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Amar Singh: Abetted bribery and criminal conspiracy. Paid Rs 1 cr to three BJP MPs, with Rs 8 cr more to be paid later
Sudheendra Kulkarni: Brain behind bid to entrap Congress and SP leaders
Suhail Hindustani: Accepted and attempted to accept bribe
Sanjeev Saxena: Delivered Singh’s money to BJP MPs
F S Kulaste & Mahavir Bhagora: Accepted bribe from Amar Singh
Along with former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, the Delhi police have also made out against his ex-aide Sanjeev Saxena and a gems trader, Suhail Hindustani, in the cash-for-votes scam. The investigation has turned the case from alleged bribe-giving to entrapment. The police are awaiting the Lok Sabha Speaker’s permission to file the chargesheet against a third BJP MP, Ashok Argal. The three BJP MPs had alleged that money was offered to them to vote in favour of the July 22, 2008 confidence vote, which had been prompted by Left parties withdrawing support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. The chargesheet calls Kulkarni the ‘mastermind’ of the operation and Hindustani the ‘initiator’. However, Congress leaders named by the accused, SP MP Reoti Raman Singh and CNN-IBN correspondents have got a clean chit. For evidence against Singh and the others, the police have relied upon the statements of 53 witnesses, including journalists of CNN-IBN, the channel’s audio and video recordings, call details of the accused and circumstantial evidence. The chargesheet said, “Suhail and Sudheendra Kulkarni’s solicitation succeeded with Amar Singh agreeing to pay Rs 3 crore to each BJP MP for abstaining from voting on the motion of confidence,” it said. The chargesheet is silent on whether the motive to provide the cash was linked to the trust vote. It accuses Singh of hatching the conspiracy. “Saxena, along with another person in a yellow shirt, delivered Rs 1 crore at 11am on July 22, 2008, at Ashok Argal’s residence at 4, Feroze Shah Road to three BJP MPs as advance out of total deal of Rs 9 crore for abstaining from voting,” the chargesheet said. Singh has been chargesheeted for abetting bribery under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal conspiracy. The circumstantial evidence against Singh includes his order to Saxena to go to Argal’s residence in a white Gypsy; phone details showing Saxena calling Singh from his mobile and facilitation of talks with the three MPs. Hashmat Ali, a driver, confirmed the meeting between Singh and the three MPs. The police also produced a letter written by Singh to the principal of Dayal Singh College in 2008 seeking admission for Saxena’s son to show their proximity. On Saxena, the chargesheet said, “He delivered the money to three BJP MPs.” The two BJP MPs have been charged under section 7 (13) of POC Act (accepting the bribe money) along with criminal conspiracy.
After being reviled for its self-serving ways and incorrigible politicking, the political class delivered when it mattered. Displaying an unerring big-day temperament, political parties surpassed themselves as Parliament gave Anna Hazare a massive victory. Sensing the public mood, political egos were largely in check. MPs drove home the humbling knowledge that politicians were lagging their constituents. The leaders had become the led. Some leaders hit back at civil society, warning that calling politicians names could draw retaliatory action. Others blamed 24/7 media focus for nurturing the stir. But most were quick to accept that public anger was real and needed to be seen as genuine disgust at corruption. Congress and BJP leaders, who usually do not pass up a chance to have a go at each other, seriously addressed the question of accountability in public life. In the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said Anna Hazare’s campaign had outlined relevant demands and reminded the House that democracy could not be so lethargic as not to pass the Lokpal bill 42 years after it was first proposed. The CPM’s Sitaram Yechury pointed to the need to match intent with practicability. The Congress’s Sandeep Dikshit spoke of the urgent need to end Anna’s fast. “We are all getting calls from our constituents asking why are we not talking about this,” said BJP’s Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi. Even JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s caustic reference to Kiran Bedi’s antics and a description of how relentless media pressure was depriving leaders of sleep, carried more than a degree of self-deprecation. Politicians, he suggested, had asked for it. For a discussion that revolved around deeply contentious matters impacting India’s federal structure, there were not many interruptions or cat calls in Parliament. Even regular disrupters like the Congress’s Lal Singh seemed taken in by the gravity of the occasion. MPs did not slip into unnecessary hyperbole and stuck to the substance of what was at hand. For a class than has been under fire they did not fling the muck back.
The Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) on Saturday described activist Anna Hazare’s resolve to continue his fast till Parliament passed his version of the Lokpal bill as “dangerous’’ and “undemocratic”. Affirming faith in the parliamentary process, NCPRI members said that while the government draft left much to be desired, significant changes could be made in the pending anti-graft legislation. Arguing that Anna Hazare should not deride democratic institutions, NAC member Aruna Roy said the Gandhian was “ill-advise” adding, “We must assert our rights. But to get rid of these institutions would be a great disaster for all the people in this country. We must make these democratic institutions work for us and they must work for us.’’ Roy said that NCPRI would take their version of the Lokpal bill and the accompanying basket of measures to the Standing Committee and the Hazare group should do the same. In an apparent reference to Hazare setting a deadline to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, she said, “I think Annaji is ill-advised...anyone who says my view should be the only view is wrong.” Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah said that the deadline on Parliament was “dictatorial and undemocratic”. He added, “What will happen to this country if every group starts insisting on passing their own laws? It a most unreasonable demand and I have serious doubts that they understand the implications of their demand.’’ Another NAC member Harsh Mander said that it was the right of all people to be heard and no one could claim to represent all people.
With the world understandably fixated on the Arab Spring, India's own season of discontent has gone largely unnoticed. The globe's largest democracy, India lacks a dictator to topple. But its activists are bringing about regime change anyway. More than six decades after the British departed, India is shedding the last vestiges of the colonial state.
Over the next few months – especially during the "monsoon session" of Parliament that begins Aug. 1 – India will witness major milestones in replacing archaic governance structures with something the British Raj promised but rarely delivered: the rule of law.
For sheer drama, the Arab Spring is a hard act to follow. But as an indicator of democracy's long-term prospects in the developing world, the coming Indian Summer will be every bit as profound.
Two momentous changes to Indian governance are under way, driven by powerful social movements. The more visible of the two seeks to end the impunity with which India's current rulers, like their imperial predecessors, plunder the nation's wealth. Independent India inherited powerful institutions and a Victorian governance culture that places senior officials above the law. The prime minister enjoys de facto control over government investigative agencies.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is drafting legislation to create an independent vigilance body called a "Jan Lokpal," or "people's guardian" – a superombudsman with the authority to investigate and prosecute officials suspected of abusing their public positions for private gain. It would effectively abolish the executive branch's viceregal prerogative.
Hunger strikes and protests
A hunger strike in April by a neo-Gandhian anti-corruption campaigner, Mr.Anna Hazare, forced the government to include representatives from civil society on the bill's drafting committee. This is all taking place amid public outrage over a multi-billion-dollar telecom-licensing scandal. Details have been captured on audio recordings that reveal extensive collusion among lobbyists, politicians, and name-brand journalists.
The activists and politicians drafting the ombudsman bill disagree on several issues, notably whether the prime minister and senior judges should be under the new institution's jurisdiction.
Many voices have emerged to complain about involving "extraconstitutional" actors in the law-drafting process. But involving civic leaders is hardly antidemocratic. It can be a useful counterweight to the influence of corporate lobbyists, who participate intensively in the drafting of much legislation. Others fear creating an institution that can subvert democracy by allowing the electorate's verdict to be overturned by an overzealous people's tribune. Yet, countries such as New Zealand have managed to create powerful, independent oversight institutions without disenfranchising citizens.
A summer of mass protest is planned if the Jan Lokpal ombudsman bill is not to the activists' liking – which the initial draft almost certainly won't be. A hugely popular television yoga guru known as Baba Ramdev, whose rally against corruption was broken up by police in June, has promised another fast unto death if action is not taken to plug loopholes. Expect India's independence day – Aug. 15 – to be marked by civil disobedience.
The second element of regime change is even more explicitly targeted at colonial-era governance. For the first time in independent India, a government is serious about replacing the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, which allows the state to dispossess landowners for almost any "public purpose."
The act's few landowner protections are easily trumped by countervailing emergency provisions. Compensation for landowners is pitiful. The key official who engineers these transactions – the district collector – is an imperial relic of vast authority whose extractive function is unsubtly encoded in his job title.
Activists have long demanded reforms to the Land Acquisition Act. A protracted campaign against the World Bank-funded Narmada Dam in the 1980s and '90s highlighted the callousness with which the Indian state uproots entire communities in the name of development.
The current effort to replace (rather than just tidy up) the act has been set off by popular revulsion at the more recent state practice of gifting forcibly acquired land to corporations, both foreign and domestic, to establish export enclaves known as "special economic zones." Nearly 600 such zones, which often feature luxury housing and other high-end amenities, are in various stages of completion across India. Their alleged economic benefits are widely regarded as an insufficiently "public purpose" to justify such blatant land-grabbing.
The state's forcible acquisition of land for private industry has sparked protests across India. The brutality of the state government in West Bengal – more than 30 people died in clashes between protesters and police in 2007 – contributed to this May's defeat of the Communist-led government that had ruled the state since 1977. A violent standoff is taking place in neighboring Orissa State, where land has been acquired by the government on behalf of a South Korean steel conglomerate.A detailed proposal to overhaul the Land Acquisition Act has been issued by the National Advisory Council, a government think tank chaired by Sonia Gandhi. Widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, she is president of the ruling party and the current prime minister's de facto boss. The proposed legislation would vastly increase compensation to landowners and for the first time provide statutory relief to nonlandowners whose livelihoods are nevertheless adversely affected. It would also impose a higher public-purpose standard for compulsory land acquisition and set community-resettlement norms.
Momentum behind the activists
The fate of these two regime-changing reforms is uncertain, but more promising than cynics might imagine. The prime movers of both the Jan Lokpal ombudsman and land acquisition bills are the same activists who in 2005 drove passage of India's Right to Information Act, which superseded the Official Secrets Act of 1923.
Activists have had to prod the various branches of government to dismantle the colonial state. In 2009, in response to public-interest litigation, the Supreme Court struck down anti-gay-rights provisions of the Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860. In 2001, Parliament amended the Indian Divorce Act of 1869 to grant Christian women – each major religion operates under its own "personal law" – the same divorce rights as men.
To advance the agenda of accountable, rights-based governance, several key activists have embedded themselves within the state through appointments to official oversight and policy-guidance bodies. This core of dedicated reformers has pioneered a new model for channeling people's perspectives directly to the heart of policymaking.
India's vibrant social movements have seized on the dissonance between modern expectations of freedom and the provisions of colonial laws to advance the seemingly never-ending process of making subjects into citizens. Indians are consolidating democracy, making it durable by making it their own – a feat that people in the Middle East will soon realize is even trickier than unseating autocrats.
Rob Jenkins, professor of political science at Hunter College and associate director at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, City University of New York, is researching how politics influences the realization of rights in India.
India wants to add 25 million students to its higher education space and needs 800 more universities by 2020. It has about 530 today. The Union government has admitted this may not be possible without private participation.
Only 13% of the students who pass the Senior Secondary Certificate (SSC) examination in Maharashtra are able to enrol for higher education, the state's higher and technical education minister Rajesh Tope said.
A committee of educational experts, headed by the secretary of higher education, will approve proposals for setting up private universities, under a law passed by the state legislature last week. The law makes it compulsory for private universities to have a campus of at least 4 hectares (ha) in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR); 10 ha in divisional headquarters such as Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad; 20ha in district headquarters; and 40ha in rural areas.
Universities in MMR must have a minimum endowment fund of `10 crore, while those located outside MMR must have a `5 crore fund.
Private universities are not required to have reservations for scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other backward class students, but the law asks them to have an affirmative action programme.
RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani, during the company's annual general meeting on 18 June, 2010, announced plans to set up a university through the Reliance Foundation.
“We are looking at Maharashtra and Gujarat for opening the first campus of the university, but nothing has been finalized yet,“ said a senior company executive, asking not to be identified.