Terming Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill "impractical and
complicated", noted social activist and National Advisory Council
(NAC) member Aruna Roy said that giving widespread powers to an
unelected body is a "threat to democracy".
"Jan Lokpal is a bill impossible to implement. Also, it derails
the checks and balances between the judiciary, executive and other
organs of the democratic structure," Roy, 65, who pioneered the
right to information (RTI) movement in the country, told IANS in
an interview here.
"Not that we agree with the government Lokpal Bill. The Lokpal
legislation should be thoroughly deliberated again by activists,
lawmakers and all other stakeholders.
"We of course support the democratic right of Hazare to hold
demonstrations and fast against the government. That is why we
condemned the arrest of Hazare," she said.
"But we have no meeting point with them, though we keep meeting
each other at functions and meetings of common interest," she
Asked about the huge public support Hazare has drawn, Roy said:
"There have been huge gatherings in support of NGO-sponsored
agitations, like the Narmada Bachao movement. It might not have
got similar publicity, as live TV was not there then."
Roy and her fellow activists in the National Campaign for People's
Right to Information (NCPRI) have prepared an alternate version of
the Lokpal bill, which will be presented to parliament's standing
Roy, a Magsaysay award winner, said the Jan Lokpal bill is a
"giant, complicated exercise" as it tried to extend from the prime
minister to a peon.
"It wants to bring the higher judiciary into its ambit, which
otherwise should have been under the Judicial Standards and
Accountability Bill, 2010," she said.
She felt that the suggestion of dual duties -- curbing corruption
and redressing grievances -- under the Jan Lokpal was not
"The Jan Lokpal is a threat to democracy as a powerful,
non-elected agency can lead to abuse of power and abuse of
authority. Power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts
absolutely," she quipped.
"Grievance redressal should not be the role of the Lokpal; it
should be the work of the executive.
"See, wages of lakhs of workers in the NREGA (Mahatma Gandhi
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Rajasthan have not
been paid. But that is because the shortage of bank staff and
other bureaucratic delays," she said.
The massive organisational setup suggested in the Jan Lokpal will
lead to corruption and inefficiency, she cautioned.
"You may be able to find 11 Lokpal members of integrity, but it is
difficult to create a clean set-up of thousands of staffers and
hold them accountable," Roy said.
The government-drafted Lokpal is also deficient on several fronts,
she added. Since it excludes cases under the state governments,
there can be no probe against cases like the Adarsh housing
society scandal, the Commonwealth Games scam and illegal mining in
She said excluding the prime minister and the higher judiciary was
wrong. "This is a wrong practice. Nobody should be above the law,"
she said, adding that there should be certain safeguards. "Like
both the Lokpal and the Supreme Court should agree on a probe
against the prime minister."
Roy also suggested that the Judicial Standards and Accountability
Bill should be revised to facilitate effective action against the
higher judiciary while the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)
should be strengthened to probe junior officials.
The whistleblowers' protection bill too should be revised to deal
with the increasing attacks and threats against RTI activists, she
"The Lokpal bill should not become an issue of adamant stances,
political rivalries and personality-driven agitations. What we
need is a sincere, detailed debate for legislation of immense
social significance and public concern," she said.
Roy, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from 1968 to
1974, resigned from the government as the clouds of Emergency were
gathering. She took to social work in the Social Work Research
Centre in Tilonia in Rajasthan, founded by her husband Sanjit
'Bunker' Roy, another Magsaysay award winner.
However, she professionally disassociated from her husband in
1983, reportedly for ideological reasons, and founded the Mazdoor
Kisan Shakti Sangathana (Workers and Peasants Strength Union) in
1990 in Devdoongri in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan.
Roy's campaign for right to information led to the enactment of
the RTI Act - in Rajasthan in 2000 and five years later at the
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