Thursday, December 09, 2010

How will walking in Saaku! help mitigate Corruption? Let me tell you how!

In response to popular demand (couple of my friends were asked by their friends), I wrote a cynical reply. Now that I think about it, and as the couple of anecdotes shared below will explain, Saaku! the walk against corruption, could make a difference.

How will walking in Saaku! help mitigate Corruption?

My initial boilerplate reply:

my personal view is that every indian is corrupt! its impossible for any govt official or policeman to be honest in India becos middle/upper class people force them to accept bribes.

people just want to beat others in the queue or worse don't even want to get into any queue. like at the railway parcel service, passport office etc. given time, they'll get the service, but people want to jump the queue. and hence the bribe. Isn't spectrum 2G scam also a case of corporates jumping queue by cozying up to ministers/officials?

considering how dishonest people are, I think Indian politicians are less corrupt than what we deserve!

anyway, walking in a march or listening to people like Arvind Kejriwal at the rally, may help us to resolve not to bribe anymore. and also question the notion of corruption as a way of life in India.

Anecdote 1: The success of Sachidananda Nagara Nyayapara Andolana.

Smartvote, currently has a project called CCGG - Citizens Campaign for Good Governance. Initially it was suggested that we do Gandhigiri in front of offices which demand bribes. I opposed such Gandhigiri, claiming people jolly want to bribe! I was voted out 2 to 8.

But even before Smartvote could do anything, Sachidananda Nagara Nyayapara Andolana (SNNA) rocked Bangalore. You can read about that bunch of amazing people at Its a story of how 120 households fought against every imaginable obstacle to get their house khattas without paying a bribe.

To be fair, several state level officials in Karnataka govt assisted the people in their campaign. It was an MLA and his cronies in lower level govt, who tried to swindle crores out of these people (yes, crores!). But people eventually won!

In this case, I was certainly wrong about people wanting to bribe or the efficacy of Gandhigiri. Some Smartvote members went to support SNNA in the above campaign and SNNA is one of the organizers of Saaku!

Anecdote 2: PDS Social Audits in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh

As part of the Smartvote Good Governance project, we are currently studying the implementation of Public Distribution System in Karnataka.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week (Dec 6-7), I visited several villages in the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh to study the PDS Social Audits currently being conducted there. Please come back to this blog to read about those Social Audits in more detail. For now, the following photos will suffice. I took them only about 72 hours earlier!

Its a Gram Sabha meeting in YerraGolli Pahad village in Jangaon division of Warangal. The Sarpanch (not in the picture) presided over. The residents of the village are seated below. On the plastic chair is the ration shop dealer. Standing with the megaphone is Tehsildar Venkatesh Reddy who read out the findings of the Social Audit conducted earlier in the day.

Some of the enforcement officials and the food advisory committee members of the Panchayat, who conducted the audit are seen standing behind. Director of Social Audits, Andhra Pradesh, Ms. Sowmya Kidambi (not in the picture) had come to observe. She is an MKSS activist currently working for the AP govt. I accompanied her.

The dealer was found to have given some residents, less food grains than what they are entitled to. Revenue Divisional Officer Vinay Krishna Reddy verified the findings. Joint Collector Ms. Karuna Aakella asked the residents what should be done to the ration shop dealer. People suggested only a fine instead of cancellation of her license. Karuna joked "you people have such big hearts!".

Tehsildar calculated the fine based on how much food grain was not given to residents. It came to Rupees 2480. Tehsildar gave a challan for the amount to the dealer in front of all the residents. The dealer agreed to pay it in the Tehsildar's office next day and vowed to never to repeat the mistake again. Incidentally, political leaders in this district are very supportive of these social audits.


Anecdote 1 shows how people can fight politicians and officials and refuse to pay bribes. Anecdote 2 shows how government officials supported by politicians are going beyond their expected calls of duty, to empower people to fight corruption.

So people, there is hope! Come, lets walk this Saturday at 9:30 AM from the Kanteerava stadium towards Shantinagar grounds. Lets listen to activist Arvind Kejriwal, Justice Venkatachaliah, SVYM activist Dr. Balasubramaniam among others. Saaku! Enough! We can together End Corruption!

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