Laws needed to give lokpal teeth


“This is not about one Bill; this is about the framework and we would like to deliver that framework to the country.” Rahul Gandhi said so, in a rare intervention in LS before the Lokpal Bill’s passage. It was an appeal to the 15th LS that, besides Lokpal, it should “consider and enact all six pending anti-corruption Bills before its term expires”.

He proposed that the winter session be extended “to complete our unfinished work in our fight against corruption”. Law minister Kapil Sibal made a similar request in RS, “Let’s try and work extra hours to bring these Bills to the House and to have them passed.” Though the House has been adjourned indefinitely, the proposal of reconvening it merits serious consideration, as demanded by Aruna Roy on behalf of civil society — more so because there is apparently a political consensus in favour of these legislations.

Since the term of the 15th LS has been marred by scams, there cannot be a more fitting way of signing off than carrying out this “unfinished work” to complement the Lokpal legislation. Consider the difference each of these Bills could make once passed.

Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011: As Arun Jaitley pointed out in RS, Parliament was obliged to pass this Bill to honour its 2011commitment before Anna Hazare broke his fast. One of the three clauses of the Sense of the House resolution passed then was a promise to enact a citizen’s charter for every public authority. This Bill subsequently introduced seeks to create a mechanism under which the charter will detail goods and services to be provided and their delivery timelines.

The proposed mechanism will have to redress within 30 days grievances related to the charter, functioning of the public authority and violations of a law or policy. It provides for the appointment of central and state public grievance redressal commissions, which will fine errant officers up to Rs 50,000. While Lokpal will deal with corruption, this Bill is about grievances like potholed roads or failure to supply ration cards.

Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011: The government came up with this Bill to strengthen safeguards for whistleblowers. It widened the whistleblower definition to include not just a conscientious public servant exposing corruption but also “any other person” including NGOs so that even RTI activists get similar protection. Disclosures of whistleblowers could be about an act of corruption, misuse of power or any criminal offence by public servants.

Under this, whistleblower can make his disclosure in confidence to the central or state vigilance commission. Anyone disclosing the complainant’s identity will be penalized. It imposes a penalty on whistleblowers if they knowingly make false complaints.

Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010: This lays down enforceable standards of conduct for SC and HC judges. Sixteen of the 18 enumerated standards are derived from SC’s code of conduct for judges and requires judges to declare their and their kin’s assets and liabilities. Given the need to maintain judicial independence, it creates three mechanisms to deal with complaints on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity. Once a complaint is filed, the proposed Judicial Oversight Committee will serve as first check. It will be a five-member body comprising two serving judges, a retired judge, attorney general and an eminent person. In keeping with the practice in countries like UK and US, this panel will allow non-judicial members to evaluate complaints.

If the complaint is in order, the oversight committee will forward it to the Scrutiny Panel comprising judicial members. Two of the three members will be judges sitting in the same court as the judge against whom there is a complaint. If the scrutiny committee is convinced of the complaint’s truthfulness, it will be referred to the Investigation Committee, which will have civil court powers. Penalties that may arise from this network of committees could range from an advisory to public censure of a sitting judge. This may also lead to a recommendation to the President for a judge’s removal.

Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013: After the coal scam, the government came up with a radical proposal scrapping the notion of punishing somebody for corruption even when there is no quid pro quo or bribery. The proposed amendment seeks to delete the clause in the corruption law against “misuse of official position to extend undue favours”. This will ensure that a public servant isn’t booked for a judgment error on his part unless there’s evidence of graft.

This introduces the need for sanction to prosecute retired bureaucrats, joint secretary and above and strengthens the investigating agency’s power to go after bribe givers.

The Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials Bill: It penalizes Indian companies and individuals bribing foreign state or international agency officials.

Public Procurement Bill: It seeks to ensure transparency in procurement by the Central government and its entities. It exempts procurements for disaster management or strategic purposes, and those below Rs 50 lakh. It sets open competitive bidding as preferred procurement method and mandates publication of all information on a portal.

122SOURCE : TOI

 

 

Online Campaigns, the New Tool for Political Parties to Woo Netizens


Which strategy have the Indian politicians and political parties not applied to win the hearts of their voters? There are hardly any. With the advancement in the information technology, now the political parties are not just confined to their political campaigns through rallies, rath yatras, TV appearances, full page advertisements, posters and pamphlets but have also employed the new media platform like the internet and social networking sites for the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections, as reported by Kim Arora for Times Of India.

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Most of the political parties have their own IT cells in order promote their party manifestos and contribute through the online medium. Recently, the netizens of the country were the most targeted masses through digital medium as the political parties believe it will easily help garner voters, mostly the youth. Arvind Gupta of BJP‘s IT cell said, “We’ve built a strong base of volunteers through our online outreach, who are well-informed about the party policy and its activities. Our social media guidelines, which are up on the party website, were crowd-sourced,” reported TOI.

The digital age has changed the game and this seems evident even among politicians, as they are involved in their digital campaigns. Kumar Vishwas of Aam Aadmi Party said “Not just our central team, even our candidates have online support groups they interact with regularly. When a five-year-old’s rape case wasn’t being registered by the police, the candidate from the area got people together with a single message. They picketed outside the police station until an FIR was filed.”

Though, social media and new technology was also employed during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the last two years have witnessed a massive increase in the practice of digital tools by political leaders and parties. This was started with several “official” Twitter and Facebook pages of the leaders, and now the policy makers are reaching out to the masses via videoconference too.

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According to the study by the IRIS Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), social media is most likely to impact 160 Lok Sabha seats.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that acts as the watchdog of political parties is also in the digital race as they introduced a mobile app known as Election Watch Reporter. It was first launched in Karnataka to help people report violations of the election code of conduct with the help of mobile phone pictures, and soon a Delhi-specific version of the app will also be launched.

The internet medium which is considered as the fastest mode of deciphering information might indeed serve as a successful medium to political parties to get the maximum votes.

Karunanidhi warns of pulling out of UPA over Sri Lanka


DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Friday warned his party will pull out of the UPA government if India does not press for an independent international probe against those responsible for the genocide in Sri Lanka in the US-sponsored resolution in the UNHRC against the island nation.

In a statement issued here late night, Karunanidhi, referring to the US sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said: “India should take steps to amend the American resolution to include thatt those war criminals responsible for the genocide in Sri Lanka be identified, hold a free international enquiry against them and take time bound appropriate action.”

“If this request is not heeded, it will be meaningless for the DMK to continue in the central government,” he added.

DMK, with 18 members in the Lok Sabha, is a key constituent in the central United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

IANS

I’m not interested in becoming PM: Rahul Gandhi


Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said he was not interested in becoming the prime minister and wants to focus on his party instead.

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“The party is my priority. I believe in long-term politics,” Gandhi was quoted by TV channels as saying in Delhi.

“I am not interested in becoming the prime minister,” he was quoted as saying.

Gandhi, who is the second-in-command in the Congress, told reporters there was a need to end the “high command culture” in the party.

The Congress party has not announced a prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but Gandhi is a clear favourite.

Gandhi has been working on improving the party’s grasroots and has convened a meeting of all general secretaries and central leaders in charge of states on March 6.

Sissa’s request and Chess


Among the fascinating legends told about the origin of chess is the story of Sissa, a scientist and the inventor of the game. In western India, Raja Balhait had asked his advisers to create a game that demonstrated the values of prudence, diligence, foresight, and knowledge. Sissa brought a chessboard to the raja and explained that he had chosen war as a model for the game because war was the most effective school in which to learn the values of decision, vigor, endurance, circumspection, and courage. The raja was delighted with the game and ordered its preservation in temples. He considered its principles the foundation of all justice and held it to be the best training in the art of war.

Radha_Krishna_Playing_Chess

The raja said to his subject Sissa, “Ask any reward. It will be yours.” Being a scientist, Sissa felt rewarded by the pleasure his invention was giving others; but the kind insisted, and finally Sissa said, “Give me a reward in grains of corn on the chessboard (ashtapada). On the first square one grain, on the second two, on the third four, on the fourth double of that, and so on until the 64th and last square.”

The raja would not hear of it. He insisted that Sissa ask for something of more worth than grains of corn. But Sissa insisted he had no need of much and that the grains of corn would suffice. Thereupon the raja ordered the corn to be brought; but before they had reached the 30th square, all the corn of India was exhausted. Perturbed, he looked at Sissa, who laughed and told his raja that he knew perfectly well he could never receive the reward he had asked because the amount of corn involved would cover the whole surface of the earth to a depth of nine inches.

The raja did not know which to admire more: the invention of chess or the ingenuity of Sissa’s request. The number involved is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. This number had been previously calculated by the early Indian mathematicians, who incidentally, had invented the decimal system long before it reached the Arabs and Europe.

DMK against FDI but ‘very strongly’ backs government


Government ally DMK Thursday said it was against foreign investment in multi-brand retail but “very strongly” supports the ruling UPA and wants it to complete its full term.

DMK’s Tiruchi Siva told the Rajya Sabha that his party “finds it essential that the government should go for its full term for the progressive measures it has been taking.. and we want to keep away communal forces”.

The DMK spoke against allowing foreign investment in retail in the Lok Sabha but voted for the government Wednesday. It has 18 MPs in the lower house and seven in the upper house.

In a repeat of its stand, Siva said in the upper house: “DMK very strongly supports the government, but opposes the motion for FDI.

“The DMK has never let its friends down midway.. We started with a mission and the DMK will always be with the UPA.”

Terming FDI a “foreign invasion” by multinationals, Siva said: “FDI giants will eat the small farmers and shopkeepers.”

He urged the government to start a farmers market instead of bringing in FDI. “Through such a market, farmers can bring their produce directly to the market, such things can be done.”

Siva said the government should have gone in for consensus “to assuage the fears in the minds of the people” about FDI.

IANS

Team Anna, BJP Rejects Lokpal Bill Tabled in Parliament.


The Congress-led UPA government has tabled the Lok Sabha 2011 in the Lok Sabha only to be welcomed by severe criticisms and opposition, both from the civil society and the political parties. 

Team Anna has mocked the Lokpal bill prepared by the Government and called it “anti-people, dangerous and useless.” The Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the unconstitutional” minority quota provision in the legislation and demanded the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The Congress-led UPA

BJP leader and leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj objected this particular provision and told, “We are disappointed. This is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has given dozens of rulings stating that any reservation should not be more than 50 percent.” “It is important we make a law that is not patently unconstitutional and later rejected in the court of law,” she said.

In a strong counter attack, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, said, “This is not just a piece of law. There is an agitation on in the country for the Bill and a committee has been working to bring this Bill. If a bill is struck by courts it doesn’t mean that Parliament doesn’t pass the bill. It is for the courts to judge the constitutional of a bill. Our job is to make and pass the bill. Let the court do their job, we will do our job.”

Anna Hazare rejected the bill saying “it is a betrayal of the people and the legislation would not provide for a strong anti-graft institution.” Anna challenged Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi for a public debate to justify the proposed bill as a strong one. Anna said that the new bill is useless as it does not have direct control over CBI and the lower bureaucracy. He was also quoted saying “Sonia Gandhi says the bill is strong. If it is so, let she come out and debate with us in front of media. Let people see it. Convince the people of the country that it is strong. We will explain how it is not strong.”

Kiran Bedi, member of Team Anna said, “The draft prepared by the government should be rejected and condemned in the strongest terms. This draft has several loose ends and due to this, the rational of the anti-graft legislation has been lost completely.”Referring to CBI being controlled by the government, she also was quoted saying “Of what use has a body’s power to merely inquire ever been, if the investigation that follows the inquiry will be controlled by the government?”

Anna and his team do not want CBI out of the administrative control of the bill as he says that the biggest victims of corruption are the poor who have to pay bribes to get any work done and that the ‘weak’ bill will not help the poor in their fight against corruption.

Team Anna also says the Prime Minister is provided with too many safeguards from investigation by the Lokpal and any inquiry against him would need a sanction of three-fourth of the Lokpal members in non-public proceedings and they would have no access through the Right to Information Act.

As the bill is tabled in the Lok Sabha, the anti-graft legislation will now be discussed during Parliament’s extended session on December 27.

#UPA Ministers Owe 435 Crore to AI for Foreign Trips


UPA ministers have accumulated dues of Rs 435 crore on the cash-strapped Air India which is 93 per cent of the total bills incurred by them during their visits abroad, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

Responding to a question, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy said during 2009-10, Cabinet ministers incurred bills of Rs 61.10 crore on foreign travel while ministers of state spent Rs 3.78 crore.

In 2010-11, Cabinet ministers spent Rs 37.17 crore while ministers of state spent Rs 4.76 crore.
In 2011-12, foreign travel bill of Cabinet ministers was a staggering Rs 460.78 crore till December 16, 2011, while for ministers of state, the figure was Rs 3.80 crore, he said.

The minister said the figure of Rs 460.78 crore “includes pending payments to Air India for previous years amounting to Rs 435 crore“.

He said Ministry-wise expenditure information was being collected and would soon be tabled in the House, adding that the Cabinet Secretariat has issued guidelines from time to time regarding foreign visits by ministers.

Celebs, Who Kept Away From Parliament


The Kingdom of Bollywoodis actively involved in almost everything like social work, fashion shows, product launches, restaurants or spas and above all politics. Coming to politics, some of the stars may be great achievers in their respective fields, but were singularly unimpressive as members of India’s two houses of parliament. Based on the statistics of Social Watch India, we take you through some of the great names who were conspicuous by their absence.

Hema Malini

The beautiful yesteryear actress Hema Malini became a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2004. She was soon elected to the Rajya Sabha on BJP ticket. The actress-dancer fared better compared to others, with 10 percent attendance. She asked 179 questions and participated in the upper house debates 15 times, but her questions formed only 0.78 percent of totally raised.

2.Govinda

Govinda

Next in our list is famous Actor Govinda, who joined the Congress party in 2004. Govinda was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mumbai with a thumping majority, beating the five time sitting MP by over 50000 votes. In the run up to the polls, Govinda had announced that his agenda was prawaas (transportation), swasthya (health) and gyaan (education). The Bollywood star Govinda did not even once attend the house proceedings during his MP stint, leave alone raising questions on these issues.

3.Dharmendra

Dharmendra

Dharmendra was elected as a Member of the Parliament (MP) in the 2004 general elections, from Bikaner in Rajasthan, on a BJP ticket. Dharmendra rarely attended the Parliament when the house was in session, preferring to spend the time shooting movies and doing farm-work at his farm house. He also did not participate in any debates or raise any queries. Along with actor Govinda, Dharmendra has been criticized for ignoring his duties as a MP.

 4.Vinod Khanna
Vinod Khanna

In 1997, Vinod Khanna joined the BJP and in the 1998 general elections was elected from Gurdaspur constituency in Punjab. In 1999, he was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from the same constituency. He became the union minister for culture and tourism in July 2002. Vinod Khanna has essayed a variety of Bollywood roles with style, but had just four questions to ask the government, and spoke only twice in the discussions, while his average attendance was 5.5 percent during his tenure as a MP.

5. Jaya Prada

Jaya Prada

Samajwadi Party‘s Lok Sabha MP Jaya Prada was initiated into the Telugu Desam Party by her former co-star N.T.Rama Rao in 1994. She later broke away from him and joined the Chandrababu Naidu faction of the party. She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha representing Andhra Pradesh in 1996.Following differences with party Supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, she left TDP to join Samajwadi Party and contested from Rampur parliamentary Constituency in UP, during the 2004 general elections. In her campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, she was issued a notice by the Election Commission for violating the code of conduct by distributing bindis to women in Rampur’s Swar locality. Throughout her political career Jaya Prada rarely attended the parliament and asked only 178 questions.

6.Jaya Bachchan

Jaya Bachchan

Jaya Bachchan was elected as a Samajwadi Party MP, representing the Rajya Sabha in 2009. Although being quite active in the parliamentary debates, Jaya Bachchan’s lack of attendance in the Rajya Sabha meetings has indicated her least interest towards politics. The yesteryear diva has raised only 159 questions in the house.

7.Shyam Benegal

Shyam Benegal

Eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal, another Rajya Sabha member whose films have essayed contemporary social issues with great intensity, had no question to ask the government and only spoke twice in the debates of the house.

8.Navjyot Sindhu

Navjyot Sindhu

Former cricketer and BJP’s Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu may have impressed everyone with his banter and smart repartee, but as an MP the cricketer gets thumbs down as he remained uncharacteristically quiet during Lok Sabha debates. He asked only 0.38 percent of the questions and attended the house only six percent of the time.

Traditional Mail Sees Massive Decline as Email, SMS Take Over


In the era of high speed communication where a mobile phone message gets delivered to its recipient within seconds, snail mail like postcards and inland letters — is losing out on its appeal, according to data available with the communications ministry.

“The present mail traffic trend indicates that there is decrease of sale of post cards and inland letter cards in the post offices which is due to induction of new technology in the field of personal communication,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

 During 2009-10 the traffic of post cards and inland letter cards as per data available from all postal circles stood at over 78 crore and 91 crore, respectively, as against 195.8 crore and 224.94 crore, respectively, during 2001-02.

India currently has over 850 million mobile phone subscribers and with the low tariffs offered by the telecom service providers across the country, the numbers have been witnessing a continuous rise.

Pilot said the department of posts was trying to improve the quality of mail operations across the country by consolidating and optimising the existing mail network, bring in greater standardization in mail processes and strengthen monitoring mechanisms.

He also said that the department proposed to connect all departmental post and branch post offices in the country through internet by 2012-13, under the India Post Technology project – 2012.

The fiscal 2009-10 saw 14 post offices being shut down.

The telegraph traffic has seen a far larger decline with the average number of telegrams booked per day falling 10.27 percent at 8,513 in the previous financial year. During 2009-10 it had declined 43.44 percent at 9,488.

During 2006-07 the average number of telegrams booked per day stood at 21,785.

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