India is witnessing an unprecedented mobilization of people and minds on the issue of Governance and Corruption, and more specifically, about the Lokpal institution which is being discussed as a centerpiece of the architecture of a more transparent and accountable form of Government.
This movement comprising of millions of Indians all over the country is remarkable for its non-violent and apolitical nature – and is the most visible proof of the people’s participation and vibrant democracy since Independence.
As representatives of the people within Parliament, it is the beholden duty of MPs to respond to this outpouring of views and concerns – voiced by our fellow citizens, but do so responsibly.
Let’s be clear – corruption is a consequence of poor or absent governance. The Supreme Court has said - “Corruption is the worst form of human rights violation.” Poor governance combined with profligate spending and welfare scheme after welfare scheme, without even the faintest effort in linking spending to outcomes and objectives – has created a thriving ecosystem of vested interests and corruption.
The focus, therefore, needs to be strongly on Governance reforms and changing the way our Government functions – to bring in more accountability and a culture of value and respect for public money and assets. Most of our institutions of Government have long since been corroded through political interference and exploitation – These institutions need to be rebuilt and credibility re-established. Like the judiciary and CAG have made the country proud, we need all the other institutions to be as functional, independent and responsible. In Weber’s memorable words, “Building public institutions is like slow boring of hard boards.”
The Lokpal that we are discussing is such a new institution that we need to build to increase the credibility within our people.
There is an unnecessary and misguided debate on the Government Lokpal versus Jan Lokpal Bill. Instead, let’s simply ask for the requirements. The requirements for a credible Lokpal institution are:
If we apply these above 7 criteria – the Jan Lokpal Bill provides for a much more effective institution. Strong laws are the best deterrent against corruption. Of course, there are some areas of Jan Lokpal Bill that need to be examined from a constitutional compatibility point of view. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the Parliament to establish that it hears and is responding to the voices and concerns of the people that we represent.
This is text of the speech by Rajeev Chandrasekhar during the debate in Parliament on the growing incidence of corruption in India. August, 25th, 2011