Why any kind of Lokpal is necessary

Last Updated: Sun, Sep 04, 2011 17:53 hrs

There is a counter-Anna Hazare debate going on that centres around the Jan Lokpal Bill. There are many people who don't want a Lokpal in the first place.

It's Draconian. Who will police the Lokpal? What if the Lokpal becomes corrupt? The Lokpal is no magic wand to eradicate corruption. What if the Lokpal itself fails? It will be a super-bureaucracy that will function on top of the current bureaucracy. It's not practical to create an extra pool of thousands of watchdog kind of officials...

The arguments go on.

In a way, that's totally missing the point. Today if you want to report a theft or a murder, you can go to your nearest police station. You can at least fight your way to get justice. Try reporting an instance of corruption however big or small and soon you'll find yourself banging your head against a brick wall.

Former Chief Election Commissioner TN Seshan, who single-handedly transformed the Election Commission, hit the nail on the head on a TV channel when he was asked of the dangers of the Lokpal. "Can it be any worse than it is today?"

What about our other institutions?

In survey after survey in the media, one fact comes across is that Indian citizens have very little faith in the average police official. The police are by and large seen as being corrupt. It faces great political interference in the country. While certain police sections may be doing their work, they by-and-large don't face too well with other greater police forces in the world.

Certain areas in India face a very high crime rate.

But despite that, not for one minute does anyone think of doing away with the police force in India. That would be absurd!

Their very presence, corrupt or not, incompetent or not, prevents political anarchy in the land.

That way, in the absence of any credible and effective means of fighting corruption, there is a sort of financial anarchy in the land.

Gresham's Law states that: Bad money drives out good. Similarly one could say in India: Black money drives out white. Big time!

We have been Independent for more than 60 years, but have we come out with any mechanism to fight corruption? We haven't. As of now, the Lokpal seems to be our only chance to begin from somewhere.

Even in Parliament, the amount of charge-sheeted MPs is in three figures. The public perception of most politicians is pretty bad.  But despite that we are a flourishing democracy and in the top half of countries in the world in the freedom chart.

A history of consensus and compromise...

In a way what happened last month when Team Anna and the government reached a compromise now seems to be the best result possible.

The Lokpal draft that the government presented was weak and would not have done anything for corruption. It was called a "Jokepal" by many.

The Jan Lokpal Bill has been seen as Draconian and impractical.

Well, now both these drafts are not going to be presented and we seem to be going for a middle way.

A strong Lokpal, better than the original one and not as tough as the Team Anna one seems to be our best bet.

Another crucial factor: Things like electoral and judicial reforms, which one has been hearing for years with nothing concrete happening, has been put on the fast track.

(Of course the government can still go back on its word and present another weak Lokpal. If that happens then one cannot really predict how the people will react. That's a different story.)

Offices like the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General have really brought about a change in the political landscape.

When the Lokpal Act comes into effect, it will be watched closely by millions of citizens of India. It will be difficult to appoint an ineffective official as the Lokpal. So there is reason to be optimistic.

Parting shot...

Is the path shown by Anna Hazare a good option or a bad one?

That's irrelevant for the simple reason that it's all we have got right now.

Critics of Team Anna should at least come out with an effective Plan B or somehow be able to influence the government to mend their ways.

Till then one can only wonder at the 74-year-old man who has caught the imagination of the whole nation.

Also Read:  Let's challenge politicians' 'Right to Corruption'

Viva Anna! Long live the revolution!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/