Thursday, March 10, 2016

Arrest Rajasthan BJP MLA who attacked Accountability Yatra: Top RTI activist Aruna Roy at Jaipur convention

By Pankti Jog*
Over 6,000 people gathered from 33 districts of Rajasthan on the culmination of 100 days’ Accountability Yatra, which began on December 1, 2015 at Ajmer. The yatra, led by Magsasay Award winning Right to Information (RTI) pioneer Aruna Roy, attracted national attention in January following a gruesome incident in which a mob led by a BJP MLA attacked activists, injuring several of them.
The 100-day-long campaign was conducted by tens of civil society and community-based organizations of Rajasthan, gathered on the platform called Suchana Evam Rojgaar Adhikar Abhiyaan (Information and Employment campaign).
The campaign focused on contentious issues relating to efforts being made to undermine food security, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), old-age pension, and right to education and health. In registered over 9,000 complaints online on the Rajasthan Sampark online grievance redressal with a login ID, which would enable the campaigners to track complaint status and quality of redressal.
The yatra, which ended at Jaipur, saw as many as 300 people’s hearings in all the districts of Rajasthan.
One of the main issues raised related to why were Rajasthan government-run computer service centres by called e-mitras (friends) for citizens charging anything between Rs 100 and Rs 300 for e-seva (services) that should be provided for just about Rs 20 or 30.
Hundreds of people complained of the high charges, and demanded disclosing price tag for different services rendered by e-mitras. After a month-long campaign on the issue, the state government was forced to issue a circular for displaying the price list on the walls of the offices which run e-mitra centres.
The campaign revealed that the Rajasthan government had decided to close down over 24,000 government schools. It also revealed that people fail to get treatment in government hospitals, though the doctors who work in there carry out private practice within the vicinity of the hospital. Further, it was revealed, old age people run from from pillar to post as banks refuse to disburse their pension on time.
The yatra placed the whole issue of lack of accountability and failure of government through street plays and puppet shows. This was so effective that, on January 16, the yatra was attacked by BJP MLA Kunwarlal Meena from Aklera, Jhalawad. Witnesses said, Meena personally beat up women participants of the yatra, evidence of which has been submitted to the state government in the form of video footage. No action has been taken against the MLA.
The yatra demanded a separate legislation to be passed in the Rajasthan state assembly -- accountability law. The first draft of the proposed bill was prepared during the yatra and has been submitted to the state government. Salient features of the draft accountability bill include:
  1. Job chart for every government official/employee.
  2. Time bound service delivery mechanism.
  3. Provision for penalty, if public servant fails to observe the job chart.
  4. Provision for compensation to the citizen.
  5. Provision for criminal proceedings on demand of bribe. 
The yatra convention demanded immediate arrest of the MLA who had attacked activists. It also demanded that there should be a public place for demonstrations and freedom of expression at Jaipur and Ajmer. Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey of the Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan particularly put forward this demand to allow people to express their views freely.
Aruna Roy announced that, over the next two months, district level yatras and rallies would be held throughout the state, and on May 10, 2016, an indefinite dharna (sit-in) will begin in Jaipur till the accountability law is passed.
All political parties were invited for the convention to express their views on this. While the BJP abstained, Congress, CPI, CPI-ML and Aam Aadmi Party sent their representatives, and supported the idea.
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*Senior activist with Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

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