Earlier this year in April, Anna Hazare, the anti-corruption crusader went on a fast demanding a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. Buckling under immense public pressure, in a little over four days, the Government gave in to Mr. Hazare’s demand. The newly formed committee included five members representing the ‘Civil society’ and five Ministers representing the Government. The five Ministers were: Finance Minister – Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister – P. Chidambaram, Law Minister – Salman Khurshid, HRD and Telecom Minister – Kapil Sibal, Corporate Affairs Minister – Veerappa Moily. The ministers were and remain to be a part of the Cabinet.
How ‘elite’ is a Cabinet Minister?
The job of Parliamentarians (MPs) is, simply put, to make laws for the country. Of these 800-odd individuals (including both, Lower and Upper Houses), a few of the good and experienced ones are chosen by the Prime Minister to form the executive, the Ministers. From these few good lawmakers, the best form the Cabinet. The Cabinet ministers are therefore supposed to be India’s best lawmakers.
Let us review the outcome of this entire joint drafting exercise. Two separate Lokpal Bills emerged. The Government version (sarcastically referred to as the sarkari Lokpal, due to the corruption associated to the word sarkari, and jokingly referred to as the ‘Jokepal’) faced opposition from not only the public, but also from the various civil society members who were not essentially solid backers of Mr. Hazare’s version. The country was promised that a strong Bill would be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament. What happened instead was that a weak Bill was tabled in Parliament. Satisfied with themselves, the Ministers never thought that for the second time in a year they would have to succumb to public pressure. “People had come out to support Mr. Hazare once. Would they do it again?” was probably what they thought at the time. They took a chance. This underestimation of Mr. Hazare’s reach resulted in his supporters multiplying phenomenally in a matter of days. There was no bargaining space left for the Government and people power was victorious! After such a strong opposition, the Ministers dared not continue lobbying for their Bill. The entire country accepted that theirs was an inferior draft, the sarkari Bill was ridiculed mercilessly.
Had a Board of Directors of a company taken an equally disastrous policy decision, alarm bells would have rung, heads would have rolled and within weeks the mediocre lot would have been replaced by performers. Why did this not happen in the most important and significant ‘company’ of the country, the Government? The Indian state is suffering from lack of transparency. What is worse though is that it is suffering from a grave lack of accountability. Neither do erroneous policy makers take moral responsibility and nor is there a system to punish such acts.
If these Ministers are our best Parliamentarians, and it is a widely accepted fact that their draft was probably the worst piece of legislation ever, India is in serious trouble. Not just because of corrupt politicians, but as we have seen now, also because of mediocre legislators. In an age when Indians are scaling new heights in virtually every field on a global stage, is it not time we had better policy makers? I hear the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, repeatedly saying impressive things like, “We take our job very seriously.” During almost every TV interview, the Law Minister, Salman Khurshid uses the very same words like, “We need to follow Parliamentary procedures, trust your Parliament.”
I am sorry Mr. Khurshid and Prime Minister Singh, I see no reason why citizens of this country should trust you!