Bengaluru does a ‘referendum’ on Lokpal

On Saturday, 30th July, close to 80 students of St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science at Langford Road, decided to have fun with a purpose. They gathered after classes to count the votes of the Jan Lokpal Citizen ‘Referendum’ that is being conducted by India Against Corruption (IAC).

The scene resembled an examination hall as students counted the votes. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

India Against Corruption (IAC) has undertaken the initiative on a mammoth scale in a bid to give voice to the opinions of citizens of India on the subject of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Eight parliamentary constituencies across the nation have been chosen. These include Bangalore South and Chikkaballapur in Karnataka. Others are Mumbai and Chandni Chowk in Delhi.

Six thousand questionnaires were counted on Saturday by the students in less than three hours. The asked question about Lokpal and whether they were in favour, against or neutral about several aspects about Lokpal. The questionnaires also had questions like "Who should investigate charges against the PM?", "What levels of Government officers should Lokpal cover?"

IAC says they are calling the initiative a referendum and not an opinion poll because they are targeting specific parliamentary constituencies only and not the general population. Nitin Jagtap, coordinator at IAC, Bangalore, says that the initiative is to make the elected representatives listen to the opinions of their voters. "We feel that elected representatives are not echoing the voice of their voters anymore. That is why we are reaching out directly to the people and send a message to the MP’s that their voice must be heard," says Jagtap.

"This is much more than an opinion poll", says Srinivas Alavalli, another coordinator at IAC, Bangalore.  

Jagtap added that they chose an urban and rural constituency to ensure that all sections of the society are heard. Chikkaballapur, a town 50 kilometres away from Bangalore, was chosen as it is the constituency of former Law minister Veerappa Moily, who is on the Lokpal drafting committee. Bangalore South was chosen as it is the constituency of Ananth Kumar, a top office bearer of the BJP opposition party. 

Jan Lokpal – Citizen Referendum – Karnataka, by India Against Corruption
To take the referendum online, click here. Note: IAC says online entries will be also tallied, and these results will be announced separate from the results of the two parliamentary constituencies.

1. Every Government Officer should have his duty clearly spelt out for all to see and should be penalized if she/he does not do his job on time.

* Yes
* No
* None of the Above

2. What levels of Government Officers should the Lokpal cover?

* All Levels
* Only top levels
* None of the Above

3. Should Lokpal cover only the Central Govt. or should it also cover all States simultaneously via Lokayuktas?

* Only Central Government
* States also
* None of the Above

4. Who should investigate corruption of MPs in Parliament?

* A committee of MPs themselves
* Lokpal
* None of the above

5. Who should investigate corruption of Judges?

* A committee of Judges themselves (Judicial Commission)
* Lokpal
* None of the above

6. Who should investigate corruption charges against the PM?

* The CBI which is controlled by the PM

* Lokpal

* None of the above

 

7. Who should be able to dismiss Govt. Officers found guilty of corruption?

* Vote as per his party’s directives
* Consult his constituency and vote as per people’s directive
* None of the above

The drive began on 20th July and seventy thousand questionnaires, with questions both in Kannada and English, had been given out till Saturday in Bangalore South and Chikkaballapur. Volunteers went out to neighbourhoods in Banashankari, Padmanabhanagar, Vijayanagar and several other localities to give out the questionnaires.

They also went to schools such as Little Flower Public School in Banashankari and BGS Nationa Public School in Hulmavu, to give out the questionnaire to school children, who would get them filled by their parent and return the sheet. IAC volunteers hand out the questionnaires to the school principal who in turn briefs the class teachers. The class teachers distribute the questionnaire among the students.

A picture of the referendum questionnaire. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

IAC is hoping to give out eighty thousand more questionnaires in the coming week to take the number to 1.5 lakhs. The results will be tabulated by 6th August and released to the media and presented to the MPs.

Alavalli said that although they are confident about a unanimous call for strengthening Lokpal, but the ‘referendum’ process is more than just that. He said that from their interactions with people from different sections of the society, awareness about Lokpal was highest at urban levels but was still nascent at the grassroots level. "We want to involve those sections of the society and get their opinions heard," he said.

To keep the process fair, apart from giving out the questionnaires, IAC is not involved with other aspects such as counting the votes. "We want the voice of the people to come out and not just of an organisation. That is why we are not tampering with the filled out questionnaires in any way and the students are in-charge of the whole process of counting," said Alavalli.

Student volunteers were divided into counting agents and counting officers. Agents counted the votes and officers oversaw the process and assisted the agents if they needed help. Alavalli added that St Joesph’s College had earlier supported the Anna Hazare campaign and had volunteered to count the votes.

Vidya P, 19, feels the initiative is innovative. She was keen about taking part in the counting process as she feels she is doing her bit to support the issue. A second year B Sc student at St Joseph’s, Vidya feels strongly about strengthening Lokpal. Vidya says, "Corruption has become a social malaise. We need an authority that can tackle the issue. To do that, it needs some teeth. Lokpal cannot be effective unless it is given more power."

Another student, Amulya Dev, a first year B Sc student, echoes similar sentiments. She feels that as the next generation, it is up to them to create awareness about the issue and get more people to come out and support it.

The counting process at St Joseph’s will go on in the coming days. Varun Jagannath, coordinator of Centre for Social Concern at St Joseph’s, is spearheading the students in the counting process says that they are hoping to take the volunteer count up to 500 and make the counting a daylong process.

Apart from polling views in the constituencies, the campaign has also gone online. The questionnaire can be answered online by anyone interested. The survey can also be answered via SMS. For more details, log on to http://saaku.in/ .

Addendum
Updated August 2nd 2011.

About Yogaraj S Mudalgi 88 Articles

Yogaraj Mudalgi works in the educational training industry and takes an interest in all things happening in Bangalore.

2 Comments

  1. In a democracy power is shared by many, no dictatorial attitude helps. Opposition need be respected for contributing constructive suggestions. This is a good exercise by students of this college. They can continue this good cause by spreading awareness among voters hereafter so that the next set of elected representatives do justice for the electorate.

  2. I feel there’s a question missing from the questionnaire. “Who should investigate corruption charges against the Lokpal?” We should take care that an all-powerful Lokpal doesn’t seek to rival the Judiciary/ Government and fall prey to rogue political elements who would try to manipulate it for their own ends.

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