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Lokpal must empower people, says activist

Shillong, Nov. 15: Social activist Nikhil Dey today said the Lokpal bill should empower the people.

Dey, who is also a right to information (RTI) activist and a prominent member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), said Anna Hazare’s version of the Jan Lokpal bill was tilted towards creating a powerful police agency. But the other RTI activists are opposed to the idea, he said.

“The Jan Lokpal formulation itself is a powerful police agency, and we have a problem with that,” he said on the sidelines of an interactive session with college students here called The Power of Inspiration.

“We come from an RTI background, and we want to empower the people and not some powerful agencies like the police. There should be checks and balances on the distribution of power and there should be a democratic empowerment of the people instead,” Dey added.

He also said, “The NCPRI will continue its fight for a stronger anti-graft legislation across the country and the government should not be put off the hook.”

Dey said from November 26 to 30, the NCPRI and 40 other groups would organise a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, ahead of the winter session of Parliament, to press for the passage of important bills. The bills include those relating to the Lokpal — judicial accountability and protection of whistleblowers.

The RTI activist also said some portions of the 12-point Shillong Declaration, which was adopted here in March 2011 during the 3rd National RTI Convention, will be discussed at the Jantar Mantar demonstration later this month. “Some of the points from the declaration will also form part of the people’s manifesto in the countdown to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” he added. He said the next RTI convention would be held in January next year.

Among others, the declaration had asked for an anti-corruption commission or a body like the Lokpal to ensure that information accessed through RTI is acted upon and that the guilty is held accountable.

The declaration also sought that public private partnerships, private sectors, political parties, trade unions, NGOs, co-operative societies and others come under the ambit of the RTI Act.

It had demanded that the Centre should set up a National RTI Council (in line with the Central Employment Guarantee Council), where members from the public should be included so that the problems faced in implementing the RTI Act can be regularly monitored.