Speaking on Lokpal in Parliament

Madam speaker, I have been deeply distressed at the developments of the last few days. Many aspects of the situation have caused me anguish. We are all aware that corruption is pervasive. It operates at every level. The poor may carry its greatest burden, but it is an affliction that every Indian is desperate to be rid off. Fighting corruption is as integral to eliminating poverty as Mahatma Gandhi NREGA or the Land Acquisition Bill, yet it is equally imperative to the growth and development of our nation.

Madam speaker, we cannot wish away corruption by the mere desire to see it removed from our lives. This requires a comprehensive frame work of action and concentrated political programme, supported by all levels of the state - from the highest to the lowest. Most importantly it requires a firm political will.

Madam speaker, in the past few years I have travelled the length and breadth of our country. I've met scores of countrymen - rich and poor, old and young, privileged and disempowered who have expressed their disillusionment to me. In the last few months, Anna ji has helped the people to articulate the same sentiment. I thank him for that. I believe that the real question before us as representatives of the people of India today is whether we are prepared to take the battle against corruption head on. It is not the matter of how the present impasse will be resolved. It is a much greater battle. There are no simple solutions to eradicate corruption, it demands a deeper engagement and a sustained commitment from each one of us.

Witnessing the event of last few days, it would appear the enactment of a single bill will usher in corruption free society. I have serious doubts about this belief. An effective Lokpal law is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption. The Lokpal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti - corruption core. A set of effective laws is required. Laws that address the following critical issues are necessary to stand alongside the Lokpal initiative. Government funding of election and political parties, transparency in public procurement, proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like land and mining, grievance redressal mechanism, public service delivery of old age pension and ration cards and continued tax reforms to end tax evasion.

We owe it to the people of this country to work together across party lines, to ensure that Parliament functions at its optimal capacity and delivers these laws in some time-bound manner. We speak of a statutory Lokpal, but our discussions seize at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt.

Madam speaker, why not elevate the debate? Let us take it further and fortify the Lokpal bill by making it a constitutional body like the Election Commission of India. I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea.

Madam speaker, laws and institutions are not enough. The representative inclusive and excessive democracy is central to fighting corruption. Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development. However, we must not weaken the democratic process. This process is often lengthy and lumbering, but it is so, in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides representatives a transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws. A process divorced from the machinery of an elected government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament, of this house, sets a dangerous precedent for our democracy. Today, the proposed law is against corruption, tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and our democracy.

India's biggest achievement is our democratic system. It is the life force of our nation. I believe that we will need more democracy within our political parties. I believe in government funding of our political parties. I believe in empowering our youth, in opening the doors of our frozen political systems, bringing fresh blood into our politics and into this house, and moving our democracy deeper and deeper into our villages and our cities.

I know my faith in democracy is shared by members of this house. I know that regardless of their political affiliation many of my colleagues work tiredly to realize the ideals upon which our nation was built. The pursuit of truth is the greatest of these ideals, it one of us freedom it give us our democracy. Let us commit ourselves to truth and probity in public life. We owe it to the people of India.

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