India's Hazare versus government corruption
The 74-year-old Gandhian activist is going on his third fast this year, demanding the government pass his version of a strong anti-corruption law.
Last modified: 23 Dec 2011 10:33
It's Anna Hazare versus the Indian government yet again.
The 74-year-old Gandhian activist is going on his third fast this year, demanding the government pass his version of a strong anti-corruption law. This, by the current session of parliament, which officially ends today.
But the government is under pressure and that session has now been extended for three days from December 27-29.
Still, many say that it is not enough time to deliberate a historic legislation that could change the contours of corruption in this country.
I've been covering Hazare's fast since April this year. And while I've seen scores of ordinary Indians coming out on the streets in his support, the numbers increasingly swelling in his favour and rattling the government - the debate has also shifted against him.
The perception that he’s fighting for his version of a strong anti-corruption rather than the country’s is what is working against him. His team has been accused of objecting to every version of the draft the government has proposed and of hijacking India’s parliament. It has also been accused of setting up a single institution so powerful that it is only accountable to parliament.
In a country where power should be shared rather than consolidated, some say it's a step backward. Sarah Zia, a sprightly 19-year-old that is vehemently against his movement, tells me "he's setting very high standards for who should be the Lokpal. And because no one else can satisfy those conditions, only he can become the Lokpal by these standards."
Finally, consider this: the proposed Lokpal according to Hazare should have the powers to prosecute both the lower and higher bureaucracy. "How will one Ombudsman prosecute millions of government civil servants?", activists ask.
The other challenge is converting this bill into law.
Not only is it difficult to do so by this session - but it is technically impossible too. For a bill to be made into a law, both houses of the Indian parliament need to debate, vote and pass an approved version of the bill. It is then sent to the president so it can be signed, following which the draft is then published by the official gazette of India.
Going by Indian standards, this is unlikely to happen, even if the government has extended the current session by three days.
So, Hazare will fast. And the government will debate. But it is still a small step in what is bound to be a long march ahead in bringing a strong anti-corruption law in this country.