Hyderabad: A Round Table of eminent Andhra Pradesh citizens today unanimously recommended that the Union Government provide for constitution of Lokayuktas in States and ombudsmen in districts as part of the Lokpal Bill.
The Round Table, conducted by the Foundation for Democratic Reforms and the Lok Satta organization, constituted a nine-member steering committee to present the citizens’ viewpoint to the parliamentary committee which will consider the Bill as also all political parties.
Briefing media, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that the Lokpal Bill as it is conceived ignored corruption at the State and local levels. States today account for bulk of corruption in the wake of economic liberalization and devolution of powers. There are indeed Lokayuktas in some States. They have only cars, phones and peons to flaunt but have no powers to fight corruption.
Dr. JP said that the Union Government’s Lokpal Bill drew upon a number of recommendations of the Round Table conducted by the FDR and the Lok Satta in Delhi on April 24. Its provisions concerning appointment and removal of Lokpal, funding of the institution, its powers to investigate, prosecute and try cases of corruption and suspend the guilty are all commendable. The Round Table wanted the Union Government to provide for constitution of Lokayuktas in States on similar lines and with similar powers.
The Round Table felt that the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Vigilance Commission at the national level and anti corruption bureaus and vigilance commissions in States should be strengthened and brought under the protective umbrella of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas respectively. The participants felt that Chief Ministers should be brought under the purview of the anti corruption mechanisms although they differed on including the Prime Minister.
Dr. JP pointed out that the Union Government can adopt the anti corruption law applicable to the entire country since it has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. If the Union Government fails to provide for creation of Lokayuktas as part of the Lokpal Bill the Round Table decided to wage a struggle for creation of a strong Lokayukta in Andhra Pradesh to begin with by mobilizing public opinion.
A number of participants warned against diluting the Lokpal conceived to fight corruption in high places by entrusting it with powers to go into allegations of corruption against tens of thousands of non-governmental organizations receiving funds either from Government or people. NGOs, they conceded, are accountable for the funds they receive. Instead of burdening the Lokpal with inquiries into them, a separate regulator can be thought of, they added.
Dr. JP told the Round Table earlier that a strong and independent Lokpal is the need of the hour but it is not sufficient. Corruption has to be combated on many fronts. Political reforms, decentralization of powers, and promotion of competition will go a long way in minimizing corruption.
The Steering Committee comprises: Justice Ramanujam, former Lokayukta, K. Madhava Rao, former State Election Commissioner, Padmanabhaiah, former Union Home Secretary, C. Anjaneya Reddy, retired IPS, T. L. Narasimha Rao, Chelikani V. Rao, Padmanabha Reddy, Prathap Reddy and Y. Ramadevi,
Apart from the Steering Committee members, the following were among those who took part in the discussion: P. S. Ramamohana Rao, former Karnataka Governor, Kamal Kumar, former Director, National Police Academy, K. Ramachandra Murthy, Editor, HMTV. Radhrakrishna, Editor, ABN Andhra Jyoti, Amirneni Harikrishna of ETV, Kominneni Srinivasa Rao, Editor, NTV, Kandula Ramesh, Editor, I News, Sai, Principal Editor, Gemini News, K. Srinivasa Rao, Editor, Andhra Jyoti, Vijayababu, Editor , Andhra Prabha, Nagesh Kumar, Resident Editor, The Hindu, Bhaskara Rao of Center for Media Studies, T. Hanuman Chowdary, Ramakrishnam Raju, P. M. Bhargava, former Director, CCMB, and Chukka Ramaiah, MLC.