Get on with job

It is unfortunate that the civil society representatives of the joint panel to draft the Lokpal bill boycotted its meeting on Monday and have given the government a chance and reason to question their sincerity and commitment to a good and effective Lokpal bill. The meeting was boycotted in protest against the forceful eviction of Baba Ramdev from the venue of his fast and also because the government’s position on some contentious provisions of the proposed Lokpal legislation was not acceptable to the civil society members. The government’s action against Ramdev was highly objectionable but it does not seem to be a convincing ground to boycott the committee’s work. They should never lose sight of the fact that they have a historic responsibility thrust on their shoulders.  Ramdev’s plans and Anna Hazare’s movement are different, though they have a common plank of fighting against corruption. The Hazare team has a specific job to do and it should not allow itself to get deflected from that. The team will attend the next meeting of the committee. So what was the need to boycott the last one?

The members of the team have said that they were unhappy with the government’s objections to the inclusion of the prime minister, the higher judiciary and lower bureaucracy within the purview of the bill. But it does not help if it avoids discussing the  issues with the government. On these contentious issues there are proposals that seek to find common ground between the positions of both sides. These should be explored  till the civil society members are finally convinced that the government is not amenable to change its negative positions on the bill. 

By boycotting the meeting they have given a reason for the government to accuse it of non-cooperation and claim that only it is serious about the bill. The government has even cited the support of BJP president Nitin Gadkari for its positions on the bill. It is clear that the entire political class will unite to ensure that the bill has loopholes that can be exploited. The government says it has finalised some provisions in the absence of the civil society members. It should not be allowed to present a bill of its choice and shift the blame to the civil society. The current war of words should also end and the committee’s work should resume in a non-confrontationist atmosphere.

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