INDIA SPECIAL/WAR ON CORRUPTION
How a nation was galvanized
Social activist Anna Hazare won a great victory when the government agreed to meet his demands on the drafting of the Lok Pal bill. Magsaysay Award
winner Arvind Kejriwal played a key role in convincing the
government to have a joint panel consisting of government
and civil society members to draft the bill.
In an interview with Sahim Salim, Kejriwal, also known
for his efforts in activating the Right to Information Act,
explains why the Hazare-led movement was such a huge
success and outlines what’s in store.
Now that the government has given in to your demands on
the Lok Pal Bill, can you tell us about the technicalities
The joint committee has been formed and the first meeting of the committee will take place April 16. In that meeting, we will decide the procedures to be followed by the
joint committee. We want to draft the bill in the most
transparent way. We will try and persuade the committee
to video-record the meetings so that we can make it available to the people. Secondly, we want to hold public consultations across the country. Once the draft of the Jan Lok
Pal bill is available, we will be open to suggestions and proposals from the public to better it.
How do you propose to do this?
We have a plan in mind, which has to be approved by the
committee. According to our plan, we will organize regional consultations in different parts of the country through
advertisements and non-government organizations. These
consultations will involve members of the committee as
well. We also plan to put the draft of the bill on a Web site
to get response from the public. A specific team will be put
together to monitor this Web site.
Will the government agree to your demand of video
recording the meetings of the joint
We will explain to the committee
in the first meeting the need for
video recording and try to convince
them. We need to make the meetings of the committee as transparent as possible.
Have you set a timeline for the
government to pass the bill as law?
Yes, Anna Hazare has announced
that if the government does not
pass the bill as law by August 15, he
will urge the people to take to the
streets again. This is to ensure that
the bill is not stuck in the parliament forever.
Did you expect such a grand
response from across the country,
January 30, we conducted a rally
in Delhi. We expected only about
3,000 to 4,000 people to join us.
Instead, around 30,000 people
turned up. Similar rallies took
place in 62 cities across the country. That gave us an idea about the
anger and frustration people have
against widespread corruption. We were surprised and
overwhelmed by the response ourselves. We knew that people would respond, but such a response was completely
unexpected. People from every section of the society came
Why do you think people responded to Hazare, a relatively unknown figure with no political backing or support?
Many aspects played a role. Firstly, people are angry, as
they have been witnessing a series of scams in the last few
months. Secondly, there has been absolutely no action from
the government even after these scams were exposed.
Former Indian police officer and social worker Kiran Bedi, left, is among several activists who support
Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption
PARIVAR TAN SHARMA/REUTERS
There was talk about the scams in
newspapers and on television channels and the issue died down. People
are frustrated. Thirdly, we as a group
were offering a solution in the form
of a bill to end corruption, instead of
just standing up and saying we are
against corruption. Fourthly, when
Anna went on a fast, he struck an
emotional chord with the public. He
requested the whole nation to fast
and I was surprised to find out how
many people observed the fast.
There have been reports that the
government believes you had the
backing of some corporate and international players. Your comments?
These reports make no sense. In
fact, in the next two or three days, we
are planning to put up a list of our
donors and supporters. The expenditure, as of now, will not be audited,
because the audit will take place only
next year. We will try and put up the
expenditure involved in this movement every 10 days or so.
When you launched the movement, did the government in
any way try to lure you and the panel in to quitting?
The government was completely insensitive towards the
movement. Like us, the government also did not expect
such a huge response. They initially completely ignored our
movement and us. I think that by the third or fourth day,
the movement gathered steam, but the government still
continued to play their games. They kept us hanging for
two days for a matter as small as issuing a gazette notification.
Why do you think the government ultimately gave in to