LOKPAL: Case for an inclusive approach by Maj Navdeep Singh
The Lokpal Bill, expected to be placed before the Rajya Sabha in the next session, has kicked up a debate over the exclusion of the Armed Forces from its purview. Barring operational and intelligence matters, being under the Lokpal would be beneficial and not detrimental for the services as it could well prove that the levels of corruption in the defence services are lower than in other departments. All references in the final Act to Group-A officers should also apply to Commissioned Officers, while those to Group-B and Group-C staff should be applicable to Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks respectively.
The reaction amongst the military community was apparently euphoric when it came to light that the Parliament had agreed on keeping the Armed Forces out of the purview of the Lokpal.
Why the elation, one may ask? The exclusion only leads to the solidification of the 'holy cow' image and a message is sent out that the Armed Forces do not want the cloak of secrecy to be removed since there could be skeletons to hide, which in fact, is not the case at all. Being one of the cleanest institutions, the Armed Forces must set an example and welcome probity of any kind rather than revelling in the bloated myth of being 'different'.
National security and operational aspects have become the much flogged reasons for circumventing transparency not only in the defence services but elsewhere too. The gullible public, including lawmakers, buy it in the name of patriotism. But real patriotism would only be displayed when the uniformed forces go all out to embrace the concept of Lokpal in line with the national effort.
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