Who won? Anna or government?
Did Anna Hazare win the battle of Lokpal?
Yes, say some. Others feel differently. And yet others said both
the government and Team Anna had to make compromises to finally
Veteran journalist S. Nihal Singh said Hazare scored only "half a
victory". That is because
Chennai: How to make Lokpal Bill effective
was the theme of a debate competition for college students
organized by a NGO ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’ on August, 13,
2011, in Chennai. The objective of the competition was to provide
an opportunity to the college students to give their views on the
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.
This author, Mr. P. K. N. Panicker,
President, Chemical Industries Association and educationist and
Mr. N. L. Rajah, senior advocate were the judges in the first
panel. Prof. S. Radhakrishnan, Professor of Economics, Mr. S. M.
Arasu, Founder, Anti Corruption Movement, Mr. Kris Dev, social
activist were the judges in the second panel. Trustee, Nandini
Voice for the Deprived, Mr. N. S.Venkataraman moderated the
Quite a few students argued that
Lokpal Bill may not be necessary, since enough laws and
regulations are in the country to root out corruption. The
problem, they felt, was that those in power including politicians
and bureaucrats circumvent the existing rules and regulations to
indulge in corruption and prevent punishment for the corrupt
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
At best, Lokpal may function like
Central Vigilance Commission, so instead of enacting a new law,
the Central Vigilance Commission can be strengthened in variety of
ways, which would produce quick results and avoid protracted
arguments and delay.
Some students felt that 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. So the students argued that Lokpal may
function like Central Vigilance Commission, referring its
conclusions to the court.
Most students said that the Lokpal
Bill should cover all sections of the country irrespective of age
and position including judiciary and defense. The present move of
the government to restrict it to certain sections of bureaucracy
alone will mean nothing.
Some 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.
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
Students suggested the selection
process for Lokpal Chairman and members should be broad based. The
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.
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.
There was an unanimity that the
ultimate solution for the problem is to change in the mind set of
the people. Many people in India are involved in corrupt practices
and corruption is not restricted to politicians and bureaucrats
alone. Some people in India think that the act of small corruption
is not immoral and this mind set needs to be changed.
The students disagreed to the
concept of second freedom struggle launched by Anna Hazare. They
pointed out that the essential difference between the movement led
by Mahatma Gandhi and the movement initiated by Anna Hazare is,
while Mahatma Gandhi led the freedom movement against the British,
but simultaneously fought against several social evils such as
caste system, untocuhability, liquor habit and strove to reform
the individual Indians and their mind set, Anna Hazare movement
lack the broad based approach.
The students felt that 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.
The debate had some very valuable
inputs from the judges who commented on the issue of corruption
and the aspects on the Lokpal bill. Their broad theme was in
India; traditionally success is measured by the money accumulated
by the individuals irrespective of the means adopted. This has
resulted in a situation where corruption remains has permeated at
all levels and in all sorts of activities. The public campaign
against corruption should continue just like the anti liquor
campaign and anti tobacco campaign.
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. 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, was the ultimate
conclusion of the debate.
The debate competition would further
take place at Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai in September. The
participating students would be awarded prizes during a meeting on
October 1, 2011 the eve of Gandhi Jayanthi. The views expressed by
the students would be forwarded to the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya
Sabha Chairman for their consideration on the formulation of
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a
senior journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at