While social activist Anna Hazare's high-profile fast has made the lokpal bill debate appear a direct confrontation between the government and civil society, several voices have begun to question Hazare's insistence that the government table their version of the jan lokpal bill in Parliament.
Shekhar Singh of National Campaign for People's Right to Information, who was instrumental in drafting the RTI Act, told HT: "Non-violent protest does not mean that their demand becomes legitimate and others' illegitimate. Holding the nation to ransom is not how the civil society works."
Mihir Shah, who has spearheaded protests for more than 20 years and is now a Planning Commission member, is shocked at the demand that only Team Anna's Jan Lokpal Bill be accepted. "What will happen if the government accepts Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill and Aruna Roy goes on an indefinite fast demanding that their version be accepted?" he asked.
"Sitting in Ramlila Maidan will not end corruption. Go and push your debate before the Parliamentary Standing Committee," Shah added.
"We all will join Anna in protest if the standing committee fails to come up with a strong anti-corruption mechanism," said National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy.
While holding that Hazare's supporters have the right to protest peacefully, NCPRI co-convenor Nikhil Dey told HT that he saw serious problems in Team Anna's jan lokpal bill.
"The lokpal's ambit is too huge. It seeks to cover everything. Due to this, it is unlikely it will be able to do its job," Dey said. "It is formulated on the premise that there is corruption in powerful positions. But if you create a powerful body, can't it get more corrupt? A single body with oversight over the executive, Parliament and judiciary could be a recipe for fascism, as it goes against checks and balances."
Nandan Nilekani, chairperson, Unique Identification Authority of India, also disagrees with the ongoing protest. "I don't think it (the agitation) is justified… When this law is in front of the appropriate standing committee, why do we need an agitation? …Let us give them the opportunity to call experts for and against and let them come out with something. They are the appropriate people, they are our representatives," Nilekani told a TV channel.