Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Most Demanded Social & Political Product: Lokpal

The Most Demanded Social & Political Product: Lokpal

Why Lokpal: The country is today ridden by corruption. Whether it be routine transactions that involve the government or services and amenities and benefits provided through the public exchequer, the ordinary citizen pays a price daily in terms of harassment, delays, poor quality, absent infrastructure and in-equal access. What we need is an effective and independent institutional mechanism for tackling the malaise of corruption in this country which we haven’t. Lokpal has played an effective role in checking corruption and wrong-doing in Scandinavian and other nations. The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) set up in 1966 recommended the constitution of two-tier machinery - Lokpal at the Centre, and Lokayukta(s) in the states. What if head of party and head of the government or organization do corruption in a organized manner? To support this many visible examples are in public domain for example many CMs, CJI, top most IAS, babus are under cloud.

History: The Lokpal Bill introduced in 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha, subsequently, Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet not passed and pending since 42 years. A big hue and cry about it is going on nowadays.

Lokpal as social and political product: it was an invisible issue before April 2011 like other bills for example Womens reservation. Baba Ramdeo founded Bharat Swabhiman trust on January 5, 2009. He was canvassing and making public aware against corruption and black money in his Yoga camps. He toured rigorously and brought in limelight as per his site :1) Our country must get back around 400 lakh crore rupess which is a national asset, 2) By making hard laws of able lokpal completely eradicate corruption, 3) Foreign system (British rule) running in independent India must stop so that all get economic and social justice.

To achieve desired results he applied tools, technology, tricks and concepts of ICT and marketing for these social issues like any commercial product. By using modern social media and applying marketing fundamentals, he made these issues visible and important in pubic eye in a very short span of 2 years.

In the mean time assessing the visibility of the issues, Anna team brought the solution in the form of Lokpal to curb corruption. His Gandhian style and austere life is his great strength. He has a good team of experienced and learned people of different fields. Hence his coterie is now a civil cabinet at national level to market social products. He sat on Jantar Mantar on 4th April to have a strong and capable lokpal to provide medicine to a country-wide problem of corruption. Demand was already created over the years by all level of growing corruptions and Baba added salt to it by his Bharat Swabhiman trust. Anna tried to match this huge social demand by supplying its solution in the form of Lokpal. Disappointed citizens purchased this social product and in exchange giving unexpected support. Naturally this annoyed Baba and he showed it in his style on Bhusons inclusion issue.

The opposition by the powerhouse (GoI) making the things easy for Anna team. The opposition on the role of civil society in policy making is a big issue now. In almost all fields, civil societies are assisting and working in various ways but its first-time entry in policy enactment area has raised eye-brows of political actors. They are feeling this incident as an intrusion. During my study in USA, in a political economy course, I did a project related to Oxfam International (OI). OI is a NGO which is doing such jobs since 1990. To be not influenced by governments and to influence them, it doesn’t take government grants. So role of NGOs in policy making area can’t be held for longer in India too like outside. Our political actors must learn from outside and mold themselves accordingly.

Theoretically speaking, in any policy making the first step is constituency building that is demand generation for the issue or making it visible and popular. Lokpal is now talk of the town all over the country and abroad. So its first step is 100% successful. The second step is drafting the bill document. Now a parallel draft of civil society is in public domain. If government will bring any weak and ineffective bill, it will be compared and will expose the intension for fighting the corruption. So, enacting a weak and showy lokpal bill prove counterproductive to the party in government.

How it is the best social and political product: Citizens are facing corruption everyday in one form or other. Anna is now a symbolic hope for all sections of society including politicians and political parties. On political lines one can’t say anything but in personal capacity mostly are with team Anna. Anna is trying to brand his social product Lokpal to get the emotional attachment of citizens. For this, he is saying it is a movement to liberate the country from corruption like Gandhiji’s movement of freeing country form British rule. We can say one more similarity in this liberation movement. Anna represents Naram Dal and Baba Garam Dal. Swabhiman site home page mentions in priceless thoughts about revolutionaries.

I hope this social marketing strategy through branding will bring the desired result in day to come as it a great social potent product.

Political product: States and Parliament elections are contested on some issues having wide constituency. Bad governance and rampant corruption in states have made corruption and development election issues. Gujarat, New Delhi, Bihar are good examples in support of this point. Recent elections of Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal endorse it. Current trend shows that in 2012 UP election. Good governance will also be an issue and it’s by product will be issue of law and order. Likewise, in parliament elections, Mandal, Mandir were issues-related to non-governance. But in 2009, good governance and corruption free image of Manmohan was prime factor of UPA repetition. The clean image of PM was the political product to sell in 2009 parliament election. BJP tried to make black money an election issue in last parliament election. Now seed of corruption is showed by Baba and Anna in political field of India. 2014 will see this as an issue to be contested upon. Reason being, this issue is beneficial to all stakeholders-public, civil society, politicians. This is the reason GoI is trying to bury this issue by making this 42 years old pending bill into an act in coming parliament session. Situations have made “Lokpal” the best current political product of India.

Dispute between Anna team and Government: If we read between the lines, there is no difference as basics are agreed upon that is it must be passed in coming session of parliament. Political economy is the main hurdle for the government. Doing political business Congress led government will try all its best to get its credit. To acquire the benefit, they are trying to dilute the position of civil society and oppositions through different diplomacy and tactics. There are so many compromised formulas which will suit both the sides. But Government is fighting for its business to maximise its political economy. Merchant Minhaz suggests one most amicable compromised solution in his article in ToI on June 15,2011.

first, should the prime minister come within the purview of the Lokpal? Yes: the prime minister as head of the government must welcome institutional scrutiny - as, for instance, US presidents routinely do - not evade it.
Secondly, should the higher judiciary (high court and Supreme Court judges) fall within the purview of the Lokpal? No, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, currently under legislative review, should instead be strengthened to include a judicial commission which would hear public complaints against senior judges. The judicial commission could have five members: the chairperson of the Lokpal body, the central vigilance commissioner, the leader of the opposition, a senior government minister and a former chief justice of
India.

Corruption is not a normal issue as it looks- affecting whole country. So, it needs a movement like led by Gandhiji and will take its own time. A start has been by Anna and Baba. It will see many more ups and downs. So far, we have seen one up and one down of Anna and Baba. Citizens need to push their effort to achieve this patiently and continuously. Indian governance is very complex as diversity is its basic nature. For government, making a balance among all factors is not an easy task. Congress will move in steps and gradually like in 2G and CWG. In these two aslo, first they oppose like lokpal , but public pressure molded them for actions and still actions are in progress. It seems Lokpal will see the light of the day in steps and gradually and not in one go. Since this is the best current social and political product. So, it can’t be set in reverse gear as it has win-win situations for all stakeholders.

Heera lal

www.makingyouhappy.org