Anti-Corruption Legislation in India: the discussion continues to heat up

I continue to share here some reports from the move in India towards establishing anti-corruption legislation – something which took a long time in Cambodia (see the references on 5 April 2011: Anti-Corruption Legislation on the Move). The Prime Minister had pledged that an anti-corruption law would be passed in June 2003, but the National Assembly failed to act on it at that time, so the Cambodian anti-corruption law was finally adopted only on 11 March 2010.

In India, this process took much longer – and it is not yet finished. Anti-corruption drafts had been brought to the Indian parliament 8 times during the past 42 years, but it never led to a vote to make them law. This is one aspect which helps to understand the present agitation. Especially also the insistence of its leader, the social activist Anna Hazare, to have a deadline set of 30 June 2011 for the drafting of a new anti-corruption bill – “Lokpal Bill – Ombudsman Bill” – to be completed. And if Parliament is not going to pass the bill by 15 August 2011, he announced that the people’s movement will continue with agitation.

After the passing of an anti-corruption law had been delayed for more than four decades it is no surprise that there is now again resistance building up – and on the other side there are efforts to definitely have useful results in time for the next session of parliament. Anna Hazare announced his strategy for the near future: “If the government again delays the bill in Parliament after preparation of the draft, we will launch the agitation once again…the bill was brought before Parliament eight times in 42 years but it could not be enacted. Then there is no other way out except agitation.”

In this respect it is important to note that this movement of popular agitation – a “people’s movement” – is not related to any political party, and its leaders do not stand for election into government positions.

One of the five ministers on the drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law, Minister of Telecommunication Kapil Sibal had expressed doubt that an anti-corruption law would make any difference: “I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services, then he will call up a politician? How will Lokpal Bill help?” – which was obviously not addressing the problem of corruption, which the new legislation is aiming at. Hazare’s response was public and quick: “If Sibal feels that nothing will happen due to the Lokpal Bill then he should resign from the joint committee as soon as possible. Why is he wasting his and our time?” In response, the Minister of Telecommunication had to admit that his remark was off the point: explaining he had meant that the scope of the bill and the problems of the common man are different.

A heavily controversial element of the proposals by Anna Hazare is his request that the process of drafting the bill should be videotaped and made public to ensure complete transparency: “The procedure will be totally transparent, from its formulation to the time after it is passed… If people notice any shortcoming they can point it out.”

It is interesting to observe how this exercise in transparency will proceed in India, the country often called “the world’s largest democracy.”

Transparency International prefaced its 2010 survey on the Corruption Perception Index for 178 countries with these words:

With governments committing huge sums to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, from the instability of financial markets to climate change and poverty, corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress. The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). These results indicate a serious corruption problem.

On top of the list sharing the Position 1– “highly clean” – are three countries, Denmark, New Zealand, and Singapore, all three with the Index of 9.3

India is on Position 87 with an Index of 3.3

Cambodia is on Position 154 with an Index of 2.1

At the end of the list is a country under internal war since many years:
Somalia is on Position 178 with an Index of 1.1

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