Corruption in India

Published: December 29, 2011

It looks like the much-talked about Jan Lokpal bill may fail at the final hurdle. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

After months of debate and public agitation in India, including a much-publicised hunger strike by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, it looks like the much-talked about Jan Lokpal bill may fail at the final hurdle. The bill, which would set-up independent ombudsmen to keep a check on government corruption, is being stymied by the Trinamool Congress, an ally of the ruling Congress Party, in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. The Trinamool Congress wants many provisions of the bills to be scrapped because it feels they infringe on the rights of the states. Since the government is already in a minority in the Upper House, this could at best delay the passage of the bill by a few months or even kill it altogether.

Many of the bill’s provisions have come under intense criticism by parties across the political spectrum. The main complaint about the bill is that it gives far too much power to unaccountable ombudsmen and thus, is undemocratic. Some also feel that the bill is unconstitutional, since it gives the ombudsmen quasi-judicial powers and so, even if it passes in parliament, could be struck down by the courts. Of course, public sentiment in India seems to think otherwise, with Mr Hazare gaining saint-like status among many ordinary Indians who see the Congress-led government as one riddled with corruption and mismanagement. Of course, opposition parties have also exploited this matter for their own ends and the wall-to-wall media coverage of Mr Hazare’s hunger strike did not help the government either.

The government has also been accused of watering down Mr Hazare’s demands. He wanted that all government functionaries should be made answerable to the jurisdiction of the ombudsmen — but that would clearly put too much power in their hands. This could also create a parallel system of accountability to rival that of the courts and parliament. Furthermore, the judiciary remains exempt in the government’s bill as does the office of the prime minister. The argument here is that the judiciary has a self-governing system, but critics say that this doesn’t work well since an institution, no matter how clean, should not be given the task of investigating itself.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.

Reader Comments (5)

  • Cynical
    Dec 30, 2011 - 5:23AM

    People who take the high moral ground are most likely to be engaged in immoral acts.
    Be wary of people with a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, ’cause they are holier-than-thou for the public and unholier-than-the-devil in reality.

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  • GS@Y
    Dec 30, 2011 - 5:45AM

    This editorial was very descriptive. Is that what editorials are supposed to do? I know more now about the various complications involved in passing this accountability bill in India, but I know very little about the editorialist’s original take on the matter. Mere exposition does not amount to insight.

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  • Tilopa
    Dec 30, 2011 - 9:45PM

    @Cynical
    That’s a very fundamental premise!
    I remember something about this being said by Bertrand Russell.He says that after a robbery the person who talk most against the thief,beware they are much chances that he himself may be the thief.
    Generally these ‘holier-than-thou’ peoples are fighting their own unconscious ‘evil’ impulses,thus they speak too much against ‘evil’ acts.But in reality,it is just their mind fighting with itself.

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  • goggi
    Dec 31, 2011 - 9:17PM

    At least two things can never be eradicated from the Sub-continent. Firstly, corruption which is the best functioning institution in all sections of the society with the highest effectiveness. That means a verbal contract between the briber and bribee is based on reciprocity.

    Secondly, the lack of social hygiene. Spitting paan or naswar, to defecate and urinate in the public, throwing garbage in front of the door and so on, are socially accepted behaviours.

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  • silver_ghost
    Dec 31, 2011 - 10:02PM

    I accidently saw this article and would like to say that this is not a well researched article. The author has very little idea of what the main issues are. The first problem with the Lokpal bill is that it is a watered down version of Anna Hazare’s bill. The second problem is that usurps the authority of Lok Ayukta in states and curtails their power. Hence, the states are claiming that this is bill is useless. There are constitutional issues as well, however those have been already captured, so I won’t go into it.

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