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Corruption anchors public life, say NGO leaders

Nov 27, 2012

A peoples’ assembly held in New Delhi, became a forum for voicing concern of people attached to movements, for accountability in public life.

The five day people’s assembly (Jan Sansad) entered its second day at Jantar Mantar, with over 700 people from all over the country assembling in New Delhi.

The day coincided with the ninth death anniversary of Satyendra Dubey, the former Project Director of the National Highway Authority of India who was brutally done to death on 27 November, 2003. “There can be no bigger travesty of justice than what has been done to my brother Satyendra Dubey, who laid his life for removing corruption and the irony is that till date no one has been brought to books and even in the face of all this violation we see a complete lack of political will to pass the Whistleblowers Protection Bill,” stated Dhananjay Dubey .

Responding to Dhananjay Dubey outcry, BJP’s Prakash Javadekar assured everyone assembled that his party is “committed to the passing of the Whistleblowers Protection Bill in this session and setting up the Authority for it” as soon as possible    
All assembled also maintained a moment of silence for the 6 RTI activists killed over the last 3 years and two as recent as November 21st in Bengaluru and Mumbai. “Do we need anything more a compelling and powerful reason to demand for the immediate passage of a comprehensive Whistleblowers Protection Bill” asked Poornima Chikermane, social activist working with waste pickers in Pune.

With Maharashtra accounting for six of the 16 brutal killings, she added that as high as four of these killings happened in the prosperous region of Western Maharashtra and related to administrative corruption and siphoning of public funds in education, PDS etc.

Social activist Nikhil Dey said the second day of People’s Assembly had to do with the governance framework. “In the governance framework we talk about various laws on corruption, on protection of whistleblowers, on redressal of grievances, and most importantly we have shown that a people’s parliament functions but the Parliament of India which is adjourning time after time, is leaving behind such important issues,” he said.

Dey said such initiatives build a moral pressure on the Parliament. “Finally the elected representatives have to face the electorate. We have people from different parts of the country participating with us and if they do not respond positively on these issues we will go back (to the people) and tell them who did and who did not,” Dey said.

Anupama Jha, Executive Director, Transparency International India, said that there was an urgent need to strengthen the Prevention of Corruption act. “There is a need to include the supply side of corruption in the ambit of this act.  This act should be strengthened so that the private sector companies (involved in corruption) are dealt with more severely.  Private to private sector bribery should be checked.  The law is stringent when it deals with public officials, but it is not so strict when it comes to dealing with the private sector,” Jha said.

Sharing his experience Sanjay Sahni, 27 from Muzzafarpur, talked about the corruption in his village Ratnauli. And when he tried to expose the misuse of schemes like students scholarship scheme in his village and demanded social audit on MNREGA he was beaten up badly and subjected to repeated violence and brutality. “We have come to participate in the Jan Sansad with the hope that our voices get heard by the government and all the elected representatives” he added.

However with both sessions of the House threatening to adjourn for the day and the session being declared as a washout, the question that was raised collectively was why the Parliament was not functioning when the People’s Assembly was fervently discussing and deliberating.

Today’s Jan Sansad brought together voices of people, movements and their struggles to reclaim political equity and justice for citizens with activists demanding that Parliament function properly and take onus for ensuring the  immediate passage of all important legislations pending before it .

Urging the Parliamentarians to be accountable to the people, Wajahat Habibullah, former CIC, called upon the elected representatives “to immediately pass all important legislations"

Commenting on the lack of political will, Babu Mathew, a legal expert opined that “the government does not want to pass legislations relating to marginal population or those that make them accountable to the people”.

To deal with the increasing pendency of RTI applications in the Information Commissions which is high as 28000 at the CIC level and 10000 in Rajasthan alone, a resolution was passed by all present demanding a time bound mechanism for appeals and complaints. Sharing her experience, Sanno an elderly woman from Malviya Nagar, who is physically challenged, stated that an RTI application filed by her to find out the status of her ration card has been pending with the CIC for the last 7 months.

There was a unanimous demand for the immediate passage of the Grievance Redress Bill, with nearly everyone present at the ‘dharna’ voicing their complaint against at the very least one department of the government. Passing  resolution that all Public Private Partnership must come under the purview of RTI, Ashok Kumar, an RTI activist of  Delhi, pointed out, “Since all PPPs were defined as public project for public good with private investment, it is my right to demand that authorities like BSES was brought under public scrutiny.”

Having being subjected to excessive Billing, all efforts made by him to use RTI to find out how BSES records the electricity usage of consumer has been thwarted by BSES on the ground that they do not come under the purview of the Act.

Welcoming the Government’s move to seek a review of the Supreme Court judgment of September 13, 2012, in the famous Namit Sharma case, Anjali Bhardwaj, NCPRI stated that “two-member benches will slow down the work of the Information Commissions and increase the already high levels of pendency, render the RTI Act ineffective and go as far as impede people’s right to information.”

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