Posts Tagged ‘Non-governmental organization

It is a long journey ahead: Kejriwal

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‘We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens.’

Arvind Kejriwal received the Magsaysay award in the Emergent leadership category in 2006. A mere five years later, he has far surpassed that milestone, winning acclaim and notice for the way he conceived and crafted Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement. He talks to Vidya Subrahmaniamabout the Jan Lokpal campaign, what it accomplished and why it often became controversial.

The scale and spread of the Anna movement have baffled many. How did this happen?

A movement cannot be created out of nothing. In this case, anger against corruption was at the point of eruption. Then two things happened. One, instead of merely echoing the anger, the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) offered a solution. Second, Anna emerged as a credible leader at a time of huge leadership crisis in politics. See, people did not understand the details of the JBL. They simply saw it as a “dawai” [medicine] for corruption. It is the combination of a solution and a figure like Anna — who lived in a temple with no assets — that clicked.

When we conducted referendums on the JLB, we used to try and explain its contents to people. But they said they did not want to understand the details. They just wanted to put a mohar [stamp] on Anna.

How did you communicate your message to such a large number of people?

Technology played a key role in this. When in January this year, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Shivendra suggested to us that we use Facebook to publicise our rallies, I dismissed it saying Facebook has a limited, urban following. But Shivendra went ahead. We had planned a single rally on January 30 at the Ramlila Maidan. But because we connected on Facebook, we were able to conduct simultaneous rallies in 64 cities. SMS texting also played a critical role. Our SMS communication was designed very intelligently. A company in Mumbai suggested we ask for missed calls as a mark of solidarity. Missed calls cost nothing. In March, we sent out two crore SMS messages and got 50,000 missed calls. Then we targeted the 50,000 callers, asking if they would like to enrol as volunteers for IAC. Initially 13 people responded. We sent two more rounds of messages to the 50,000 callers. And in just one week, the number of volunteers swelled to 800.

Surely television played a disproportionate role in projecting the movement.

TV certainly helped, both when Anna sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar and then at Ramlila Maidan. But the media cannot create a moment. They can at best magnify it. The crowds at Ramlila and the crowds that followed him when he left for Medanta hospital were not manufactured.

There have been reports of dissensions within the Anna camp. Also that the deadlock was broken only because Congress/government negotiators spoke directly to Anna.

Anna appointed Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and me to negotiate with the government. One day I was very tired and Kiran was also not around. So, Medha and Prashant went for the meeting. The next thing we hear [from the media] is that Kiran and I have been sidelined, that we are hardliners, and we are deliberately preventing Anna from breaking his fast. This was disinformation by the government.

You started with the maximalist position of “Jan Lokpal Bill by August 30 and any amendments only with Anna’s permission.” From that to accepting a “sense-of-the-house” resolution that was not voted upon — wasn’t it a climbdown?

When we started on August 16, there was such an overwhelming response that we thought the government would agree to our demands. People wanted the JLB. After a few days we realised that there was a serious leadership crisis in the government — negotiators were constantly backing off. In the last three days of the fast, it happened four times. The Prime Minister made a conciliatory statement, Rahul Gandhi went off on a tangent. Salman Khurshid, Medha and Prashant sat together and drafted a resolution. Next day [August 27], at 1.30 p.m., Salman said no resolution. It became clear to us that what we wanted — Parliament voting on a resolution containing Anna’s three demands — was not going to happen. Therefore we had to change our strategy.

Are you satisfied with the resolution that was adopted? It is not categorical and leaves escape clauses.

We are satisfied because it contains Anna’s three demands. It will not be easy for the Standing Committee to renege on Parliament’s commitment. We will be keenly watching the Committee’s proceedings and the MPs also ought to know that they are on watch. I know, of course, that it is a long journey ahead.

Kiran Bedi told a TV channel that at one point when all seemed lost, a miracle happened: L.K. Advani called her and gave her his word that a solution will be reached by the following evening [August 27]. She also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which until then was ambiguous on the JLB, changed its stand and offered full support to Anna.

We met the leaders of the main political parties thrice and as part of this we also met Mr. Advani. However, we have been clear that no BJP leader or leader of any communal organisation will share the stage with us. This is the decision of our core committee. As for Kiran talking about Mr. Advani, please put that question to her.

So are you an apolitical movement?

No, we are political but we are concerned with people’s politics. The movement will always remain outside of political parties and outside of electoral politics.

You will not float a political party?

No, never. We don’t need to get into the system to fight it. We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens. Everyone who has a dream need not get into politics.

Doubts have been raised about the credentials of those who have donated money to IAC. Sometime ago, a citizens’ group from Hyderabad wrote to you saying it was shocked to see some very discredited names in your list of donors.

A number of people have contributed money to the Anna movement. There is complete transparency from our side. Our receipts and expenditure are transparent. But we have no mechanism to go into the antecedents of our donors. And donations are streaming in, making it impossible to keep track. If there is a glaring case, we will certainly investigate it. I know, for instance, that there has been talk of the Jindal group. But those who donated to IAC are from Sitaram Jindal, not the Jindal mining group.

Your entire fight is about transparency and accountability. One of your NGOs, Public Cause Research Foundation, received donations on behalf of IAC and issued receipts in its name. But until August 29, there was no mention of Anna or the donations on the PCRF website.

That is an oversight. We will immediately update the website and provide a link to IAC.

Another of your NGOs, Kabir, received grants from the Ford Foundation (FF). According to the FF, Kabir received $172,000 in 2005 and $197,000 in 2008. The FF also sanctioned an “in-principle” grant of $200,000 for 2011, which you have not accepted so far. Why does Kabir not mention the FF and these specific details on its website?

We did not give the specific details because we also got some other NRI contributions and these were clubbed together. I will make sure that the website gives the break-up.

Fears have been expressed about the form of mobilisation we saw over the last four months. There was anger and impatience and, some would say, coercion in your methods. During the Ram Rath yatra, too, the BJP said people were angry because the mandir had not been built for 40 years. Aren’t you setting a worrying precedent?

The two situations are not comparable. One was communal and divisive and went against the grain of the Constitution. We are not asking for anything illegal. Our demands resonate with the people and our movement has been unifying, non-violent and entirely within rights given by the Constitution. What is wrong if people demand a strong law against corruption? What is wrong if they ask for the Jan Lokpal Bill?

Why did you ask for Parliamentary due process to be suspended? You didn’t want the JLB to go to the Standing Committee.

The JLB was drafted after wide consultations; it underwent many revisions based on feedback. Where is this kind of discussion in the drafting of anysarkari Bill? The purpose of the Standing Committee is to take multiple views on board. But not all Bills reach the Standing Committee, and in 90 per cent of the cases, the government does not accept the Committee’s recommendations. So why the fuss only for JLB which has been widely discussed and debated?



Now a PIL for election during winter only

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An interesting public interest litigation has been filed before the Supreme Court of Indiaseeking a direction to hold elections only in cooler months to attract higher voter participation in the election process.The petition filed by an NGO, Save Aam Aadmi, has claimed that the average votingduring winter is comparatively higher than the average voting during warmer season.”India is one of the poorest nations of the globe and it is criminal to waste monetary resources when it can be best avoided,” the petition said. “Large number of government staff does not report for poll duty.” it was further claimed.

The petition has claimed that there are instances of both voters and poling officials dying of heat strokes. “The election commission itself admits to its personnel getting tired and exhausted resulting in quarrels,” the petition said.

“Period between 16 January to 15 February is the best period to hold elections because in January the plains experience spring like weather of European countries and in February the ice melts in the hilly areas,” the petition has suggested.

Claiming that ‘India is a power deficit nation and power deficit is highest during summers’ the petition has appealed that elections to be carried out during winter. The petition has also claimed that the normal functioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are affected during summer season.

The petition will come up for hearing on Friday before a bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia.

NAC proposals to strengthen MGNREGS

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New National Advisory Council(NAC)of India: So...

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SMITA GUPTA in The Hindu

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) — at the initiative of which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was rolled out in UPA-I — is taking a fresh look at how to strengthen it.

The NAC wants the scheme to move from its “relief work mode” to one that would blend “natural resources and labour to build productive assets.” When the NAC meets here on Thursday, the Deep Joshi-headed working group will suggest ways and means of strengthening the capacity of panchayats to implement the scheme more effectively.

Having finalised its recommendations for big-ticket laws on food security and communal violence, both currently with the government, the NAC will focus, over the next few months, on other smaller, but critical, aam aadmi issues. Besides proposing new guidelines for the MGNREGS, the council will deliberate on welfare interventions for de-notified tribes, social security for the unorganised sector and pre-legislative consultative mechanisms, sources in the NAC told The Hindu.

Three new working groups — on the northeast, minority welfare, and social protection for the most vulnerable groups such as street children and the homeless — will also be constituted.


In the run-up to Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Joshi, it is learnt, held a workshop in April, in which representatives of the Central and State governments, as well as NGOs, reviewed the MGNREGS. What emerged was that the annual budget of Rs. 40,000 crore could be better utilised with more effective planning. The sources said that though Schedule One of the MGNREG Act referred to conservation of natural resources such as rainwater, land, forests, this was not reflected in the works floated for the scheme. Thus far, the panchayats, barring those in Karnataka — and, to some extent, in West Bengal, thanks to the long years of Left rule — have “no experience at all in planning large-scale programmes.”

The current system does not have the space for any deliberation. The object, therefore, is to “enable” the panchayats to engage in better planning, giving them access to technical expertise and encouraging them to increase local consultation.

The second issue — how to improve the lives and livelihood of the roughly 13.5 crore-strong denotified tribes, whose members are yet to shed the colonial stigma of being described as criminal tribes — will be addressed by Narendra Jadhav, who heads the working group on the subject.

Spread over approximately 200 communities and several States and, being largely nomadic, at present they don’t enjoy the rights given to the tribal population.

Their status in different States varies: in some, they have been categorised as the Scheduled Castes; in others as the Other Backward Castes; and in some others, they have just fallen through the cracks.

Meanwhile, even as the government grapples with the controversial Lokpal Bill and its uneasy relationship with civil society, Aruna Roy, who heads the working group on transparency and accountability, will initiate a discussion on Thursday to put in place a framework to give non-state actors an institutional role in framing laws. The proposal emanated from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information.

As for the unorganised sector, UPA-II has already extended the benefits of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to the MGNREGS and domestic workers, but the NAC feels that other social security interventions should also be considered. Towards that end, the Mirai Chatterjee-led working group will put forward some draft proposals on Thursday.


Of the new working groups coming up, Pramod Tandon will head the one on the northeast, and he is scheduled to outline its concerns. Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi will head the one on minority welfare, which will look at how far the Sachar Committee’s recommendations have been implemented.