Right to Information – Master key to good governance

India lacks participatory democracy: Kejriwal

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 8, 2006

India lacks participatory democracy: Kejriwal


NEW DELHI: Right to information crusader Arvind Kejriwal, the winner of the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight corruption”, believes that graft is just a symptom of India’s larger problem – the lack of participatory democracy.

“In a great country like India, corruption is just a symptom of a greater social malice. The real problem lies with our democratic practices. I think people in India need a complete switchover from representative democracy to participatory democracy,” Kejriwal, 38, said in an interview.

“Unless people get their share in decision- making, it would be very difficult to get the tag of world leader. We believe that every single person needs to be empowered, and the Right to Information (RTI) Act is a potent tool to empower the poorest of the poor,” the former government officer told IANS.

An Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur graduate, Kejriwal became an Indian Revenue Service officer before resigning in February this year. He launched Parivartan, an NGO he calls a “people’s movement”, in 2,000 to help citizens in Delhi to fight for their rights.

Speaking about his selection as one of the six luminaries to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, he said: “For me, it’s not a ticket to fame, but rather recognition of all those associated with the RTI movement. It’s recognition of the work not of any individual.”

In the citation, the Manila-based awards committee said: “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 award will be presented Aug 31 in Manila.

Asked what next, Kejriwal said: “My first target is to stop the government from amending the RTI Act. Next I would like to promote the concept of local self-government in the national capital. Like ‘gram sabhas’, we would like to see ‘nagar sabhas’.”

He said when the international community was recognising a good thing (RTI Act), the Indian government was hell bent on diluting it. “The government’s decision to amend the RTI Act to exclude file noting from its purview is an attempt to curtail its advantage. It looks like a deliberate attempt to take away the teeth from the act.”

Asked about his experience in the IIT system and later as an additional commissioner of income tax, the activist said: “While IIT drilled a never-say-die attitude into me, the government job was a binding factor in the initial stage of public life.”

Kejriwal believes that training ordinary citizens to secure transparency and accountability at all levels of government was important and his anti-bribe campaign was an example. Some 700 groups across the country took part in the July 1-15 drive.

“As part of the campaign 1,500 volunteers were trained to handle the RTI centers in 55 cities. They helped commoners to file RTI applications. The campaign was a huge success and over 20,000 applications were filed in two weeks.”

Kejriwal has taken on the income tax department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the public distribution system and Delhi electricity authorities besides running a successful campaign to stop the privatisation of water supply in Delhi.

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    India lacks participatory democracy: Kejriwal « Right2Information

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