Friday, August 26, 2011

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 is 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 framework of action and a concerted political
program supported by all levels of the state from the highest to the
lowest. Most importantly, it requires firm political will.
Madam Speaker, in the past few years I have travelled the length
and breadth of our country. I have 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,
Annaji has helped the people to articulate this 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 a matter of how the present
impasse will resolve, it is a much greater battle. There are no
simple solutions. To eradicate corruption demands a far deeper
engagement and sustained commitment from each one of us.
Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the
enactment of a single Bill will usher in a corruption-free society. I
have serious doubts about this belief.
An effective Lok Pal law is only one element in the legal framework
to combat corruption. The Lok Pal institution alone cannot be a
substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. A set of
effective laws is required. Laws that address the following critical
issues are necessary to stand alongside the Lok Pal initiative:
(1) government funding of elections and political parties,
(2) transparency in public procurement,
(3) proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like land and
(4) grievance redress mechanisms in public service delivery of old
age pensions and ration cards; and
(5) 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 optimum
capacity and delivers these laws in a just and time bound manner.
We speak of a statutory Lok Pal but our discussions cease 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 and fortify the Lok Pal by making it a Constitutional body
accountable to Parliament 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. A
representative, inclusive and accessible 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, individual dictates, no matter how well
intentioned, 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 a representative and transparent
platform where ideas are translated into laws. A tactical incursion,
divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks
to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy
of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a 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 democracy.
India’s biggest achievement is our democratic system. It is the life
force of our nation. I believe we 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 closed political system; in bringing fresh blood into politics and
into this House. I believe in moving our democracy deeper and
deeper into our villages and our cities.
I know my faith in our democracy, is shared by members of this
House. I know that regardless of their political affiliation, many of
my colleagues work tirelessly to realize the ideals upon which our
nation was built. The pursuit of truth is the greatest of those ideals.
It won us our freedom. It gave 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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