The Lokpal debate from a Dalit-Bahujan perspective
The video above shows a protest in Delhi demanding a Bahujan Lokpal Bill, and protesting against Anna Hazare. This was hardly given any coverage in the media. The video was made and uploaded by KHALID ANIS ANSARI, who writes at the Round Table India:
A supra-parliamentary Jan Lokpal and a very interventionist and unaccountable judiciary are a horror for the dalit-bahujan masses. All said and done the legislature is most respectful of social diversity as far as the three organs of government are concerned. The executive is bad and the judiciary is the worst in this regard. So I am presently in favor of taking the ‘political’ route than the civil society one which is in any way a club of the chattering classes. [Read the full post]
Given below is a note expressing a Dalit-Bahujan perspective on the Lokpal debate. The note has been put out by DINESH MAURYA:
We want to submit some suggestions regarding the Government of India’s proposed Lokpal Bill. Like Anna’s Lokpal Bill, our Lokpal Bill, named as ‘Bahujan Lokpal Bill’, should also tabled in the parliament and should be discussed in the same way as the other Bill.
We are demanding that following provisions should be taken into consideration when making the Government’s Bill:
1. Like the Public Sector (PSUs), private sector companies, NGOs, Media groups should also be brought under the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution as ‘other authority’, and also be brought under the purview/jurisdiction of Lokpal.
2. Religious & Charitable Trusts, Maths, Mandirs, Waqf Boards, Churches, Gurudwaras and other religious entities should also be brought under the purview of the Lokpal Bill or a Religious Property Acoountibility Bill, like the Judicial Accountibility Bill, should be mooted.
3. Representation for all communities -Dalits, Backward Classes, Adivasis, Religious Minorities etc- should be ensured in the Lokpal Selection Committee.
4. The selection of Lokpal should be debated in a Joint Session of the parliament and there should be discussion regarding his/her qualifications, conduct, character and reputation in public.
5. Representation for all communities- Dalits, Backward Classes, Adivasis, Religious Minorities etc- should be ensured in the constitution of members, in the Central/States’ Lokpal Acts.
6. The minimum number of members of Lokpal should be not less than 14 and this office should come under the purview of reservations so that all communities would be represented.
7. The Head of Lokayukt should be appointed on a rotational basis so that every social group is represented.
8. The term of office of the Chairperson/Head should not be more than 2 years.
9. If it is proved that any member of the Lokpal is politically biased, he/she should be suspended immediately. But the process for removal should be similar to that adopted in the case of Justice/s of HC/SC.
10. The power/office of the Lokayukt should be equal to the power of a High Court.
11. The violation of or the non-implementation of the provision/s for reservation and social justice should be treated as corruption and for this the punishment should be same as that for corruption in an economic sense.
12. The misuse of SC/ST/OBC funds should be treated as corruption and for this the punishment should be same.
13. The definition of ‘Corruption’ should be expended and money ammassed through cheating or fraud committed on illiterate citizens, and in the name of faith should also be treated as Corruption.
14. The activity and conduct of Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies should not come under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal.
15. The office and officers of Lokpal should come under the jurisdiction of Right to Information Act.
16. The Lokpal and Lokayukt should be united through a Bill but there should be equal respect for federal structure.
17. If there is conflict/contradiction between the provision of Constitution of India and Lokpal, the provision of Constitution of India should prevail.
18. The Lokpal Chairperson should be bound to disclose information on his and his family’s wealth and property and there should be an audit of his wealth and property till after 10 years of end of his term of office.
The concerns expressed in the note about sound reasonabe and important to me and should be taken into account by both Team Manmohan and Team Anna.
There was also a press conference at the Press Club of India yesterday, addressed by various leaders of Dalit-Bhaujan and minority communities, which was again barely give any space by the “national” media. Given below is the text of the press release issued by them:
Now Civil Society of Dalits, Backwards and Minorities rise for their rights!
New Delhi, August 26, 2011
The Chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations- Dr. Udit Raj, Sr. IAS -P.S. Krishnan, Peace Party leader- Yusuf Ansari, Urdu Sahara Editor -Aziz Burney, Social activists – Shabnam Hashmi, Mast Ram Kapur, Dilip Mandal, All India Christian Council leaders- John Dayal, Bishop MS Screakriaf and Madhu Chandra, President of Shoshit Samaj Dal Akhilesh Katiyar, Sr. Advocate Subba Rao, Gen Secy of IJP- C. P. Singh, Fmr Minister- Ibrahim Qureshi, Prof Vivek Kumar, Grand son of Maulana Azad –Firoj Bakht Ahmed, Prof. Akhter Mehandi and many other such personalities have decided to urge the government to include the demands of Bahujan Lokpal Bill while passing the Lokpal law. It was also discussed that in the Constitution, there is a fine and delicate balance between legislature, executive and judiciary and if anyone of these transgresses its power, that will disturb the balance and resultantly the Constitution will be affected.
The Govt. Bill which is pending for consideration before the Standing Committee of the Parliament is not strong enough to book the corrupt. The way the govt. is considering the features of all three bills – Govt. Bill, Jan Lokpal Bil and NCPRI Bill, the suggestions of Bahujan Lokpal Bill also be considered. We are of the strong opinion that unless Corporate Houses, NGOs and Media are included in the ambit of the Bill, there will not be much impact to check graft. In the Lokpal Committee, the representation of Dalits, Backwards and Minorities should be there, as it is in the govt. services. These communities are apprehensive that if this committee is constituted without giving them due consideration, it is more likely that dalits, backwards and minorities’ officers and leaders will be targeted on pick and choose basis. Our society is not only caste ridden but at the same time it is multicultural and religious also. So the representation of each major community should be taken care of. The corruption is more social in nature than political, therefore , without addressing it, there is no possibility to weed it out. On 24th August, we organized a mammoth rally for our demands and unlike the news of Anna Hazare, not a single electronic channel has telecast it. Isn’t this mental corruption? The presence of participants in Anna Hazare’s movement is not only exaggerated but telecast continuously. There is plurality and diversity in the society and so our views should have been also shown. In these circumstances, we demand representation of these communities in the structure of Lokpal Committee. There are many schemes for the upliftment of these communities but due to rampant corruption, fruits are not reaching to them and therefore, the Bahujan Lokpal Bill urges the govt. to consider this also. Violation of reservation should be also treated as an act of corruption.
Dr. Udit Raj said that there are misgivings that the Rally of 24th August was against Anna Hazare agitation but that is not true. In so far as corruption is concerned, we are also strongly opposed to it. From our rally it was asked to the craftsmen of Janlokpal Bill why did they not include Corporate Houses, Media and NGOs? Anna ji was asked why he kept silent when North Indians in Maharashtra and Muslims in Gujarat were targeted and brutalized? He was also asked to express his views on reservation for dalits. If his civil society leaders are not trusting the representatives who are elected by lacks of people then how the honesty and impartiality of Lokpal can be guaranteed ? No doubt there is too much corruption in politics but it is more by the blessings of Corporate Houses. At least, there are checks on peoples’ representatives and that is seeking the mandate of people again and again but those deterrents are not there in case of Lokpal. We have asked for an appointment with the Prime Minister and Standing Committee of Parliament to submit our Bill and so far that has not been communicated. The Govt. is not treating us at par with Anna Hazare Civil Society and this is proved by the fact that so far we have not been consulted and nothing communicated to us.
And given below is a meorandum submitted to the Rajya Sabha by the “Savidhan Bachao Andolan”:
Shri K P Singh,
Rajya Sabha Secretariat
201, Second Floor,
Parliament House Annexe,
New Delhi – 110 001
MEMORANDUM OF VIEWS AND SUGESTIONS ON LOKPAL BILL 2011 (BILL NO 39 OF 2011)
This is in reference to the Newpaper advertisement No davp 31202/11/0019/1112, where in Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance, Law and Justice have invited views and opinions on the Lokpal Bill that is posted on the website of Rajya Sabha. I have read the bill in detail and my views and suggestions are as follows:
(1) The heart of the Lokpal bill is to constitute a mechanism for dealing with complaints of corruption against public functionaries in higher places. However there are many instances of corruption by functionaries in the corporate sector which had duped the public in the past. To cite a few examples – Harshad Mehta scam, Satyam, Telgi, Citibank scams and school admission donations. At the moment, accountability is disproportionately inclined towards public functionaries in comparison to corporate. Also the Right to Information Act 2005 is not applicable in corporate or private institutions. Hence it is suggested to include corporate and private functionaries within the ambit of Lokpal Bill.
(2) As per the clause 17 (f) of the Lokpal Bill, the jurisdiction of inquiry of Lokpal extends to the societies or associations or trust that are wholly or partially funded or aided by the Government. While this is a welcome move, the media is completely left out from the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. ‘Paid news’ and ‘Paid opinion polls’ that influence the public opinion is a bad precedent. Hence it is suggested that media be brought under the ambit of Lokpal as it the fourth pillar of democracy.
(3) As per the clause 17 (f) of the Lokpal Bill, the jurisdiction of inquiry of Lokpal does not extend to societies or associations or trust that are constituted for religious purposes. Large numbers of people donate money in religious institutions which is managed by these societies or associations or trust. Sadly, some of these societies or associations or trusts have become safe havens of black money which some people dispose off in the name of donation. The societies or associations or trust have become richer day by day at the cost of loss to the Government exchequer. Take the most recent example of Sai Baba Trust where unaccounted crores of rupees and other wealth were found after Sai Baba’s death. And the trust itself is worth Rupees 1.4 lakh crores as per media reports, which is 50 times the annual budget of Government of India’s flag ship program – Sarva Siksha Abhyiyan. On top of that, majority (80 percentages) of the population in India are Hindus, who worship in Hindu temples. However many of these Hindu temples are controlled by the Brahmins, as is their birth right, as prescribed by the Hindu religious scriptures. Also the bylaws of these societies or associations or trust are formulated in such discriminatory way that they directly or indirectly exclude non Brahmi sections from their management. Isn’t it strange that Brahmins are entirely excluded from accountability to the public? Hence it is suggested to include in the ambit of Lokpal such societies or associations or trust that are constituted for religious purposes.
(4) The clause 4 (1) of the Lokpal Bill lists the members of selection committee to recommend appointment of Lokpal. The selection committee does not have representation from disadvantaged sections of the society viz – women, SC, ST and minorities to safe guard their interest. Hence it is suggested to include (a) Chairperson of National Women’s Commission, (b) Chairperson of SC / ST Commission and (c) Chairperson of National Commission of Minorities in the Selection Committee.
(5) The clause 2 (b) of the Lokpal Bill specifies that the Members of the Lokpal should not exceed eight of whom fifty percent shall be judicial member. There is no mention of inclusion of members from disadvantaged sections of the society viz – women, SC, ST and minorities communities as members in the Lokpal. The representation needs to be in terms of proportions in the population and recommendations made by various commissions from time to time. Hence it is suggested that apart from fifty percent judicial representation to include fifty percent representation for women, twenty five percent representation from SC / ST and twenty percent for minorities in the Lokpal.
(6) The clause 49 (1) of the Lokpal bill deals with offenses and penalties when a false and frivolous or vexatious complaint is made under the Act (Lokpal). Sometimes, it is seen that such a false and frivolous or vexatious complaint is knowingly made against an SC / ST functionary for harassment due to the prevailing societal prejudice. Hence it is suggested that if such a false and frivolous or vexatious complaint is made against and SC / ST functionaries then the relevant clauses under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 also need to be invoked and needs mention in the Lokpal Bill. These clauses from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 could be clauses 3.1 (ix), 3.2 (i), 3.2 (ii), 3.2. (vi) and 7.
(7) I have my full concurrence to all the clauses and sub-sections in the Lokpal Bill 2011 other than that mentioned above for suggestions to improve upon.
(8) The suggested additions other than the clauses and sub-sections in the Lokpal Bill 2011 are as follows:
a. It is observed that many a times the common man is connected with lower level of public functionaries and suffers due to indulgency in corrupt practices by any functionary. Hence it is suggested to include the lower level of public and private functionaries in the Lokpal Bill as well.
b. There needs to be a mechanism in which common man can blow the whistle and indicate corruption. Hence a website to register complaints and a common telephone number needs to be provisioned for this purpose as a via media for the common man to indicate possible corruption. Necessary clauses need to be included for the protection of rights of such whistle blower.
c. There have been instances in the past where funds allocated for the SC / ST subplan from the Government of India have been misused / diverted for the use that have not benefitted these disadvantaged communities. Take an instance of diversion of funds from SC / ST subplan to the Common Wealth Funds. This is against the Planning Commission guidelines. Hence it is suggested that diversions of funds from the SC / ST subplan should come automatically under the preview of Lokpal and the treated as offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989. If required then necessary amendments need to made under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.
d. It has been observed that there are numerous cash flows during the election time. The marginalized communities viz: women, SC, ST and minorities that are the most disadvantaged and have less cash stands deprived. Hence it is recommended that election expenses also be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.
I am of the view that the Lokpal should not be above the Judiciary and the Prime Minister and a separate mechanism similar to the Election Commission needs to be constituted in the country. I trust that there will be a favorable response to my proposition.
“Savidhan Bachao Andolan”
[via Arun Roopak on Facebook]