Meet Anna Hazare – inspiring anti-corruption crusader whose actions prove one man can make a difference

annaDuring my decade and a half creating and then directing Moneyweb, I encountered three cases of corruption. Sadly, none of the perpetrators landed up with anything more serious than a scare. First there was a former newspaper editor who stole funds by diverting income from our Canadian partner Infomine into his Mauritius bank account (his defence was I said he could…). Despite my opposition, our directorate said if he repaid the money no criminal charges would be laid. The second one was the long-serving financial director who, during my semi-sabbatical in the Midlands, created fictitious invoices to divert over R2m of the company’s money into his own account. This time I insisted we throw the book at him.  But last I read he will avoid charges because of promising to repay the funds.  Third case was the worst, not least because it involved a former US Ambassador who was chairman of our 50% subsidiary, Editors Inc. He bribed the in-flight procurement officer of SAA. Two thirds of the funds paid by the the national airline went into the bank account of the crooked SAA guy’s wife. An open and shut case. Or so you would think. SAA closed the file after the perp resigned and the Editors Inc chairman high-tailed it home to the US. And the charge I laid at the Parkview Police Station has presumably found its way into file 13.  Have heard nothing from the Boys in Blue. Enough to make you give up. And then you discover Kishan Baburao “Anna” Hazare.  The 76 year old Indian man who proves an individual can make a difference. Google him and be inspired. Today the elderly activist won his long-running battle with India’s ruling political party. Here’s the Associated Press story. – AH 

By Nirmala George, New Delhi

India’s Parliament approved a landmark anti-graft bill on Wednesday that empowers an independent ombudsman to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption by politicians and civil servants.

The “Lokpal,” or watchdog, bill was passed by the lower house of Parliament after the government agreed to several amendments suggested by opposition lawmakers. The bill cleared the upper house on Tuesday after fierce debate.

The bill was spurred by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who ended a nine-day hunger strike after its approval Wednesday.

The bill cleared Parliament with the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party joining hands, a rare case in which the bitter political rivals worked together.

The bill had been on hold since 2011, when it was approved by the lower house, but not the upper house. In the interim, several amendments were added, making it necessary for both houses to approve it again.

It will become law after being signed by the president, which is considered a formality.

The legislation says the country’s top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, must act on all cases referred to it by the ombudsman.

The ombudsman will have the authority to probe complaints of corruption against the prime minister, current and former members of Parliament, civil servants and employees of corporations and commissions funded by the government.

With investigations into corruption scandals often dragging on for decades in India, the bill stipulates that an initial probe into a complaint must be completed within 60 days, and the entire investigation within six months.

The Congress party was eager to have the bill passed by Parliament after a debacle in recent state elections, including the capital. With national elections due to be held in early 2014, the party was hoping to silence criticism of the government’s delays in getting the legislation through Parliament.

In recent months, the government has been hit by a slew of corruption scandals, adding to public anger over its inability to push through much-needed economic reforms to revive a slowing economy.

* Nirmala George is a reporter with SAPA/AP


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