India: Anti-corruption movement excludes minorities
[The following is the statement of Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, on behalf of the Council, on the apprehensions of the religious minorities and marginalised people on the so called Jan Lok Pal Bill, the proposed anti-corruption bill.]
The All India Christian Council fully understands the angst of the common people, the Dalits, Tribals, Religious Minorities against the evil of corruption. These communities are major victims of corruption which permeates all sectors of the national economy, including the Corporate and Public sectors and NGOs, and institutions of governance from the Union and State governments to the States and down to the Panchayat structures.
No political party and no business house can claim to be innocent. They are irrevocably connected in the mesh of corruption. So are government officials. It is common knowledge that big business, including multinationals, corrupts the political and administrative machinery to grab large tract of lands and gain control over national natural resources. Millions of people have been displaced and rendered homeless in almost every state of India. Government schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA and National Health schemes have been sabotaged, with the poor getting but a small part of their entitlement. The result has been a growth in poverty, in farmers’ suicides and an increase in the death rate of new born children and young mothers.
The government has not listened to the cry of the people. It has not paid heed to the rising anger of the common man in the villages and small towns, and of course also of the middle class in metropolitan areas. Over the last forty years, several Lok Pal bills have failed in Parliament because of a lack of political will in the government, whether it was the Congress, the Janata party or the BJP in power.
Vested interests have sought to cash in on the pain and anger of the people. The “India Against Corruption” created by the self-styled Team Anna consisting of Mr Arvind Kejriwal and Mrs Kiran Bedi, both former government officers, with Maharashtra social activist Anna Hazare as the public face, have sought to hijack the movement, banking on support of the satellite television news channels. The ineptitude of the administration, first in arresting Mr Hazare, and then appearing to give in to the threats of the group once they attracted sizable mass support, encouraged the group to increase their blackmail of the government.
The Team Anna has however exposed its real motives in its impatience with democratic processes and its utter contempt for the Constitution of India. Mr Kejriwal and others have used the hunger strike of the septuagenarian Mr Hazare to challenge the legislation-making powers of Parliament by imposing deadlines and asking it to pass their draft Lok Pal bill. This bill has had no participation of Dalits, Tribals, or even of religious minorities. It also does not envisage any role for them in the future, demanding powers only for a limited class of people. The abuse of mass mobilisation of people is also a pointer to future threats. We shudder to think what would happen if an extreme fundamentalist group paralyses New Delhi in a brute show of strength of mobocracy and demands government to pass laws against some groups or the other, for instance against religious minorities. It may be remembered that certain groups are already asking for a disenfranchisement of minorities.
The Bill has draconian provisions which will erode the very roots of constitutional governance. The super Lok Pal envisaged by them will overwhelm even the Supreme court and other judiciary, becoming a monster and an extra-constitutional centre of authority in the government. The Lok Pal as envisaged has no place for Scheduled castes and Tribes and other groups whether on the panel, or in the selection committee choosing the Lok Pal.
Dalits, Tribals, Marginalised people and Religious minorities depend on the Constitution of India and a democratic parliamentary process for their very survival and for the redressal of their grievances. Monsters such as the Jan Lok Pal will provide no relief from corruption, but will create another organisation as prone to corruption as the ones they are supposed to investigate.
The All India Christian Council as an integral part of civil society wants a thorough debate with the full participation of all groups of people, specially the victim classes, before devising any Lok Pal or Ombudsman. The Council demands a genuine Lok Pal which will identify and remedy the very roots of corruption, and punish the guilty. The Council also urges suitable machinery to address corruption and accountability at lower levels of bureaucracy and village structures, and a judicial commission to oversee appointments of judges and action against corruption in the judiciary. In all these parliamentary democracy must reign supreme. Nothing less will meet the demands of the people for a corruption-free administration and society.