New Delhi: In a five-point letter to the Prime Minister, veteran activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare has explained why he is continuing with the hunger fast that the government has asked him to re-consider. Mr Hazare is clear that his agenda is not just to push for the bill, but to ensure that it is not drafted by the government alone - this, he says, would be undemocratic and would allow politicians to provide far too many loopholes to let themselves off the hook.
Here's the letter:
Dear Dr. Singh,
I have started my indefinite fast at Jantar mantar. I had invited you also to fast and pray for a corruption free India on 5th April. Though I did not receive any reply from you, I am hopeful that you must have done that.
I am pained to read and hear about government's reaction to my fast. I consider it my duty to clarify the points raised on behalf of Congress party and the government by their spokespersons, as they appear in media:
1. It is being alleged that I am being instigated by some people to sit on this fast. Dear Manmohan Singh ji, this is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I am not a kid that I could be "instigated" into going on an indefinite fast. I am a fiercely independent person. I take advice from many friends and critics, but do what my conscience directs me to do. It is my experience that when cornered, governments resort to such malicious slandering. I am pained that the government, rather than addressing the issue of corruption, is trying to allege conspiracies, when there are none.
2. It is being said that I have shown impatience. Dear Prime Minister, so far, every government has shown complete insensitivity and lack of political commitment to tackling corruption. 62 years after independence, we still do not have independent and effective anti‐corruption systems. Very weak versions of Lokpal Bill were presented in Parliament eight times in last 42 years. Even these weak versions were not passed by Parliament. This means, left to themselves, the politicians and bureaucrats will never pass any law which subjects them to any kind of objective scrutiny. At a time, when the country has witnessed scams of unprecedented scale, the impatience of the entire country is justified. And we call upon you, not to look for precedents, but show courage to take unprecedented steps.
3. It is being said that I have shown impatience when the government has "initiated" the process. I would urge you to tell me - exactly what processes are underway?
a. You say that your Group of Ministers are drafting the anti‐corruption law. Many of the members of this Group of Ministers have such a shady past that if effective anticorruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars. Do you want us to have faith in a process in which some of the most corrupt people of this country should draft the anti‐corruption law?
b. NAC sub‐committee has discussed Jan Lokpal Bill. But what does that actually mean? Will the government accept the recommendations of NAC sub‐committee? So far, UPA II has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by NAC.
c. I and many other friends from India Against Corruption movement wrote several letters to you after 1st December. I also sent you a copy of Jan Lokpal Bill on 1st December. We did not get any response. It is only when I wrote to you that I will sit on an indefinite fast, we were promptly invited for discussions on 7th March. I wonder whether the government responds only to threats of indefinite fast. Before that, representatives of India Against Corruption had been meeting various Ministers seeking their support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. They met Mr Moily also and personally handed over copy of Jan Lokpal to him. A few hours before our meeting with you, we received a phone call from Mr Moily's office that the copy of Jan Lokpal Bill had been misplaced by his office and they wanted another copy. This is the seriousness with which the government has dealt with Jan Lokpal Bill.
d. Dear Dr Manmohan Singh ji, if you were in my place, would you have any faith in the aforesaid processes? Kindly let me know if there are any other processes underway. If you still feel that I am impatient, I am happy that I am because the whole nation is feeling impatient at the lack of credible efforts from your government against corruption.
4. What are we asking for? We are not saying that you should accept the Bill drafted by us. But kindly create a credible platform for discussions - a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us. Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in Maharashtra Assembly. Maharashtra RTI Act, one of the best laws of those times, was drafted by a joint committee. Even at the centre, when 25,000 tribals came to Delhi two years ago, your government set up a joint committee on land issues within 48 hours. You yourself are the Chairperson of that committee.
This means that the government is willing to set up joint committees on all other issues, but not on corruption. Why?
5. It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.
We request you to take some credible steps at stemming corruption. Kindly stop finding faults and suspecting conspiracies in our movement. There are none. Even if there were, it does not absolve you of your responsibilities to stop corruption.
With warm regards,
K B Hazare