most Indians on Facebook and other social networks would have seen some mention of the Lokpal Bill and Anna Hazare. I have discussed this issue with several of my friends and thought I’d summarize my thoughts and spam my friends’ Facebook feed as well :)
I support Anna Hazare. For most part, I support his version of the Lok Pal. I would like a few minor changes (that I am not mentioning here). If I were a Member of Parliament, the absence of these changes would not stop me from voting Team Anna’s version. The bill, as I understand it, aims to establish an investigative agency called the Lok Pal that is independent of the Central Government and focuses on public corruption charges. I view the Lok Pal as a combination of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- The CVC is autonomous, but is not an investigative agency.
- The CBI is not autonomous, but it is an investigative agency.
- The Lok Pal would be an autonomous investigative agency.
India needs such an agency. I support the bill.
I am going to use this post to mainly address various arguments I have heard against the bill.
Arguments against the content of the bill
The bill is draconian. No! The rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India still hold. It is finally up to the judiciary to decide who should be punished and how. The Supreme Court of India gets ultimate say.
The bill is unconstitutional. I am yet to see anyone specify a particular section or principle of the Constitution that this bill would violate. What I have read are various arguments that this bill somehow violates the balance of power envisioned in the Constitution. I don’t see how and I’ll wait for the Supreme Court to rule it Ultra Vires if that is the case. The Indian Government has not argued that the bill is unconstitutional. It has merely argued that the bill is bad policy. To be honest though, the Indian Government has not made any argument. They should have televised the proceedings of the drafting committee meeting.
The way to fight corruption is by making government smaller. The bill and this argument do not contract each other. You can make government smaller and at the same time have an investigative agency. Investigation and law enforcement are functions that can be performed only the state. Remember what the SEC and other US federal agencies failed to do before the financial meltdown in 2008.
The bill’s language is kooky. I agree. This is a minor detail that is not a point of contention between the government and Anna Hazare and can be fixed.
The bill won’t work. No comment. We’ll have to wait and see.
Arguments against the method of protest employed by Team Anna
Team Anna behaves as though they are Parliament. Of course, not! It is finally up to Parliament to pass any bill into law. Team Anna is just like any other group lobbying the government. They are lobbying the administration and Parliament publicly and seem to be quite successful!
Unrelated to this issue, but I can’t help pointing these out. 1) I find it ironic that some Parliamentarians talking about the prerogatives of their institution conveniently forget that they did not meet even a single day during last year’s monsoon session. 2) A few years ago Parliament was dealing with how to respond to Greg Chappel.
Every person has the right to speak. Every person has the right to petition Parliament. Every person has the right to protest. Every person has the right to go on a hunger strike, a time-honored Indian tradition of non-violent protest.
Team Anna is blackmailing Parliament into acting in haste. Karan Thapar made this argument on his show. I find this argument similar to what Republicans made against Obamacare a month before it passed. Healthcare reform was first proposed (and defeated) during the Clinton days. It was discussed for a whole year after Obama got elected and yet the Republicans kept asking for a fresh start.
Lok Pal Bills have been introduced eight times in Parliament. Several Parliamentary Standing Committees have issued reports on various bills. This current iteration has lasted more than 8 months. MPs have had enough time to consult experts and their constituents. (I have not heard of any MP claim that their constituents oppose Anna Hazare’s version of the bill.) At what point is it okay for a citizen say, “Enough is enough?”
Ad homimen attacks
Anna Hazare is a frontman for the RSS and Hindu-fundamentalists. Arundathi Roy makes this claim. I don’t even know if this argument has any basis in reality. It sounds like the “Obama is a Muslim” attacks. Firstly, there is no evidence to support the claim. Secondly, what if it were true? How would it matter?
Middle-class folks who support the bill are themselves corrupt and have paid a bribe at some point in their lives. Does one really think that folks like paying bribes? Even so, shouldn’t someone not aspire for what they think will lead to a fairer system and society?
This is a media spectacle/conspiracy. Duh.