Lokpal Bill Triggers Citizens’ Anger

Citizens across the country expressed their frustration while the Lokpal Bill was tabled in Parliament yesterday.

After months of protests and mobilization throughout the country, the Lokpal Bill was introduced in Parliament yesterday.  The draft, that did not meet any demands put forward by the anti-corruption movement, angered many citizens and sparked protests across the country. The prominent figure of the movement, Anna Hazare, a Gandhian activist who accomplished a 98-hour-long fast from 5th April 2001 to lobby the government, called the draft an eyewash and states that it has no relief for the poor. The India Against Corruption body that took the lead of the movement, stated the Lokpal Bill is “anti-poor, anti-dalit, and does not address the corruption faced by the common man”.

While the draft was being introduced in Parliament, Anna Hazare and his team started burning its copies. Many followed across the country, to express their rage and disappointment. The ire of the people was sparked by the fact that the Government did not include any of the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the alternative text pushed for by the Anti-corruption movement. This text would have created the Jan Lokpal as an independent body, endorsed with the authority to investigate cases of corruption. In the Jan Lokpal Bill, the body would have been bound to investigate the cases within one year of the complaint being filed, and would have had to carry out trial within two years of the complaint. Also, the ill-gotten wealth of those proved guilty would be confiscated.

The Lokpal Bill discussed by the government yesterday was a much milder version of the text and ignored the propositions formulated in the Jan Lokpal. Several criticisms have been uttered against the Lokpal Bill; the fact that the Lokpal bill will not have the power to initiate action suo motu or receive complaints from the public was specifically pulled u[. Also, the Lokpal Bill will be a mere advisory body, and will have to transmit the cases to a secondary authority, notably limiting its powers.  People also underscore the fact that the Lokpal will not be able to investigate any case against the Prime Ministers, and will have no jurisdiction against bureaucrats and government officers.

The scope of the protest matched the expectations placed in the anti-corruption movement. People across the country had mobilized, angered by the scams recently revealed, and prompted by the hope that things would ultimately change. In support of Hazare’s fast, thousands walked the street with candles, to express their exasperation. Large crowds gathered in Delhi during several days, to publicly express their support for the anti-corruption movement. Today’s video shows the pulse of this movement, attesting to the determination and the frustration of citizens.  Ram Jivan Sharma, a Delhi resident, expresses a view widespread in India today when he states that “corruption is so prevalent in this country and the root cause of this is the politicians. We are here to uproot the corrupt law and political system”.  In the crowd, many were highly determined, ready to fight as much as they could to ultimately bring some change and put an end to years of malpractice. Lalmani, a young 12th grade student expressed her resolution: “We are protesting along with Hazare. We are here to support his protest. If there is someone fighting for the nation, I wouldn’t mind giving my life for him.” An old man adds: “We achieved independence with great difficulty and we want to sustain it. We want to end corruption in this country”.

All of them, and many others who took part in the anti-corruption movement certainly felt betrayed yesterday, with a bill that does not come close to their demands in any possible way. Many of them will surely take the streets again, with the hope that their demands will ultimately be heard.

 

Ajeet Bahadur has been a committed social activist for years. He has been involved in several social movements in Uttar Pradesh. When the Anti-corruption movement came up, he involved himself with it at the local level, and he was very impressed to see how it spread nationwide, deeply hoping it would improve the situation in the country. The video was shot while he was travelling to Delhi. He had not planned anything, but seeing people all along the way protesting, he felt the need to document this unprecedented movement. “There was a feeling of hope. Even I had a feeling of hope, that maybe this time, things would change.” His video, shot in the heart of the protest that took place in support of Hazare’s fast, is as much the work of a correspondent as an activist. Today, he is greatly disillusioned by the Lokpal Bill: “Nothing great will be achieved with this text,” he says.

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