Thursday, June 30, 2011
Lok Satta Party leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao and P. Rohit Kumar will be taking part in the TANA (Telugu Association of North America) conference beginning on July 1 at Santa Clara, California, US.
During their visit until July 17, they will interact with People for Lok Satta chapters and take part in the Los Angeles Telugu Association meetings.
Dr. Manmohan Singh
The Prime Minister of India
Room No. 148 B,
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi – 110 001
Esteemed Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh ji,
Sub: Lokpal Bill – Reg.
Kindly recall our letter dated 11th May 2011 to you and leaders of major political parties, conveying the views of the Round Table of eminent citizens on Lokpal Institution conducted on April 24, 2011 in New Delhi. I am enclosing for your ready reference my earlier letter along with the views of the Round Table, and the background reference documents and a comparative statement of views and recommendations of various expert bodies.
Subsequent to that, the government substantially revised the official draft Lokpal Bill. Many significant provisions incorporated in the draft Bill make Lokpal a robust, effective and independent anti-corruption institution. For instance, the appointment by a collegium (section 4), and the provision for Search Committee if considered necessary, ensure appointment of persons of high standing and credibility. Protection of conditions of service (section 7), and the procedure for removal only on the recommendation of the Supreme Court ensure the independence of the high institution of Lokpal. Power to appointment Director of Prosecutions and guide the prosecution process (section 15) strengthens a vital weak link in the chain of action against corruption. Charging the expenditure of the Lokpal to the Consolidated Fund of India (section 16), while it is largely symbolic, preserves the prestige and dignity of the high office of Lokpal. Section 18 gives Lokpal powers to investigate even those allegations which are pending before any court or committee. The power to constitute benches (section 19) facilitates effective functioning of the institution. Lokpal would not need any sanction or permission to investigate, and complaints filed by Lokpal shall be taken cognizance by the Special Court (section 26), giving Lokpal teeth in combating corruption. Section 28 empowers Lokpal to file a case in a Special Court. Section 32 and 33 provide for attachment of properties by Lokpal, and confirmation by special courts, and confiscation on conviction. Section 38 provides for constitution of Special Courts as recommended by Lokpal.
All these are extremely salutary provisions which go a long way in creating a strong, independent, robust anti-corruption institution. While a lot more needs to be done to curb corruption, this legislation will certainly mark a new beginning in our quest for clean and good governance. We sincerely hope that all the political parties will transcend their differences and come together to make the enactment in Parliament swift and unanimous, so that a strong signal can be sent to the nation and the global community.
There are however, four specific issues which merit serious consideration while creating a strong anti-corruption institution. The Round Table on Lokpal in which eminent and credible citizens, many of whom with rich and varied experience in high office including in higher judiciary and constitutional authorities, made unanimous recommendations after extensive deliberations on these issues. I therefore feel it is my duty to bring to your notice the views of the Round Table on these four issues, and urge you to give these due consideration and incorporate them in the draft Bill. The four issues are as follows:
1. A Single Legislation by Parliament applicable to the Union and States:
On May 1, 2011 India has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Once this convention is ratified, Article 253 automatically empowers Parliament to make laws for the whole nation in order to implement any international treaty, agreement or convention. Therefore the Parliament has the power and duty to make laws applicable to the Union, States and local governments in respect of anti-corruption institutions and other related matters in pursuance of the UNCAC. The problem of corruption is not limited to the Union government. By common admission, corruption is as wide-spread in our states and local governments.
Therefore it is vital that the draft Bill provides for a Lokayukta in each state, and local ombudsmen in each district or group of districts and local governments very similar to Lokpal in composition, powers, functions and institutional mechanisms. In respect of the Right to Information Act, the Parliament made a law applicable to all states and local authorities in a similar manner. The priceless opportunity available to us to address corruption across the board should be seized with alacrity.
The Round Table on Lokpal unanimously recommended that a single, effective legislation should be make by the Parliament applicable for the entire country – Lokpal for the Union, Lokayukta for States, and Local Ombudsmen for local governments – with each institution having identical functions and powers within their respective jurisdictions.
That some states are less than eager to have such a law cannot be a sound argument for Parliament not creating the anti-corruption institutions in states. We hope the political parties, the Union Cabinet, and the Parliament will act in the national interest.
2. Seamless Integration of CVC with Lokpal:
The draft Bill provides for an eleven-member Lokpal. The jurisdiction of the Lokpal (Section17) extends to Ministers, Members of Parliament, Group A officers and senior functionaries of public sector undertakings. Such a well-defined jurisdiction limited to senior officials and elected officials ensures that Lokpal is a high ombudsman effective in curbing corruption in the top echelons of government. Under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, a three-member CVC is constituted with jurisdiction over all public servants and vigilance wings of various departments and agencies.
The Lokpal Round Table unanimously recommended that the CVC should be retained and strengthened; the appointment of CVC should be in a like manner as Lokpal; and CVC should be made ex-officio members of Lokpal. CVC’s participation in Lokpal would facilitate harmonious integration and minimize duplication of efforts. When new institution is created, effective coordination and integration with existing institutions is vital. As Lokpal is contemplated with a chairman and ten members, it would be appropriate if three of the ten members are chairman and members of CVC in ex-officio capacity. The CVC chairman and members could be appointed in the same manner as the Lokpal. That would ensure seamless integration of CVC with Lokpal, while fully utilizing the institutional strength and experience of CVC.
3. Chief Ministers to be brought under Lokpal jurisdiction:
The draft Bill on Lokpal rightly excludes the Prime Minister from the purview of Lokpal. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, and several eminent experts who held high Constitutional office have argued that Prime Minister occupies a pivotal position in our Parliamentary democracy. They recommended that the Prime Minister should be accountable only to Parliament and not to any extra-Parliamentary institution in order to protect the stability of the country and preserve the authority of Parliament.
Similar arguments can be advanced in respect of Chief Ministers in Stares vis-à-vis Lokayukta. Therefore the Lokpal Round Table recommended that the Chief Ministers of the States should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal at the national level. This will preserve the stature of Chief Ministers while at the same time ensuring probity and integrity in state governments.
4. Anti-Corruption Wings of CBI and ACBs to be brought under Lokpal’s protective umbrella:
The heart of rule of law is independent and impartial crime investigation. Normatively independent investigation of corruption offences is accepted in our country. However, it is widely believed that the professionalism and efficacy of CBI and ACBs are compromised by undue interference in their investigations. The Supreme Court, in its Hawala case judgment in 1997 directed certain measures to protect autonomy of CBI. Later, the CVC Act in 2003 gave effect to the Supreme Court judgment. However, it is vital that the anti-corruption wing of CBI and ACBs are taken out of partisan control, and their autonomy and professionalism are protected. If the anti-corruption wing of CBI is separated, and brought under the broad supervision of Lokpal, it will serve the purpose. In states, the Anti Corruption Bureaus (ACBs) should be similarly brought under the supervision of Lokayukta. The Lokpal Round Table unanimously recommended that the anti-corruption wing of the CBI should be separated. It should report to the Lokpal which would exercise broad superintendence. Accountability mechanisms should be evolved through a committee of Lokpal, CAG and CVC. Similar provisions should be made in states in respect of ACB and Lokayukta.
These four specific recommendations of the Round Table on Lokpal are well-reasoned, well-researched, and are based on the considered views of eminent citizens, especially experienced Constitutional functionaries. Therefore, we urge you to give due consideration to these views and ensure that draft legislation incorporates them in the larger public interest. The nation cannot have a better opportunity than today in creating a robust, effective anticorruption institutional mechanism within the framework of democratic accountability and constitutional checks and balances. We are confident that you will utilize your good offices to ensure a robust legislation with bipartisan consensus in Parliament.
With warm personal regards,
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today demanded that the proposed Lok Pal Bill also provide for the appointment of a Lokayukta in each State and an ombudsman in each district of the country.
In a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and leaders of all parties, Dr. JP said that Parliament can now make a law to tackle corruption all over the country with the Government of India ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Article 253 automatically empowers Parliament to make laws for the whole nation in order to implement any international treaty, agreement or convention. He recalled that in 2005 Parliament had adopted the Bill on right to information applicable to all States and local authorities.
In his letter, Dr. JP said, “The problem of corruption is not limited to the Union Government. By common admission, corruption is as widespread in our States and local governments. That some States are less than eager to have such a law cannot be a sound argument for Parliament not creating anti-corruption institutions in States.”
If the Lokpal law is not made applicable to states, it will be a great betrayal of the trust of the people, and unacceptable abdication of responsibilities by the Union government. “In all the debate on Lokpal, we are missing the wood for the trees”, Dr JP said.
Addressing media, Dr. JP said that the official draft Lokpal Bill contained many provisions which make the Lokpal a robust, effective and independent anti-corruption institution. He, however, drew the Prime Minister’s attention to the recommendations made by a Round Table of eminent citizens conducted in New Delhi on April 24, 2011.
The Round Table unanimously recommended that a single, effective legislation should be made by Parliament applicable for the entire country. It should provide for a Lokpal for the Union, Lokayukta for States, and Ombudsmen for local governments, with each institution having identical functions and powers within their respective jurisdictions.
The Lokpal Round Table recommended that the three members of the Central Vigilance Commission be made ex-officio members of the Lokpal to facilitate effective coordination and integration with existing institutions. The CVC has jurisdiction over all public servants and vigilance wings of various departments and agencies.
Dr. JP said that the draft Bill on Lokpal rightly excludes the Prime Minister from the purview of the Lokpal. Since the Prime Minister occupies a pivotal position in our parliamentary democracy, many authorities have recommended that the Prime Minister be accountable only to Parliament and not to any extra-parliamentary institution to protect the stability of the country and preserve the authority of Parliament.
The Lokpal Round Table recommended that Chief Ministers should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal at the national level to preserve their stature and ensure probity and integrity in State Governments.
It also recommended that the anti-corruption wings of the CBI and ACBs be brought under Lokpal’s protective umbrella to ensure independent and impartial crime investigation. This is in the context of the widespread belief that the professionalism and efficacy of the CBI and ACBs are compromised by undue interference in their investigations. The anti-corruption wing of the CBI should be separated and brought under the broad supervision of the Lokpal and the Anti Corruption Bureaus (ACBs) in states under the supervision of Lokayuktas.
Dr. JP listed the following as among salutary provisions in the official draft Lokpal Bill:
- Appointment of the Lokpal by a collegium, and the provision for a search committee if necessary
- Removal of Lokpal only on the recommendation of the Supreme Court
- Power to the Lokpal to appoint Director of Prosecutions and guide the prosecution process
- Charging the Lokpal expenditure to the Consolidated Fund of India
- Power to the Lokpal to investigate even allegations pending before any court or committee
- Power to the Lokpal to constitute benches
- Making any sanction or permission unnecessary for the Lokpal to investigate
- Powers to the Lokpal to file a case in a special court
- Constitution of special courts as recommended by the Lokpal.
- Provisions for attachment of properties and confiscation on conviction of the guilty
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today demanded that the Union Government take a decision on the demand for and against a separate Telangana State without further delay.
The Union Government has subjected Telugu-speaking people to incalculable harm by dithering on the issue for the last one year and a half. Politicians at the Delhi end seem to view Andhra Pradesh as a colony providing voting machines in flesh and blood to serve their narrow partisan interests. The State has suffered a setback to industrialization and its youth have lost employment opportunities.
The Union Government’s decision, he said, should serve the interests of people in all the regions of the State and not run counter to national interests. It should be rational and logical, transparent and practicable.
Dr. JP reiterated the Lok Satta’s contention that the Union Government straightway delete Clause 14 (F) of the Presidential Order of 1975. He recalled that at the Lok Satta Party’s initiative, the Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution seeking deletion of the controversial clause.
Pointing out that the clause and the fears of ‘free zone’ were the sparks that triggered the Telangana agitation in 2009 Dr. JP accused the Union Government of abdicating its governance responsibility by not heeding the State Assembly’s plea. He wanted the Union Government not to play football with Andhra Pradesh people’s aspirations.
It is a deep tragedy that intemperate remarks of those in authority are adding fuel to the fire. It is expected that those in high positions or those who are entrusted with complex issues act with maturity, fairness, objectivity and restraint. Clearly, the alleged 8th chapter of Srikrishna Committee was uncalled for. There cannot be secret reports in a public enquiry, except on matters relating to national security. I have only seen excerpts of the undisclosed report in the media. I have not gone through the document myself; but what appeared in the media, and the comments of the high court give us an inkling of it. We should unreservedly oppose such casual, improper and unethical comments on an extremely sensitive and serious issue.
It is always a difficult decision as to when we should make public comment, and when to maintain silence. As it is, in a noisy and argumentative culture, a lot of cacophony prevails. There is a natural propensity in Lok Satta to refrain from adding more to the cacophony on a variety of issues in the country. Informed, balanced public debate is not the forte of our society or politics. Therefore, all of us who have limited energies should exercise enormous restraint and focus on core areas of national concern. Lok Satta is usually averse to saying the same thing which is being said by all, unless we add significant value. Dignified silence is not a sign of acquiescence; it is often an expression of quiet disapproval.
However, SKC (if the committee has indeed endorsed the secret report) has done a great disservice to the nation, the state of Andhra Pradesh, and the people of Telangana. Lok Satta has always appealed to people with influence to act with dignity, restraint and fairness. The secret chapter has failed that test.
Whatever be the underlying factors for dissatisfaction in Telangana region, and the fears in other regions, we have a very complex problem on our hands. When people view development, growth and prosperity as zero-sum issues, we always have fierce contention and deep distrust. We see that in respect of reservation; political representation; regional agitations; communal riots, and a host of other diversities which are part of India.
Our federalism has matured a great deal over the past three decades. We have to find innovative solutions to accommodate the aspirations of all states and sub-regions, without stoking mistrust or fears. Our constitution is flexible, and our political system, despite the obvious flaws, is robust. It is our duty as enlightened citizens not to be apoplectic on sectarian issues, and help restore calm and push for a balanced, acceptable solution which strengthens our federalism, democracy and national unity. I am sure seemingly intractable problems can be resolved fairly through patience, empathy, dialogue, mutual understanding, and love for justice.
Sadly, all over the world, and certainly in India, there is often a combination of arrogance and ignorance that makes people bigoted. Unreasonable pride in 'my dialect', 'my language', 'my culture', or 'my religion' often gives way to prejudice. The regions and groups which had earlier access to the tools of modernization often used their advantage to perpetuate a myth about the 'inadequacies' and 'cultural backwardness' of those who were not part of the modernization band wagon. However, many wise people have always rejected such unfounded notions of superiority in language, dialect, or culture. Nevertheless, when popular art is dominated by a certain dialect or cultural idiom, those who are left out feel genuinely aggrieved. Telengana has always been home to the richest Telugu indigenous (as opposed to the highly Sanscritized) vocabulary. But our popular films, media and literature have increasingly homogenized Telugu language and culture, and have lead to alienation and a sense of marginalization of the local dialects in Telangana and elsewhere. Language is the basis of communication and mutual understanding. It is sad that language has become the source of discord between Telugu-speaking peoples of different regions. Someone said, Britain and the US are two nations separated by English language!
Clearly, we all need to do a lot to bridge this gap, and remove the sense of discrimination and alienation. The government should use all its leverage to promote diversity in culture and dialect. But the media, popular art and literature have a far greater role than the government and politics in recognizing and respecting local cultures and dialects. Lok Satta has generally not ventured into issues which are largely beyond state control; because our core area of concern is governance reform and fulfillment of human potential. But we should recognize that often social or cultural challenges find expression in the political arena, and we have to deal with them with integrity and fairness.
I urge all friends to help amicably resolve the crisis Andhra Pradesh is facing. Poverty, unfulfilled potential, avoidable suffering, hunger, disease, unemployment and corruption - all these scourges are non-denominational. In combating these humongous problems, we need to keep in mind at all times that we are all brothers, and we share a lot more than the small differences that keep us apart.
Hatred, prejudice, arrogance, exploitation, and plunder in all forms should end, if we claim any semblance of humanity. At the end of the day, as individuals we all perish. But our society and civilization will live on. We need to cherish our diversity, even as we promote national unity. As a student of biology, anthropology and history, I find it impossible to harbour prejudice against any human being on grounds of caste, region, religion, language, or race. Even nationality cannot be source of discord in a civilized world. Too many of us are swayed by the swift currents of emotion. What we need is the placid calm of the deep high sea.
I urge all friends to vigorously debate these issues. But at all times we need to talk to each other, not shout at each other. We need to respect diversity of opinions without being judgmental. Above all, we need to recognize that beneath the veneer, we are all one, and we share common goals and aspirations. I am sure frank exchange of views and reasoned debate will help us bridge the unfortunate chasm that has developed in recent times between well-meaning and compassionate people speaking the same language and proudly sharing the same history and culture. A satisfactory solution to the vexed problems plaguing us can be found if we are patient and fair to each other.
- Dr.Jayaprakash Narayan
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Lok Satta Party today requested the Chief Minister to ensure that the State-owned Road Transport Corporation (RTC) does not raise fares in the wake of the Union Government’ hike in diesel price.
A Lok Satta Party delegation comprising Katari Srinivasa Rao, V. Laxman Balaji, P. Bhaskara Rao and P. Rohit Kumar called on Mr. N. Kirankumar Reddy at his Camp Office and submitted a memorandum.
Pointing out that more than a crore of people use RTC services daily, the Lok Satta leaders told the Chief Minister that any hike in fares would impose a heavy burden on poor and middle class commuters.
The Government can go to the rescue of the loss-making RTC in a number of ways, they represented to the Chief Minister. The Government, for instance, can reduce the 22 percent VAT it imposes on diesel, like some of its counterparts in the country. It can pass on the increase in revenue from VAT on diesel to the RTC. It can reduce the motor vehicle tax on RTC buses and clear the long-pending dues to the RTC. It can implement the recommendations made by IIM, Ahmedabad, and improve RTC’s revenue.
The Government should promote public transport and not private transport in the interests of environment and fuel security.
The Lok Satta leaders wanted the Government to promote production of biofuels to ensure energy security at a time fossil fuel reserves the world over are dwindling. Brazil, for instance, has emerged as a leader in production of ethanol from sugarcane. Ethanol blended with petroleum serves as a motor fuel. Ethanol production benefits farmers by ensuring a higher price for sugarcane and the country by saving foreign exchange on import of petroleum products.
Talking to media, Mr. Katari Srinivasa Rao hoped the Chief Minister would heed the practical suggestions made by the delegation.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
14(ఎఫ్) తొలగింపునకు కేంద్రంపై గట్టి ఒత్తిడి తేవాలి. ఏ పరీక్షలకైనా హైదరాబాద్ ఆరో జోన్ గానే ఉండాలి: లోక్ సత్తా
The Lok Satta Party today demanded that the State Government exert pressure on the Union Government and get Section 14 (F) deleted from the Presidential Order of 1975.
In a media statement, Lok Satta Party leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao and P. Bhaskara Rao recalled that at the initiative of the Lok Satta, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution seeking deletion of Section 14 (F) nearly a year ago and sent it to the Government of India.
Referring to the State Government’s plan to conduct a written examination for recruitment of sub-inspectors, they said that Hyderabad should be treated as part of the sixth zone, and not as a free zone. Apprehensions over the so-called free zone fuelled regional animosities in 2009, they recalled.
The Lok Satta leaders faulted the State and Union Governments for being complacent on addressing such a sensitive issue.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan will be addressing a public meeting in Mumbai tomorrow (June 28) on housing and slum rehabilitation challenges and possible solutions.
A joint action committee on the housing right comprising among others CPM, CPI, and Janata Dal (S) leaders, is organizing the public meeting.
On this occasion, Dr. JP will release a book on housing authored by Prof. Jalindar Adsule, General Secretary, Lok Satta Party, Maharashtra.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Lok Satta Party today asked the State Government to allocate a certain portion of its revenue from the increase in the diesel price to reduce the burden on consumers.
In a media statement, party Working President D. V. V. S. Varma pointed out that Andhra Pradesh levies an exorbitant tax of 22.5 percent on diesel. The State’s revenue goes up whenever the Government of India raises the diesel price. It can provide relief to the common person by reducing its tax on diesel.
Since a hike in diesel price fuels inflation and hurts the common person most, the State and Union Governments should strive to mitigate its effects. They should promote public transport by offering a higher subsidy on diesel to public transport undertakings including the railways and improving infrastructure. They should supply solar LED lanterns and encourage blending of petrol with ethanol produced out of sugarcane to reduce the demand for kerosene and petrol.
Friday, June 24, 2011
మభ్య పెట్టే లెక్కలతో తలసరి ఆదాయ గణాంకాలు - ప్రజల జీవితాలలో ప్రతిబింబించని రాష్ట్ర ఆర్థిక వృద్ధి రేటు
The reported increase in the State’s GDP (gross domestic product) and per capita income during 2010-11 is not a matter to gloat about since Andhra Pradesh continues to be at the bottom of the ladder in the human development index, commented Lok Satta Party Working President D. V. V. S. Varma and Secretary P. Bhaskara Rao today.
In a media statement, they recalled that Andhra Pradesh lags behind many large States in sectors like education, healthcare, and employment.
According to media reports, the per capita income in the State stood at Rs.60,458 and the growth rate in the State’s GDP at 9.22 percent during 2010-11. Agriculture registered a growth rate of 9.10 percent.
The Lok Satta leaders pointed out that a higher rate of growth in agriculture does not necessarily mean that farmers are better off. On the contrary, the condition of farmers has worsened in recent years. The per capita income of farmers is one-fourth of the State’s per capita income.
The Lok Satta leaders demanded that the Government publish data on the growth (or lack of it) in the farmer’s income, as suggested by the Swaminathan Commission.
Mr. Varma and Mr. Bhaskara Rao wanted the Government to return the 972 acres of land it had acquired for Nagarjuna Construction’s thermal power project to farmers in the wake of the High Court suspending the concerned Government order.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Andhra Pradesh has lost an eminent educationist, scholar, social worker, and intellectual in the death of Prof. K. Jayashankar, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan.
In a media statement, Dr. JP pointed out that Prof. Jayashankar was a fierce champion of federalism and a dedicated worker for people’s empowerment in Telangana. He pursued with vigor and determination the causes he believed in.
Dr. JP recalled that as Secretary to Chief Minister N. T. Rama Rao, he tried in vain to get a second term for Prof. Jayashankar as Vice Chancellor of Kakatiya University.
He conveyed his profound sympathies to the family of Prof. Jayashankar.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The Lok Satta Party today demanded that the Union Government empower States to monitor conduct of clinical trials by drug companies.
In a media statement, party Secretary P. Bhaskara Rao said that for want of effective monitoring, drug companies could get away by enlisting illiterate and ignorant people as guinea pigs for their experiments.
Clinical trials are no doubt important for advancing medicine he said and added that all precautions should be taken in conducting them since they some times led to the death or disability of people being subjected to them.
India has of late become the capital for clinical trials because of the genetic diversity of its people. In addition, India has a vast pool of illiterate, ignorant and poor people who volunteer themselves for the trials even for a pittance. There is no wonder that multinational drug companies view India as an ideal place for cutting down cost and time in their bid to perfect blockbuster drugs.
Mr. Bhaskara Rao recalled that more than 1500 people have died in clinical trials in the last two years and added that the drug companies accepted their responsibility in only 25 cases. They paid compensation to the next of kin of some of the victims only after the Indian Council of Medical Research took them to task.
Mr. Bhaskara Rao demanded a thorough inquiry into the adverse consequences of drug trials in Andhra Pradesh. No mercy should be shown to drug companies conducting trials in violations of laws, rules and regulations.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The current debate about Lok Pal centers on whether the office of Prime Minister should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lok Pal. This issue figured prominently even in the consensus-building effort ‘Round Table on Lok Pal’ held in New Delhi, on April 24, 2011. The participants expressed strong views both in favour of and against, the inclusion of the Prime Minister.
Those participants having a rich public service experience at the highest levels cited the findings of the 4th Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) and the National Commission for the Review of Working of Constitution (NCRWC) and recommended the exclusion of Prime Minister from the jurisdiction of Lokpal. They pointed out that the Prime Minister in the Westminster system occupies a pivotal position, and his / her accountability should be only to the Lok Sabha; and not any appointed authority. Any destabilization of the office of the Prime Minister could seriously undermine the stability of government and paralyze all administration. Even if the Prime Minister is exonerated fully after an enquiry by Lokpal, the damage done to the country would be considerable and irreversible.
However, several other participants strongly felt that the Prime Minister must be within the ambit of the Lokpal. They felt that public confidence in our political process has been eroded significantly, and it may be necessary to bring the Prime Minister within the purview of the Lokpal in order to restore public trust.
The demand for PM’s inclusion:
Those who believe that the Prime Minister’s conduct should be scrutinized by Lok Pal rightly argue that all public servants should be accountable. In a democracy, the citizen is the sovereign, and every public servant holds office to serve the citizens, spending tax money and exercising authority under the laws made on citizens’ behalf or under the Constitution which we, the people, gave unto ourselves. Therefore, no functionary, however high, should be exempt from scrutiny by Lok Pal. In constitutional theory, in the Westminster model, the PM is the first among equals in a Council of Ministers exercising collective responsibility. Therefore, whatever rules apply to other Ministers should apply to the Prime Minister as well.
However, there are deeper issues that need to be examined carefully.
The pivotal, unparalleled role of the PM:
While the PM’s office was merely the first among equals in conception, over time and particularly in India, the PM became the leader of the executive branch of the government. It is the function of the PM to lead and to coordinate in framing of policies, decision making and execution of those policies and decisions. The PM’s unchallenged authority and leadership are critical to ensure cohesion and sense of purpose in government, and to make our Constitutional scheme function in letter and spirit. The PM is accountable to the Parliament, and on his survival depends the survival of the government. In our Constitutional scheme of things, the PM is appointed on the basis of the President’s judgment of his commanding majority support in Parliament. All Ministers are then appointed only on the advice of the PM. The President cannot ordinarily dismiss the PM as long as he enjoys the majority support in the House of the People.
PM, not just another Minister or an MP:
But other Ministers are removed by the President at any time, on the advice of the PM. No reasons are required to be given by the PM for removal of such Ministers. They must enjoy the confidence of the PM in order to hold office as Ministers. This scheme has been deliberately introduced in our Constitution to preserve the authority of the PM, and to ensure cohesion and coordination in the functioning of the government.
If the PM’s conduct is open to formal scrutiny by extra-Parliamentary authorities, then the government’s viability is eroded and Parliament’s supremacy is in jeopardy. Any enquiry into a PM’s official conduct by any authority other than the Parliament would severely undermine the PM’s capacity to lead the government. Such weakening of the PM’s authority would surely lead to serious failure of governance and lack of harmony and coordination and goes against public interest.
Therefore, those who argue that the PM is like any other Member of Parliament or any other Minister are only technically correct.
In reality, in all countries following the Parliamentary executive model drawing Cabinet from the legislature, the PM became the leader of the country and the government.
The authority of the PM, as long as he enjoys Parliamentary support, has become synonymous with the nation’s dignity and prestige. A PM facing formal enquiry by a Lok Pal would cripple the government. One can argue that such an enquiry gives the opportunity to the incumbent to defend himself against baseless charges and clear his name. But the fact is, once there is a formal enquiry by a Lok Pal on charges, however baseless they are, the PM’s authority is severely eroded, and the government will be paralyzed. Subsequent exoneration of the PM cannot undo the damage done to the country or to the office of the PM.
We should note that, there is no provision to impose President’s rule in the Union. In case of states, Article 356 provides for a mechanism to ward off instability or collapse in a state. But in the Union, we always need a strong and viable Council of Ministers headed by PM. Therefore, any roving enquiry by a Lokpal into the conduct of PM himself will leave the country vulnerable, and may even geopardize national security.
It could be argued that since any minister could be removed on PM’s advice or Parliament as well, Lok Pal need not have jurisdiction on a Minster’s conduct also. But Parliament does not really sit in judgment of a Minister’s conduct. It is the PM and the Council of Ministers as a whole whose fate is determined by Parliament’s will. And the PM does not have the time or energy to personally investigate the conduct of a Minister. The government’s investigative agencies are controlled or influenced by the Ministers, and therefore it is hard for the PM to get objective assessment of the Minister’s official conduct. Therefore, an independent, impartial body of high standing would be of great value in enforcing high standards of ethical conduct among Ministers. A similar reasoning applies to MPs, since Parliament’s time and energies cannot be consumed by detailed investigations into individual conduct. But the final decision of removing the Member must vest in Parliament, and that removal of a Minister must be on the advice of the PM. The Parliament is responsible to the nation for its decisions, and the PM is responsible to the Parliament.
While the PM is yet another member of the Parliament in theory, political evolution has transformed him into the leader of the nation. Theoretically, each member of the legislature is elected by his constituents in our model of government. But over the past century, elections even in parliamentary system have become plebiscitary in nature. Most often, the PM’s personality, vision, and leadership are the issues which determine electoral outcomes. Similarly, the opposition focuses its energies and hopes on its leader. The electoral contest is transformed into a test of acceptability of the leaders. The constituency contests have thus become increasingly dependent on the larger question of whose governmental leadership people trust or seek at that point of time.
PM accountable to Parliament:
Given this overwhelming political reality, it would be extremely unwise to subject the PM’s office to a prolonged public enquiry by any unelected functionary. However, this does not mean granting blanket immunity to the PM.
The Parliament is the best forum we can trust to enforce the integrity of the office of the PM: If the PM is indeed guilty of serious indiscretions, the Parliament should be the judge of the matter, and the Lok Sabha should remove the PM from office. No lengthy enquiry or impeachment are therefore contemplated in our scheme of things, and a mere passing of no-confident motion without assigning reasons is sufficient to change government. In the directly elected executive model of government, the Parliament cannot remove the President who is the Chief Executive, and therefore a complex process of impeachment, and an enquiry by Special Prosecutors to precede such an impeachment have become necessary.
Therefore, the Lok Pal Round Table was of the opinion that, on the balance, this issue should best be left to the wisdom of the Parliament. However, the Round Table was of the unanimous view that all other ministers and senior officials, including those directly associated with the Prime Minister’s Office should be brought within the purview of Lokpal’s jurisdiction.
Finally, don’t exclude the CMs!
But Chief Ministers should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal at the national level, because in States there is much less risk of a government being paralyzed if a Chief Minister is under investigation / enquiry.
In a crisis situation in a state, if the government cannot be carried in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President may invoke the provisions of Article 356. Therefore, the balance of convenience lies in bringing the Chief Ministers within the purview of an independent anti-corruption authority, but at the national level (i.e. Lokpal).
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Lok Satta Party will enter into local adjustments in the elections to panchayati raj institutions whenever they take place, according to a decision taken by the party’s Executive Committee here today.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan and Working President D. V. V. S. Varma explained the rationale behind the party decision at the meeting.
Elections to the posts of president and ward members of a panchayt take place on a non-party basis. In villages in which the Lok Satta has a considerable vote base, it will back good candidates who agree to a common agenda of providing safe drinking water; a toilet for every household; effective garbage disposal; an institutional arrangement to monitor schools and health centres; and citizen’s charters for the Panchayat with penalties.
In return for the support it extends to contestants in the panchayat elections, the Lok Satta will seek their backing for its candidates in the MPTC and ZPTC elections. The Lok Satta will take the support of good candidates and in turn extend support to them irrespective of party affiliations.
Mr. Varma said that the Lok Satta Party would focus on victories, although in limited constituencies, even as it spreads its policies and programs all over the State.
Dr. JP said that the present atmosphere in the country has turned conducive the politics and policies the Lok Satta has been espousing. They include institution of strong and independent mechanisms to root out corruption, decentralization of power and empowerment of citizens, electoral and judicial reforms. The reforms would take place definitely, since none can roll back the process, which has begun.
The Lok Satta has earned admiration and appreciation from several quarters and built a base among farmers, youth and women. That the party has survived in a State, which has two deeply entrenched mainstream political parties and is the epicenter of disturbances over many issues is itself a miracle, said Dr. JP. However, it is not enough. The goodwill the party enjoys has to be converted into political strength by notching up victories in panchayati raj elections, he said.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan will be addressing students and faculty of two institutes of technology and management in Bangalore on June 16 and 17.
He will be chief guest at the graduation ceremony of the Reva Institute of Technology & Management on June 16. He will be taking part in a seminar on the ‘The Role of youth in Politics and Nation Building’ at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM) on June 17.
Dr JP will be addressing a public meeting on 17th at 5pm on the anti-corruption campaign at Rotary House of Friendship, Lavelle Road, Bangalore.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Andhra Pradesh lags behind not merely the other States in South India but the entire country in the literacy rate, said Lok Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today, correcting Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy.
(Launching the ‘education fortnight’ on June 13, the Chief Minister had said that he was ashamed to admit that Andhra Pradesh lagged behind all other States in South India).
Dr. JP said that Andhra Pradesh lags behind all the large States and is competing with Jharkhand for the bottom of the literacy ladder.
Dr. JP visited two schools in Kukatpally constituency (which he represents in the Assembly) today, following their reopening after the summer vacation.
Talking to media, Dr. JP said schools continued to be in a pathetic state because the Government does not have the political will to improve education, although funds are not a constraint. The State is likely to spend only Rs.700 crore of the Rs.1800 crore available for improving infrastructure under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Madhyamika Siksha Abhiyan this year, he said.
Dr. JP pointed out that the State Government spent nearly Rs.15000 crore on primary and secondary education every year, incurring an expenditure of Rs.15000 on every student. Yet, most schools do not have basic amenities. The Government primary and high schools for girls (located in the same compound in Kukatpally), which he visited today, have nearly 1000 students on their rolls. Yet the schools do not have adequate number of teachers, a playground or drinking water.
Dr. JP said that the poorest of the poor, mostly from illiterate families, attended Government schools. Seven years after education, 25 percent of students cannot read a paragraph in Telugu and 75 percent cannot do a simple division. Absence of adequate number of teachers, class-rooms and other infrastructure are responsible for the parlous state of Government schools. “Teachers are not to blame; if there is one section in society which is not tainted by corruption, it is teachers.”
With a view to remedying the situation, Dr. JP said, he has enlisted the services of volunteers to supplement teachers’ efforts in coaching children. As a result, the percentage of passes in the tenth class went up this year. The Government is implementing a Rs.5.5-crore plan, drawn up by Lok Satta Party activists with the assistance of volunteers, to improve schools in the constituency.
Dr. JP praised Mr. N. Seshagiri Rao and other volunteers for undertaking the school improvement project.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Money will not be a limiting factor for entering politics, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan told the party’s student leaders here today. If they have character, integrity, vision and leadership qualities, people will not hesitate to support them monetarily, he added.
Addressing Vidyarthi Satta’s State Working Committee, Dr. JP counseled the youth to shed the illusion that they can transform society for the better through the barrel of the gun.
Dr. JP said that one need not sacrifice one’s entire life for serving society. It is enough if one spares a little time and a few resources even as one pursues one’s routine life.
Ninety-four percent of the future belonged to the youth, he said and asked them to strive to build a society in which every one has an equal opportunity to grow.
Politics is not a means for personal enrichment. It is a noble endeavor meant to serve society. The youth should regard the nation as above party, and the party as above individual. Unfortunately, some politicians regard themselves as more important than the party and the nation.
He asked Vidyarthi Satta leaders to enroll voters and help them exercise their franchise in their own interest. People tended to view politics as a battle between political parties or leaders, forgetting that it influenced their lives day in and day out.
Vidyarthi Satta State President P. Sivaji Raju said that the organization planned to enroll 50,000 students as members and offer training in leadership to 10,000.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Lok Satta Party today demanded that the Government act against dealers and officials responsible for diversion of cotton seed to the black market.
In a media statement, Lok Satta Party leaders Katari Srinivasa Rao and P. Bhaskaraa Rao said that Government failure to ensure orderly cotton seed supply forced farmers to resort to road blockades and indulge in violence. The scramble for a certain variety of cotton seed led to the conduct of auctions and lottery for seed distribution. The neglect of agricultural extension machinery by successive Governments has resulted in such a pathetic situation, they added.
The Lok Satta leaders wanted the Government to ensure that there is no mismatch between demand for and supply of cotton seed and educate farmers on the efficacy of different seed varieties.
Now that the monsoon has advanced into the State, the Government should make available adequate quantities of fertilizer, they suggested.
The Government should shed its complacency towards agriculture which provides livelihood to an overwhelming majority of the population and make farming profitable through appropriate policies.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan expressed his profound grief over the death of world renowned painter M. F. Hussain. Hussain remained an Indian in his heart although he might have taken citizenship of another country and lived outside India for some time. He was known for his originality and creativity in the world of art.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Lok Satta Party expressed its profound grief over the passing away of dance maestro Nataraja Ramakrishna.
Ramakrishna had done invaluable service to the world of art by reviving the centuries-old Perini Siva Tandavam and popularizing it, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan in a media statement today.
Ramakrishna trained innumerable students during his 60-year-old career. His death leaves a void in the world of dance, Dr. JP added.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan termed the police’s midnight swoop with batons and teargas on a sleeping Baba Ramdev and thousands of his peaceful and unarmed supporters at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi as brutal and draconian. Even a third rate dictatorship would not resort to such bizarre actions Dr. JP fumed at a media conference here.
Dr. JP said that spokespersons of the Delhi and the Union Governments were indulging in sophistry when they claimed that Baba Ramdev’s fast at the Ramlila Maidan was unauthorized since he had permission to conduct only a yoga camp.
The entire nation knew that Baba Ramadev was going to fast from June 4 and that was precisely why the Prime Minister rushed four Union Ministers to the airport to dissuade Baba Ramdev from going on fast.
Dr. JP accused the ruling establishment of trying to deflect attention from Baba Ramdev’s crusade against corruption and black money by tarring him with the communal brush. The fight against corruption could not be dubbed communal simply because a leader of a particular community led it. Why did Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and Co negotiate with him if Baba Ramdev were communal?
If Mr. Baba Ramdev was a thug or a criminal as senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh described him, Dr. JP asked why the Government had not acted against him so far.
It was ridiculous that politicians who spent crores of rupees of black money in elections would now like to know wherefrom Baba Ramdev received crores of rupees for his agitation. One in public life has to be transparent in receiving money, accounting for it, and utilizing it for the purpose for which one received it. No recipient can testify that the donor is a Mahatma Gandhi, he said.
Dr. JP said the Government’s failure to respond to people’s revulsion against corruption and black money brought them on to streets, countering the argument that legislation cannot be decided in streets. Why had the Government taken six years to ratify the international convention against corruption? Why had the Government not constituted an independent and powerful Lok Pal for decades to combat corruption? Should people remain silent when Governments and legislatures fail to discharge their duties?
Dr. JP said that the Governments both at the Center and in the States have lost touch with people and realities. Consequently, they are displaying panic and bravado alternately. They are not serious about fighting corruption but interested only in silencing those fighting against corruption.
Dr. JP demanded that the Union Government convene Parliament immediately and spell out how it is going to recover the illegal money secreted abroad and eradicate corruption.
Dr. JP described the Delhi developments as a wake up call for all people to come together transcending their loyalties to region and religion, language and caste and fight against corruption and black money and for probity in public life.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
All politics is local, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan told youth today.
Addressing student participants in a three-day training program organized by youth for a Better India (YBI) in Hyderabad, Dr. JP advised them to focus on local problems and strive to bring about a transformation in people’s lives.
“I do not have even an iota of doubt about the new generation’s ability and competence to transform India,” Dr. JP said and added it might to have slog until it succeeds. “You cannot generate steam until you boil water up to 100 degrees C.”
Transformation in India does not take place until those who are sincere and committed and have the competence take the lead. They will, however, succeed only when people appreciate what is good for them and choose to elect the right people to represent them. Which of the two precedes or follows is asking the egg and chick question.
Dr. JP bemoaned that the educated and the middle class, who viewed politics as demeaning and politicians as wretched, refrained from going to the polling booth. If only they had voted for the Lok Satta Party in the 2009 elections, the State would have witnessed a transformation in politics even without the party coming into power.
Mr. D. Narasimha Rao, Coordinator, YBI, said that about 5000 students would be trained in leadership responsibilities in the next two years. The training focused on utilizing the provisions of the Right to Information Act, youth empowerment, and movements against corruption and campaigns on local issues.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said today that the Government of India should vigorously pursue all avenues to ferret out black money stashed abroad by Indians.
Pledging his support to Baba Ramdev’s demand for recovering the illegal money secreted in foreign accounts, Dr. JP said that the Government of India should not delay the process further, now that it has become a signatory to the UN Convention against corruption.
According to one reliable estimate, Indians have parked about $463 billion, equivalent to about Rs.20 lakh crore, in offshore accounts.
The Government of India could emulate methods adopted by countries like the U. S., which have succeeded in unearthing Americans’ undisclosed offshore bank accounts and made them pay punitive taxes.
Dr. JP said that corruption could be curbed only if laws ensure sure and swift punishment of the guilty with rigorous long-term imprisonment and confiscation of their entire, not merely ill gotten, property.
Pointing out that real estate transactions are one of the primary sources for black money generation, Dr. JP suggested that the Government rationalize stamp duty to dissuade people from under-valuing property to minimize tax incidence. The Government should also utilize the legal provisions under which it can acquire property at the undervalued price.
Institution of a powerful and independent Lok Pal is necessary but not sufficient, said Dr. JP and added that the war against corruption has to be waged on many fronts.
Dr. JP underlined the need for electoral reforms to facilitate the best and the brightest to get elected to office without having to splurge money. Otherwise, politics continues to breed corruption. Decentralization of power and empowerment of people are essential to ensure that people understand the link between taxes and services, and authority and accountability, Dr. JP said.
Dr. JP will be taking part in a program in support of Baba Ramdev’s fast at Gymkhana Grounds in Secunderabad on June 4 at 9-30 a.m. Giving this information, Lok Satta Party State General Secretary Katari Srinivasa Rao appealed to Lok Satta cadre and all people committed to fighting corruption to take part in the program.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
The Lok Satta Party today extended its in-principle support to Baba Ramdev’s fast against corruption in New Delhi from June 4, 2011.
In a media statement, Lok Satta Party Working President D. V. V. S. Varma recalled that the Lok Satta, which has been waging a relentless and multi-pronged war against corruption, backs all agitations against corruption.
Baba Ramdev, however, should have attempted to accomplish his objective by entering into talks with the Government, which has come forward to constitute a Lok Pal to combat corruption. Since both ruling and opposition parties are committed to creating an independent and powerful Lok Pal, differences, if any, should be resolved through dialogue, Mr. Varma added.
Issues like bringing the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary under the Lok Pal purview and recovering the black money stashed abroad should be sorted out through discussions, Mr. Varma added.
The Lok Satta Working President underlined the need for constitution of a strong and independent Ombudsman at the State level too as part of Central legislation on the lines of the Right to Information Act.
Mr. Varma said that corruption elimination called for electoral reforms and decentralization of administration to empower people.
The Assembly session, being convened to elect the Speaker, should be extended to discuss the crisis in the agriculture sector, demanded Mr. Varma.