People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 16

April  17, 2011




Contempt for Democracy Not Allowed



THE UPA-II government appears to have broken the impasse over Anna Hazare’s fast and the Lokpal Bill, at least for the time being. The joint committee formed to draft the legislation has been notified. Irrespective of how this will unfold, the fact remains that in the background of the exposure of mega scams at rapid frequent intervals, the need for an effective legislation that should make the principle of accountability meaningful and tangible becomes all the more imperative.


The concept of the Lokpal was first suggested by an Administrative Reforms Committee in 1969 headed by late Morarji Desai. This was to be accompanied by the institution of the Lokayuktas at the state level. However, predictable resistance had put this legislation into a long procrastination.


The Left parties had made the enactment of the Lokpal Bill one of the conditions for supporting the United Front government under Deve Gowda in 1996. A bill was drafted but it was highly inadequate. The contentious issue was whether to include the office of the prime minister in its ambit. The Left parties had maintained that this should be done. However, due to the inherent instability of the United Front governments, the bill never saw the light of the day. The subsequent six year BJP-led NDA government sat tight on the issue betraying their lack of concern/disquiet at legislating an anti-graft bill.


Once again at the Left’s insistance, the common minimum programme for the UPA-I government in 2004 contained the assurance that “the Lokpal Bill will be enacted into law”. Subsequently, a legislation was introduced in the parliament, sent to the standing committee and is before the parliament with the latter’s recommendations. Even this, however, is not satisfactory and needed to be substantially altered in order to make it effective as well as meaningful in its coverage. A mix of social activists had in the meanwhile drafted a Jan Lokpal Bill which formed the basis for Hazare’s hunger strike. While the drafting committee now notified by the government will surely take into account both these drafts, there are atleast two issues that have arisen in the context of these developments that need to be addressed.


Anna Hazare when asked why he is not entering the parliament to be party to the law making process replied in a bizarre fashion that he would never seek to contest an election because he would lose, indeed forfeit his deposit, as the “ordinary voter does not have awareness. They cast their vote under the influence of Rs 100 or a bottle of liquor, or a saree offered by the candidates. They don’t understand the value of their vote.” Such utter disdain for the voter and contempt for parliamentary democracy is indeed disturbing.


Whenever there was a challenge to India’s secular democratic character, it was this very voter that upheld and safeguarded the vision of a modern India. It was this very voter that defeated Indira Gandhi’s emergency regime and reestablished democracy with such vigour that it has now become inseparable with Indian reality. It is this very democracy that provides the space for social activism and huger strikes of this nature.


When secularism appeared to be under threat it was this very voter who surprised everybody and blew to dust the pompous conception of a shining India by defeating the BJP-led NDA in the 2004 general elections. Without this voter, India today may not be what it is and could well have been robbed of the vibrancy that amongst more important attributes, allows candle-light protests and huger strikes.


After a long and a very informed debate in the constituent assembly, the founders of modern India decided that India will be governed by universal adult franchise. Thereby they created the principle of one person – one vote;  one vote – one value, as Dr Ambedkar said. The constitution defines the centrality of the will of the people. The preamble defines this most eloquently by stating “We, the people of India” and “do hereby adopt, enact and give ourselves this constitution”. The eternal message is the sovereignty of the people and its primacy in our constitutional system. This primacy cuts across all other attributes such as wealth, education, caste, gender, etc etc. To treat this with disdain and contempt engenders the dangers of undermining this constitutional order itself. This cannot be allowed.


On the other hand, the union minister for human resource development, has made an equally bizarre comment in seeking to counterpoise development versus the Lokpal Bill. He said “if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help?” This is precisely the point.


Take for instance the 2G spectrum scam. The CAG estimate of a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores, would have, if collected by the exchequer created the necessary infrastructure that would have enabled us to put every single child in our country in the age group of 6 to 14 in school. In fact, this is the objective of the Right to Education Act passed by the parliament. For two years now this has remained on paper, as both the central and state governments plead lack of resources.


The National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) has estimated that we would require to spend Rs 35,000 crores every year for five consecutive years to build the required schools, recruit teachers, provide for facilities like mid-day meals, text books, uniforms etc. Over a period of five years this would have amounted to Rs 1.75 lakh crores. If the 2G spectrum could have been prevented then we would have had the resources to send every boy and girl in India to school. This, Mr Minister is the importance of curbing such mega corruption, which is robbing our people of a better livelihood and our country of a better destiny.


In a similar way, it must be noted that the National Advisory Council has estimated that in order to provide 35 kg of foodgrains to every single family in the country (both APL and BPL) at Rs 3 per kilo (it is a different matter that in the current elections to state assemblies the Congress is promising to provide at Rs 1 a kilo), it would cost an additional Rs 88,000 crore per annum. If the 2G spectrum scam could have been prevented and the Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss to the exchequer would have been collected, then for two full years the Indian people could have been provided food security. This, Mr Minister is how curbing corruption will directly contribute to the creation of a better India.


Finally, however, we would have to wait for this committee’s draft to be brought before the parliament for its consideration. According to our constitutional scheme of things, it is the parliament and parliament alone that can enact laws. The Left is committed to the enactment of a law that is both effective, transparent, covers all sections and probes all angles in its ambit to prevent corruption.


(April 13, 2011)