Kiran Bedi, a member of Anna Hazare’s team, explains the differences with the government over the Lokpal Bill, saying it is ineffective to deal with the problem
Kiran Bedi has said that the Lokpal Bill is the first law to be drafted by people's participation and has been prepared with much research. Addressing a news conference called by the Mumbai Citizens Referendum of India Against Corruption at the weekend, Ms Bedi said this has happened in other countries, but this is the first time that it is happening in India. "This is unparalleled," she said.
Ms Bedi said 18 to 20 drafts of the Jan Lokpal Bill had been created from ideas and opinions of people that had been incorporated into the final draft.
Focusing on the differences between the drafts prepared by the Civil Society group and the government representatives on the drafting committee, she said that till today, laws were made by parliament and put up on their website. Many times these laws were passed by parliament without research due to a lack of time. "But the draft Jan Lokpal Bill has been worked out after a lot of research."
Ms Bedi drew attention to television channels flogging stories on crime and corruption, saying, "The Bill was drafted in an environment of corruption, when we were polluted by the CWG (Commonwealth Games), 2G spectrum and Adarsh scams."
In the Bill drafted by the government representatives, the prime minister and members of parliament are to be kept out of any cases of corruption, she said, and she pointed to the discussion on the country's nuclear power plans, when notes were distributed for votes and 11 members were suspended from parliament.
"The act of corruption was not taken cognizance of," she said, and insisted that any member who abuses his power should be treated like a normal citizen. "According to the government's bill, only group 'A' officers of the central government would be covered, when actually this is a central legislation that includes IPS and IAS.
According to the government Bill, only the deputy secretary and officers above would be covered. But, anyone below the rank of a deputy secretary who is involved in corruption is not covered by the law, but there is a Lokayukta for them." But Ms Bedi pointed out that the Lokpal Bill drafted by the Civil Society wanted all government officers to be covered under the ambit of the Bill for the benefit of the aam aadmi. Over four million government officers deal with the aam aadmi and bribery is a ritual, so all of them should be covered under the Lokpal, she said. "The people's bill gives you authority till the last person. If we are demanding this they say we are trying to dictate to the government," Ms Bedi said.
Giving the example of the Adarsh scam, Ms Bedi said, "The Adarsh scam should have been inquired into by the Lokayukta, but we have deliberately made a weak Lokayukta; this is just symbolism." Aside from Karnataka, none of the other 17 Lokayuktas in India have the right to inquire.
"The government created a Lokpal Bill, but made it like the Lokayukta which doesn't have powers to investigate or punish the accused, or put the accused on trial, or file an FIR. If a government official commits a crime the Lokpal doesn't have the power to punish him. Lokpal is just like Lokayukta, powerless. This time we caught the government and re-drafted it," she said.
Commenting on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the premiere investigating agency, that is responsible for filing an FIR, investigating and conducting the trial in court, and which operates under the government, Ms Bedi said, "The CBI was woken up by the Supreme Court in cases of scams. These cases were started by public interest petitions which were possible because of the RTI Act. The Supreme Court took cognizance of the corruption and sent notices to the CBI."
"We want the CBI to be an independent investigating agency," she said. Elaborating on this, she said, "India is bound to form an independent anti-corruption agency because it has signed the United Nations convention against corruption. But the government has kept the CBI out of it." She believed that it is an important omission. The government needs to answer why it has kept the CBI out. There will then be dual authorities and agencies, fighting over jurisdiction, as well as unnecessary expenditure."
Ms Bedi gave the example of the India Corruption Study 2010 released by the Centre for Media Studies conducted across 10,000 rural households, on services like hospitals, schools, rations and water supply. "About 95 per cent of the households who were asked to pay bribes ended up paying it. This brings out the grievance redressal system that continues to be poor and the lack of accountability of public service providers, despite all claims."
She also pointed out that under the Civil Society draft Bill donations given by people for noble causes will also be accounted for. "NGOs registered as well as unregistered are covered under the Jan Lokpal."
Judges have also not been covered under the government's draft Bill. "The chief justices themselves say that the judiciary is corrupt so why shouldn't they be covered under the Lokpal? Internal inquires are not carried out, forget reaching impeachment," she said.
She said that the government reasoned that judges would be brought under the judicial accountability bill, but that bill doesn't cover corruption it only covers 'misbehaviour'. But if a judge is found corrupt, three High Court judges would be appointed by the chief justice to look into the allegations. "But they are brother judges," Ms Bedia said. "It will become an internal matter. So we told them (government) to include them in the Lokpal. The Jan Lokpal has four judges, two politicians, three civil society members. This seven-member bench will investigate, but these judges are not brother judges."
Another major flaw in the government's bill, she pointed out was that it did not give protection to whistleblowers. The Jan Lokpal, however, takes care of this aspect to protect whistle blowers, to encourage reporting of corruption by government officials.
The minimum contribution for membership in the scheme is Rs300 a year
The Rubber Board has proposed to implement a group life insurance-cum-terminal benefit scheme in collaboration with LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India) for tappers working in small holdings.
Members of the scheme are eligible for insurance cover (natural and accidental death), compensation for disability due to accidents, terminal benefits and scholarship for children studying in Class nine to 12, an official statement said.
The Board will be the nodal agency of the scheme and LIC will issue a single master policy to the nodal agency. The minimum contribution for membership in the scheme is Rs300 a year.
Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund new issue closes on 18th July
Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund has launched Birla Sun Life Nifty ETF, an open ended, index linked, exchange traded fund. The new issue closes on 18th July.
The investment objective of the scheme is to provide returns that closely correspond to the total returns of securities as represented by S&P CNX Nifty, subject to tracking errors. The scheme will allocate 95% to 100% of assets in securities comprising of underlying benchmark index with high risk profile. On the other side, it would allocate up to 5% of assets in debt and money market instruments with low to medium risk profile.
The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000. S&P CNX Nifty is the benchmark index for the scheme. Satyabrata Mohanty will be the fund manager.