The Government on Lokpal: Giving Precedence to Form over Substance

A few observations I made over the past few days, since Anna Hazare went on a fast for a strong anti-corruption law.

That the government’s recent responses to Team Anna and the public demand for a strong anti-corruption law seems to be like that of someone asking a dying man to fill a form at the hospital.

That someone needs to ask the government, similar to the way Munnabhai asked Dr Asthana in the movie “Woh casualty ke bahar aadmi mar raha hota hai, to usko form bharna zaroori hai kya?”

That the government still does not get it that it must give precedence to substance over form, intent over procedure, at least for something as important as setting up a strong Lokpal.

That saying that ‘the Delhi Police is following procedures to maintain order’ and ‘Parliament should be allowed to make laws’ look like giving more priority to procedure over intent.

And responses like ‘present your views to the standing committee for consideration’, or ‘a private member bill cannot be introduced when there is already a government bill introduced’, or ‘the legislative procedure will not allow the bill to be passed in this session of parliament’ – all of these are akin to asking people who are already desperate for change and action – ‘to fill forms’.

Like the government is looking more and more like Dr Asthana from the movie, bashing its head over how to handle the non-violent rebellion from a group of  ‘common citizens’ who have garnered the support of thousands more.

That the government still does not understand that decent, law-abiding, normal citizens of society generally do not join protests spontaneously on roads. That despite fully knowing that it is not the ‘proper’ thing to do, there must a strong reason for their doing so, which the government needs to fix.

That it is a clear problem of giving precedence to form rather than substance, and procedure rather than intent.

And that the more the government focuses on procedure, the more its intent will be doubted.

That this is not the time to think about vote banks, urban versus rural, communal versus secular for the government. The people who are fasting, joining the protests and supporting the movement do not seem to be thinking about it.

That while some people may think Anna’s procedure is not right, most people are not questioning his intent.

That while some people may think the government’s procedure is right, most people are questioning their intent. Which is not good news.

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