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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill is based on poor policy analysis

Pratap Bhanu Mehta reminds that that while Elephantiasis is a nasty problem, elephant dung is not the cure. Just because we're convinced that corruption is a serious problem, it doesn't mean that any vaguely proximate remedy is going to work. Mere moral outrage does not solve problems. Complex problems require cold thinking and sophisticated analysis.


  1. Fair enough. But, it is naive to believe that we will get to the right solution straight away. That almost never happens. Moral outrage and expression of it is only the first step.

  2. Pratap first objects to unreasonable unbridled passionate appeal against subverting obdurately corrupt deomocracy. He then enumerates various well reasoned arguments against the yet to be drafted anti-corruption bill. But what does he offer as an alternative? Nada, nothing, zilch.

    I would take trying elephant dung any day than sit around doing nothing. So much for the high priest of Centre of Policy yadda yadda.

  3. Funny that, IBN's Karan Thapar comes up with the same arguments, and very similar wordings in his interview with Arvind Kejriwal. Hmmm, looks like this is a concerted effort by someone to undermine the movement.

  4. Its saddening to see these comments and more so to see it coming from somebody sitting at the helm of a think tank! Perhaps this is the farthest a think tank can go from implementation of an effective solution. Only a politician now a days gets paid for putting together something which is completely impotent at doing what needs to be done. Mr. Mehta has no ideas of his own, no critical analysis for what is being proposed by the activists, no data to support if what he is criticizing should be criticized, and so on.
    Ajay, although I have lot of respect for your views but somehow this time you have also missed any supportive argument that shows why Jan Lokpal Bill is based on poor policy analysis. I completely agree that a strong analysis is required but I can't see a fact based justification of the title of your post.

  5. This really is one of the courageous analysis of the whole issue. If we buy the logic that elected represantatives are not truly represnting the electorate then how can any one possible extend the same logic to people in J&K and people part of Naxal movements.

  6. In continuation, Shiv Visvanathan ponders:; Shuddabrata Sengupta at kafila says he will not join Anna in this battle: and a respectable response to Shuddabrata Sengupta:

  7. In continuation, Shiv Visvanathan ponders:; Shuddabrata Sengupta at kafila says he will not join Anna in this battle: and a respectable response to Shuddabrata Sengupta:

  8. Ajay -

    Well, at least the criticism has moved on from whether the agitation is even justified (even if we are uncomfortable with the methods), to whether the law itself is worthy.

    For any law, we have to keep in mind that no law is perfect, all laws are susceptible to exploitation if the enforcers choose to do so. Nor are they applied as it is, the spirit of the law is held and applied on a case by case basis. Well designed laws do not get around this problem, only minimize these problems through diversity of membership, checks and balances on power, term limits, and most of all transparency to civil society of selection,enaction, etc. Still, they are never 100% infallible.

    With that in mind, and going from the draft which obviously will be modified to make it more reasonable, the members of the Lokpal have a term limit if 5 years to a maximum of 2 terms. They have to give up all other interests and conflict of interests are considered in appointment. 4 of 10 but not all have a legal background, no charge sheets against them, etc. Even their removal can be recommended by ordinary citizens and a 5 member Supreme court panel decides. All this is excellent.

    When it comes to who appoints the committee and how the idea is for the selection committee to consist of a diverse set of leaders of civil society - what's wrong with that? Thus you have anti-corruption activists like Magsasay winners, Bharat Ratna winners, Nobel Laureates, etc headed by the Supreme Court judge. But the good things is, at every step their actions have to published so that civil society can participate and agitate.

    In terms of its working, all decisions are taken by a panel of 3 members. All hearings and decisions are in the public domain, available to anyone. Anyone can file a complaint and that will be heard by a Supreme Court panel. The President has the right to dismiss committee members. Unless you have the executive, the judiciary and Lokpal members all together, there is a 3 way check and balance mechanism with the general public in a position to demand information and actions. If civil society completely breaks down along with the state apparatus, then we have a lot of big problems and Lokpal by itself will hardly be the biggest concern. In such a scenario, no law can hold its ground.

    That said, while I see a lot of good things in the Act, some of the concerns are quite valid. The idea of a parallel judicial system is not something I am comfortable about. The current set of checks and balances on the actions of Lokpal could be strengthened. Not being trained legally, I would like to see the specifics of loopholes inherent in the idea of the Act itself and which cannot be remedied. Plus, I would be curious to hear other solutions. So far, the basic premise seems sound to me and so, Ajay, I would love you hear your thoughts.

  9. I don't agree with some of the JLP bill suggestions. But, at the same time, I do feel that there is some value in pursuing a stronger anti-corruption ombudsman.

    I don't quite understand why people (who I have lot of respect for) like Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Acorn and many others are looking at it as elected officials vs civil (crony) society, or how the JLP undermines democracy. The thought is that economic freedom and electoral reforms are the solution not another bureaucracy.

    a) I'm not sure how JLP will undermine democracy if it is a bill to be drafted with elected representatives.
    b) Yes, economic freedom and electoral reforms might be pre-requisites but neither of those would have removed the possibility of scams like the 2G scam, defense scam, etc. And, from a practical point of view as resources are privatized isn't it important to have a mechanism to ensure that economic liberalization is pursued transparently and on a meritocratic basis?

    People say that a good ombudsman is not possible. Who will police the JLP members? Well, we do have precedent for bureaucracies that are effective - SEBI, RBI, etc. So, there is precedent for good bureaucrats and bureaucracies with a lot of power making a difference.

    Yes, the JLP draft may be poor but why is the idea wrong, policy wise? I hope when you take up the bill for critique you will distinguish between flaws in the draft vs flaws in the concept and whether the concept could be useful with practical modifications.

  10. P.Sainath on the janlokpal bill.
    Very interesting

  11. Very well written....we need people like Anna Hazare to show us the way ...but we also need people who understand the tactics of politics...Following is an excerpt from the letter written to the PM:

    Dear Dr. Singh,

    You have been driving the destiny of over a billion people for the last several years. The people who believed in your honesty, uprightness had reposed their trust in you. The belief does not stem from any dreams that you could have sold to them but because of your sincerity of purpose. They think that their interests are safe in your hands and that they can trust you with their destiny. But leaders are not made merely of these virtues alone. It is in fact the duty of the leader to rise to an occasion and guide the country. It is important but it’s not the only concern of a leader to keep his reputation blemish less. Marcus Aurelius once said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” This molding of consensus might need occasionally for the leader of men and women to in the words of Henry Kissinger “stand alone” read more visit this link:

  12. It is saddening to see that the most educated and the most taxed (income) set of people are still struggling to get our views beyond a mere blog, not undermining the effort of the person who started this. But I am failing to understand, where can we go beyond this supposedly moral outburst, i feel incapable that even I can just post my comment on this blog, and beyond my job and other duties I will keep on wondering how to change this schenario. What i think is that now is the time of action, and we all need to get out of the couches and leave our laptops, and think of something that can really affect something. Someone after might think and post that how lame and childish comment is that, but it is a piece of my mind, and i think everyone must have reached their threshold of tolerance for corruption in our country.


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