By Indian standards, it is not very strange at all that not a rupee was spent in the past year from the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ established to combat atrocities against women. There are many reasons for this, not least the fact that politicians believe just making an announcement is a job well done. Implementation is left to others, who have not motivation to do so. It is only recently – for obvious reasons – that some effort is going into ‘walking the talk’. If civil society mobilisation is seen to be receding, this too will disappear.
There are so many versions of the Lokpal Bill, just making the distinction among them has become a specialisation in itself. It will take some time for the particular nuances of the final version passed by Parliament and approved by Anna Hazare to be understood by the common man. The concern, of course, is that armed though it is by all kinds of powers, will the institution function in the expected fashion? After all, decades ago, it was the CID that was the name dreaded by criminals, but nobody speaks of it now. Then came the CBI, the knight in shining armour, but it is today a much devalued, even denigrated, institution. The battle against corruption is now to be carried forward by the Lokpal, but will it all founder on the rocks of Indians’ natural inertia?
After all, does Uttarakhand not have a plethora of institutions such as the Police Complaints Commission, Women Commission, Human Rights Commission, Minorities Commission, SC/ST Commission, the UERC, RTI Commission, several Authorities, Advisory Committees and Forums? Some are performing at a minimal level, while there is doubt if others are performing at all. It is more like these are created as post-retirement sinecures for the well-connected. Surely if they were doing their job, the conditions of the ordinary citizen would be much better? In a state that is desperately short of skilled manpower, the Public Service Commission is reported to have managed only three examinations in thirteen years for the civil services. One doesn’t know what the present condition of the Consumer Forum is presently at the district and state levels – there are not too many reports of effective intervention.
Then there is the case of institutions that have been in a state of drift but have been restored to their natural glory by proactive bosses. The primary example of this is the role played by TN Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner, who rejuvenated the moribund Election Commission by merely exercising the powers it already enjoyed. The Judiciary and the CAG have also pitched in by merely asserting their statutory roles. It is clear, therefore, that making the right choice for the job is just as important as granting powers to an institution. What use powers if one lacks the imagination, courage and skills to use them?
The purpose of all such institutions is to enforce the rule of law. The basic beneficiary of all the laws is supposed to be the common citizen. Unless this fundamental criterion is met, there is no point in enacting law after law to pile on to the volumes that already exist. There are scams galore taking place at the highest level in the country. Would it be asking for too much that once the Lokpal is appointed, at least ten of the biggest offenders will find themselves behind bars in a year’s time? Would it not be better to postpone the celebrations till then?