Quiet start to anti-corruption drive by new political party

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A walk to campaign against corruption on a Sunday morning may not seem very enticing. But members of Karnataka’s Lok Satta (the Andhra Pradesh-based political party founded by Hyderabad-based Jayaprakash Narayan) came out to do just that. The morning of December 13th 2009 saw around 70-80 people come together for a ‘Walk to Empower Lokayukta’. This was the start of the party’s campaign to get signatures from at least one lakh people (from all over Karnataka) for the petition to empower the Lokayukta.  Marking the anti-corruption month, the party launched the campaign on December 9th at a press conference.

The main objectives of the ‘Empower Lokayukta’ campaign are to make the Lokayukta an autonomous body, independent of the state government. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

The walk began at 9 AM from the Lokayukta office at the Multistoreyed building on Dr Ambedkar Veedhi. The route was through the Central Library in Cubbon Park, to Kasturba Road and concluded at the Mahatma Gandhi statue on MG Road. Krishna Bhupathi (who runs the Bhupathi Tennis Academy and is father of tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi) led the walk. (He left a while later.)

The main objectives of the ‘Empower Lokayukta’ campaign are to make the Lokayukta an autonomous body, independent of the state government. The campaign also seeks an amendment to Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. This section says that the previous sanction of the state government is necessary before a court takes cognizance of certain offences defined under this Act. (See Citizen Matters interview on the Lokayuktha’s status as a toothless tiger and Justice Santosh Hegde outlining the ills that need remedy.)

Another objective seeks the establishment of a Whistle Blowers Act to protect government servants who expose corruption. The campaign also wants district-level ombudsmen for the Lokayukta, recruitment of positions in Lokayukta and elected representatives’ strict adherence to declaring assets annually.

Most of those present at the walk were members of the Lok Satta party and family and friends of the members. A few representatives of resident welfare associations were also present. The oldest person present at the walk was Jalamma, a little above 80 years, who was there to support the anti-corruption campaign, along with her son Srinivasulu K, a Lok Satta member.

Members held placards and banners with messages on anti-corruption. There was, however, no slogan-shouting. Pamphlets and zero-rupee notes (symobilising anti-corruption) were handed out to passers-by during the walk.

Srinivas Alavilli, a software engineer and member of Lok Satta, explains how the one lakh signatures are going to be obtained for the petition. “We will have an on the ground campaign where we will set up kiosks at malls, tech parks and railway stations”. The petition is available online for signatures. It can also be through an SMS.

Lok Satta party says it plans to collect one lakh signatures or more. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

Another member V C Yogaiah says they also plan to send representatives to each of the 198 wards in the city for signatures. Corporate trainer Pushpa S, also a member of Lok Satta, says, “This is something that has been pending for a long time. This (anti-corruption) is going to be a sustained operation”. Lok Satta is looking to have its one lakh signatures (or more) in the next two to three months.

Apart from Lok Satta members, members of citizen groups were present for the walk. Anand Murthy, Treasurer of the Victoria Layout Palm Grove Road Resident Welfare Association, says he was at the event to show his support to empower the Lokayukta. He himself has visited the body on several cases related to commercialisation. A G Madhukar, an Electrical Engineer, says this is his way of expressing his opinion against corruption. Executive Committee Member of the Girinagar Welfare Association, S Rajanna says, “For Lokayukta there’s no use if they don’t have powers. Our intentions are for a corruption-free India”.

Signing the petition
Online – You can sign the petition here
SMS – Send a message to 56263322. Put your name, name of your city in Karnataka, comments if any.

During the walk, policemen from the Cubbon Park Police Station were present. On asking them about their thoughts on corruption, they all said, “The root of corruption is politics. If politicians are fine, everyone will be fine”. One of the policemen, who did not want to be named, said, “There are no loans, there are no facilities for us in the police department. We are still getting 5th Pay Commission salary. What is the cost of living in Bangalore? Probably this is why corruption is still present”. The policemen unanimously felt that the police were always wrongly accused of taking bribes even if they were just collecting fines. “Even if we are standing near a bakery, people think we are eating for free from there”. About the anti-corruption campaign itself, they felt more such initiatives should be taken up across the city. They, however,  did not sign the petition.

K Ramalakshmi, State Convenor, Lok Satta, says they will submit the petition to the Governor. “We do expect the government to oblige. When there are so many signatures, government should honour it. Any government would react to it”, she says. Ramalakshmi adds that they do not want to limit themselves to one lakh signatures and are currently in talks with schools and colleges to involve them in this signature campaign.   

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About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

3 Comments

  1. Start of any party plunging into politics is with full noble-thoughts. But, as days go by, all principles are given a go-by to survive in the filthy atmosphere of practical politics. And that’s how, everyone is as bad as the other.

  2. Brilliant initiative. But I am still concerned about its sustainability and the limited powers they would have. I wish them good luck!

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