Sunday, October 24, 2010

Humara Paisa Humara Hisaab - The Power of Right to Information

Social Entrepreneurship in the 6th term has become one of the most interesting, thought provoking subjects I have taken at IIMB. OB classes made me take a look at myself, but SE on the other hand, is making me think how I should look at the world around me and how I can make a difference. In the journey called Social Entrepreneurship, we have come face to face with so many people who have selflessly dedicated their lives to making others lives less of a struggle.

One such person is Nikhil Dey. Founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan, a non-party peoples' organization, held a guest lecture at IIMB yesterday. MKSS famously used the right to information as tool to draw attention to the underpayment of daily wage earners and farmers on government projects, and more generally, to expose corruption in government expenditure. Initially, MKSS lobbied government to obtain information such as muster rolls (employment and payment records) and bills and vouchers relating to purchase and transportation of materials. This information was then crosschecked at Jan Sunwais (public hearings) against actual testimonies of workers. The public hearings were incredibly successful in drawing attention to corruption and exposing leakages in the system. They were particularly significant because of their use of hard documentary evidence to support the claims of villagers. 

We live in our sheltered world, have all the right answers to our problems, and think that our managers are our biggest problems in life. We think about how much more package can we get if we jump to another company. We want a bigger car, a bigger house. But what about the 60% of our population, which doesn't even get a Rs. 100 per day? What about them who have no money, no power, no education to guide them through? Take a look at this video and you will know what MKSS is accomplishing in Rajasthan. 

We are all political. Right from the way we treat womenfolks at house, the way we treat our domestic help, the way we see what is going on around us. We are deeply political. But when it comes to doing something about it, we raise our hands and say "what can I do?" or "Our country has gone to the dogs. Only God can save it". We have abstained from the political process all together and have left it to the gundas who are our so called 'leaders', who are only interested in making money for themselves and people who elect them are jokers to them. Have we tried to find out what our elected representatives have done for us? Have we tried to get information about what development works are going on in our area? Can we find out who laid our roads that develop potholes every 3 months, and who was the engineer who okayed it and passed the payments? Do we try to get information on why all the greenery of Bangalore is being sacrificed in the name of development? 

But can we really make a difference? 


The right to information act is truly powerful. The government has never been accountable to the people so far. The government is ours, the MPs and MLAs are our servants. We chose them to do our work for us. RTI is that tool with which we can ask them what the hell are they doing, how they are spending our money. The money that we earn by travelling to the other end of the city - day in & day out, the money that we earn by slogging every weekday of the month.

Today, I invite all of you to give it a thought and to participate in our democracy. Try to get involved. If every informed citizen like you and me takes the responsibility to get involved in our democracy, we can make our society better. Especially at the time when our MLAs are ready to be sold for obscene amount of money due to their greed for power, position and wealth. Especially when the legislature is a place for goondas who have made a mockery of democracy. Especially when the elected MLAs have brought shame to the state.

Links: Longer version of the video is available here.
A video that every Indian should watch: Aruna Roy at IISC, Bangalore


Anonymous said...

A little out of context comment, but you know where I'm coming from !

NGREA is successful only in Rajastan and is almost a big failure in all other states. The program is eating up 1% of the GDP and is projected to grow to 5%. Now the buck is passed down to states, and states like Gujarat, Kerala and Maharastra where the avg. cost of employment is high are bleeding because of this program. Congress will not have any intention to kill the program, because they are the biggest beneficiaries (in all accounts). Aruna Roy is closely associated with Congress, in the committee headed by Sonia Gandhi etc etc. Now you read between the lines !

Politics :)


Supreetha said...

@G: Implementation of any state sponsored program will be difficult. Thanks to macroeconomics classes, I firmly believed that programs like NREGA is a gross waste of tax payers' money. But seeing the plight of rural India since so many days, now I know that programs like this are 'meant' to help the truly poor.

As Nikhil mentioned y'day, state govt's expenditure is more than its income. Of course, the govts will bleed. May be it can trim its 'unnecessary' expenses and make sure that the earmarked budget is spent for the right purposes. That is exactly what I meant. As citizens, why don't we ask the govts to show us what they are doing with our money?

I don't think that Aruna is in kahuts with Congress because she is in some committees. Otherwise, how can people like these influence the macroeconomic policies? Our own Prof. Sastry and M. P. Vasimalai, even Dr Balu are trying to bring about change by being associated with the process. Why do we have to put a motive behind even those well intentioned moves?

vishnu said...

I remember one line said by Rahul Gandhi "Out of one Rupee Govt spends on rural development only 10 paisa reaches to actual beneficiary". It doesn’t mean that we need to stop even 10 paisa to save one Rs to Govt,WE people need to act (ex: RTI ) & combined with good governance.