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May 18, 2011 at 07:07pm IST

Changes can be made in Jan Lokpal Bill: Kejriwal

Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. Anna Hazare may have won a great victory but for many people he has raised troubling if not disturbing questions. Those are the issues that I will raise today with one of his close lieutenants, 2006 Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal.

Karan Thapar: Arvind Kejriwal, let us start with Anna Hazare’s decision to go on to a fast-unto-death. Why is that it maybe an acceptable strategy fighting a colonial oppressor as a way of opposing a freely elected government in a democracy? Many people see it as nothing short of blackmail. This aide is unwarranted, this aide is unjustified.

Arvind Kejriwal: How should a person in democracy protest?

Changes can be made in Jan Lokpal Bill: Kejriwal

On this week's episode of Devil's Advocate Karan Thapar talks with social activist Arvind Kejriwal.

Karan Thapar: By constitutional means.

Arvind Kejriwal: What are those constitutional mean?

Karan Thapar: By seeking votes, by seeking a campaign, by going petitioning in Parliament with all

Arvind Kejriwal: Suppose I don’t want to go and fight elections. I’ am a citizen of this country and I am feeling, I mean there is injustice and there is so much of corruption and if I want to raise my voice I go and petition the politicians, it doesn’t work, I go and petition the bureaucrats, it doesn’t work. I try to meet them, I meet all of them, and it doesn’t work. Then I think building public opinion is a very critical part of a democracy.

Karan Thapar: Except, can I quote to you on this very point of BR Ambedkar, the father of our constitution said on 25 of November, 1949, “the first thing we must do is to hold fast to the constitutional methods. We must abandon civil disobedience, non co-operation and satyagrah. These methods are nothing but grammar of anarchy. The sooner they are abandoned the better for us.” Are you putting yourself ahead BR Amedkar?

Arvind Kejriwal: No, I’ am not. Actually I have great respect for Amedkarji. After Independence, two years after Independence, there was so much hope for the country. He thought that now there will be a brighter future. The situation that exists in our country today is so bad, it is worst then what it used to be in British times. What Anna is doing, he is using a very non-violent method. The way the government have just stopped listening to any kind of protest, any kind of petitioning…

Karan Thapar: I have to interrupt to point out to you the government at the centre and the states have been brought down by election. The voice of the people is registered. The governance quail when they hear it. You don’t need to resort to hunger strikes, which is a form of emotional pressure, blackmail.

Arvind Kejriwal: What do I do if I don’t want to fight elections?

Karan Thapar: Then you can petition the government.

Arvind Kejriwal: I have petitioned!

Karan Thapar: If the government hasn’t listen to it, then go to the newspapers…

Arvind Kejriwal: We went to the newspapers. Times of India wrote four full pages.

Karan Thapar: The truth of the matters is the government is already considering a Lokpal bill. Number two, the national advisory committee is considering one. At that time your version could have considered as well. Why did you have to set a deadline of April 15 and why did you have to force it by a hunger strike? It worries people.

Arvind Kejriwal: That is exactly what I said. All the methods that you have suggested, we petitioned, we met all the politicians. Very interesting, let me just tell you. We wrote letters to Miss Gandhi and the Prime Minister. Anna Hazare wrote letters and many letters went from India against corruption since 1st December. There was no response.

Karan Thapar: So you had no alternative?

Arvind Kejriwal: Some of them were not even acknowledged. He asked for a meeting, they didn’t even give a meeting. In mid-February when he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister that I want to discuss this Lokpal Bill with you; if you don’t do this, I am resorting to fast.

Karan Thapar: Can I put this to you, one of your closest supporters, he is now the member of the joint committee you have sent, Justice Santosh Hegde, has gone public, he has told ‘The Hindu’ that in fact Anna Hazare should have waited for the NAC. He should have given the Prime Minister more time. One of your closest supporters think that you were intemperate, you were hasty and you were wrong in launching the hunger strike.

Arvind Kejriwal: That is his view point, we appreciate his view point. He is free to say so.

Karan Thapar: That is what I’ am saying.

Arvind Kejriwal: Let me just tell you, we all are very democratic. It is not that if all of us are together we have to say the same voice.

Karan Thapar: No, you know when you say you are democratic, the real concern about the hunger strike as a tactic, is that as a result of that strike and the movement that you build around yourself is put yourself ahead of the executive, ahead of legislature, ahead of democracy. Worst still you have been thrown into question the very concept of India’s governance and people say who gave them the right to do that.

Arvind Kejriwal: That is exactly I’ am asking you Karan that the country is boiling with corruption. The government has absolutely no game plan to tackle corruption and when we suggest a game plan the government just does not respond to that.

Karan Thapar: But the alternative to corruption, a procedure that threatens the democracy, that threatens the process of Parliament, that threatens the legitimacy of the elected representative. Is that right?

Arvind Kejriwal: We are not saying throw the elected. Our fast is to persuade. You see what happens in a fast, through a non-violent means by inviting suffering on yourself, you are trying to persuade the other person that the change is hard please listen to me.

Karan Thapar: No, this is not persuasion, this is coercion. There is a difference. There is not argument, this is blackmail.

Arvind Kejriwal: Actually anything that I try to persuade you could call it blackmail. You can call it emotional blackmail, you can call it this blackmail, you can call it that blackmail. If I sit on a dharna you can call it blackmail. What is the form of suppose I’ am asking you. I’ am really concerned about it believe me by your question. If my petitioning doesn’t work in the democracy, if my meeting, they don’t give me a meeting either I take to guns? You want me to do that?

Karan Thapar: Can I tell you what’s the problem with your approach is, you have created a precedent that is going to boomerang on India tomorrow.

Arvind Kejriwal: That is already going on.

Karan Thapar: Let me finish, tomorrow the Gujjars and the Jats who wants a resolution will go on hunger strike to death, tomorrow the supporters of the Telangana will launch a fast-unto-death. The day after the environmentalist and trade union are seething they are getting what they want, they will launch hunger strikes to death. You legitimise each and everyone of this and in the processes you have damaged constitutional functioning, you have damaged the due process of law and you have damaged the credibility of Parliament to debate and decide.

Arvind Kejriwal: Two things, one is, if someone has a view point and he goes and sits on a fas- unto-death. The rest of the society watches what is the issue involved. Suppose it’s a Jat reservation, it’s a Gujjar reservation etc, etc. Here there was an issue, why is it that thousands of people came on the streets? If Anna Hazare had been alone no one would have bothered. It is only when thousands came on the streets.

Karan Thapar: Actually this is the problem. It was only the thousands. If you actually add up the people who came out in support in the metros of the country it would have been 50,000 or maybe a lakh. You know as a percentage census out of a population of 1.2 billion, it is only 0.05 per cent. You created a spectacle and you created it through media and you created a sense that the government was loosing its credibility. The government was weaken given this, I would say.

Arvind Kejriwal: I didn’t do anything about the media. Why did the media do this? Why did the government agree? Why did they had TRP?

Karan Thapar: Only because they were creating a spectacle.

Arvind Kejriwal: Right. So all that I’ am trying to say is I don’t know what all methods you have but in democracy it is the most, it has been used many times since Independence. You can’t say that Anna is the.

Karan Thapar: Are you a supporter of democracy?

Arvind Kejriwal: Of course.

Karan Thapar: In which case, do you know what you have done? A second problem. You have underlined, emphasised and for many you have legitimised the cynicism and dislike of politics and politicians. That is a dangerous thing to do in a democracy. Yet you have done it.

Arvind Kejriwal: Two things you have talked about politics and politicians and I would like to question both of them. The kind of politicians we have today, lesser the said the better. We need better politicians and everyone agrees with that. The procedure is a different debate. Electoral reforms the better. I don’t want to get into that. The politics is, we are a democratic country. Democracy that we have, has become so representative democracy that the people just have a right to vote once in five years and that’s it. After that you have to handover your destiny to a representative and you have no say.

Karan Thapar: When you began to say and so many of your colleagues and supporters that ‘sab neta chor hai’. When you began to say ‘throw the politician to the vultures’, those were the things you were saying from your platform live on television. Not you but your supporters. That throws into doubt, that undermines the credibility of politics and without politics democracy doesn’t exists. That’s why I asked you, are you a democrat because you undermine democracy.

Arvind Kejriwal: I agree that those slogans, I don’t agree because Anna Hazare said many times that we respect everyone. We shall well behave with everyone. There was all type of crowd, there was a time when two politicians came and they were booed out. I don’t agree, Anna Hazare ji don’t agree. He even apologised to them. So we have respect for every individual. Mahatma Gandhiji used to say ‘paap se grihna karo paapi se nhi’. So we are tackling issues, we are not against any individual.

Karan Thapar: Do you regret, that whether for the right reason or the wrong, whether wittingly or unwittingly you ended up emphasising the cynicism for politics and emphasising the dislike that people have. That’s a dangerous thing to do. Yet you have done it. Do you regret it?

Arvind Kejriwal: No, we don’t.

Karan Thapar: You don’t regret it?

Arvind Kejriwal: Of course not. Why should I regret it? The politics is bad today.

Karan Thapar: Bad politics is replaced by good politics not by undermining politics. You undermined politics, you undermined politicians.

Arvind Kejriwal: We raised legitimate questions about politics. Raising legitimate question about politics is not undermining politics. We want people’s politics. We don’t want politics of corruption, we don’t want politics of power, we don’t want politics of money.

Karan Thapar: You know what it sounds. It sounds so credible. That’s almost like a neta speaking himself. If I would have closed my eyes you would have sounded like a politician. But let me tell you something that in practice there is a thin line between wanting good politics and undermining politics. You undermined politics by trying to short circuit procedure through blackmail strategies of hunger strike. That why people are concerned and disturbed. They admire Anna Hazare. They are concerned about his strategy in practice.

Arvind Kejriwal: I want to ask you what should we do then? We have done everything possible.

Karan Thapar: Follow Ambedkar’s advice, follow Santash Hegde’s advice. There is no need to rush. Give more time

Arvind Kejriwal: We gave so much.

Karan Thapar: Hang on a second, the Bill only came into being only in December 2010. Only three month have passed. What time have you given?

Arvind Kejriwal: 1968.

Karan Thapar: That’s another matter.

Arvind Kejriwal: That’s not another matter.

Karan Thapar: You weren’t involved. You weren’t even born. So let us not go back there. Your Bill came into being only in December 2010. Not even four months have passed. What time have you given?

Arvind Kejriwal: You see it is not that it is just us who started this campaign. It has been going on since 1968. There is not even a single law in this country that fights corruption by the politicians. Not a single law. So, since 1968 the whole this is going on and you are saying that we need to give more time. Maybe you not impatient Karan but I’ am very impatient.

Karan Thapar: Impatience can be a virtue, impatience can also be a sin. I want to talk to you about the people you have appointed to this committee. Have you been narrow or have you been broad minded? Then I want to talk to you briefly about the Bill. Is it justified or is it even more worrying? Arvind Kejriwal let us come to the people that you have appointed to the joint committee that government has agreed to setup. Every single one of them is your close supporter and your loyalist. Why haven’t you used this as an opportunity to reach out to other people who support the Lokpal bill but support different versions? Why have you left them out?

Arvind Kejriwal: We created, we drafted a Jan Lokpal bill and that was put on the public domain and there was a huge consultation that was put on the website. We invited public comments and this huge campaign.

Karan Thapar: That I understand but there are other people who have been talking and writing about the Lokpal bill, Harsh Mandir, Aruna Roy. Why not involve them?

Arvind Kejriwal: Therefore when we are asking the government to discuss this Lokpal Bill the people who drafted it are the people who can tell, suggest why this clause was there, why this clause was there. The people who…

Karan Thapar: But the government and you are free to consider other ideas as well. That’s what I’ am questioning. You are not only narrowing the choice of the people but you are narrowing the sense that you are straitjacketing yourself around your version of the Bill, you are not considering other people who have other thinking about similar thoughts.

Arvind Kejriwal: We want that this whole Bill should be drafted, the final draft should be created in 15-20 days or a month and put on a website and let’s have large number of public consultations.

Karan Thapar: Why is there a argument for excluding Harsh Mandir, Aruna Roy or even Narayana Murthy, people who volunteered on the television to be a part of this committee of this sort? Why are they not there? Why are you restricting us?

Arvind Kejriwal: Because at this time we want to discuss. There is going to be clause by clause discussion in joint committee.

Karan Thapar: So Harsh Mandir and Aruna Roy can’t do that?

Arvind Kejriwal: No, because they have not drafted it. They don’t know the logic behind it.

Karan Thapar: So are you saying you are only going to talk about your Bill not about the other Bills that also amount to a Lokpal version? Not them?

Arvind Kejriwal: No! Of course we will discuss everything. But all that we are trying to say is this Jan Lokpal Bill is going to form the basis of the discussion of this committee. So when we are discussing each and everything many other ideas

Karan Thapar: That’s a little worrying that this going to form the basis of discussion. Why shouldn’t the government’s version form of basis, why shouldn’t a version that NAC creates form a basis. Why shouldn’t?

Arvind Kejriwal: NAC has already adopted almost all the provisions of Jan Lokpal?

Karan Thapar: But they have got serious concerns. Let us come back to your Bill. Are you committed to the Bill as it exist or are open minded enough to consider a amendments?

Arvind Kejriwal: I am open minded. How can one be more open minded? We already have 12 versions and I was in an interview with Harish Salve a few days back and he gave suggestions on the Bill and we have accepted it. If you have any suggestions please send it to us.

Karan Thapar: Let me put to you the central concern the people have, that your Bill amounts to creating a monstrous liaison, a super cop, a super prosecutor, a super judge all rolled into one, and such a single institution with so much power would itself threaten democracy and liberty. That’s the first major concern people have.

Arvind Kejriwal: Have you read the bill?

Karan Thapar: Yes.

Arvind Kejriwal: Where did you find that he is going to be judging the whole thing?

Karan Thapar: Now hang on a second, you have the power to investigate you are giving to the Lokpal. You are given the Lokpal the power to prosecute, you are giving Lokpal the power to recommend, to enforce punishment and then also the power to redress grievance and on top of that. Let me finish hang on a second, clause 9 also talks about punishment that can be given to the members of government services and next clause says that. In fact if orders and direction are not obeyed then you have the power to insist that they be. So that means you can recommend punishment and you can enforce it. In addition, the CBI will be coming under the Lokpal, the CVC will come under the Lokpal and all public redressal mechanism of every single public authority will also come under Lokpal. Do you know what people say? They say this is not an institution. This is an empire.

Arvind Kejriwal: So if you give me two minutes I will respond to that. Yes, now let me just tell you the Lokpal has broadly four functions. One is, the vigilance function other one is criminal complaints, third is public grievances and the fourth is civil law protection. Right? Let us try to understand what is the existing system and what is that we are proposing.

Karan Thapar: No, no! Let’s not make it a theatrical attempt at avoiding the question. My question is simple. The Lokpal may have four functions or 44, you are investing the Lokpal with so much power that it might becomes a version that threatens the democracy and liberty. If you don’t believe me let me quote to you from clause 9 “your Lokpal has the power to carry out searches of peoples homes and offices nearly on the grounds of suspicions without even a summon being necessarily issued to the concerned person.” For many that’s a worrying intrusion into their privacy and into their rights.

Arvind Kejriwal: Now you see, I don’t know whether you have read the CBI Act, have you? Have you read the Income Tax Act? These are all the powers that all the enforcement agencies have. Without these powers an enforcement agency can’t work as an investigating agency.

Karan Thapar: And you know how concerned people are about CBI abusing its powers, ED is abusing its power. When raids are carried out people are concerned that they are undemocratic. You are therefore adopting those powers and using them. You are no better.

Arvind Kejriwal: So therefore you need to create checks and balances. The checks and balances are there. Because you see, Karan just one second, this law is quite complicated. It will be impossible to discuss it in five minutes. I’ am prepared to have a clause by clause discussion on any concerns you have.

Karan Thapar: Let me pick up a particular clause. Probably it doesn’t exist in any other legislation in India, but it exists in your Lokpal. Clause 8 says ‘that the Lokpal can issue directions to make organisations change their work practices simply because you suspect, and note that word. Suspect the possibility of corruption and misconduct.’ Once again that gives you the power to interfere in any office and any functioning of any institution.

Arvind Kejriwal: I completely agree. Now there was, somebody gave us a suggestion that this part should be made recommended. We will change that.

Karan Thapar: Well its not. The present version on the net hasn’t changed. You better change and update your net version first.

Arvind Kejriwal: I will do that. But if you have more suggestions please let us know.

Karan Thapar: Well I’ am glad you have taken this onboard. Let me make another suggestion. Beyond the power, look at your mandate. You don’t stop at corruption, your mandate says any and every no matter how big or small grievance can be entertained. That means you are going beyond corruption into mandate administration. You are setting yourself as a rival government.

Arvind Kejriwal: If you allow me I will tell you the structure that exist.

Karan Thapar: No don’t tell me the structure. Come back to this. Why are you going into grievance?

Arvind Kejriwal: Grievance is because there is a very thin line. You see that is exactly the system that exists in Karnataka. Karnataka Lokayukta has worked for 25 years and they have the same mandate.

Karan Thapar: You know what grievance means? If a flyover is built outside my house and if I don’t like the dirt, the noise or the disturbance, it’s a grievance. Are you going to go into that?

Arvind Kejriwal: No, it is not coming under this.

Karan Thapar: Your Bill actually simply say one word ‘grievance’. It doesn’t even define and specify it.

Arvind Kejriwal: It defines.

Karan Thapar: It doesn’t.

Arvind Kejriwal: It says only the violation of the citizen charter.

Karan Thapar: It says grievance.

Arvind Kejriwal: So grievance has to be read with the rest of that. There is grievance and how does it get enforced. So there is a citizen’s charter. In a citizen’s charter every department makes some commitment to the people.

Karan Thapar: So each department has to now specify what they mean by grievance to allow you to escape from the unnecessary broad version you put into your bill?

Arvind Kejriwal: No, each department will have to say we will do this much work in this much time and this much work in this much time and if that is violated…

Karan Thapar: Can I put this to you. Many people, the whole country would accept corruption is a cancer. Many are concerned that this cure could be almost as bad as the disease.

Arvind Kejriwal: So you have to tell me Karan what is wrong with it? We will change it.

Karan Thapar: Alright I have told you great detail and I have noticed that you are open to change.

Arvind Kejriwal: We are very open. We have done 12 versions and we have 13th coming in the next week and 14th will come if you give me more suggestions.

Karan Thapar: Alright pleasure talking to you.

Arvind Kejriwal: Thank you Karan.

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