7th April 2011
The dramatically over-hyped faith in the Jan Lokpal Bill
A friend asked me for my view on the Anna Hazare fast. I thought I'd copy my response to him on this blog, so my view is more widely known.
First, what is the Lok Pal Bill?
First, an extract from an email I received on the subject:
Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, this Bill has been refined on the basis of feedback received from public on website and after series of public consultations. It has also been vetted by and is supported by Shanti Bhushan, J M Lyngdoh, Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare etc. It was sent to the PM and all CMs on 1st December.
- An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
- Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
- Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
- The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
- How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
- So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
- But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
- What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
- What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
Now, what's my view on all this?
I understand that people like Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal (and Shanti Bhushan, J M Lyngdoh, Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare etc.) mean good, and believe that more laws and more "institutions" to catch "thieves" will make a difference. Yes, and no. Yes, the RTI act has helped reduce petty corruption, but it is NOT the solution, and the total amount of corruption has INCREASED.
Similarly, I think LokPal Bill is over-hyped. It will NOT achieve anything substantial and may INCREASE corruption.
The problem in India is not corrupt people, but the system that makes them corrupt. The problems are explained in BFN, and the solution must start with a change in electoral laws.
I am CERTAIN that the LP will drive corruption more under-ground than it is today. LokPal can be an add-on, once corruption starts reducing after a change in electoral laws, but currently, with 100% of the politicians being corrupt, and 90% of the bureaucrats, it will only touch (at most) the tip of the iceberg. And it will merely drive corruption into Swiss accounts.
Anna is a nice man but doesn't understand the causes of India's problems. He is a Gandhian, I understand. That school of thought is incapable of creating wealth in India or removing poverty, or corruption.
And yet, I do believe these are nice people and their efforts must be respected. I applaud Anna for his belief that he is fighting against corruption (that this is not the way to do it, is a different matter). Similarly I applaud Baba Ramdev for his fight against corruption (although he too, doesn't have a clue about resolving this matter).
On corruption, JP of Lok Satta is FAR AHEAD in his understandings of the causes (and solutions), and FTI is definitely at the very top of the 'tree of understanding' on this issue.
Indeed it is very clear to me that corruption is NOT A PROBLEM but a SYMPTOM OF VARIOUS OTHER PROBLEMS.
Lok Pal Bill, as a band-aid, can't and will NOT resolve the causes of the problem – which arises from bad policy and shoddy electoral laws.