Satta Times Septmeber 2002 Issue
Lok Satta Times November/December
Satta Times Jan-Feb
no police station which is free of political interference
Citizens' Campaign for Electoral Funding Reform
National Coalition for Electoral
Lok Satta's Initiative
FDR /Lok Satta have been
advocating that national rejuvenation effort should be centered round the
key issues of electoral reforms. Free and fair elections are the starting
point of a functioning democracy, and are the key to resolving to-day's
governance crisis. In order to forge a national alliance for electoral
reforms, Lok Satta appeals for leadership and guidance from
concerned citizens and activists in mobilizing public opinion through
non-partisan citizens' initiatives to monitor elections. The appeal of Lok
Satta (in the form of a letter) is published in full to facilitate
debate and collective action.
* * *
Sub: - Citizens' Initiatives for cleaner elections - national coalition
for electoral reforms.
Democratic Reforms (FDR) is a non-partisan think tank and resource centre
dedicated to governance reforms in India. FDR sponsored a people's
movement Lok Satta. The mission of Lok Satta is to promote
peaceful, democratic transformation of Indian governance process and to
enable India achieve its full potential through good governance.
Lok Satta emerged as a major civil
society influence in Andhra Pradesh. While governance reform goals are
national, we have consciously decided to limit our grassroots work to
Andhra Pradesh. We believe that major civil society initiatives can be
launched by credible persons of impeccable track record in their State, and
who have the advantage of knowledge of local language and intimate
acquaintance with local conditions. We have designed and implemented
several grass-roots programmes for collective citizen assertion with
considerable success. People's Watch movement for better delivery of public
services and against corruption, Swarajya movement for specific governance
reforms at the State and local level, and Election Watch movement for
effective monitoring of elections by citizens are the most important
initiatives. Lok Satta now has over 100,000 members and far more
significantly the movement has wide name recognition and enjoys passive
support and goodwill of about 15% - 20% of the State's population.
Lok Satta is increasingly convinced that
the national reform effort should be centered around the key issue of
electoral reforms. Free and fair elections are the starting point of a
functioning democracy, and are the key to resolving today's crisis. A fair
degree of consensus has been achieved on the contours of reform over the
years through the efforts of various committees, statutory bodies and
activist groups. The political class is at least theoretically committed to
electoral reform, and will find it difficult to openly resist genuine
reform. Most electoral reforms can be achieved by a mere law of parliament
and certain procedural changes. Electoral reform, concerning local
governments need legislation only at the State level. Given these factors Lok
Satta has been earnestly striving to forge alliances nationally to
build a genuine and effective movement for governance reforms with the main
focus on electoral reforms.
Accordingly we are sharing our
concerns with credible activists and thinkers across the country. Our
experience in Andhra Pradesh shows that carefully designed citizen activism
in monitoring elections, unearthing irregularities and focusing public
attention on the practical reforms needed are the best ways of building a
movement and furthering the cause of reform. We have discovered, for
instance, that in urban areas about 40% of the electoral rolls are flawed -
either the eligible voters' names are missing, or the ineligible and fictitious
names find place. Post-election surveys in cities indicate that over 20% of
the votes cast are probably bogus. We have designed and implemented an
elaborate and transparent programme to screen candidates for criminal
record, and identified and publicized names of 45 candidates with
verifiable criminal record. It electrified the State and gained wide-spread
national attention. The recent judgement of the Delhi High Court directing
the Election Commission to collect and disseminate information on criminal
record of candidates is based in part on Lok Satta's documentation
of criminal record of candidates. Lok Satta organized live public
debates and common platforms in a structured format in over 130 Assembly
and Parliamentary constituencies. A live State-wide television debate too
was conducted for the first time in India. Over 10,000 volunteers were
trained in the techniques of Election Watch.
The impending elections to
Legislative Assemblies in the States of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu,
Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal give all of us a priceless
opportunity to mobilize public opinion in favour of electoral and
governance reforms. We seek your leadership and guidance in organizing
citizens and launching Election Watch movement in all these and other
States. FDR and Lok Satta will be happy to share our insights
and knowledge and provide training and other inputs. We will do everything
possible to facilitate the launching of Election Watch movement everywhere.
But the actual leadership and effort must come from activists and public
opinion makers in each of these States. We believe that these citizens'
initiatives have a realistic chance of coalescing into a national movement
for electoral reforms. Without non-partisan grass-roots activity based on painstaking
research and insights, mere advocacy is unlikely to yield results. Genuine
non-partisan activism is more likely to unite people for a common cause.
We propose the following steps in
pursuit of the goals outlined above:
of public opinion makers, activist organizations and movements in each
meetings to arrive at consensus and draw up the detailed programme.
of about 20-25 activists from each state (FDR/Lok Satta will
be happy to provide free lodge, board and training. Travel costs should be
borne by the participants.).
reparation and printing of Election Watch manuals for each State. (Lok
Satta will assist the efforts, but translation will have to be done by
up an Election Watch Committee in each State with the involvement of
eminent and credible non-partisan citizens - jurists, media persons, civil
servants, activists, academics and thinkers.
up a National Secretariat to assist the efforts in each State and to help
share knowledge and experience.
up sample surveys to focus on some of the obvious, indefensible, easily
remediable flaws in election process.
a few media capsules and launch a media campaign.
effective follow up action to build a National Platform for electoral
FDR and Lok Satta are not
funded organizations and as a principle we do not accept foreign funding.
Therefore there are severe resource constraints. However, FDR/Lok
Satta will provide all back up support and help initiate the process.
We will be grateful if you could
participate in this effort and provide your leadership and guidance. We
would appreciate if you could indicate your willingness, fill out the
enclosed proforma and mail to us. The enclosed literature will give you a
broad idea of the work of FDR/Lok Satta. You may also like to
visit our website: www.loksatta.org to get more details. We will be glad to
furnish any additional information you may require.
In view of the urgency and
importance of this effort, we would appreciate an immediate response.
With warm regards,
Dr Jayaprakash Narayan