Jan Lokpal Bill 

What it can and cannot do

By A.K.Pande
The issue of corruption has been simmering for a few decades now. The net result has been that people took it for granted, something they believed they had to live with. But this time around the issue for the first time refuses to die. Two factors, helped by the pro active role of the media, made this possible. The first factor was a few scams of astounding proportions. To begin with scams used to involve a few crore rupees. Then they progressed to a few hundred crores. But encouraged by the remarkable capacity of the system to absorb them, and accept them as a natural part of the system, the current scams have run into thousands of crores. The sum involved in the scams must be commensurate with the emerging status of the country as a future super power after all. 

The second factor has been the courage and indomitable will of a humble man who could empathize with the masses, with his selflessness, simplicity and honesty and who had his fingers on their pulse .Important amongst these scams were 2G, Commonwealth Games, Cash for Vote, the recovery of crores of cash from officials of elite cadres, which even necessitated the use of note counting machine, so huge was the cash recovered. 

These scams, combined with their own pent up feelings against day to day corruption, have made an explosive mixture this time. And the igniting spark has been provided by Anna Hazare with his movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill. It is a people’s movement now. The way they have come out in support of Anna has confounded everyone. People have at last realized that big scams are no different from the corruption in day to day life, encountered by them during the interface with various public functionaries. Their anger has finally found a channel to express itself. 

The indirect effect of scams also explains the difference between Anna and Baba Ramdev movements. Baba’s movement for bringing back black money kept in the secret Swiss bank accounts though important is perceived as a remote matter by the people, not affecting them directly. There has been lack of adequate explanation, both as to how such money affects common people, and what is the specific methodology of bringing it back. The broad methodology suggested by Baba is to pass an ordnance to treat it as nation’s asset. But there are difficulties involved in the matter of bringing back this money. The methodology is determined not only by our laws alone but international laws and bilateral agreements with respective countries .The bottom line is that the country where such secret accounts are kept should agree to share the relevant information with us. 

This in fact is a problem faced by large number of countries The biggest difficulty is that this money may not in be in the names of individuals or firms to whom it actually belongs .And the names of account holders are so shrouded by a web of links that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to penetrate it to reach the real account holders. For instance, accounts may be in the names of trusts or companies created for the specific purpose of opening the Swiss account. 

The Lokpal Bill has been with Parliament for about 40 years, when different Governments were in power so not a single Government or party can be blamed for not passing it. In fact present one cannot be denied the credit for reviving it in the parliament in right earnest. But it is Anna’s movement which has bestowed an urgency not only to this long pending matter of the bill but the entire problem of corruption. The Bill may as well have remained dormant for more time or maybe even for indefinite period. But that does not seem likely anymore. Some law is bound to be passed in not too distant a future Anna thus will have done a signal service to the people and the nation.

—The author is a retired member of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, and a former DG of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau.

January 2012

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