Goa Lokayukta minus sharp teeth, say activists

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 30, 2013 13:40 hrs

Panaji, Jan 30 (IANS) Wobbly dentures and not sharp teeth is what Goa's much-hyped Lokayukta appears to be having, political activists say criticising the recently amended public ombudsman bill tabled in the state assembly.

The amended Lokayukta Bill, tabled by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar last week in the assembly, does not make it mandatory for a minister to resign even if indicted by the ombudsman.

It also allows a Lokayukta verdict to lapse, if the chief minister's office does not sanction prosecution within three months.

After riding on a wave of probity and 'honest' skills of administration, the new amended bill shows that Parrikar backtracked on his promise to clean corruption, a key Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the state executive committee has claimed.

"I am convinced that your 'proposed amendments' will make the Lokayukta a very weak, toothless and a namesake bill. I am sure it will make the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats very happy," Dr. Hubert Gomes, BJP state executive member and the minority face of party said in an open letter to the chief minister.

Goa will have a fully-operational office of Lokayukta by the end of March this year, Governor B.V. Wanchoo told the state assembly Monday.

Making a sarcastic point, Gomes suggested that the Lokayukta was so politician-friendly that Parrikar's pet bill may even get "40 out of 40 votes" when the assembly votes on it.

Gomes, a popular dentist, said the Lokayukta amendment was a "big zero" and that was a let-down considering Parrikar's credentials.

"I joined the BJP solely because of the trust and confidence I have in you, both as a person and as an administrator," the BJP leader said.

"I am convinced of your 'personal integrity,' and I am impressed with the good work that you are doing for our state. But I am truly sad and disappointed at the 'strange amendments' that you have proposed to Goa Lokayukta Bill," he said.

The India Against Corruption (IAC) has also taken on the chief minister for diluting the Lokayukta, calling the amendments as "clearly diluting the authority of the Lokayukta".

"He came to power riding on the anti-corruption wave. How could he shield the corrupt," IAC spokesperson Satish Sonak said here.

A Lokayukta within 100 days to power was Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's biggest promise in the run up to the March 2012 polls. The continued inability of the BJP-led administration to set up the institution since March has attracted criticism since.

The new amendments, however, have dampened the spirits of the civil society even more.

"I think he (Parrikar) is doing his best to prove that he is just another unscrupulous, power hungry, opportunist politician," Anil Desai says on Ami Niz Goenkar, a Facebook group popular with the Goan online community.

For his part, Parrikar claims that the amendments to the Lokayukta have been made with the best of intentions.

"The amendments will strengthen the Lokayukta and not weaken it," Parrikar told reporters Wednesday.

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