for Empowerment of Local Governments (2003)
of local governments is one of the key goals of LOK SATTA
movement. LOK SATTA declared 2003 as the year of local governments
and launched a major campaign across the state calling for
genuine devolution of powers in line with the constitutional
mandate. At meetings held on 26th January, panchayat presidents
were invited to hoist the flag as legitimate heads of their
"Little Republics", and publicly declare their
elected local body as full-fledged local government. The
response was electrifying - hundreds of sarpanchs hoisted
the national flag and asserted their primacy as the head
of the village government, which has never happened before.
This show of force by the sarpanchs has set the tone for
the campaign for the rest of the year.
On LOK SATTA 's initiative, elected heads of local governments
at various levels, senior leaders who served as former local
government heads and representatives from civil society
got together on the 23rd of February in Hyderabad and formed
a Federation for Empowerment of Local Governments (FELG).
Subsequently FELG and LOK SATTA collectively launched a
campaign to collect "one crore" (ten million)
signatures in support of local government empowerment.
campaign was officially launched on the 9th August (Quit
India day) and concluded on 2nd October (Gandhiji's birthday).
This was easily the largest ever non-partisan mass mobilization
in any state on an issue that is not emotive, and does not
have caste or religious overtones. As part of the campaign,
massive public education has been undertaken and thousands
of volunteers have been trained. The elected women representatives
have been specially mobilized through formal interactions.
crore signature campaign
signature campaign was a resounding success and exceeding
our own expectations the final tally stood at a whopping
1,06,32,816 endorsements from the people of Andhra Pradesh!
More significantly, the campaign succeeded in making people
understand the importance of local government empowerment.
This historic effort, never before attempted on such a scale
on an issue, which has neither emotive nor religious appeal,
is unparalleled in India. Thanks to the efforts of thousands
of volunteers who have toiled day and night for 10 weeks,
the campaign succeeded in not only meeting the numeric targets
but also in making people realize that, local government
empowerment is not a trade union issue of elected representatives
but an issue which will truly empower them and profoundly
improve their quality of life. The most significant aspect
of the campaign is that it evolved as a genuine people's
movement, which cannot be ignored by the political process.
has an estimated population of 70 million, of whom about
60% or 42 million are adults above 18 years of age. Of these,
no more than a third, or about 14 million are functionally
literate. Of them, 11 million - or over 75% - have supported
local government empowerment. This support was not based
on starry-eyed notions of idyllic village republics, but
well-considered and pragmatic arguments of governments closer
to the people and more accountable to the people. Such a
powerful, well-reasoned voice could not have been ignored
by the political system except at its own peril.
SATTA organized a massive public meeting on October 19th
in Hyderabad to celebrate the historic achievement of collecting
one crore signatures. Thousands of activists representing
tens of millions of voices across the state of Andhra Pradesh
and noted activists from other states notably, Sri LC Jain,
Dr George Mathew, Dr PV Shenoi, Sri SV Raju, Sri AK Venkata
Subramanian, Sri Elango Rangaswamy, Smt Shanta Sinha, Dr
Bhaskara Rao, Sri Mayank Gandhi and others participated
in the colorful celebrations and expressed their solidarity
in support of the movement. The celebrations featured inspiring
performances by local folk artists, songs, ghazals and messages
from a few noted leaders. The event truly captured the spirit
of people's empowerment and was broadcast live by cable
channels in Hyderabad.
8000 people participated in the meeting, and the Lalitha
Kala Thoranam (venue) was jam packed, with hundreds standing
for want of seats. Nearly half the participants came from
outside Hyderabad at their own expense for travel, lodge
and board. Several hundreds of people traveled from far
off places at distances ranging from 300 to 800 kms. The
serene Lalitha Kala Thoranam turned into a sea of people
who thronged it to witness an unusual and an innovative
cultural fest. The need for reforming the Indian democracy
was subtly depicted in the cultural programmes. Praja Natya
Mandali demonstrated through their popular "palle sudullu"
the pain that people endure due to centralized bad governance.
This struck a chord with the audience. The event was regarded
as the largest gathering in decades at a meeting unrelated
to political parties, caste or religion. It had a profound
impact on the public discourse in the state and firmly placed
local government empowerment on center stage of political
discourse in the state.
parties respond favorably
from Federation for Empowerment of Local Governments (FELG)
and LOK SATTA called on the chief minister Sri Chandrababu
Naidu, the Congress legislature party leader Sri Y S Rajasekhar
Reddy as well as the Pradesh Congress Committee president
Sri D Srinivas and presented a memorandum outlining the
specific demands towards devolution of powers to local governments.
Sri Reddy gave an assurance that if his party comes to power,
the first signature to be affixed will be to empower local
governments. Sri Naidu restated his party's oft-repeated
commitment that they are all for devolution and requested
the Cabinet Committee for local governments to study the
issue. Both the communist parties, BJP and MIM also responded
favourably to LOK SATTA's demands.
invites LOK SATTA and FELG for discussions
On November 5, 2003, the government of AP formally invited
representatives of LOK SATTA and FELG to interact with the
Cabinet Committee on local governments and discuss the modalities
of transfer of powers to local governments. A delegation
of LOK SATTA and FELG met the Cabinet Committee on 6th November
at the AP Secretariat. Senior officials of various departments
were present along with the Panchayat Raj minister and Home
minister, both senior members of the Cabinet, and had a
detailed interaction on all issues concerning local government
empowerment in detail.
government representatives gave LOK SATTA and FELG categorical
and unambiguous assurances that local governments will be
fully empowered and enabled to function as genuine local
self-governments in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution
and democracy. The government requested LOK SATTA to give
specific advice on instruments of accountability that need
to be put in place to ensure high standards of probity,
transparency and people-centered governance. At the request
of the Cabinet Committee, LOK SATTA sent detailed written
suggestions along with the report of LOKSATTA Committee
on Local Government Empowerment, headed by Sri BPR Vithal,
member of the Tenth Finance Commission.
November 8, the Cabinet met and according to media reports,
discussed the issue of empowerment of local governments
in detail. The cabinet decided to transfer all functions,
powers, functionaries and resources to local governments.
Subsequently the government issued a series of GOs giving
effect to some aspects of devolution.