India Against Corruption (IAC), the umbrella body led by Anna Hazare spearheading the fight for the establishment of a Lokpal (corruption ombudsman) has announced plans to have a nationwide awareness program including mass rallies and meetings in the coming days.
“The response is so overwhelming that all these dates have been pre-booked. Other dates are also being planned for such consultations,” IAC said in a statement.
The yatras and meetings are part of the second stage of the IAC’s elaborate agitation to put pressure on elected representatives to put in place a corruption ombudsman with power to punish them.
A meeting of the leaders of the movement in Delhi resolved to ask Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde to continue with the drafting committee, as he is among the few practicing corruption ombudsmen who could provide on-the-ground experience for framing the new law.
“The members are full conscious of the urgency to have the right of Jan Lokpal bill and have therefore decided to stay focused and not get distracted by malicious smear campaign against civil society members,” IAC said in a statement today.
Vested political interests have unleashed a vilification campaign at the members of the drafting committee in an effort to deter them from staying on in the council. Congress leader Digvijay Singh, former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and others have been holding regular press conferences in which they have attacked Hegde and the eminent lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan.
Arvind Kejriwal, the RTI activist and Anna Hazare, the leader of the movement, have been the only two of the five representatives of the popular movement that have not been targeted yet.
The top level Committee, which also included former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and human rights activist Swami Agnivesh besides the five drafting committee members, resolved to bring out a “detailed plan” to hold nationwide awareness campaigns.
IAC has already threatened major nationwide agitations and uprising if a bill with a sufficiently powerful Lokpal is not introduced in the Parliament during the June-July Monsoon session. Hazare has warned that the second round of nationwide popular mass movement will begin on August 15, India’s independence day, if the bill is not passed and made into law by then.
Among the programs already announced are a public consultation with several constitutional experts and citizens today, a public consultation of NGOs by Medha Patkar on May 8 and public consultations in Delhi on 26, 27 and 29 April in Delhi.
A new website, lokpalbillconsultation.org has also been launched for people to give their opinion and feedback on the provisions suggested by the leaders of the movement.
While Congress leaders have openly come out against the provisions suggested by the Jan Lokpal leaders, the opposition BJP is more careful about attacking the movement, though many BJP leaders are equally concerned about a powerful corruption watchdog.