Reality Check India

Lokpal Bhushans get 10,000 sq mt

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 20, 2011

A short post :

Exhibit-A : The cop

What he did not mention was the discretionary manner in which the Mayawati government, early this year, allotted this land to him and another 10,000 sq m farmhouse plot to his lawyer son Jayant Bhushan. And in what raises questions of conflict of interest, Jayant Bhushan has appeared against Mayawati in the Noida statue park case.

..

The cost of each farmhouse plot is Rs 3.5 crore and allottees had to pay just 10% — Rs 35 lakh — at the time of allotment, the rest in 16 instalments. This is less than a quarter of the market rate, according to Vikas Singh’s petition.

Source : IE (Bhushans get land from Mayawati)

Exhibit-B : The Robber

Amid mounting opposition pressure on Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa to quit following the controversy on allocation of prime urban land to his family members, the BJP leader’s son and daughter have surrendered their plots in the city.

Official sources said B Y Raghavendra, MP, submitted a letter to the Bangalore Development Authority surrendering 50 x 80 feet plot allotted to him in the upscale R M V Extension.

Source : IE (Yediyurappa Son /Daughter surrender plots)

A quick conversion of units :

Prashant Bhushan  allotted 10,000 Sq Mt Noida farmhouse = 45 grounds (40×60 sq ft each) = 2.5 acres ; about 22 TIMES the size of Yeddy’s son BS Raghavendra.

Jayant Bhushan  also allotted 10,000 Sq Mt Noida farmhouse = 45 grounds (40×60 sq ft each) = 2.5 acres ; about 22 TIMES the size of Yeddy’s son BS Raghavendra.

Actually, I dont mind these two luminaries taking crass advantage of this quota system. What really pisses me off is this defiant statement :

When contacted, Shanti Bhushan told The Indian Express: “My son and I were among the applicants and we were surprised when we got the allotment letters. I agree there is no transparency in the scheme and allotments have been made without any clear criterion. But why should we challenge this? The people who applied and were not given the farmland should challenge it. I have heard that bribes have passed hands for these allotments but, obviously, not from us. There may be a case for a scheme like this to be cancelled.”

Source (emphasis mine) : IE (Bhushans get land from Mayawati)

What ? Only people who get the shaft should challenge system ?

Then why are you (and your Dad)  in the drafting panel ? You obviously dont know the feeling of shaft.

You, and your son sought to take full advantage of a system. One which in your own words

  1. is not ‘transparent”
  2. without “clear criterion”
  3. you have heard bribes passed hands

This is pretty much what everyone who will appear before your Lokpal will claim.

—–

In another development, Mother India has been shown the door and Tiranga is in.  Predictable.

Lokpal – report-generator or jail-sender

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 17, 2011

My previous post might have been misconstrued as  blind support to the elected few.

Lets consider what the elected few have been up to lately :

The maximum sentence even if everything proven in corruption cases is only 7 years.  No need to declare bankruptcy or have property attached.

CBI produces a weak chargesheet. The only person from the political side named is Mr A Raja.  It flies against all commonsense that his  party will allow him to keep all proceeds and not use it for the party.

Sibal and Co agree to a Jan Lok Pal

DOT silently opposes cancellation of the licenses. There is simply no outrage or urgency to recover national losses – even though BSNL and MTNL are being run aground.  BSNL loss is 5,000 Cr loss while operating in a very lucrative industry.

In all the above cases, we cant accept these malafide actions just because they have been perpetrated by the elected.  Unconditional subservience to the acts of elected humans is not democratic – suggesting and creating a public demand for strong checks is. This is where the Ombudsman can play a vital role.

In this post, I give my humble suggestion to the Lokpal drafting committee members.

With more power comes more baggage

Why a report generator lokpal is better than a jail-sender lokpal.

It is important to understand where the difference of opinion lies.

  1. Do we need a civilian ombudsman at all ?  I assume most of us say YES to this, because we all welcome a check to the elected running riot. Nothing undemocratic about that.
  2. How much power should the civilian ombudsman have ? This is where we differ.

Here is what I would like to see in a Lokpal which are not in the government draft

  1. Receive complaints from public
  2. Able to subpoena and investigate
  3. No sanction required to summon any elected representative
  4. Produce a report and submit to the Lok / Vidhan Sabha & put it on website for social media to pick up
  5. Move on to the next case

This is a major climbdown from what Anna Hazare and company want.

What is wrong with Lok Pal with Killer Shark like powers ?

LJP

Thank you very much. We will take it from here.

My opposition to a high power Killer Shark Lokpal is rooted in my belief that it cannot be independent of the primary social justice platform.  However, any association of people are expected to satisfy the protectors of this platform. Even worse, its findings will be repudiated with contempt unless the composition of the committee is to the satisfaction of various benefit protectors. The more power the Lok Pal has the more it has to conform.

It is not the end of the story.

  1. Constant and on-going negotiations for tweaking
  2. There will be nominees from minority, caste, and race based groups. Once selected, these nominees will naturally be conscious.
  3. A position in the powerful Lok Pal will turn into yet another adhoc benefit and strengthen the political benefit protector even more.
  4. This will lead to even more pressure not to measure the benefit regime – because Lok Pal positions are now added to the heap of stakes.

A Lok Pal which only produces a report will have far more headroom.

A shark like Lok Pal must win a beauty contest

There has been extended commentary about the way Anna Hazare has been railroaded because he said this about the Gujarat CM. This led to this strong condemnation from civil society.

“We, academics, activists, artists and intellectuals strongly condemn the recently reported statement made by Anna Hazareji in which he has brazenly endorsed Narendra Modi, a politician who not only symbolizes the politics of division but unconstitutional governance. For the veteran anti-corruption social activist, …,” the activists said in a joint statement.

Source : Anna Hazare condemned - 2 circles

Lets leave Modi alone for a moment. What amused me reading reactions to Anna Hazare’s fast was the opposition to the mother India banner behind the fasting leader.

Consider this reaction :

Well, this throws up more disturbing concerns. Physically he conducted this prayer in the backdrop of a buxom picture of Bharat Mata bejeweled to the hilt including the proverbial crown standing on a white flex board Indian map!

..

Maybe it is mere coincidence that many of the faces that have appeared in this drama have a Magsaysay award tucked under their belt (and a sacred thread over their shoulder).

..

Source : Blog post –  Of a few, by a few – Bobby Kunhu http://www.countermedia.in/?p=663

Manu Joseph was also amused by the “shapely mother india”.

azare, who is on a raised platform, has acquired many of the mannerisms of Mohandas Gandhi, including a thoughtful tilt of his head. Behind him are images of Gandhi and a very shapely Mother India.

Source : Comic revolution of an obsolete man

You may be stunned at such an attack on caste and religious basis for a mere hunger strike.  It is not like there was an image of mother Durga and the protesters were made to chant Durga slokas. Even such token mother India imagery, we consider innocent and secular kosher  is not acceptable to many in this country. This is just a trial show of what is to come once the Lokpal is set up. Many activists and leftists are prudently waiting by the sidelines biding their time.  Once the bill passes, the hope is to appropriate it and mold it using the old primary social justice die. Why oppose it now and deprive yourself of a useful tool which is certainly yours ? 

The more power to Lok Pal the more self conscious it must be. It is not enough to satisfy the majority, they must align with the sensibilities of the elite and left liberals.

Jan Lok Pal – Caveat Emptor

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 6, 2011

Jan Lok Pal

Anna Hazare has announced that he intends to fast unto death until the Jan Lokpal bill is adopted. He has disallowed all politicians from approaching him. According to him and his supporters, this is a “non violent non political” movement.  Prominent supporters of this ‘non political’ movement are Kiran Bedi (Magasaysay – we will come to that shortly), Arvind Kejriwal (also Magasaysay),  Medha Patkar, Aamir Khan, Madhur Bhandarkar, Shekar Kapur, among others. Sure enough tonight various media outlets NDTV, CNN-IBN and others hopped on to this bandwagon. Civil Society it appears is feeling good about this bill.

It pains me to see thousands of young and impressionable Indians being sold snake oil.

It is important to separate the two issues here :

  1. The Draft Jan Lokpal Bill itself.
  2. The voluntary assembly of Indians unaffiliated to any political outfit all outraged by high corruption.

The second point first. Such voluntary and spontaneous assembly of Indians is something to be proud of. This is a great event for sure.  I have highest respect for Anna Hazare which makes this post a bit difficult to write.

The real purpose of this blog post.

Top 5 reasons why I think the Draft Jan Lokpal Bill is the most hare brained piece of document ever produced.

A Microsoft Word document of the draft bill can be found here. You can also search “Jan Lokpal Bill”  on Google and use the Google Document Viewer.

5.   Comparison with Hong Kong ombudsman bill is incorrect

Many supporters of the Draft Jan Lok Pal Bill are quick to drop Hong Kong as a reference. This is invalid because the Hong Kong Ombudsman has 1) no powers of prosecution  2) only produces a report and submits to the Chief Executive (like our PM) 3) is appointed by politicians.  The first thing I did after being confronted with the Hong Kong Ombudsman parallel was to read the whole Hong Kong Ombudsman act. I suspected a bluff. I simply could not believe that other countries could allow civil society nominees to actually initiate prosecution against citizens. I was right.

4.  Reckless in its promise and scope

An example is Section 10.2

(2) Lokpal, after getting such enquiries and investigations done as it deems fit, may take one or more of the following actions:

a. Close the case if prima facie, the complaint is not made out or

b. Initiate prosecution against public servants as well as those private entities which are party to the act

c. Order imposition of appropriate penalties under CCS Conduct Rules Provided that if an officer is finally convicted under Prevention of Corruption Act, major penalty of dismissal shall be imposed on such government servant.

d. Order cancellation or modification of a license or lease or permission or contract or agreement, which was the subject matter of investigation.

e. Blacklist the concerned firm or company or contractor or any other entity involved in that act of corruption.

In other words, from dismissing a case outright to cancellation to blacklisting a firm – the Lokpal has unbridled powers.  We can only  appeal to the merciful benevolence of its members.

3.  Police and court all rolled into one

It does not matter that Lokpal members are not trained to be policemen, but I invite you to read Sec 12.

We are police.

12. Lokpal to be a deemed police officer: (1) For the purposes of section 36 of Criminal Procedure Code,
the Chairperson, members of Lokpal and the officers in investigation wing of Lokpal shall be deemed to be police officers.

(2) While investigating any offence under Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, they shall be competent to
investigate any offence under any other law in the same case.

We are also court.

See Section 10.2

(2) For the purpose of any such investigation (including the preliminary inquiry) the Lokpal shall
have all the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 , in respect
of the following matters, namely:-
(a) Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
(b) Requiring the discovery and production of any document;
(c) Receiving evidence on affidavits;

..

(3) Any proceeding before the Lokpal shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding with in the
meaning of section 193 of the Indian Penal Code.

2.  The all important selection policy

Jan Lokpal Bill is open ended and confers unlimited powers. So it goes without saying that selecting the Lok Pal Members is the single most important task.  There are no checks and balances at all in the bill that would make it idiot member proof.   In other words, if the mainstream institutions have been compromised, there is NOTHING in the bill that would prevent the Lokpal from being compromised too.  It gets worse because of two reasons.

  1. The mainstream institutions (CVC, CBI, CAG, etc) can be turned around by people power every 5 years. That it doesnt seem to happen is due to there not being enough free agent voters in the system.  We can hope for a 20-25% increase in free agent voters which will straighten these institutions in short time.
  2. A compromised Lokpal will wreak havoc and lay to waste the other institutions. There is no chance of getting them voted out.

Let me try to make it clearer.

If Indian citizens wanted to get a compromised Lok Pal off their backs  – this is what they have to do. Study hard, do great research, win a Nobel Prize or work hard on social issues and win a Magasaysay Prize. Then and only then do you get to have a say in who the Lokpal members are.  Experience has taught us that such a system is bound to fail. Very quickly such an immune and isolated group congeal around a particular social or ideological position.

Adhoc selection criteria without rhyme or reason very prone to dilution hence ruining spirit of the bill

Here is who gets to select the Lokpal members.

5. A selection committee consisting of the following shall be set up:

a. The Chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament
b. Two senior most judges of Supreme Court
c. Two senior most Chief Justices of High Courts.
d. All Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin
e. Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission
f.Last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin
g. Comptroller and Auditor General of India
h. Chief Election Commissioner
i.Bharat Ratna Award winners
j. After the first set of selection process, the outgoing members and Chairperson of
Lokpal.

The adhoc ness of this list will immediately lead to its dilution. Why on earth should Nobel Prize Winners of Indian origin , who are citizens of other countries get to decide the Lokpal members ? What is great about the “last two” Magasaysay award winners (Kejriwal) ? Why not last ten ? Why not Padmasri Winners ?

These awards cannot possibly confer powers to put other people in jail.

1.  Unelected people cant dont put people in jail

I simply do not want unelected people to have the power to put other Indian citizens in jail.

What I want

Lokpal should be stripped of its prosecution powers, Lokpal members cannot have a police rank, Lokpal cannot blacklist or seize private property, cannot conduct judicial hearings.

Lokpal should promote the democratic way of addressing corruption.

  1. Highlighting exemplary work done by people like Subramanian Swamy. Who would incidentally be ineligible for Lokpal, Chandan Mitra (also ineligible), various government servants and professionals (all ineligible because you have to quit everything).
  2. Promoting the wisdom that politicizing corruption is the democratic way.  If you are corrupt we gonna vote your ass out.  No bullshit about “larger issue of systemic ingrained structural defects”.
  3. Be a true ombudsman like your Hong Kong counterpart. Time for me to turn it around. By all means accept complaints, investigate, gather evidence, and produce a report to the public and to the state. We bloggers will pick it up.

People wake up !! This one is a lemon.

Wake up Lemon

Some lemonade to break your fast

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