According to you what is the difference between the Jan Lokpal Bill introduced by you in the Lok Sabha and the Samanya Lok Pal Bill introduced by the current government?
There is a slight difference between the two and nothing major. Lok Pal Bill that was introduced by the government in 2011 was absolutely flawed against which we protested. The Lok Pal which we have right now is very similar to our wants and wishes.
The Centre has Lok Pal and the States have Lokayukta, both of them are the same. There will be public control on the officers and authorities at the Centre with the help of the Lok Pal Bill. Similarly, Lokayukta will also help the public to control the Chief Ministers, The Cabinet, and officers in the State.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill were first introduced in 1966, but it failed to pass. After that, the following Prime Ministers tried to introduce the Bill but failed. This Bill was introduced 8 times in the span of 45 years and it has never been accepted. What was the reason behind this? No Political Party of authority wants this Bill and so they all criticized against it.
This Bill says that if the countries Prime Minister is found to be corrupt with proof, then the Lok Pal can investigate the Prime Minister too. It is not limited to the current Prime Minister but the previous ones too. This also includes all the Ministers in the Cabinet and Officers.
It is also a rule that if the Lok Pal Bill is passed then every state has to introduce the Lokayukta Bill within a year.
In the World Corruption Index, India in recent years has been listed on 2nd or 3rd positions. Do you think will India ever become corruption-free? How do you think India should tackle corruption?
When the laws related to Lok Pal will be implemented effectively then corruption can be tackled on a large scale. I fought for 8 years for the implementation of a tool like RTI and it was drafted for the first time in Maharashtra in the year 2003. The Indian government on the basis of the same draft enforced the Act nationwide in the year 2005.
The implementation of the RTI Act has resulted in a lot of positive changes in the nation. It is effective to a certain extent but a lot of changes have been made.
Similarly, Lokpal and Lokayukta laws are implemented and the public is made aware of it then it will ultimately result in decreased corruption. Such laws will only be effective when people are made aware of it and educated about the provisions.
In order to make and implement the RTI Act, I traveled across the whole of Maharashtra. I suffered and made the public aware of it. The key to stopping corruption boils down to two basic things which are awareness and education
According to you which is more powerful, Lokayukta of the RTI? And should politicians be included under the RTI to provide information?
The Lokayukta is way powerful than the RTI. All political authorities including the politicians must be subject to provide information under RTI. And recently the bill proposed in the Lok Sabha to not include politicians under the RTI to provide information is wrong. RTI is a right of the citizens to inquire and know where the public money is being invested.
People can ask for information from the public authorities and the government aided organizations and it is the duty of these organizations to provide them with the relevant information. No “politics” can be involved in order to exercise the Right to Information.
The bill proposed is a political initiative by the politicians to keep them away from this obligation of proving the information to the general public.
It is often the case where the criminally accused persons are allowed to contest elections. What do you have to say about that?
It is totally a wrong practice and a criminally accused must not be allowed to do so. This was one of our agendas to make the elections better at all levels and to not give the right to contest elections to the criminally accused. I still stand by it and this right must not be given to the criminals or accused.
According to you, the previous governments i.e., the Congress government in the year 2013 and the BJP government in 2014 and now again in 2019, do you find any differences in the implementation of the Lokayukta and the RTI Act?
The only difference is the sides and the parties, Whether it’s the current government or the previous government the ultimate goal has always been to get access to power, and in order to come into power, parties can do anything. The reason for people rebelling against the previous governments and holding andolans and movements is because of the corruption that was present in that government which resulted in them not getting into power.
That much amount of corruption is not visible to the public in the present government but that does not mean that the current government is corruption-free and this is the main difference.
From 2017, some new provisions have been introduced to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 and a list of such amendments has been drafted. One of the amendments proposed is to exceed the fees for filing an RTI be exceeded from Rs. 10 to Rs. 50.
Another amendment proposed is pertaining to the person filing an RTI, in case the person dies, then the authority from which the information is asked is not bound to further provide the information. What are your thoughts regarding this bill?
I believe as long as the citizens of this country are ignorant about the laws in our country, the people with power are going to take such steps on their own. Especially, if the youth of the country is not active then such decisions are going to be made one-sided.
But if the citizens along with the youth start educating themselves about the laws of the country and start getting involved in such matters then the government and the parliament will have to consider their opinions
It is the right of an individual to get informed about the changes and developments taking place in the country along with the developments in the process. Charging fees for something that is a right of the citizens, in my opinion, is wrong.
The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 provides anonymity to the person exposing an organization of corruption and fraud committed within such organizations. Do you think that the anonymity aspect under such acts somewhere encourages citizens to take more action to curb corruption by exposing such organizations and associations?
Indeed, it would definitely encourage the citizens to take initiatives but, it will require more advanced steps to be made to safeguard the citizens’ interests.
Secondly, while framing the laws, it should not be limited only to the citizens and the panchayat. People in the rural area who have voting rights are the members of Gram Sabha. An individual, after completing 18 years of age acquires the right to vote and thus, is eligible to become a member. There is no need for any election process to be done in order to become a member of the Gram Sabha.
Gram Panchayat was initiated by the efforts of Gram Sabha, the selection of the ministers for the Vidhan Sabha is done by the Gram Panchayat, i.e., by voters. Such hierarchal representations made by individuals result in the formation and constitution of Gram Panchayats, Gram Sabhas, Vidhan Sabhas, and the Lok Sabha.
So basically, the initiation takes place at the level of Gram Sabha and is the essence of the Indian law-making System.
Once an individual becomes a member of the Gram Sabha, they always remain a member but the Gram Sabha keeps changing the constitution of individuals in Gram Panchayat at an interval of every 5 years. The Gram Sabha also change the composition of Vidhan Sabha, every 5 years well. But the citizens are not aware of these facts and their powers
I have raised my voice, asking the authorities 1 introduce laws that give more power to the Gram Sabha as they are the bedrock of the whole law-making system. Law must be made for the Central and the State government in order to utilize any resources from the end areas, to consult the Gram Sabha before doing so. It will be a way of democracy.
What happens now is that just order is passed by the official sitting at their offices, in order to provide any industry with a said area of land at a sad village without any deliberations or discussions, what or who gives the right to these authorities to give acres and acres of land to such industries? believe that do not have any right in doing so. And unfortunately, the general public also unaware of these doings.
Recently, a new law has been made in Maharashtra that whatever funds come into the panchayat will not be spent without taking prior permissions from the Gram Sabha. I fought for this law to come into force for six years. If the Gram Panchayat spends the funds without Gram Sabha’s permission then the Sarpanch and the Deputy Sarpanch of the Panchayat could be dismissed by the Gram Sabha Such laws must be implemented in all the states with proper reinforcement.
The public, as is unknown about their rights, must be made aware. They must be made aware that the citizens have the right to bring any government official to the court of law in case they haven’t performed their duties. La normal citizens and not having much education brought six ministers into the court of law and got almost 400 government officers suspended for their various illegal actions, all on the basis of the Laws and my rights as an Indian citizen.
This country is governed by laws, the constitution holds the ultimate power. Laws originate from the constitution and the country runs on these laws; people must know about this.
You have also served in the Army, how was your experience there?
When I joined the Army, in 1962, China had attacked India. Many of our soldiers were martyred in that war. A challenge was faced by the government for the need to recruit more soldiers in the Indian Army in place of the soldiers who were martyred. For this, they published an advertisement in the newspaper for recruiting people. I saw that advertisement and had gone to get enrolled in the army in the year 1963.
In 1965, a war had broken between India and Pakistan, I was present at the Khem Karan borders and Pakistan was deploying airstrikes in a huge number. During this incident, a lot of my fellow brothers were martyred and I survived somehow.
While I was in a vehicle a series of gunfire was shot on the vehicle, about 25-26 times, I did not get shot but a got hurt by a piece of a bullet ( he pointed towards the place where he was shot). I realized that so many of my brothers lost their lives but only I survived, it definitely was a god’s call that day.
I had read a book by Swami Vivekananda which was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s ideologies. I believe, after reading that book that, that day at the Khem Karan border I was reborn. I was reborn and now have a new life, a new home, a new society and a new nation to serve.
I never got married because I wanted to sever my nation selflessly and marriage would’ve hindered my goals for my village, my society and my nation.
Today I am 82 years old and I still follow the ideologies and teachings of Gandhi ji and Swami Vivekananda. These same ideologies had inspired me in my younger days as well to work towards the betterment of villages. I remember one of Gandhi Ji’s saying that in order to make a better nation, one must start from making the villages better and hence I set up this village. In the past 13 years, approximately 12 lakh people have come into this village, 5 people did PAD (FIND full form) of this village and currently, 2 people are also doing PAD (FIND full form).
I served various places across India when I was in the army from the year 1963 to 1975 in the Indian Army.
It’s been 45 years since I went back home. I have my farm, my home, and my brother but I have missed out on many things like I didn’t even know the names of my nephews and nieces. I was affiliated with Padma Bhushan and Padmashree awards and many international awards from countries like America, North Korea, Canada etc.
I also got a lot of money but I made a trust out of that. I live in a temple, have only one bed to sleep in and one plate to have food in and that’s about it and I’m extremely happy and satisfied with what I have right now and I don’t think that people with so much wealth feel even half of the satisfaction of what I feel.
All these rich and wealthy people are just chasing to achieve so-called satisfaction in their lives and the irony is such that they have to take medications to even fall asleep at night. One can only feel satisfied in service and by serving the people.
During the 2014 elections, it is alleged that the current ruling government took advantage and only supported you in your movements, as it had spread drastically so that they could come into power and reach masses through the movement.
I was never manipulated by these rumors spread by media and neither have I ever come in front of the cameras because I believe if I ever come before a camera then I would get distracted and will not be able to work towards my goals.
But sometimes when it was anything about the people, society, or the nation then I have given a fair share of my opinions and ideas about it happily and willingly. But I don’t like to get involved or give my opinions about anything apart from these topics, I did make it clear to the media and that’s the reason why none of the media come and asks for my opinions.
During the first Andolan in the year at the Ramleela Maidan, there were a lot of media personnel present, approximately around 75 to 80. As the first Andolan did not result in any actions from the government, I again sat for Andolan at Ramleela maidan but this time there was hardly any media present.
But I did not care about it as my only focus was to get my voice heard and put pressure on the government to pass the Lokpal Bill and I succeeded. I traveled to many cities and villages to spread awareness myself.
I have never let anybody take advantage of my work and services which I render. I am only focused on serving. The people who walk the paths of truth face difficulties and criticism on their way but truth can never be defeated.
One must take care of 5 essential things, especially the youth, to have a clear perspective, have good thoughts, committing no offense in life, having the ability to sacrifice in life, and lastly to have the ability to deal with insults and not getting affected by it.
Our country has taught us to sacrifice for the good. One should never react to any insult by words but rather one’s actions. If youth start incorporating these 5 things into their personalities then they can bring changes and become even bigger influencers than Anna Hazare itself.
The current government has been recently elected for a second term now and at times has been imposing laws forcefully upon the public. People have opinions that the government has been acting as an autocracy rather than a democracy. What are your opinions on this?
India is a democracy and a government can only last as long as the public trusts the government. Nobody can hinder the acts of the government until the people of the nation have their faiths in the government. So it is essential for a government, in order to rule effectively, to gain the trusts of the public.
For instance, the current government, in order to act and use their powers will have to listen to the public and act accordingly. No authority can impose anything on the public in a democracy as the people are the supreme power.