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Q: How should criminals be weeded out of the entire political system — Parliament, Legislative Assemblies, the government and political parties?
(This is the first instalment of readers’ response)

It was everyone’s job, so no one did it

I was one of the delegates from Himachal Pradesh to participate in the All-India Nagar Palikas Samelan held in June 1989 in New Delhi under Rajiv Gandhi, the-then Prime Minister of India. Delegates from all over India discussed this matters at length for three days and reached a conclusion that the real democracy can only prevail, if all states agree to bring new legislation to see that the heads of all nagar panchayats and nagar palikas are elected directly by the masses, as it is done in the gram panchayat elections, to eliminate the open interference of nefarious elements. However, no party dared to reform the system, with the apprehension that if this new Act is enforced, there will be no scope left for them to interfere in the functioning of these units. The nagar panchayats and nagar palikas have to succumb to the demands from the persons of authority.

— P. C. SHARMA, Former vice-president,
Notified Area Committee,
Sujanpur Tihra (Hamirpur)

Strengthen Lok Pal, Lokayukta

The leaders of all hues should put their heads together to frame a stringent and comprehensive law to weed out criminals from politics; otherwise, they, too, will be puppets in the hands of criminals. A major hurdle in enacting such a law is the danger of cases slapped callously during the course of political agitations or mass campaigns coming in the ambit of crime. Such “political crimes” should not be the basis for disqualification. The best course is to suitably amend the draft Lok Pal Bill, pending before Parliament, to give more powers and teeth to Lok Pal to prevent criminals from entering the electoral fray. Lok Pal should also have powers to adjudicate on the matter of “tainted” ministers, if the crime is detected later. Similar dispensation can be put in place in states, too, under Lokayukta.

— Dr ASHOK KAPAHTIA, Shimla

Improve national character

The national character has gone so down so much that all political parties are determined to block any legislation that debars criminals from entering politics. Our Constitution and Representation of People’s Act are silent on the issue. Voters are helpless and even the intelligentsia have lost faith in the system. Even the middle-class voters, who are generally unattached, can be influenced. The poor and the working class can be terrorised or bought. Corruption is rampant in all walks of life, so the only way is that wisdom prevails upon our leaders and they agree to bring a law debarring all criminals from contesting elections. Without it, no election can truly represent the voice of the majority.

— Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Mohali

Frame or they’ll frame the law

Criminalisation of politics in India is increasing due to the lack of social awareness and the fact that there is no law preventing people with criminal records from contesting the elections. India, being a democratic state, empowers its people with the freedom to vote as well as to run for public offices. The people will now have to realise their duty by electing the right people or be led in the wrong direction. The people will need to be made aware of the ill effects of not having a clean government. The government also needs to pass a law barring people with criminal records from running for public offices. If criminals get elected, they’ll no longer run from the law, but frame it for us. That’s the danger.

— DIYA SODHI, Panchkula

System can flush itself clean

No one can weed out criminals from the government, except the government itself. The examinations for entering even small professions are tough, but to be a politician you require only money and muscle power. If you have that, even your criminal record is overlooked. Politics has become a business, and a shady one at that. Its guilty should be debarred for life from contesting elections. No politician should be allowed more than two terms of office. The rules governing other government employees (minimum qualification, verification etc.) should also govern them. This way, young and educated persons will get the chance to enter politics and work for the development of the country.

— Col BEANNT SINGH (retd), Jalandhar Cantonment

Bring in new faces

The Constitution’s provisions specifying the age limit for remaining in politics need a big change. Experienced hands are considered better than freshmen, but the present youth are much more capable and sharp because they work harder and come through fair competition. Their plus point is that they are techno-savvy. A young man with ideals will never go corrupt and value his time and the hard work put in by others. The minimum academic qualification for stepping into politics should be fixed. Look how tough it is to break into the IAS and how some of the public representatives are not even literate.

— VEENAT, Barnala

Tainted should be suspended

The entry of criminals in Parliament is causing havoc in the lives of ordinary people. More and more criminals are taking this way up the ladder. A short-term treatment is amputation. The immediate remedy is that any chargesheeted persons be barred from entering any Legislative Assembly or Parliament. The membership of any sitting MP/MLA who is convicted later should be suspended. If the same rule can apply to a peon, it should also apply to a "public servant". In the long–term, we’ll have to keep a cool mind and find out how criminals enter our political system. Our MP’s/MLA’s used them to threaten their rivals and garner votes. With time, these scoundrels understood the importance of the brawn and themselves entered politics, like a flock of hounds turning back to attack the master. All MP/MLAs should resolve not to take their help. We can’t be sending goons to Parliament.

— JATINDER SINGH, Amritsar

Do the parties have the will?

A major step can be taken by the political parties at their own level by not allowing the criminals to contest election under their symbol. If political parties have the will to do this, there is no question of criminals entering politics. Parliament can enact a law to debar criminals from contesting elections and holding any portfolio. It will empower the Election Commission to prevent criminals from entering politics.

— Dr MAHABIR NARWAL, Kurukshetra

Amend eligibility criteria

The democratic face of India is the main gateway to politics for criminals. There is no minimum educational qualification for entering politics; so many criminals make use of this loophole. Eligibility criteria should be set and one should be allowed to enter politics only after proper character verification. There is a real and present danger that criminals like Pappu Yadav and Sadhu Yadav could one day be our Prime Ministers.

— ROHIT SHARMA, Amritsar

Let all leaders retire at 60

Postgraduation should be the minimum educational qualification for all politicians. A highly educated person is less likely to have a criminal bent of mind. In order that this is strictly implemented, the government should notify the recognised universities to tighten vigilance. The maximum age for contesting an election should not be more than 60. No donation/contribution from any industrial house/businessman towards any party fund should be permitted.

— VIKRAM VIJH, On-e-mail

We need a mass movement

In Indian politics, criminalisation is fast becoming a way of life. Almost all national, regional, political parties are against criminalisation of politics on paper, but all interpret criminalisation according to their own convenience. Amending the Constitution may be one of the ways of weeding out criminals from politics, but the laws in our country are not implemented in the letter and spirit in which they are enacted. Religious and social activists should educate all people against the ill effects of criminalisation of politics. The rejection of tainted candidates by the people at the time of elections would force the political parties to rethink.

— Dr AJAY BAGGA, Hoshiarpur

Try social boycott

The thrust of running a democracy is upon the people and not upon the political parties/leaders/system/ Constitution. Therefore, weeding out criminals from all levels of politics is the responsibility of the people. They should choose their candidate with the same zeal and honesty that they apply while choosing schools or mates for their children. The people should boycott all parties that support or sponsor criminals. While this social boycott is doing its work, educated people should be made to lead the march against the criminalisation of politics. Only law graduates should be allowed to contest elections. We should learn to distinguish between real criminals and those who are framed.

— DEEPKARAN SINGH, Chandigarh

Empower enforcers of law

The police and the other law enforcing agencies must be made more efficient. To achieve this, persons with the right aptitude should be recruited and given all the latest facilities and emoluments, besides sufficient autonomy and freedom from extraneous inferences. The present-day politicians, whom the present system suits the most, are the biggest hindrances in this desired change. We need to change the electoral process and amend it suitably so that only well-meaning people make it to the top. Only those who understand the delicate values of democracy should have the voting right. There should be criteria to keep out inappropriate candidates and voters.

— Dr AJIT SINGH, Khanna

Informed citizens should lead

Prevention is better that cure; that’s why instead of weeding, induction of criminals has to be checked first by enacting suitably laws. Any person chargesheeted three times should be debarred not only from contesting the elections, but also from getting the primary membership of any political party. Voter participation will have to be improved through public awareness drives and voting will have to be made compulsory. The posts given to the elected politicians will have to be made highly esteemed, but least lucrative. All powers should be in the hands of committees and not individuals. The government should bear the election expenses and force all candidates to declare their assets. The powers of the executive and the politicians should not overlap. The right judges of character never play a role in electing the candidates. Those who cast the vote don’t really know its power. Only a revamped judiciary can help.

— SANJAY KUMAR BARANWAL, Mathura

Next Thursday: More letters on this topic.

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