Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 16:
Well-known RTI activist and convener of the Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan Pradip Pradhan today dashed off an open letter addressed to senior AAP leader and psephologist Yogendra Yadav asking him to explain why AAP and more specifically its Odisha unit has kept mum over the toothless Odisha Lokayukta Bill which was passed without any public consultation,
The letter is being reproduced below, word by word.
“Respected Jogendra Yadavjee
“Yesterday night I received a message from APP Odisha Chapter with an appeal “ to come to streets and organise local March in your local area now to protest BJP & Congress plan against Jan Lokpal in Delhi”. It meant that the people of Odisha would come out to voice their protest against the conspiracy of BJP and Congress to stall the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Legislative Assembly of Delhi.
“But, as you might know, for last two days , Odisha Legislative Assembly debated and discussed Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014 and passed it on 14.2.14. Tabled by the ruling BJD, the toothless Bill was passed unanimously thanks to the unholy complicity of the MLAs belonging to Congress and BJP.
“It needs to be mentioned here that though various civil society groups and social activists allied under the banner of Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan had urged the Government of Odisha for holding a public consultation on the proposed Odisha Lokayukta Bill before its tabling in the Assembly, the BJD-led Govt. simply avoided this democratic route and rushed it through in a hot haste so as to get it passed in the Assembly under any circumstances ignoring the concerns of civil society groups.
“As is well known by now the Bill so passed suffers from a grave anomaly, which would render the Lokayukta absolutely toothless against any complaint of corruption lodged against the politicians or bureaucrats close to the ruling party. Because, the Lokayukta Bill has left untouched the Directorate of Vigilance, the chief investigating agency of the State, which remains to this day under the absolute control of the State Government in respect of posting, transfer and appointment of personnel and even day-to-day functioning.
“It was urged by the civil society groups that in line with the provisions made in the Central Lokpal Act for freeing the CBI from the clutches of Government the State Lokayukta law should provide for making the Directorate of Vigilance a truly independent and autonomous body in respect of its day-to-day administration, and accountable only to Lokayukta as its monitoring and reporting authority in respect of overall functioning.
“It was specifically suggested by the civil society groups that in order to meet the said goal of a truly transformed Vigilance, the Director of State Vigilance ought to be appointed by a 3-member Selection Committee comprising Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of High Court, just as the Director of CBI is now required to be appointed by a 3 Member Selection Committee comprising Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of Supreme Court as per the Central Lokpal Act 2013.
“Secondly, the Director Vigilance so appointed, would appoint other officers and employees from the panel of suitable names sent by the Government. This suggestion is also in line with the provisions made in the Central Lokpal Act. Now that the freshly enacted Odisha Bill has allowed the Directorate of Vigilance to remain a subservient tool of the State Government as before, there is no guarantee that it would act impartially to fix a Minister, MLA or bureaucrat close to the ruling class while inquiring or investigating into any charge of corruption leveled against them even if such cases of corruption might have been referred to the Vigilance by the Lokayukta itself for the purpose of inquiry or investigation.
“As you might know, the recently released Interim Report of Shah Commission inquiring into the mining scams of Odisha has opined that the Directorate of Vigilance is incapable of conducting any impartial probe into any case of corruption against the politicians and bureaucrats enjoying the good book of the ruling power.
“Thus, there is a widespread disappointment among the civil society activists across the State due to the fact that despite their concerted advocacy for transforming the subservient Vigilance wing of the State into an independent and autonomous agency, the freshly passed Odisha Lokayukta Bill has left it as it had remained over decades since its inception in 1944.
“Ironically on 13.2.14, when you were addressing an AAP Rally at Lower PMG Square, Bhubaneswar, just a few meters away from the State Assembly, the members of that house were debating the Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014.
“But, surprisingly you did not utter any single word on the Odisha Lokayukta Bill, let alone its serious loopholes.
“May be, the local leaders of your party have not updated you in this matter. Or maybe, the local leadership of your party are not either aware or concerned about the said Bill. Be that as it may, several pro-AAP persons like me who attended and heard your speech on that day were taken aback at the missing of any reference to Odisha Lokayukta Bill from your speech, especially in view of the fact that while your party could stake the Government and chief ministership in Delhi for the sake of Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, you or your party here in Odisha are not at all bothered about the Odisha Lokayukta Bill.
“Moreover, let me frankly state before you that while we invited the AAP volunteers of Odisha to be involved in the series of consultations and dharana demanding a public debate on the Odisha Lokayukta Bill, they not only remained aloof but also refrained from voicing any concern about it in any media or meeting.
“From this persistent indifference of AAP people it transpired that the local outfit of AAP was afraid of exposing and fighting corruption in Odisha no matter how much vociferous the national leadership of AAP might be on the issue corruption in general and that of Jan Lokpal Bill across the country in particular.
“However, the same persons of AAP Odisha who turned deaf ears to the Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan are now found appealing to us to join hands with them to protest against the BJP and Congress for blocking the passage of Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi.
“What a great irony, indeed!
“Looking forward to a response,
On behalf of Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan, Bhubaneswar