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Parivartan agitates for the Right to Information[continued]

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Arvind muses: "The bureaucracy succeeds by tiring you, hoping that you will give up. Often we do. If at first we don't succeed, we wilt and blame the system. We must learn to fight in the courts, the offices and streets". Parivartan filed a public interest litigation seeking direction to the department that it implement a 5-point transparency programme.

By now their ranks had swelled. They had a rudimentary office with a phone. Manish Sisodia, a journalist with Zee News got the media to cover Parivartan's campaign. The Commissioner finally, reluctantly filed an affidavit in the court saying that an internal order had been passed along the suggested lines.

Kejriwal the mole, knew it was a lie. There was no such order. On 3rd July 2001, thirty volunteers of Parivartan sat in a peaceful satyagraha in the corridor outside the Chief Commissioner's office, seeking a copy of the order he had sworn to have issued. Pressured, he met them, made vague promises and sought a little more time. Finally, under threat of a larger group of volunteers offering satayagraha with full media in attendance, the Chief Commissioner was broken.

Lessons learnt:

On the July 13, orders were issued to departmental heads. By Jan 18,2002 most of the suggestions had been implemented. Parivartan had scored a success, albeit a small one for which so much time and energy had to be expended. But that's the Indian reality. Out of such small battles are systems in a democracy reformed, inch by inch.

By now the Arvind Kejriwal had unmasked himself. He has since used every provision of the service rules to go on long leaves in order to work openly for Parivartan. He has been without a salary for three years now, running his family on his wife's earnings.

Parivartan has a free-wheeling structure. It is not an NGO nor a body registered with any authority. It is a mere Association of Persons, the loosest form permitted by law. It does not accept corporate funds, let alone foreign ones. Kejriwal says there are private donors for their costs. [Still, GoodNewsIndia would urge readers to extend their support.]

It has a small core team of four modestly paid workers, most of them residents of Sundernagari and Seemapuri slums. Rekha Kohli, 26 is the publicist. Chander is the original phone boy, now looking after the office. Rajiv Sharma, 30 is a master strategist plotting campaigns. And finally there is 21 year old Santosh, a product of the slums, a great street organiser and campaigner for rights. They decide on the salaries they will take, beneath a ceiling of Rs 6000 per month.

The team realised how hard and long battles can be and the results so minuscule. Unless there was a campaign for fundamental, systemic change to make the bureaucracy more easily accountable, citizens will always weary and give up.

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