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What college students in India think on Anna Hazare's Lokpal

by N.S.Venkataraman

(August 20, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is now huge debate in India on corruption issues. Anna Hazare , a social activist has launched agitation demanding introduction of separate law to create ombudsman (Lokpal), to put down corruption in the country. There is difference of views between government of India and Anna Hazare on the content of the proposed law.

Nandini Voice For The Deprived, a Chennai based NGO , organized a debate competition at Chennai on 13th August,2011 for college students on “How to make Lokpal Bill effective?”

Number of college students from several Chennai city colleges including Indian Institute of Technology Madras, School of Excellence in Law, JBAS College for Women, Loyola Institute of Business Administration participated in the debate competition.

The objective of organizing the debate was to encourage the college students to think on the subject and provide an opportunity to them to express their views.

The highlights of the observations made by the college students during the debate are given below :

Is Lokpal Bill needed ?

Quite a few students argued that Lokpal Bill may not be necessary ,since enough laws and regulations are in the country already to root out corruption.. The problem is that those in power including politicians and bureaucrats circumvent the existing rules and regulations to indulge in corruption and prevent punishment for the corrupt persons. Students wondered that Lokpal Bill if enacted into law, may also end up with the same fate as the several of the existing anti corruption regulations and institutions .

At best, Lokpal may function like Central Vigilance Commission, the students said. Instead of enacting a new law, Central Vigilance Commission can be strengthened in variety of ways , which would produce quick results and avoid protracted arguments and delay.

Role of judiciary:

Lokpal is only likely to function as an advisory body, with no powers to punish the corrupt. Therefore, the Lokpal’s report has to be substantiated in the court of law and judiciary would ultimately decide the case. Therefore, there may not be really any change in the ground realities , as Lokpal may function just like Central Vigilance Commission , referring its conclusions to the court.

Clauses in the Lokpal Bill

Most students said that the Lokpal Bill should cover all sections of the country irrespective of age and position including judiciary, defence etc. The present move of the government to restrict it to certain sections of bureaucracy alone will mean nothing. Most students insisted that Prime Minister should be included in the Lokpal Bill. They dismissed the argument that the inclusion of Prime Minister will lead to vested interests , paving way for false charges against the Prime Minister to destabilize the Government. The students said that instead of excluding the Prime Minister, Lokpal Bill can have certain built in safeguards to ensure that vague and false charges against the Prime minister would not be entertained.

Bring all vigilance organizations under one head

There are multiple vigilance organizations today like CBI, CVC and others which sometimes work at cross purposes. Such organizations should be brought under Lokpal to ensure coordinated approach and transparency. This aspect should be examined by the government for its administrative feasibility.

How to constitute Lokpal ?

Now, CVC is being headed by bureaucrat by a process of selection by the politicians who are Prime Minister, Home Minister and Leader of Opposition. There may be many deserving persons in the country , who are not bureaucrats

but their names are not being considered for top position in CVC. The last CVC was judged as corrupt by Supreme Court. Similarly , Human Rights Commission are always chaired by judges but the present chairman of Human Rights Commission is facing serious allegations.

As the Lokpal should also target the politicians , bureaucrats and judiciary, the selection process for Lokpal Chairman and members should be broad based. Students suggested that nomination should be invited from public for Lokpal Committee members, just like nominations being invited for Nobel prize award and selection must be very strict and should not be left into the hands of politicians and judges.

The campaign should go on

The ultimate solution for the corruption problem in India is the change in the mind set of the people as many people in India are involved in corrupt practices either as a giver or taker and it is not restricted to politicians and bureaucrats alone. Many people even seem to think that the act of small corruption is not immoral.

In India, traditionally we measure success only by the money accumulated by the individuals irrespective of the means adopted. This has resulted in the situation where corruption remains at all levels in all sorts of activities. The public campaign against corruption should continue just like the anti liquor campaign and anti tobacco campaign. The country should learn to hate the corrupt people which will happen only by millions of Indians not being corrupt in private and public life. The battle against the corruption must be fought in the minds and hearts of people and NGOs have a big role to play in this.

Anna Hazare’s Movement

While the students greatly applauded the initiatives of Anna Hazare and his team members, they pointed out that Anna Hazare is only aiming at forming some regulations at the government level by seeking to introduce one more law.

Anna Hazare has not looked into the option of strengthening the existing anti corruption institutions by closing the loopholes in them which would produce quicker results.

It was pointed out by the students that when Mahatma Gandhi led the freedom movement against the British, simultaneously he fought against several social evils such as casteism, liquor habit etc. and strove to reform the individual Indians and their mind set. This is the essential difference between the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the movement initiated by Anna Hazare. Even now, it is not late and Anna Hazare should look back into his activities during the last one year and redirect the movement in appropriate direction , without giving an impression that mere change of laws will make India corruption free.

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