Archive for July, 2011

Politics of Lok Pal Bill

It is a pity that the corruption debate in ‘Incredible India’ has been hijacked by competitive politics in the country. We are indeed ‘incredible’. We have worked really hard to prove Sir Winston Churchill, right, about his observations, when the matter of the independence of the Indian Subcontinent came up in the British Parliament. 

Churchill as Leader of Opposition in House of Commons of the British Parliament was visibly upset about the demand for Independent India, and the reasons for that are given in this extract of his speech – “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They are Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India”.

These words from 1947 in hindsight, are prophetic. While Indian politicians and the rich have stashed away black money, estimated anything between $500 billion to $1.5 trillion, outside the country, successive governments have been bundling to pass the Lok Pal Bill – an ombudsman organisation, an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India, envisaged 42 years back. The fact remains that the manipulative self seeking politicians and bureaucrats have not only failed to pass meaningful laws against corruption and have made the ones that are passed, virtually ineffective.

But when the plundering reached benchmark levels, we have had middle class messiahs, who declared ‘war against corruption’. Remember T N Seshan, the garrulous Chief Election Commissioner whose inspired fear among the politicians and awe among the middle classes in the mid-1990s. Seshan’s efforts did see a reduction in overt election expenses, but within a few months of retiring as CEC, he attempted to beat the netas by joining them. In 1997, he lost the Presidential Elections as a Shiv Sena candidate while in 1999; he lost by over 1.8 lakh votes as the Congress-backed candidate against L K Advani in Gandhingar. Twice hurt, Seshan eventually retired to a quieter life in Chennai, embraced by Rotary Clubs but forgotten by the vast multitude of his countrymen.

And today we have Anna Hazare, the Gandhian who has lead a lot of non violent protests against corruption in Maharastra, Padma Bhushan awardee of 1992 for his efforts in establishing Ralegan Siddhi as a model self sufficient village and now leading the movement to enact a strong anti-corruption act – the Jan Lok Pal Bill. On 5 April 2011 when Anna decided to exert pressure on the Government of India and go on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar, it became a ‘made for television’ moment, artfully choreographed between the World Cup and IPL so as to gain maximum eyeballs. But unlike the 1990 Seshan moment, when there was no ‘round the clock television’, the Anna Hazare movement instantly had the legitimacy from the television addicted cheering middle classes.

The middle class anger had been ignited further by the sudden exposure of a rush of mega corruption scandals from the 2G spectrum to the Commonwealth Games. The nation was stunned by the realization that strutting VIPs were in fact plunderers. And perhaps murderers were not far behind if the unfolding drama of the ‘suicide’ of Bacha, Raja’s aide, is any indication.

With people’s disgust with corruption now out in the open, the well-accented television appearances by Congress leaders, was not helping. The principal opposition party, the BJP, grouping in the dark after being routed in 2009 General Elections tried to prop up Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in order to hijack the Jan Lok Pal movement.

But not drawing inspiration from the public mood or taking reformative action, the UPA Government unleashed a systematic campaign to counter the growing popularity of Anna Hazare, employing everything from high-decibel propaganda to clandestine investigations by intelligence agencies. Baba Ramdev backed out and retreated to his ashram in Haridwar. The Government also lined up the Brahmins, the suave Kapil Sibal and the cynically suave P. Chidambaram, to discredit the people’s movement.

Every well meaning Government would have taken the opportunity to take inspiration from the candlelight marches and social media networks campaigns but the UPA Government and the so called ‘Mr. Clean’ PM Manmohan Singh let that historic opportunity of engaging the middle class with public life, slip bye.

Every learned Indian citizen acknowledges that the Lok Pal Bill drafted by the Government and the Anna Hazare team has flaws. The UPA Government initially shied away from a public debate. The debate became further trivialized on inclusion of Prime Ministers Office/ Judiciary under Lok Pal or not. Then the impatience and distrust with each other ultimately turned the debate into an ‘all or nothing’ debate between the Government and the civil society group.

An omnibus Jan Lok Pal as envisaged by Anna Hazare group for sure is not going to end corruption, neither is the farcical Lok Pal Bill passed by the Union Cabinet, yesterday. The Lok Pal Bill is just a defensive feint enough to get by the public anger. The UPA Government sure will now hurry the Lok Pal Bill through in both houses of Parliament, flouting all rules of propriety and transparency, without engaging in a debate or even perhaps voted unanimously by politicians of all hues.

But by passing the Lok Pal Bill, under the compulsions of narrow party politics and to protect the mighty and powerful, the bull-headed Government may have snubbed the civil society out of the way (or so they believe) but the fact remains that in their attempt to defend against ‘outsiders’ trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament, the lawmakers of the country have further alienated the middle class and ensured that they remain ‘outsiders’.

But there is still hope. Hope comes from relatively toothless Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde could do to the powerful Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. 

Middle class activism in India is yet to mature to develop the momentum and self-belief to go beyond constantly searching for messiahs /demi-gods, who will slay the political demons of our time. The rage may be real, the desire for change may be well-intentioned, but am still not sure if it can really transform society unless it goes beyond the clever sound bite, or the ‘mera neta chor hai’ slogan. The Government of the day and the once to come, am sure will realise that hope and aspiration of youth energy, blocked by inertia and curruption, will lead to revolt. If not now, at a later date.

Video: Copyright with YouTube &

Interesting Snipets : Courtesy Wikipedia

The first Lok Pal Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, Lok Pal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed.

The current version is a diluted version drafted by Pranab Mukherjee (Finance Minister), P. Chidambaram (Minister of Home Affairs), Veerappa Moily (Minister of Corporate Affairs), Kapil Sibal (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) and Salman Khursid (Minister of Minority Affairs). It allows for setting up of a Lok Pal and frees it up to investigate and prosecute MPs and higher bueaucracy without being shackled by official sanctions, but it doesn’t give it complete autonomy either in selection process or its administrative and finiancial control. It excludes the PM from its purview and just hives off all the rest no protection to whistelblowers, no state Lokayuktas, no mechanism of checking corruption in judiciary and midle bureacracy, and a seriorly ill thought out grievance redressal mechanism.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) along with the members of the India Against Corruption Movement. The draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within 2 years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lok Pal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. It wants to protect whistleblowers. It wants to create a super-structure of high-integrity individuals to curb and prosecute corruption among MPs, highrer bureacracy, lower bureacracy, clerks, peons, police, every government department and project, the judiciary and the PM. 

Foot Note : Not that I agree with Churchill. India has produced more strong and calibered leaders than the whole Western world put together. But I just would urge every Indian to remember the statement by Churchill in the British Parliament when you go to exercise your franchise the next time. That is, if you do 🙂

A forgotten page from a diary!

Today, was the last exam of my tenth standard, the first level of crossing for an individual…this exam decides the physical state of a person…I have done it too today…this exam results will unfold my future and I will know what I am to become or pursue to live the life I breath in.

I have done my exams well and hope to fair well in my life too, but never know what is in store for you unless you stand on the verge of the upstream…!

So have to wait for the two month time, for the results to come in and then decide…meanwhile I have two months of a time…what should I be doing with it.

Obviously, will be going to my native town…where I will join a whole lot of cousins and friends near-by…loads of fun with games and television, movies and talking…will happen.

I have this strange heavy feeling in my heart, I am not able to overcome…what is it? Not sure…I seem to be liking this feeling for a certain episode is running in my mind again…and again and again…like those movies where the heroine sits on a table, or cot, or in the car, or in the bus…just recollects some scene again and again and there it follows a song sequence…

Can I hear music….nah…nah…but something of a melody flows by…!

I can’t forget the way he ran to my vehicle and gave me my rubber back to me…Oh! I had almost forgotten the little thing that I had…it was a spare one I had.

He had causally asked for it…before going to the exam as he had forgotten to bring his…!

I did not know why he took so much of a pain to return it to me…he could have kept it with him…as I had informed him that it was a spare one…he had also said while taking it from me…“I want to talk to you, once you finish the exam wait for me…”

I had asked him what was it, he said…“Wait for me…All the best” and walked off…I stood there gapping at his back as he walked away to his examination room…I recollected myself and walked over to mine…for few minutes, I kept pondering then the exam question papers arrived and the fear of unknown questions took over my brain cells.

When it was just another 30 minutes for the exam to end once again the memory flashed its agony and I wondered what it could be and I was gripped with some unknown bitter sweet sensation that did not let go…I walked out with the satisfaction of having done the best and to my astonishment I found my dad and mom waiting for me just outside the school entrance…I did not know they were coming and I found it really exciting to find them…my little sister was also with them…!

They had come to pick me up and we were off to something nicer after my exams. I was thrilled and forgot all about somebody asking me to wait…and the excitement.

I rushed to meet my other friends with whom I used to always hang out and then started leaving when I heard the final bell go off in the school premises…!

Then like a lighting bolt, it struck me, the words that drained in my ears…“wait for me…”

I turned around and looked for that familiar face, but could not find it in the swarm of school kids who were running out of the exams halls relieved that the dreading exams are over and there is no more of study for at least two months in a row….!

I heard the call of my impatient parents asking me to hurry, and rhyming with the strike of heart and my eyes that was asking to locate that face, that wanted to convey something to me….where is he?

Oh! Now, where did he disappear, I saw him coming out of the exam hall…walking briskly and talking gaily along with his friends…from the smile of his face I could make out it his exam went well….!

By then, I had reached the jeep that was waiting for me to hop in and leave any minute…my dad asked me to jump in…and I looked at him and nodded with my eyes drawn away from his sight and looking at the doorway of the hall and trying to catch those pair of eyes…that beheld my thoughts right now!

Hmm…he was so busy talking to his friends and did not notice me…I found my dad looking at me and at the direction where I was looking, I mumbled…‘I had given my eraser to him in the morning…I want it back…’

He smiled, ‘You can take it when your school re-opens or it is just a rubber, leave it you can buy more…’

I just nodded in agreement and reluctantly hopped into the jeep, my sister had already kept the hind door open…damn, my sister.

I got in and attempted to close the door, the engine started running and the jeep was in motion…I was peeping out to the open enclosure at the hind door and found him walking and running towards my jeep…I screamed…‘Wait, a second…and turned to find my parents, driver and sister looking at me…horrified, I said ‘My rubber…..’

I could hear giggles…and then turned around to find him at the door of the jeep and he said, ‘Here, your rubber, Rani…thanks it was of great help. Happy holidays and see you on the day of results…See ya’

I said, ‘See…ya, well you can keep the rubber will collect it on the day of results…why did you run to return it…? Anyways, now exams are over will not require it much {smile}’

{Smile and I saw a hand wave}

“Yeah, let’s go…we are late…” I heard my dad say.

All I could do is wave my hand and tried asking him by drawing circles and angles in the air and make him understand what was he trying to say to me in the morning and the jeep had moved him out of my sight just like a speck of a dirt on a white shirt….visible enough but can’t do much about it!

I still don’t know what he wanted to say and this thought is getting me restless and I want to days to roll by so that the day of exam results come…and I know my little secret.

What could it be….?

PS: A fictional incomplete thought of an adolescent from the diary!

Baby, When You Are Gone

With you gone, the cavity in me throbs, an emptiness that swallows, my heart
as I stumble over the edges of trivial duties.
I long for your voice to surround me,
and make me tremble in  desire.
I long for our hearts to beat as one,
as we watch the setting sun.

When you are gone, I suffer the vertigo of a thousand years of isolation, in the world
as I fill with nausea, over the mundane.
I long to be lost in those enigmatic eyes, the sweet scented hair
and the supple soft skin.
I long for you to moor me to the safety of your harbor,
and hold me secure.

With you gone, I become lost in the gap of my days and long for your return,
to bind together my fragmented and tattered remnants.
I long for you to tether me to your orbit,
pulled to the grasp of your gravity.
I long for loosening of gravity, setting us adrift,
beyond the redemption of earth.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Until the time we are together.

Foot Note : This poem is inspired by the song “When You’re Gone” song by Bryan Adams and Melanie C. Absence, makes hearts grow fonder and that is the inspiration for penning down this poem. Hope you guys enjoy it.

Do watch the video too. “When You’re Gone” was Melanie’s first release without the other Spice Girls and this duet with the rock god Bryan Adams, marked the beginning of Melanie’s successful solo career.

Video Courtesy : YouTube