Extending support to activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, members of the ‘India Against Corruption’ organisation demonstrated outside the United Nations building here saying the Indian government’s Lokpal Bill draft is a “joke” and protects the corrupt.
About 30-40 India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers, including women and children, shouted slogans and tore copies of the government’s draft of the Lokpal bill, as they sought to draw attention of the international community to Mr. Hazare’s fight against corruption.
Ashim Jain, an IAC volunteer, said that even though India had ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in May this year, the country is “not following the convention and the UN should know about it.”
Mr. Jain said the draft fails to meet even the most basic aspects of the UNCAC.
He said corruption does not involve merely paying bribes. It impacts national growth as money meant for eradicating poverty, improving health, education and rural infrastructure goes into the pockets of corrupt government administrators and politicians who thrive in a system that has ineffective anti-corruption laws.
The supporters donned paper ‘Anna caps’ and wore white T-shirts with the slogan ‘I support India Against Corruption.’
Waiving the Indian tricolour, they held banners and placards that read ‘Jail the corrupt’, ‘Indian government’s Lokpal bill is a joke’, ‘Stop abuse of power,’ and ‘Lokpal is jokepal’ during the two-hour demonstration.
Partha Turaga, the New Jersey representative for IAC said Indians across the world have solidarity for Mr. Hazare’s movement.
“We support Anna Hazare who is a symbol for the fight against policies which are destructive to us. We want a better legislation which will benefit the common man and the country”, Mr. Turaga said.
He added that IAC will continue to stage such demonstrations until the Indian government agrees to Mr. Hazare’s demands. Mr. Turaga added that IAC will also be part of the Indian Independence day parade to be held in Edison near here and show support to the anti-corruption drive.
Mohan Raj Thirumalai, who travelled with his family from Chicago to participate in the demonstration, said India does not have the “legal instruments to fight corruption. The current Lokpal draft is just a farce. In reality it protects the corrupt and not the ordinary citizens of India.”
He said the proposed Lokpal bill should not be made into law as it fails to provide citizens with needed safeguards and is silent on whistleblower protection.
Citing violations between UNCAC norms and the proposed bill, Mr. Thirumalai said the government’s draft has greater penalties for a citizen who is unable to prove his complaint against a public servant than the public servant who has been proven to be corrupt.
“In letter and spirit, the bill is designed to give greater protection to the corrupt” and leaves out from its purview the prime minister, members of Parliament and many other officials from Lokpal’s jurisdiction,” he added.
Mr. Hazare will begin another fast on the Lokpal Bill on August 16. He has threatened to stop drinking water if the government arrests him before or during the fast.