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Of rights and wrongs

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 6, 2006

Of rights and wrongs

The Magsaysay award prompts Arvind Kejriwal to intensify his fight to secure the right to information in its entirety

 JYOTI VERMA

Posted online: Sunday, August 06, 2006 at 0000 hours IST

It’s a paradox. Though Arvind Kejriwal has won the Magsaysay award for his contribution to India’s right to information movement and empowering poor citizens to fight corruption, the government is proposing to amend the Information (RTI) Act.For Kejriwal, it’s an awkward kind of situation. “On one hand there is this international recognition of the RTI Act, on the other, I find my own government standing against it. It’s difficult to describe the situation,” he says.

The proposed amendments seek to exclude most “file notings” from the purview of the Act. The amendments propose to remove access to the material on the basis of which decisions are taken by the Council of Ministers, and withdraw the current access to the identities of those who record the notings.

“It basically proposes to exempt all information related to a process of any examination conducted by any public authority. The amendments if brought and applied will kill the Act in its infancy. During its 11 months of existence, the Act has made a promise of a better world where people are informed about the system they are part of. No one can afford to lose from here. It is very important to get together and fight for our right to be informed.”

The head of Delhi-based welfare organisation, Parivartan, is planning a students’ rally from Jantar Mantar to Parliament to catch the attention of policymakers in the Capital.

“I have no complaint against policymakers, though. In fact these were the same people whose genuine will power led to the foundation of RTI in October 2005 in the face of opposition from a dishonest faction in the system. Today the same dishonest faction is taking a lead against the Act.”

He explains, “They are doing it because if the Act is put to practice in letter and spirit, it is going to have an impact on the country’s electoral process. May be not today, but five years down the line people will elect a government based on the information they have of the previous governments. That is why some people want to kill the Act.”

The rally on August 7 by students of all the premier universities of the Capital also has a special programme by Euphoria to emphasise upon youth to secure their right.

So, is the new recognition of any help? “It has helped a bit. They are now listening to us with more patience, and even supporting our endeavours. The government has yet to congratulate me for the Magsaysay award, though” he says. (Parivartan has been running a campaign on Right to Information Act along with The Indian Express for two years.)

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Kejriwal: Fighting for Parivartan

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 4, 2006

Kejriwal: Fighting for Parivartan

 

Onkar Singh in New Delhi

August 03, 2006 18:53 IST
It is business as usual in Arvind Kejriwal’s organisation — Parivartan.

It was July 4, when Kejriwal got a call from the Ramon Magsaysay headquarters in Manila informing him that he had won the award but requested him to keep it to himself till it was officially announced.

In recognition to his activating India’s right-to-information movement at the grassroots, empowering the poorest of citizens to fight corruption by holding government answerable to the people, Kejriwal was named the awardee for emergent leadership.

The fact that he and his organization — Parivartan — are one of the winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2006 has not brought about a change in his personality.

When rediff.com called on him, Kejriwal was talking to social activist Anna Hazare on phone, chalking out the details of his visit scheduled for Thursday.

The former tax officer told rediff.com, “This award does not belong to me. It belongs to each and every person associated with Parivartan, which stresses upon transparency in public life. This award is for all those who are associated in removing corruption from public life.”

“We feel sad that while our efforts are being recognised internationally, our government is trying to put hurdles. I would like to appeal to the government to give one more year to Right to Information Act and strengthen it further,” Kejriwal added.

“Initially, we encouraged people to come to us. We handled their work with the concerned organisations. We realised that we were actually doing the job of the middleman. So we decided to do become facilitators and told people to use the Right to Information and get their jobs done without paying anything. At one point, we did a project with the Indian Express, then we had another called Ghoos Ko Ghoosa (Fist to bribe) with NDTV. Many people are now joining us in our fight against corruption,” he said.

Thirty eight-year-old Kejriwal hails from Hissar town in Haryana. After serving the Indian Revenue Service for eight years, he went on long leave in the year 2000 to concentrate on Parivartan. He resigned from the IRS few months back.

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Empowered by information

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 2, 2006

Empowered by information
Ginnie Mahajan

Tuesday, August 01, 2006  23:09 IST

Magsaysay award winner on what it takes to start a people’s movement.

Arvind Kejriwal, who won the Magsaysay award on Monday for his contribution to the right-to-information movement, is the man behind Parivartan, which he specifies is not an NGO but a people’s movement for reinforcement of democratic values.

So, was it a single defining moment that made him start a movement? “Not really, I was happy working with the income tax department, but there was always a lurking feel of sadness with the extent of corruption. It irked me that there was no option for the common man to live an honest life as bribes had to be paid for day-to-day work.”

But was it so easy to leave a plum government post and start a citizen’s forum? “When I started Parivartan in 2002, I was not sure about my decision. So I took leave from the government. But after two-three years I knew this was my destiny and put in my papers.”

But did the government never retaliate? “Well, at a basic level they had no choice. The government is committed to both fighting corruption and spreading awareness of the RTI Act. But even though officials would not dare to say anything to us directly, our workers would be harassed. When we started our campaign against the public distribution system in ration shops, there were violent attacks by shopkeepers on our volunteers, including an incident where a lady volunteer’s throat was slit. This could not have been possible without the collusion of government servants. Living within a system and fighting it is not easy.”

Was it easy to convince the common man to fight his own battles? “No, it was one of the toughest things we faced. We began by asking people that they should not pay bribes to the IT or Delhi electricity board officials and that we would get their work done for them. We got a huge response and started submitting applications in bulk to these two departments. However, slowly we realised that Parivartan had simply replaced the touts. It was a parasitic relationship, and we were confused and unhappy. That was when we got our first RTI case. Then we simply started helping people in drafting applications for the right to information. They would then go and submit them themselves and our role became limited.”

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RTI-brain gets Magsaysay

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 2, 2006


RTI-brain gets Magsaysay

He quit the Indian Revenue Service to champion the cause of transparency. Arvind kejriwal, 38, the brain behind Right to Information (RTI) campaign, has won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2006 for his contribution to the movement.

Founder of the Delhi based Parivartan citizen’s movement, kejriwal will receive the award on August 31 in Manila, along with Sanduk Ruit (Nepal), Ek Sonn Chan (Cambodia) Park Won Soon (South Korea) and Eugenia Duran Apostol and Antonio Meloto (both Philippines)

Kejriwal calls the award a victory for the RTI movement in the country. “it belongs to all those who visited our camps across the nation, filing over 21,000 applications during the HT sponsored RTI campaign. But at the time the world is celebrating the success of the Indian right to information movement, it is sad that the government wants to modify the Act in a bid to throttle it.

Fellow activist Manish Sisodia, who co-founder parivartan with kejriwal seven years back,says his dedication is tremendous. It takes courage to quit the iRS. Arvind always struck to his guns-even when Delhi Vidyut Board officials accused us of being a security hazard during information camps. He patiently explained the merits of transparency to the people.

In choosing kejriwal for the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent leadership, the trustee board recognizes the activating Indias Right to Information movement at the grassroots, empowering poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding government accountable to the people.

Arvind kejriwal launched parivartan in East Delhi in January 2000. Its first activity was providing relief to taxpayers, which it did by exhorting people not to pay bribes. The NGO has helped around 2,500 consumers in DVB. Parivartan workers used to sit at the entrance of three DVB offices every day during public dealing hours exhorting consumers going in not to pay bribes inside.

Source: Hindustan Times

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Parivarthan online petition is available on RTI

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

Parivarthan online petition is available on

http://www.petitiononline.com/save_rti/

Regards!

Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar
www.parivartan.co

Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar
www.parivartan.com
jaipuriar@gmail.com
+91 9868002365
Visit my blogs also:
http://jaipuriar.blogspot.com
http://jaipuriar.blog.com

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‘I am happy as well as sad': Kejriwal

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

‘I am happy as well as sad': Kejriwal
Monday July 31 2006 16:58 IST
PTI

NEW DELHI: The sense of joy on winning the Magasaysay award was mixed with a tinge of sadness for anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal who regrets that he has not received due recognition for his work in his own country.

“I am happy as well as sad,” said Kejriwal, who heads ‘Parivartan’, a Delhi-based “citizens’ movement” against corruption, as he heard the news of his selection for this year’s award for emergent leadership.

He said the award was an international recognition of his fight against corruption, which has not been recognised by the government.

“The government’s decision to change the right to information act will kill the entire legislation,” said Kejriwal, a mechanical engineer from IIT Kharagpur.

Kejriwal joined the civil services as a member of the Indian revenue service in 1992, is currently on leave from the government for two years.

He said by keeping file notings outside the purview of the act, the government proposes to keep key information of a particular decision-making process away from the reach of the common man.

“Being in government service, I know how important these notings are every information of any decision making process has a link with the noting,” Kejriwal said.

He said the RTI act came into force about eight months back and the government should leave it unchanged for at least two-to-three years before making any decision on changing it.

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Crusade against corruption finds recognition

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

Crusade against corruption finds recognition

Staff Reporter

Kejriwal awarded for activating India’s Right to Information movement at grassroots Mr. Kejriwal was cited by the Magsaysay Foundation for “activating India’s Right to Information movement at the grassroots, empowering poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding the Government answerable to the people.”

 

 

 



Arvind Kejriwal

 

NEW DELHI: Social activist and crusader for transparency in governance Arvind Kejriwal has at last found recognition for the hard work he has put in to rid the system of corruption.

Though happy at being selected for the Magsaysay Award in the `Emergent Leadership’ category, Mr. Kejriwal is sad that his work has not received due recognition in his own country.

“I got the news of the Magsaysay Award this [Monday] afternoon. It is nice feeling but at the same time I am sad that while a foreign institution has recognised our work, the same has not happened within the country,” he said.

Mr. Kejriwal was cited by the Magaysay Foundation for “activating India’s Right to Information movement at the grassroots, empowering poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding the Government answerable to the people.”

Having recently launched a successful 15-day awareness campaign with other NGOs and student activists on the Right to Information, Mr. Kejriwal is sceptical about the Government’s decision to make amendments to the Right to Information Act.

The mechanical engineer from IIT Kharagpur said that by keeping file notings outside the purview of the Act, the Government proposed to keep key information about the decision making process out of the reach of the common man.

Having left a job with the Income Tax Department, Mr. Kejriwal has been instrumental in launching a crusade against corruption and bribery in government departments.

He formed the non-governmental organisation Parivartan in 2000 and first took up cudgels against the Income Tax Department demanding that it ensure transparency in public dealings. Unable to find a positive response, Mr. Kejriwal took leave from his job and started organising people to launch a movement against corruption.

The journey to secure the rights of the people had its rough patches as he had to face the fury of a group in the Food and Civil Supplies Department that was badly affected by his crusade. Mr. Kejriwal and his activists were roughed up or brutally attacked on many occasions. However, they refused to give in to the mafia that had infiltrated the PDS in the capital.

After a long struggle, Mr. Kejriwal and his team, with the help of other activists, got justice for the poor by forcing PDS outlets to make their functioning more transparent.

His next target was the Right to Information Act, which he felt had great potential to empower the people and check corruption and bribery. Parivartan was also behind the successful campaign against privatisation of water in the capital under the World Bank sponsored programme.

The 38-year-old social activist joins the list of Magsaysay awardees from India including Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte, Mahasweta Devi, Kiran Bedi, Varghese Kurien and Aruna Roy.

Other Magsaysay awardees

UNI reports:

The other Magsaysay Award winners this year are: Ek Sonn Chan (Cambodia) for “Government Service”; Park Won Soon (South Korea) for “Public Service”; Eugenia Duran Apostol (The Philippines) for “Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts”; Sanduk Ruit (Nepal) for “Peace and International Understanding”; Antonio Meloto (The Philippines) for “Community Leadership”; and the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation (The Philippines) for “Community Leadership.” The Awards ceremony will be held in Manila on August 31.

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‘KILLING LEGISLATION’ – Govt diluting RTI Act, says Kejriwal –

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

Govt diluting RTI Act, says Kejriwal
 
From K S Narayanan DH News Service New Delhi:

Arvind Kejriwal, an anti-corruption crusader who was selected for this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for his contribution to India’s right-to-information movement and empowering poor citizens, criticised the government for diluting the Right to Information legislation.

Soon after hearing about his selection for the prize in Emergent Leadership category, Kejriwal told Deccan Herald: “The government is making every effort to dilute the Right to Information Act by excluding the file noting. The decision to change the RTI Act will kill the entire legislation.”

“The Centre’s proposal to keep file notings outside the purview of the Act will deny key information about decision-making process to citizens. Being in government service, I know how important these notings are and every information of any decision making process has a link with the noting,” said Kejriwal who joined as tax officer in Indian Revenue Service in 1992.

The Magsaysay Foundation’s citation on Kejriwal read: “The brazen corruption of the high and the mighty may grab headlines, but for ordinary people it is the ubiquity of everyday corruption that weighs heaviest. And that demoralises. Arvind Kejriwal, founder of India’s Parivartan, understands this, which is why his campaign for change begins with the small things.”

Magsaysay Award was established in 1957 in honour of the memory and leadership example of the former Philippine President who died in a plane crash.

The other five awardees are Sanduk Ruit (Nepal), Ek Sonn Chan (Cambodia) Park Won Soon (South Korea) and Eugenia Duran Apostol and Antonio Meloto (both Philippines).

Kejriwal, who is on leave for the last two years, founded Delhi-based NGO Parivartan in 2000 that is engaged in right to information campaign. He was one of the key persons who along with Aruna Roy, submitted a draft bill on right to information.

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Kejriwal to receive Magsaysay Award

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

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Kejriwal to receive Magsaysay AwardNDTV Correspondent

Monday, July 31, 2006 (New Delhi):

Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Delhi-based NGO Parivartan, has been chosen for this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Kejriwal was selected for the honour for leading the Right to Information movement in India.

The movement created awareness on fighting corruption and making the government more accountable.

Special campaign

Kejriwal organised and led a special RTI campaign from July 1-15, which involved 700 civil society organisations.

As part of the campaign, 1500 volunteers were trained to handle RTI centres in 55 cities, who helped people file applications under the RTI Act.

NDTV was a media partner in the campaign, which saw over 20,000 RTI applications being filed in the 15 days – more than those filed in the eight months since the RTI Act came in force.

Kejriwal will be presented the award, along with five other Asians, in Manila on August 31.

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Arvind Kejriwal selected for Magsaysay Award – The 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 31, 2006

Arvind Kejriwal selected for Magsaysay Awardhttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1832474.cms

KUALA LUMPUR: Head of Delhi-based Parivartan citizen’s movement, Arvind Kejriwal, was on Monday selected for this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for his contribution to India’s right-to-information movement and empowering poor citizens to fight corruption.

Besides Kejriwal, the other five selected for the award are Sanduk Ruit (Nepal), Ek Sonn Chan (Cambodia) Park Won Soon (South Korea) and Eugenia Duran Apostol and Antonio Meloto (both Philippine).

They would be presented the award, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, at a ceremony in Manila on August 31. The annual awards are named after late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay.

In electing Kejriwal, 38, to receive the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his activating India’s right-to-information movement at the grassroots, empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding government accountable to the people, the organisers said in a citation.

Kejriwal, a mechanical engineer from IIT Kharagpur, who joined the civil services as a member of the Indian Revenue Service in 1992, is currently on leave from the Government for two years. “The brazen corruption of the high and the mighty may grab headlines, but for ordinary people it is the ubiquity of everyday corruption that weighs heaviest. And that demoralizes.

Arvind Kejriwal, founder of India’s Parivartan , understands this, which is why his campaign for change begins with the small things,” the organisers said.

The 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership CITATION for Arvind Kejriwal
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 2006, Manila, PhilippinesThe brazen corruption of the high and the mighty may grab headlines, but for ordinary people it is the ubiquity of everyday corruption that weighs heaviest. And that demoralizes. Arvind Kejriwal, founder of India’s Parivartan, understands this, which is why his campaign for change begins with the small things.

As a tax officer with the Indian Revenue Service, Arvind Kejriwal became aware of the many powers that tax officials held over private citizens and how easily these powers could be abused. Indeed, at the tax department, one expected to pay bribes as a matter of course. With a few kindred spirits, Kejriwal began to strategize about how to bring an end to this. In 2000, he founded Parivartan, meaning “change.” Parivartan appealed to the tax commissioner to make the tax department more transparent and less capricious. When this failed, it filed Public Interest Litigation directing the department to implement a five-point transparency plan. Eventually, Parivartan held a nonviolent protest, or satyagraha, outside the chief commissioner’s office. Threat of another protest with the press on hand convinced the tax chief to implement the reforms.

Meanwhile, on leave from his job, Kejriwal stationed himself with other Parivartan members outside the electricity department. There they exhorted visitors not to pay bribes and offered to facilitate their dealings with the department for free. Since then, Parivartan has settled 2,500 grievances with the electricity department on behalf of individuals. Some seven hundred more have benefited from the group’s “Don’t pay bribes!” campaign at the tax department.

Under the Delhi Right to Information Act of 2001, every citizen possesses the right to inspect government documents. Kejriwal put the new law to use in Sundernagari, a New Delhi slum where Parivartan was working among the poor. First, the group obtained official reports on all recent public-works projects in the area. Next, it led residents in a “social audit” of sixty-eight projects, stirring the community to action with neighborhood meetings and street plays. Then, in a large public hearing, the residents presented their findings and exposed misappropriations in sixty-four of the projects—embezzlement to the tune of seven million rupees! Today, in Sundernagari, local committees monitor public-works projects block by block, and no project may begin until the details of the contract have been made public.

The Indian government provides subsidized rations of wheat and rice to poor people through neighborhood ration shops. Records acquired by Kejriwal for Sundernagari revealed high levels of theft in the system. In one area, over 90 percent of the grain ration was being skimmed off by shopkeepers in collusion with certain food department officials. When Parivartan investigated this, one of its team members was savagely attacked. In protest, more than five thousand residents of the community held a monthlong “rations fast.” This and a mass rally riveted public attention, and foot-dragging officials finally moved to clean up the system.

Now in its seventh year, Parivartan has only ten full-time members. Although Kejriwal sometimes takes on larger issues—such as the successful 2005 campaign challenging a water-privatization plan for New Delhi—he has no plans to expand. He prefers to coordinate Parivartan’s efforts with other like-minded NGOs across India.

Thirty-eight-year-old Kejriwal reminds Indians that the boons of collective action, such as the honest delivery of services, have already been paid for through taxes. Citizens are entitled to them. The spirit of his movement was aptly captured by the women of Sundernagari as they rallied to protest cheating in neighborhood ration shops: “We are not begging from anyone!” they chanted. “We are demanding our rights.”

In electing Arvind Kejriwal to receive the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his activating India’s right-to-information movement at the grassroots, empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding government accountable to the people.

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