Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, the ombudsman battling corruption in Karnataka, is impressed with the manner in which Anna Hazare has taken on the government this time. Here are a few excerpts from a freewheeling chat with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa:
"We need many more Hazares in our country and I support him 100 per cent in what he is doing. He is 100 per cent right in what he is doing and I want to tell all those persons criticising him that what he has been doing is not a gimmick. For 40 years this government has not made a bill, and now when they do it, it appears to be a farce," he said.
"Someone like Hazare has come out to fight this and all of a sudden there are many who want to sit in criticism of this man. What is the point in talking ill about someone who has decided to do something? Call it a publicity gimmick or anything, the fact remains that there is someone who has raised their voice on this issue," he added.
"All these people who have been criticising him are the same ones who have been talking about this issue. They sure have not done anything about it. But then when a man comes out to fight it out they have all the wrong things to say about him," he said.
"People must remember that these are the after-effects of long periods of lethargy on part of the government. The government has been trying to mislead the people on this issue, and one man has stood up to fight them. Let him do his job. This agitation is not just about corruption, but it is the attitude of the government against corruption," he said.
"Hazare's protest appears to have had a good reaction and the youth too have started believing in what he has been doing. It is becoming infectious, and I think it is a good sign," he said.
"I personally feel that the youth must come out in the open and fight corruption. Nine out of ten times it may fail, but then there is no harm in trying. The important issue is that we have raised our voices. Look at people such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Mahatma Gandhi," he said.
"Haven't they all failed on many occasions? But they did continue to fight and achieved what they were fighting for. I don't think it should be any different for Hazare," he added.
"People talk about corruption all the time and it is the same people who end up criticising a man who wants to fight it. If he has been wrong, then let us look at that issue as well. Merely pouncing on him will not be the best of things to do," he said.
"Speaking of corruption, I would like ask what sort of laws do we have to fight it in the first place. Even if the laws are there, where are the institutions to fight corruption? The Central Bureau of Investigation or the Central Vigilance Commission?" he thundered.
"We all know the number of cases they have filed in the past one year. When the government does not think and act, it is not important to have dedicated bodies to fight corruption. Let the people rise and fight. Let the government give more teeth to the Lokpal. Why are they shying away from that?" he said.
"I am sure some good will come out of Hazare's protest. The last I heard is that the government has agreed to discuss the issue with a committee set up by him. However, they do not want any of the committee members to head the commission," he added.
"The results are showing already. So, it's important to have more such protests across the country since it is very important that the attitude of the government changes against corruption," he said.
Even as the government is contemplating making Justice N Santosh Hegde the chief of the joint committee to discuss the draft of the Lok Pal bill, the man himself says he has no clue about such development.
"Even if I were to be offered this, I would turn it down since I don't want to be some kind of a middle man to discuss the issue. I don't have any idea about what this government is planning on the draft of the bill. However, I would make it clear that I will not accept it," he asserted.
"There is a lot of negotiating to be done if I accept this role. I will need to convince the government and then ensure that the other party too agrees to what I am saying. I am not good at this, and hence would not be interested in the post," he added.
Moreover, I am tied down with work in Karnataka and there is an important report on illegal mining that I have to submit. So it would be difficult for me to take up this assignment," he said.
"I would however suggest the name of Justice J S Verma for this post. He is a straightforward person (does not mean that I am not, laughs) and calls a spade a spade. Ideally he should be the man who should don this role. He is capable of convincing both sides to agree to whatever he feels about the Lok Pal bill," he concluded.