Monday, April 11, 2011

Hysteria will not quell this movement

Tavleen Singh writes in the Indian Express (“Hysteria will not end corruption”) what is perhaps meant to be a strong indictment of the draft Jan Lokpal bill and the manner in which civil society has succeeded in wresting from the government the concession of a joint committee to draft a strong Jan Lokpal bill, to be introduced in the monsoon session of the Parliament. She terms the movement undemocratic, the institution envisaged by the Jan Lokpal bill despotic and the citizens who believe that this could be an effective anti corruption measure as naive and deluded, especially because they have not even read the draft Jan Lokpal bill.

Hysteria will not end corruption, the writer says. Journalistic hysteria will not quell this movement either, and the sooner those who are indulging in half truths and mudslinging realise it, the better. 

Nothing could be more democratic than the manner in which civil activists, supported by millions of citizens, have raised their voice against rampant corruption and succeeded in making a hitherto deaf government hear them. It is because ordinary Indians live in a democratic country that they feel free to express their support for a social activist who speaks their language while the elected representatives lie, obfuscate facts, hold out false hopes and delay and tarry on legislation that has been pending for more than 40 years. They are expressing support for an idea whose time has come ------strong institutional measures to root out corruption, to be taken immediately, not when our elected representatives decide to and not in the toothless form that they would like to. 

Nor do they need to read and comprehend the entire draft JLP bill before they express their support, because the draft bill is but a draft, and it will serve as the basis for deliberations in the joint drafting committee. In any case, does the writer imagine that every citizen who expresses his support for a political party or a candidate by casting a vote during elections actually reads and fully comprehends the party manifesto? If incomplete comprehension is acceptable at the time of the casting of a vote, what could possibly be the objection to expression of support for Anna Hazare even while the citizen does not fully comprehend the draft bill? 

It is the job of legislatures to make laws, says the writer. The irony of this statement escapes her, perhaps ------ no one has forgotten that it is the legislature’s job to make laws except perhaps the legislature itself. We are but reminding the legislature that there is one specific law, the Lokpal bill, that has been pending enactment for more than 40 years. Today more than ever before, we need that law, so please do your job. 

The Jan Lokpal will be a despotic institution, the writer says, for reason of the immense powers to investigate and penalise corrupt practices that it will be vested with. Does the CBI not have powers today to investigate and penalise corrupt practices? Has it ever been accused of being despotic? No. Does the CBI not find itself unable to exercise these powers, bereft of autonomy as it is? Has it ever been accused of being weak and helpless in the face of political pressure? Yes. That is exactly the situation that the draft JLP seeks to remedy by creating an institution with powers to investigate and penalise corrupt practices, just as the CBI is empowered, but with the autonomy that CBI does not enjoy. 

The citizens’ movement has been compared to totalitarian China! For citizens to give vent to their indignation, anger and frustration in a peaceful manner and for the government to not quell those voices but to hear them is the way of a democratic country. Would this happen in totalitarian China? The writer is unhappy too with Anna’s call for a Jail Bharo andolan, not realising perhaps that the Jail Bharo andolan is neither less nor more than a manner of expressing our anguish with the government’s indifference or even callousness in the face of mounting concern at the enormity of the scale of corruption that riddles the country today. It is a perfectly legitimate manner of making our voices heard ----and it can happen only in a democracy. 

A wide range of anti corruption measures are required to completely eradicate corruption, avers the writer. No one disagrees. We need administrative reforms, we need electoral reforms, and we need many, many innovative anti corruption measures. The draft Jan Lokpal bill is one such measure. The civil activists who have drafted the bill are well and fully aware of this, which is why comprehensive electoral reforms are on their agenda, as has been publicly announced. It is only so called intellectuals, academicians and journalists who are blinded by their biases and refuse to acknowledge this, or to even acknowledge that civil activists have as much right in a democracy to participate in policy making as the elected representatives of the people. Or that NGOs too have a right to be heard on anti corruption measures , even if several of them are corrupt, just as no MP, Minister, journalist and academician hesitates to make sage pronouncements on the measures needed to eradicate corruption, regardless of whether or not he can boast of personal integrity. 


  1. Very well written response to the article.Please send this to Tavleen Singh too.I am actually shocked that she could write such a biased article.I agree with you that draft is not the final bill which would be finalized by eight lawyers ,Arvind and Anna.They will debate and discuss each aspect and rightly so.Can anyone say this is not a step in the right direction?

  2. She was a 3rd rate journalist and what she writes is colored by her business interests: