Corruption-infested Karachi awaits its ‘Kejriwal’

Karachi: New Delhi , the second most populous Indian city, in recent state polls has defeated mafia-ism, corruption and political arrogance by giving a historic support to Arvid Kejriwal, whose New Delhi promises a pro-people and anti-corruption agenda; however, the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, still awaits its ‘Kejirwal’ who can give it rid of rampant corruption, crime and incompetence.

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party last Tuesday got a historic victory in the Delhi state election, defeating big traditional political parties including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress (INC) of Sonia Gandhi.

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 67 of the 70 assembly seats, giving a huge push to Kejirwal, who had quit as Delhi’s chief minister over a crucial anti-corruption bill. Last year, Kejriwal had resigned after 49 days in office, when opposition politicians blocked a bill that would have created an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption. Since then the state has been governed directly by the federal authorities.

Kejriwal, 46-year-old former taxman, after his historic win said the people of Delhi have achieved something spectacular. With the help of people, we will make Delhi a city which both poor and rich will feel proud of, he said, adding his huge mandate was “very scary and we should live up to people’s expectations. This is the people’s victory. My first priority will be to end “rishvatkhori”(bribes), he said.

The Aaam Aadmi Party’s victory is seen as a reinforcement of the common man’s choices. National convener of AAP Kejriwal (born 16 August 1968) is a social activist and former civil servant who served as the 7th Chief Minister of Delhi. Kejriwal is a Mechanical Engineering graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, and worked for the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) as a Joint Commissioner in the Income Tax Department.

As an IRS officer, Kejriwal was troubled by the rampant corruption in his department. In December 1999, while still in service with the Income Tax Department, Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and others found a movement named Parivartan (which means “change”), in the Sundar Nagari area of Delhi. A month later, in January 2000, Kejriwal took a sabbatical from work to focus on Parivartan.

Parivartan addressed citizens’ grievances related to Public Distribution System (PDS), public works, social welfare schemes, income tax and electricity. It was not a registered NGO – it ran on individual donations, and was characterized as a jan andolan (“people’s movement”) by its members. Later, in 2005, Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia launched Kabir, a registered NGO named after the medieval philosopher Kabir. Like Parivartan, Kabir was also focused on RTI and participatory governance. However, unlike Parivartan, it accepted institutional donations. According to Kejriwal, Kabir was mainly run by Sisodia.

In 2000, Parivartan filed a public interest litigation (PIL) demanding transparency in public dealings of the Income Tax department, and also organized a satyagraha outside the Chief Commissioner’s office. Kejriwal and other activists also stationed themselves outside the electricity department, asking visitors not to pay bribes and offered to help them in getting work done for free.

In 2001, the Delhi government enacted a state-level Right To Information (RTI) Act, which allowed the citizens to access government records for a small fee. Parivartan used RTI to help people get their work done in government departments without paying a bribe. In 2002, the group obtained official reports on 68 public works projects in the area, and performed a community-led audit to expose misappropriations worth Rs7 million in 64 of the projects.

In 2003 (and again in 2008, Parivartan exposed a PDS scam, in which ration shop dealers were siphoning off subsidized foodgrains in collusion with civic officials. In 2004, Parivartan used RTI applications to access communication between government agencies and the World Bank, regarding a project for privatization of water supply. Kejriwal and other activists questioned the huge expenditure on the project, and argued that it would hike water tariffs ten-fold, thus effectively cutting off the water supply to the city’s poor. Another campaign by Parivartan led to a court order that required private schools, which had received public land at discounted prices, to admit more than 700 poor kids without fee.

He resigned from his job in February 2006, and later that year, he was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, for his involvement with Parivartan. In December 2006, Kejriwal established the Public Cause Research Foundation in December 2006, together with Manish Sisodia and Abhinandan Sekhri. He donated his Ramon Magsaysay Award prize money as a seed fund.

In 2010, Kejriwal protested against corruption in the Commonwealth Games. He argued that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) did not have any powers to take any action against the guilty, while CBI was incapable of launching an unbiased investigation against the ministers who controlled it. He advocated appointment of public ombudsman – Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states.

In 2011, Kejriwal joined several other activists, including Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi, to form the India Against Corruption (IAC) group. The IAC demanded enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which would result in a strong ombudsman. The campaign evolved into the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement. In response to the campaign, the government’s advisory body – the National Advisory Council – drafted a Lokpal Bill. However, the NAC’s Bill was criticized by Kejriwal and other activists on the grounds that it did not have enough powers to take action against the prime minister, other corrupt officeholders and the judiciary. One of the major criticisms directed at the Jan Lokpal activists was that they had no right to dictate terms to the elected representatives. As a result, Kejriwal and other activists decided to enter politics and contest elections. In November 2012, they formally launched the Aam Aadmi Party, and it was given a thumping support by common men of Delhi, who wanted a fair and corruption-free society.

The citizens of Karachi also want a just-based, pro-people and corruption-free society. The historic win of Kejriwal is a lesson of the citizens of Karachi to reject the stereotype politicians marred by corruption and crime and elect their real representatives amongst the Aam Aadmis of Karachi.

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