Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dr. JP to go on three-day fast to awaken people on Surajya

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Convener of the Surajya Movement Steering Committee and national President of the Lok Satta Party, will observe hunger-strike for three days from December 5 with a view to awakening and mobilizing people on three demands the fulfillment of which will transform their lives to some extent.

The demands are institution of a strong and independent Lokayukta, enactment of a law to guarantee basic services to people and devolution of 10 percent of the State budget on village panchayats and municipal wards or divisions. The Surajya Movement is focusing on two other issues: comprehensive reforms to ensure quality education and healthcare to all and replacement of the first-past-the post electoral system by proportional representation.

Addressing a media conference here today, Dr. JP and other members of the Steering Committee said they would meet Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy on November 29 and request him to act on the demands which do not cost the exchequer an extra rupee.

Dr. JP said that since the launch of the Surajya Movement on August 9, workshops and round-table conferences have been held in over 90 towns. The non-partisan movement has attracted leaders from all parties and caught the imagination of thousands of youth and students.

Dr. JP said that in the next phase of the movement, the Steering Committee will strive to train up to one lakh youth on what needs to be done to transform the nature of the polity. The movement aims at showing a way out to vast sections of people who are mired in gloom over the state of politics in the country, he said.

Mr. Ch. Rajeswara Rao, freedom fighter, said that the response to the movement was more than expected. The need of the hour is collective effort and not mutual bickering on the basic demands.

Prof. K. Nageswar, MLC, said that the Surajya Movement demands should be conceded since no political party is opposed to them.

Mr. K. Madhava Rao, former Chief Secretary and Chief Electoral Officer, said that there is no point in being silent spectators to the irregularities in the present system. The civil society has, therefore, taken the initiative to remedy the situation.

Mr.K.Ramachandra Murthy, Chief Editor of HMTV and The Hans India, underlined the need for regulatory authorities for education and healthcare sectors.

Mr. Solipeta Ramachandra Reddy regretted that the State Government continues to neglect local governments. Mr. Chelikani V. Rao said the Steering Committee has members with immense credibility to pursue the Surajya cause. Mr. D. Somasundar, President, AP Union of Working Journalists, pledged journalists’ support to the movement. Mr. T.L Narasimha Rao of the Lok Satta movement spoke on the urgency of the demands.

In a note circulated to the media, the Steering Committee explained the rationale behind the Surajya movement. The following is the text:

“India is going through a crisis because the State has failed in discharging its basic responsibilities with politicians engaged in perpetuating corruption and abuse of power, anointing their children as political successors and amassing personal wealth. They throw freebies at the public, foment divisions in society and indulge in vote buying to convert people into vote banks.

Athough deeply political, Surajya Movement is non-partisan in its approach. The movement is placing five demands before the public and the Government for immediate action. What is needed now is not merely blame-throwing and political rhetoric, but constructive and purposive action to improve the life of ordinary citizens.

The first is the creation of strong and independent anti corruption mechanisms at the Central and State levels. The proposed Lokpal and Lokayuktas should have control over institutions like the CBI and ACBs. They should have complete authority to investigate cases of corruption against all high functionaries in the political and bureaucratic establishments. The enabling legislation should provide for independent prosecution, establishment of special courts and confiscation of property of the guilty. The power to sanction prosecution should be removed from the Government and vested with Lokpal/Lokayuktas with appropriate safeguards.

The second is enactment of a law to guarantee simple services like issuance of ration cards, and land records, approval of building plans and sanction of water/power connections. As of now, tax paying people are treated as mendicants and made to run from pillar to post to get the services. Such services should be provided within a specific timeframe. The law should provide for payment of compensation to citizens at the rate of Rs.100 per day for delay in services and penalties on erring public servants.

The third is devolution of 10 percent of the State's budget on village panchayats and municipal wards so that directly elected people's representatives can provide simple day-to-day services like water supply, roads, storm water drains, drainage and sewerage, garbage disposal, street lights, schools and parks. As of now, people are forced to run after officials and legislators to get such services. Although the State Government spends Rs.17000 per capita per year it has miserably failed to make available the simple services. In contrast, Jamshedpur city has demonstrated that all local services can be provided if Rs.1500 to Rs. 2000 is spent per capita.

The fourth is bringing about comprehensive reforms in the education and healthcare sectors. Although the State Government spends Rs.15000 per child per year on education, the quality of education imparted is abysmally poor. India ranks 73rd among 74 countries in the standard of education imparted up to the child's age of 15, according to the PISA survey of OECD. Education reform is vital to give an opportunity to every child to advance in life irrespective of its status of birth. Similarly, primary and family healthcare are in a shambles and warrant comprehensive reform. As of now, poor people are forced to spend huge amounts out of pocket towards treatment of even simple ailments.

The fifth is replacement of the first-past-the-post electoral system by proportional system of representation. The present system has spawned evils like vote buying and fragmentation of society on the basis of religion, caste, region and language, and is preventing the best and the brightest from entering politics. The nation is getting fragmented, and the idea of India is in retreat. We need to adopt proportional representation system to reduce the evil of vote-buying, promote participation of honest, competent and committed citizens in political process, and enhance viability of pan-Indian politics.”

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