Empower the people, get votes: NGOs

April 29th, 2009 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) A group of NGOs has launched a campaign asking the people to vote for those political parties that empower them and pass on the decision making about the locality to its residents, a statement issued by the NGOs said Wednesday.
The campaign ’swaraj abhiyan’ is encouraging people to vote for those parties that empower them to directly take all decisions regarding public spending in their areas and place all local officials directly under the control of people’s assemblies (mohalla sabhas). The campaign is being run and funded by several NGOs, individuals and groups.

“In the last 60 years, we have tried every political party and leader but things have gone from bad to worse. Merely changing parties and leaders every election hasn’t helped. These elections, vote for the party which empowers you rather than empowering themselves,” said Magsaysay award winner and right to information (RTI) activist Arvind Kejriwal, who is coordinating the campaign.

Another RTI activist Manish Sisodia, who is also associated with the campaign said: “Delhi should be divided into several mohallas (localities), say with a population of about 3,000 each. Mohalla Sabha, general body of all voters of that Mohalla, should be empowered to decide priorities for all public spending in that area. The mohalla sabha should also have the power to summon any government official and give appropriate directions.”

“Under this system, if needed, the officials could be penalised by mohalla sabha. No payment should be made to a contractor unless mohalla sabha issues a satisfaction certificate. That would be true democracy,” Sisodia added.

“The central government has already asked all state governments to enact a law to create mohalla sabhas. However, the central government’s draft is cosmetic. It does not give any real powers to the people. Some of us have improved upon the central government’s version and given our draft to Sheila Dikshit in February,” said Kejriwal.

“However, considering the special status of Delhi, this bill would need to be passed by the central government. Therefore, the major political parties should clarify whether they would enact such a law,” Kejriwal added.

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