Team Anna and the Central government have once again crossed swords over Lokpal Bill. Team Anna along with the Opposition has taken exception to the draft of Lokpal prepared by the House panel. The sticking point of the draft is exclusion of the Prime Minister as well as Group 3-4 employees from the ambit of Lokpal. Another flashpoint is that it has not brought the CBI under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. It is no surprising that the panel has put aside judiciary from the domain of Lokpal because all parties wanted it. It is difficult to say that the Lokpal draft prepared by the Parliamentary Standing Committee is in consonance with the tenets of the House. As the Cabinet has to mull over the draft of Lokpal before discussion on it in the Parliament, it would be wise that they should take Team Anna into confidence and feel the pulse of people as well. It is good for the Parliament if there is an open talk on the draft approved by the Cabinet. According to Arvind Kejriwal, a member of Team Anna, the draft made by the House panel is worth jettisoning. He is of the opinion that if Lokpal is constituted as per this draft, it will help corruption thrive. Arvind Kejriwal’s another potent reason for putting question over the Lokpal draft is that 16 members of the panel also disapproved it. Out of 32 members of the panel, two did not participate into the meeting of Standing Committee. It is significant that the government should give firm assurance to people of the country that the Centre is committed to strong Lokpal. Right now such commitment is conspicuous by its absence.

Anna Hazare started his agitation for Lokpal at the time when CWG and 2G scams had cropped up, which later on snowballed into a colossal form of graft that was exposed after the pressure created by the Supreme Court. After some time the accused of CWG scam and 2G bungling were arrested. The CBI filed chargesheet against the accused of 2G scam after keeping them in jail for months. Whether they prove their innocence in the court, only time will speak. Despite its tall claim, the CBI has lost its credibility in tackling graft issue. There is a public perception about the CBI that the autonomy of the investigating agency is mere eyewash and it is working under the pressure of the Central dispensation. It is obvious that the CBI’s stand has been soft towards Lalu Yadav, Mayawati, and Mulayam Singh in the wake of political compulsion of the Centre. The premier investigating agency kept blowing hot and cold regarding the allegations levied on these leaders. The Opposition has outrightly pinned blame on the ruling party that the CBI has become a protégé of the Central government and it uses the investigating agency for taking care of the interest of coalition politics. However, the Centre has pooh poohed this allegation, but people have difficulty in vouching for the credibility of the CBI. If Team Anna and common people do have unrelenting demand for bringing the CBI under Lokpal, they should not be blamed. If there is no capable investigating agency that could work without intervention of the government, it would be difficult to put noose around corrupt elements.

According to Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Lokpal, it will be easier to give constitutional status to Lokpal, but only time will say whether this would comply with the suggestions made by Rahul Gandhi. Instead of giving clear stand on putting the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal, the House panel has tossed three options. One of them is keeping the PM aside from the jurisdiction of Lokpal. It is palpable that the Parliament will have to reply, what if a graft is linked with the Prime Minister or his office? Notably, the fire of 2G probe reached the PMO.

It is not easy task to weed out corruption which is deeply rooted in the political system of the country. The Central government does not seem to have had requisite guts to completely sweep out corruption from political and administrative system. The courage and determination is expected from those who are sitting at the helm of affairs. What they do, their government just follows that. If the Prime Minister and Chief Minister take stern determination to fight against corruption, the message will percolate that system has zero tolerance for corrupt elements.

With movement of Anna Hazare launched first in April and later in August, the public awareness about rampant corruption has increased, but it is difficult to say that the Centre and state governments have taken concrete step against corruption. It is palpable that Lokpal alone cannot remove corruption, so it is required to make diametric changes in the political system. All parties clearly accept that money and muscle are used in elections and the funds come through illegal means, but they are unwilling to take any initiative against it. If all parties of the country unanimously give thumbs up to strong Lokpal alongwith making a system to check misuse of money in elections as well  as a bid to stop horse-trading after polls, the political system would be insulated from graft and rot. Leaders must learn that mere shedding crocodile tears on corruption in rally and seminar would not work at all. Again back to sit on single-day fast, Anna Hazare is presently a cynosure of all eyes in the country. It is known that Anna Hazare is not fighting for himself rather for the nation. If the leaders of the country want to keep their image intact, they will have to take immediate action so that people can repose faith in the government’s commitment of combating corruption. 

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on December 11, 2011 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)