Huge inflow of illegal money is reason for political parties ducking RTI: Anna Hazare
Anna Hazare speaks to Moneylife on why political parties are unified in opposing RTI Act being applied on them. Excerpts from the interview
Moneylife: The centre has filed an affidavit opposing the demand that political parties be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act?
Anna Hazre: By filing this affidavit the Centre, is keeping the door open to illegal political funding. Some parties have already decided that the political parties need not provide accounts for donations of amounts up to Rs20,000. As of today, many political parties have been accepting donations of lakhs of rupees from big businesses by dividing them into parts, each of Rs20,000. Each of these parts are shown as donations by bogus people. Thus lakhs of rupees of unaccounted money is being laundered. It cannot be ruled out this as the reason for wanting to be from the ambit of the RTI Act.
Moneylife: Why do you think political parties should come under the RTI Act?
Anna Hazare: During the Lok Sabha election campaign, BJP had reportedly promised to bring back black money from abroad in 100 days and deposit Rs15 lakh in the bank account of each citizen. The black money stashed abroad was not brought back. Moreover, it seems attempts are on to allow some political parties to launder the black money by excluding them from the ambit of the RTI Act.
India became a republic on 26 January 1950 and thereby the citizens became owners of the country. The citizenry owns the government treasury. Therefore, being owner of the country and its treasury, every citizen has the fundamental right to know where and how the money is being spent. Political parties get many concessions from the government. This means they enjoy public money, indirectly. Therefore, the citizenry must have information about them. This was the purpose for which a number of agitations pressing for the RTI Act were staged in Maharashtra from 1995 to 2002. Maharashtra was the first state to enact the legislation in 2002 and later in 2005 the law was made by the centre too. The question remains unanswered as to why today, 10 years after the RTI Act was enacted, this government fears the misuse of this law.
Moneylife: Why do you think, donations to political parties should be audited?
Anna Hazare: In fact, political parties not only collect donations of lakhs of rupees but also get concessions from the government. The pertinent question is as to why special audit of such political parties is not carried out by either the government or the Election Commission? Every paisa that a political party get must be audited. If all organisations and institutions in this country are audited, why should political parties not be audited?
Moneylife: Are government’s fears of misuse by people, if political parties come under RTI, justifiable?
Anna Hazare: The central government’s view that the RTI Act will be misused for political one-upmanship is not justifiable. Its real fear is that if political parties are brought under the ambit of the RTI Act, they will have to provide the accounts to the people and would not be able to launder the black money and therefore it is trying to mislead.
Nobody will be able to misuse the provisions of this Act if the political parties and government machinery upload on their websites the information on 17 points they need to disclose mandatorily under section 4 of the RTI Act. These 17 points would contain so much of information that once it is disclosed, nobody would be required to seek any further information. Isn’t the government aware about these 17 points under section 4 of the Act? Or is the citizenry is being misled intentionally?
Exclusion of political parties from ambit of RTI Act is a murder of democracy. During the election campaign, those in power (at present) had promised time and again that once its forms the government at centre, it would give priority to fight against corruption. Its election agenda too contained this promise. The RTI Act may not have ended corruption. But it has certainy curbed corruption to a large extent.
Exclusion of political parties from ambit of the RTI Act at a time when the political parties have become infested with corruption, only shows that the government is overlooking the promises it had made during the election campaign.
Moneylife: But Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of transparency in his government…
Anna Hazare: The difference between the previous (Congress-led UPA) government and this (BJP-led NDA) government would have been clearly visible if it had the will to curb corruption. However, even today no work can be done without paying bribe. The fact is that the prices are going up instead of decreasing because of rising corruption. Under such circumstances, what is the difference between this government and the previous government? We hoped that concrete steps would be taken to address problems faced by citizens in their daily life and to curb corruption and price hike. The promises of implementing the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, ensuring that farmers make a minimum profit of 50% over their costs, curbing corruption to some extent by implementing Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, have remained unfulfilled.
The government insists on implementing the Land Acquisition Bill that is unjust to the farmers although farmers from all over the country are opposing it. While ordinance after ordinance have been issued to keep this Act alive, unfortunately the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act have not been implemented even though these have been passed by the Parliament.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”