'Annaji won't reconcile for a weak Lokpal bill'
Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal has been in the forefront of the massively publicised movement to demand a Lokpal Bill.
A close associate of Gandhian Anna Hazare, Kejriwal has staunchly defended the movement and rebuffed many allegations made against civil society activists by the ruling Congress party. He has also taken on senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Pranab Mukherjee who had taken pot shots at Hazare's movement.
As a representative of the civil society in the Joint Drafting Committee of the Lokpal Bill, Kejriwal has been privy to the many rounds of negotiations and behind-the-scenes discussions between the government and civil society activists.
Why have the Centre and civil activists failed to agree on the Lokpal Bill? What are the major points of agreement and disagreement? What is the way forward for this path-breaking bill?
After Union Minister Salman Khursheed, a government interlocutor in the Lokpal talks, Kejriwal appeared on the Rediff Chat on Wednesday.
Here is the transcript:
Gentleman asked: In Lokpal bill can we introduce in initial stage with members of Parliament, ministers, Judges, and secretary level officers, not necessary to include all babu's etc. If we stop the corruption from higher levels then the corruption will automatically stop in lover levels.
Arvind Kejriwal says: People joined this movement in large numbers expecting a comprehensive anti-corruption system. Where should a person go if he faces bribery or corruption is his daily life?
Prakash asked: Don't you think the government is just waiting to settle down a storm which was created by Anna Hazare? Will they will do the same thing after that?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I agree. The government is not sincere. They seem to be playing politics, but we have to be at it. Finally, we are confident that the truth will prevail and the people of this country will win.
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Image: Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal
'This is a people's mass movement'
Rforraina asked: How long do you believe you will fight the (corrupt) government? Without you being yourself drawn to power seat and become one among them? You are our hero for now, but will it last forever? I apologise for a wild question in advance.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I can assure you I will never fight elections and I will never join any political parties. So no question of any power.
A Naqvi28 asked: It seems that there is no unanimity among Indians regarding the Lokpal issue. Major political parties have made it clear. Is there any programme to accommodate thousands of corrupt officers who would be dethroned in case this becomes an Act?
I am no supporter of the corrupt but I wonder what will happen to millions of Indians who are what they are today because of corruption. I feel it is impossible to achieve this Utopia in the present set up, lest the so called civil society is planning a constitutional coup.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: This happened in Hong Kong also. HK was a very corrupt country in the 70s. They set up a similar agency like the Lokpal under people's pressure. This agency sacked several officers in the first instance which sent a strong message to everyone.
We want a similar action in our country. As soon as strong action is taken against a few, it will have a demonstrable impact on the rest.
Pallavi asked: The government does not seem sincere to control the corruption. Bread is snatched from Indians who cannot get two meals a day, by the corrupt within the government. We are always with you.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I agree. This is a mass people's movement.
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'We will like to stay away from any electoral or party politics'
Nicu asked: Sir, basically Chor hi choro ke against kanun banaye, is baat ki probability to kam hi lagti he jabki buddijivi log passive hain aur samaj ke ek bade hisse ko corruption ki aadat ho gayi he (chahe lene wale ho ya dene wala).
Sara hindustan janta to he ki corruption upar se hi he. So hats off to you sir. Choro ko chhodna mat aur beech main rukna nahi. Aap ladai Baba Ramdev ke sath mil kar kyu nahi lad rahe ho jabki missin ek hai
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Hum Baba Ramdev ke saath hain. Media humein alag dikhane ki koshish kar rahe hain.
Shirish Pathade asked: Dear Mr Arvind, Where can we view civil society's version of the Lokpal bill? Is there any official website maintained by civil society activists?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Yes. It is there on our website. www.indiaagainstcorruption.org
Manoj181 asked: Why is the government confusing the public? Will you people support Baba Ramdev if he forms a national party for the elections?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: We will like to stay away from any electoral or party politics.
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'We have a right to raise our voice against corruption'
Ark asked: Is he actually there or we are being mass fooled.
Arvind Kejriwal answers:Yes, I am there.
Vrushal asked: The United Progressive Alliance passes the Lokpal bill the way it wants, rather than consensus from other parties. Anna will not go on fast but say, "This is our first step towards victory," and reconcile himself that because of him the Lokpal bill was passed. The UPA will take credit in the next 2014 elections. It's all politics.'
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Don't worry, Annaji won't reconcile for a weak Lokpal bill.
Indore asked: Mr Kejriwal, why hasn't anyone raised the point about the Congress always looking for political solution for criminal problem. Corruption is a crime and winning an election or removing a chief minister is not the solution to that crime.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: We completely agree. We have always said that they should be honest investigations and trial in all these cases.
Keju asked: Mr Kejriwal, India is a democratic country, why is that you are engaging in fast blackmailing? Do you think you people are the only Indians who are representing the civil Society? Lokpal is no solution, you should look at comprehensive measures to increase the punishments and eradicate corruption, which is not what Lokpal is looking at?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Firstly, Lokpal bill drafted by us increases punishment for corruption to life imprisonment. There are many other comprehensive reforms suggested by us in drafting Jan Lokpal Bill, like setting up several courts and High Court benches for fast tracking corruption cases, confiscation of the properties of corrupt, etc.
We do not claim that we are representatives of civil society. Media says so. We are just ordinary people. Very ordinary people, but we have a right to raise our voice against corruption.
The real issue is -- is the law suggested by us -- a good law and do the people of this country subscribe to it? The answser is a big YES, considering the overwhelming support that Anna is receiving everywhere. I wish there was a platform where we could prove this support. Let s ask for a referendum on this issue.Click NEXT to read further
If Madhu Koda becomes PM, only God will save India'
Kkkjena asked: As I was going through the draft, don't you think including the PM is unreasonable? The PM cannot take all the departments such as Defence, Finance etc under his belt. He has a lot of other stubs to do.
IF he becomes corrupt then only god can help us. But by including PM into Lokpal -- its a misbehave to the institution. He can be brought under the Lokpal once his term is over, this is my thinking.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: A corrupt PM can be the biggest security threat to the country. Do you want to provide immunity to him against any investigation? What if Madhu Koda became the PM of this country tomorrow? Only God will be able to save our country.
JS Sharma asked: Do you really believe that we will ever succeed in removing Corruption with even Lokpal bill?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I am not saying that the corruption will be over 100 per cent. But it will prove to be an effective deterrent against corruption. It will ensure certainty and swiftness of punishment to the guilty.
Swati asked: Hello Arvindji, would like to ask what role young women can play in your movement? Most of us are not politically sound and unaware of the society around us. What message do you have for us?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Young people have greater stakes in having a corruption-free India. You pay taxes when you buy anything from the market, such as sales tax, excise duty, etc.
This money is being looted by the corrupt. Let us decide that we will not take it lying down anymore. Some corrupt people are trying to spread rumors and misconceptions about our movement and about this law.
Talk to them and remove these misgivings. Next time when Anna gives a call, be there and get all your friends.Click NEXT to read further
'People already know that many politicians are corrupt'
Prashanthba asked: Dear Sir, who has given mandate to the civil Society representatives to represent us. Can I represent it? What is the criteria?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Refer to previous question please.
Rameshdubai asked: Do you think that our so called simple and honest prime minister is a cheat, a shrewd and incompetent to administer the corrupt ministers' work from inside?
If we get an incompetent PM, can it be removed through LokPal Bill? After all, he is wasting the nation's money and valuable time through mismanagement and incompetence?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Lokpal bill will ensure an honest investigation and trial. We want the PM to be included in Lokpal's ambit but the government refuses to agree.
Malik asked: What will be the difference between the Anti Corruption Law and Lokpal Bill?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Lokpal will enforce anti corruption law that is prevention of corruption act. We have a prevention of corruption act, but there is no agency which is independent of the government to implement that law.
All existing anti corruption agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation etc are under the control of the same people who are accused. How can they function fairly?
Dhruvakumar.2010 asked: Why don't you address about black money kept in Swiss banks also? It is a high time you open a website where in people reveal the details about politicians who are corrupt, it is just meant for educating public about elected tyrants.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: People already know that many politicians are corrupt. Already so many exposures have taken place. What we need now is strong action against them. The Lokpal bill will ensure that.
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'I am sure we will win'
ROSE63 asked: Arvindji your stand is correct but the government is not ready to listen, and this statge, what we see is that the government will only do what they want not what people want.
The common man who should be part of this moment is not wake up yet even all the prices are almost double without any reason. What will you do if the support is not as it should be? Just for your information, I am one of the supporters on street when Annaji was on his fast.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Let us just take a resolve that we will fight it out till the end. Let this resolve be strong. I am sure we will win.
Sambit1 asked: The demand for a strong Lokpal bill is being termed as a movement of the people. Do you think that a mass movement can sustain without participation from general public? Is this lack of participation the main reason why the government is adamant on scuttling the bill even if the general public support your agitation?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Do you think that the people are not there in this movement?
RameshfromChennai asked: Hi Arvind, we have started a campaign to send out 1 lakh postcards to the President of India with the following content: Madam, I support the inclusion of the following offices and posts under the Jan Lokpal bill:
1. The Prime Minister 2. The Chief Justice of India and the Judiciary 3. Members of Parliament. 4. All government officers i humbly request you to please advice the government of India to include the same in drafting of the Jan Lokpal bill. Regards.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: You should send this post card to Mrs Gandhi. It will be more useful then!
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'Together we can develop a robust Lokpal'
Manojnjoy asked: Dear Arvindji, as we all knew that the majority of the politicians are fraud and have one or more criminal cases against them, so they wont allowed the civil society version of the draft. So my question is, what happens if the government doesn't allow to hold fast in Jantar Mantar? Where will the fast take place then?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: The fast will take place at Jantar Mantar from August 16. Be there!
RAJAPATIMAYANK1982 asked: Hi, Arvindji, I liked your way of answering, Point to point, and no personal attack. I want to ask why there is no live presentation of your meeting on Lokpal drafting.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: We kept on asking them to do a live telecast, but they refused.
Naitik asked: The media has usurped the space of legitimate opposition in Parliament. The governments too are only happy to entertain media instead of addressing the opposition's demands.
Now the media is trying to usurp the government's space by hoisting a sundry largely Delhi-based Civil Society, with unknown credentials. One can see the difference between a media-sponsored Anna's hunger stike and an unsung hunger strike by the lady in Manipur.
Please comment that you are essentially a media creation, which itself has an ulterior agenda of its own.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Forget Anna and forget civil Society. The issue is Lokpal Bill. Go through it and tell us if there is any problem in that.
Sumitranjan@rediffmail.com asked: Really inspired by you. You left your lucrative Indian Institute of Technology job and the Revenue Service to work for India.
I feel like doing something for you voluntarily. My wife is a graphics and web design expert.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Send me your contact details at email@example.com. Let us stay in touch.
lkgulati asked: How Lokpal will be able to cope with the increasing number corruption cases?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: We will need to develop a proper system within Lokpal. It is not rocket science. If government aggress to enact a good Lokpal bill and listen to the sane voices in the society, I am sure together we can develop a robust Lokpal.
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'I did make some mistakes, I am learning'
Max asked: Sir, why you are trying to match the levels of Congress spokesperson like Digvijay Singh and Kapil Sibbal? You should be precise and in limits.
Sir, don't stoop to the level of the Congress while addressing media and Public. My sincere request.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I agree! I did make some mistakes. I am learning.
firstname.lastname@example.org asked: Dear Arvindji, I am really impressed by your efforts and thank you on behalf of Indians to take steps for our good. However I want to know do you really believe Lokpal will be able to resolve all these problems.
Don't you think we are living in a pseudo democracy where voters actually have no choice. They don't actually vote for someone but they are in a way forced to vote against someone.
Which I think will be the case with Congress in next election. I want to emphasis that we need to reform the democracy, not just this bill.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: I agree there are many problems. The Lokpal movement is just the beginning. If we succeed in this, we will take up electoral reforms, judicial reforms and decentralisation of political power.
Prajapatimayank1982 asked: Dear Arvindji, now since two drafts are ready. One by the civil representatives and one want by the government.
Instead of leaving this thing on Parliamentary member, Why can't be selection be done by a public-like election, since most of the Parliament member are elected the same way.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: We are also demanding the same and let there be a referendum. The government is refusing to do that.
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Image: Civil society members Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal after attending a meeting of the joint drafting committee of Jan Lokpal bill in New Delhi
'Lokpal will be accountable to the people of this country'
Tcsanjay asked: Leave Lokpal I have not received my income refund since the last three years. Filing an RTI has not helped either. Is this not corruption? Have you covered this in your Lokpal Bill.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: This issue is also covered in Lokpal bill. If Lokpal bill is enacted, you will get your IT refunds.
madmax asked: Who will handle the investigation if the Lokpal agencies also becomes corrupt? Will we fight for another law?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: Lokpal will be accountable to the people of this country. Any citizen can make a complaint to the Supreme Court and have him removed.
PH again asked: Arvind, hope you don't mind me testing your idea, but how different would a Satyam scandal be managed with Lokpal bill in place? Can you assert specific action points per your proposed Bill.
It's disgusting to see someone stealing several billions and then living a good life in b/w hospital and a VIP jail. As of now, I feel inspired by Raju since the spineless system promotes the craft. Take a moment and answer so that I can drift towards your ideology.
Arvind Kejriwal answers: The Lokpal bill will ensure certainty and swiftness of punishment for those who indulge in corruption. Investigations will have to be completed in one year and the trial in the next one year. Unlike Satyam, which is lingering for the last so many years.
Rishisinha1 asked: Are you ready to fight next election and be elected as representative of people that way a democracy functions?
Arvind Kejriwal answers: No.
Arvind Kejriwal says: Hello room, it was nice chatting with you all. Due to time constraints I have to leave now, or I would have answered some more questions. When Anna gives the call, please be there to support him!