Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lokpal Bill 'weak and useless', says Anna; team terms it 'anti-people, dangerous' (Indian Express)

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Setting the stage for a confrontation with the government, Anna Hazare today rejected the Lokpal bill introduced in Parliament, saying it was “very weak” and dared Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for a public debate on the proposed legislation.
Soon after the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha, Hazare said in Ralegan Siddhi that the new Bill was “very weak and useless” and it would not help in tackling corruption as it does not bring CBI under the control of anti-graft ombudsman.
“This government is incapable of tackling corruption. Why are they scared of giving away CBI? If CBI is under Lokpal's control, they fear that there will be a line of ministers going to jail,” Hazare told reporters.
Hazare said the new Bill was of no use if the anti-corruption ombudsman does not have control over CBI and the lower bureaucracy is not brought under its direct control.
“Sonia Gandhi says the Bill is strong. If it is so, let her come out and debate with us in front of media. Let people see it. Let us have a face to face debate. Convince the people of the country that it is strong. We will explain how it is not strong,” he said earlier in the day.
“What is right and wrong with the Bill, let us debate in public,” he said.
Hazare's remarks came as a response to Gandhi's speech at Congress Parliamentary Party meeting yesterday during which she said the proposed legislation was strong and she was ready to fight for it.
Continuing his attack on the government, Hazare said he will go ahead with his three-day fast from December 27 in Mumbai and then leave for Delhi to join the 'jail bharo' agitation during which he will protest outside the residences of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Describing the bill as “anti-people and dangerous”, Hazare's close aide Arvind Kejriwal said in Ghaziabad (UP) it was “worse” than the legislation introduced in August in Lok Sabha.
Upping the ante, Hazare said, “I will be part of the group that will 'gherao' the residences of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as part of our jail filling agitation.”
He said putting CBI out of Lokpal shows how the Bill will be “useless”.
“The biggest victims of corruption are the poor who have to pay bribes to get any work done. How will the common man live like this? Our demand is that lower bureaucracy be brought under Lokpal,” he said.
But the lower bureaucracy is being brought under Central Vigilance Commission which is under the control of government, he contended.
“How will the common man get justice. Lower bureaucracy and CBI should be under Lokpal. Only then the bill will be in the right form,” he said.
Criticising the Grievance Redressal Bill, Hazare said government does not have the intent to help people fight corruption and they were making people take rounds of government offices to get their complaints addressed.
He also voiced concerns about the effect of a “weak” central law on state Lokayuktas.
When asked about demands for reservation in Lokpal Bench and Selection Committee, Hazare said he left a decision on this to Parliament.
He said he will appeal to people not to vote for those parties which have opposed Jan Lokpal bill.
Kejriwal said the proposed legislation is meant to crush the rights enjoyed by people.
“Under the present bill, government will have all the control over Lokpal as it will have powers to appoint and remove members at its will. It is worse than the Lokpal Bill introduced in August. We reject the (new) bill. It should be withdrawn and introduced after being redrafted,” he said.
“Only ten per cent of the political leaders are in the ambit of the ombudsman. Only five per cent of employees are in its ambit. Big companies are out of it.
“Who all are in? Temples, mosques, schools, colleges, hospitals, dispensaries, cricket clubs, gurudwaras, self help groups are under it. Even doctors, pujaris, priests, maulanas, all will be deemed to be public servants. The government thinks that all the citizens are corrupt but the leaders and employees are clean,” Kejriwal said.
He said the government will have full control over the proposed body as it will be selected by a panel dominated by political leaders.
Kejriwal alleged this bill would make CBI “completely ineffective... Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition will not want a strong CBI Director. They don't want put their lives in difficulty by having a strong CBI Director.”
He said complainants will have a difficult time in getting their grievances redressed.
“Every investigation goes to CBI. CVC will also forward the cases to CBI, Lokpal will also sent cases to CBI. CBI is under the control of government. The whole anti-corruption investigations will remain under government control,” he said.
Criticising the provisions in the bill, Kejriwal said for the first time after independence, government has shown so much sensitivity to corrupt officials and decided to provide free legal help to them.
Expressing fear that Lokpal Bill may face the same fate of Women's Reservation Bill, activist Kiran Bedi said Government was not giving the control of CBI to the anti-corruption ombudsman as "skeletons of suspects" are lying buried in the agency's cupboards.


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