Several civil rights organizations, including National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Reform (CJAR), National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM) and the Anti Corruption Team of Swaraj Abhiyan, participated in a protest in Delhi, “Bhrashtachaar se Azadi”. A note on the protest:
Thousands of people led by civil society activists and various anti-corruption crusaders took out a march against corruption from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. The “Bhrashtachaar se Azadi” march culminated at Jantar Mantar with a protest demonstration where the speaker’s questioned the government for its lackadaisical and poor performance in fighting corruption.
Noted anti-corruption crusader and Swaraj Abhiyan President Prashant Bhushan questioned the Modi government for its silence on the suicide diary of Late Arunachal Pradesh CM Kalikho Pul. He pointed out that there could be an ominous connection between Sahara Birla Diary and Paul’s diary, both of which need independent credible investigation.
Attacking the government on going back on the promise of cleaning up political funding, the root cause of black money & corruption, Prashant Bhushan said that the lack of transparency and accountability in political funding still remains one of the most serious concerns. Political parties do not reveal their source of funds even after directions from CIC to come under the RTI. Recent announcements by the finance minister in his budget speech have made it more opaque instead of ensuring transparency in funding.
Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information said, “Modi government has not implemented the anti-corruption legislations – lokpal law and whistleblowers protection law and has instead diluted these laws. Na khaunga, na khane dunga and their various promises on anti corruption have turned out to be jumlas. There are serious allegations of corruption in the Sahara Birla diaries and in the dying declaration of Kalhiko Pul which must be properly investigated. People’s movements have come together to demand Bhrashtachar se Azadi.”
Mrs. Pul, wife of late Mr. Kalhiko Pul, former CM of Arunachal Pradesh said, “My husband in his dying declaration has written in detail about corruption in politics and judiciary. He could have given the bribe and carried on but he stood for the right thing. I’m not fighting for justice for only him but for all Indians. Instead of trying to suppress the evidence and dismiss it, we need a proper and independent investigation into it. BJP government is not investigating the allegations.”
Dr. Sunilam of NAPM said, “The BJP government of MP is extremely corrupt. We all know of the vyapam scam- scores of people have been killed, SC has cancelled degrees, yet what action have they taken?”
Aruna Roy of National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information said, “We want Azadi from bhrashtachar and from injustice. Corruption and injustice go hand in hand. The government is trying to silence us and stop us from speaking, from questioning, from expressing our views. We must fight together to protect our right to protest and resist.”
The campaigns which organized the protest pledged that they will keep fighting till the anti corruption laws are implemented.
Yogendts Yadav of Swaraj India Party and Prakash Karat of CPM expressed support for the demands of the protestors.
Exposing the ill intentions of the government in fighting corruption, the protesters raised the following issues during the demonstration:
- Non-operationalisation of the Lokpal law: Though the current government came to power on the plank of anti-corruption, it has failed to operationalise the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act. Three years after the Lokpal Act was passed by Parliament, no Lokpal has been appointed. In fact in 2016, an amendment to the Act was passed which has fundamentally diluted the Lokpal Act as it has done away with the statutory requirement of public servants to publically disclose the assets of their spouses and dependent children. The amendment law militates against the very purpose of the Lokpal, which was established to receive and inquire into complaints related to offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
- Non-operationalisation of the Whistle Blowers Protection law: The Whistleblowers Protection (WBP) Act which was passed in February 2014, has not been operationalised till date even as scores of whistleblowers continue to be attacked and killed for exposing corruption. Instead of promulgating rules to operationalise the law, the government moved an amendment bill in Parliament in May 2015 which seeks to severely dilute the Act by removing safeguards available to whistleblowers from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
- Failure to re-introduce the grievance redress legislation: The government has not reintroduced the Grievance Redressal Bill, which had the support of all parties including the BJP but lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014. In a communication dated 24.06.2014, the PMO stated that passing the GR bill was “part of immediate thrust areas of the government”. However, till date no such bill has been brought to Parliament and as per the reply of the Minister in Parliament, the government has abandoned the proposed legislation in favour of a scheme for grievance redressal. By proposing a scheme instead of enacting a law to provide an effective mechanism for grievance redress to citizens, the government has completely diluted this important initiative.
- Lack of action on allegations in the dying declaration of Mr. Kalikho Pul, Former CM, Arunachal Pradesh: In his suicide note, Mr. Pul made shocking allegations of corruption against senior sitting and retired judges, lawyers and politicians. These allegations need to be investigated in a credible manner since a suicide note is like a dying declaration. There needs to be an independent investigation by a SIT to probe the allegations of corruption in this suicide note.
- Lack of transparency and accountability of political funding: Despite the orders of the Central Information Commission, political parties are not providing details of their funding under the RTI Act. In fact, the recent changes introduced to political financing could make it even more opaque as they continue to allow for anonymous cash donations upto Rs. 2,000 and also provide for large anonymous donations through the introduction of electoral bonds.
- Lack of action on allegations of corruption contained in the Sahara-Birla diaries: The Sahara-Birla papers show that Prime Minister Modi was the largest recipient of black/bribe money (25 crores from Birla and 40 crores from Sahara, as per the records presented to the Supreme Court). While the Supreme Court suppressed this case of investigation into these diaries, there looms an ominous connection now between the Shara Birla diaries and the Pul diary, both of which need a credible independent investigation.