M A I N   N E W S

Parliament yields to Anna
* Both Houses agree ‘in principle’ to Gandhian’s three demands
* Anna Hazare to break fast at 10 am today
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, August 27
On this extraordinary 12th day of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fast, the Parliament responded with extraordinary grace to show what it could do to honour a crusader’s urge.

After over eight hours of debate around the structure of the Lokpal Bill, the Government and the Opposition in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha came together to agree “in-principle” to the three major demands the activist had raised in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday as a condition to end his protest.

In doing so, the Parliament, which sat for the longest hours this monsoon session today, paved the way for the Gandhian to end his fast. Anna responded late night after government’s emissary and minister Vilasrao Deshmukh announced the day’s developments amid cheering and roaring crowds at the Ramlila Grounds. “We have won the battle but the war remains. This is your victory. I will end the fast tomorrow in the presence of all of you,” Anna said to his supporters.

Earlier, the two Houses agreed that the anti-graft law, to be effective, must cover corruption by lower bureaucracy through appropriate mechanisms; must have an inbuilt grievance redress system which Anna calls the citizens’ charter and should provide for enabling laws to establish Lokayuktas in states on the lines of the Lokpal at the Centre.

The debate ended amidst members thumping their desks to applaud the agreement which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee summed up as “the sense of two Houses” which would now be conveyed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice for its consideration. The committee is already seized of the Lokpal Bill the government had introduced in the lower house on August 4 and those prepared by the National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy and Dr Jayprakash Narain.

It was the Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab who ticked off the much-awaited debate this morning in the lower house by making a statement on the Lokpal issue and listing all the nine irritants that had caused the breakdown of talks between the civil society and government members of the Joint Drafting Committee the UPA had earlier constituted to finalise the law.

Should one single Act provide for the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in states; should it cover the PM, higher judiciary, MPs’ conduct in Parliament and lower bureaucracy - these were the questions Pranab asked the leaders to answer. He subjected the matter to the wisdom of Parliament, declaring, “The world’s largest functional democracy is at the crossroads. Let us have a dispassionate discussion to find a solution within the constitutional framework.”

Except on the inclusion of judiciary and MPs’ conduct inside the Parliament under the Lokpal as Anna had demanded in the Jan Lokpal Bill, the BJP-led Opposition and the Government broadly agreed on all other issues, with Leaders of Opposition in both Houses steering the consensus especially on conditional inclusion of the PM on matters except in issues of national security, public order and foreign policy.

Today even the Congress agreed to review its hard stand on PM’s inclusion, with its lead speaker Sandeep Dikshit saying in LS, “Gandhiji has taught us to change our thinking with the times. We can reconsider suggestions earlier seen as impractical.” The Samajwadi Party wanted immunity for the PM even on matters of defence, internal security and lawmaking.

In the LS, BJP’s Sushma Swaraj set the tone for consent, saying, “Anna’s deadlines on the Bill are rooted in its long failed history of 43 years. A strong anti-corruption law is an idea whose time has come. We support Anna’s three demands.” In the Upper House, her counterpart Arun Jaitley said the time had come to raise the bar of accountability in India.

The BJP didn’t support one legislation for the Lokpal and Lokayuktas but sought enabling laws to help states appoint their Lokayuktas in keeping with the federal traditions of India. “There’s no point making laws which will be struck down later,” Jaitley explained in the Upper House.

But on including the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal and ensuring time bound delivery of public services through a citizen’s charter, all parties joined hands. Dikshit said it would be unfair on the common man to exclude lower level officers while Sushma added, “The common man suffers the most when he is unable to get ration cards and driving licences.”

While the entire Opposition called for penalties for delayed service, the Congress speakers sought caveats to the issue, saying all delay was not due to corruption. “Proper mechanisms must be put in place”, Dikshit said.

Another Anna suggestion that the selection panel (for the Lokpal) must be broad-based also attracted support from all parties though each one offered its own recipe to pep up the panel.

The BJP wanted it to have majority non-government members as Sushma explained the dangers where the opposition is in a minority (she was referring to the appointment of former CVC PJ Thomas where her dissent was overruled by the panel comprising the PM and Home Minister). Recalling yesterday’s incident of the Gujarat Governor bypassing the state government to appoint a Lokayukta as another extreme, Sushma said, “We need a panel to ensure a fair and balanced selection to avoid both the extremes.”

The socialist parties - the JDU, the SP, the BSP and the RJD - however, called for a panel which represented weaker sections.

JDU chief Sharad Yadav, who spoke for them all, had both congratulations and admonishment for Anna and his team. “We are showing so much respect to you and your demands but will your Lokpal have any space for the voiceless who toil to earn their daily bread? You have never spoken of the disempowered who fast every day for want of food. You have not mentioned in your speeches social exclusion even though you come from the land of Baba Phule, Sahuji Maharaj and Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar.”

Star solidarity

Aamir Khan on Saturday came to the Ramlila Maidan, expressed concern for Anna Hazare's health and regaled the massive crowd with a song. A true entertainer, Aamir not only spoke in support of the movement but also encouraged the crowd to continue their support against anti-corruption, even when the campaign is over. He requested the 74-year-old activist to call off his fast.


The 'Sense of the House' resolution reads: “This House agrees ‘in principle’ on the following issues: citizen charter, lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and establishment of the Lokayukta in the states; and further resolves to forward the proceedings of the House to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice.”

We have won the battle but the war remains. This is your victory. I will end the fast tomorrow in the presence of all of you.
— Anna Hazare

I congratulate you for raising the level of debate.. it is a healthy sign that members did not level charges at each other.
— Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister

Anna’s deadlines on the Bill are rooted in its long failed history of 43 years. A strong anti-corruption law is an idea whose time has come. We support Anna’s three demands.
— Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition






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