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Election Watch AP 2009 - A Report

Election Watch AP 2009 - A Report

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Published by TR Madhavan

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Published by: TR Madhavan on Apr 09, 2009
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06/16/2009

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“CHANDRAM” 490, St.No.11, Himayathnagar, Hyderabad-500 029 Tel.No. 09010594834 Fax: 040-27635644The following is the Interim report of activities presented and discussed at the Election Watch A.P. on 7
th
, April,2009.
An Interim Review
Though the Ennikala Nigha Vedika is constituted only a couple of months ago, it has the merit of having eminent advisors, such as, Justice A.Lakshmana Rao and Sri.K.R.Venugopal, who have, already, the reputation of having undertaken electoral reforms and electoral watch activities as early as2000. This body includes many former administrators who have conductedthese election right from independence, like Sri. B.P.R.Vittal and others like,Sri.K.J.Rao and Sri. kaki Madhava Rao.Starting with about 25 organisations, now, the movement, as it stands,today, became a platform of nearly 200 civic society organizations covering allthe districts in the state. RTI activists, environmentalists, literacy workers,womens’ groups, low income groups, resident welfare associations, socialreformers and educator, teachers and other associations of civic concerns areworking together. It is currently being coordinated by 8 state convenors who arethemselves heads of a number of state level organizations.The three broad objectives are (a) voter awareness: to make the voter aware of the importance of the vote and also to choose the right candidatewithout accepting any inducements; (b) projecting a public eye or electionwatch, firstly to create a deterrence effect on the main players in the electioncampaign and secondly to help the public spirited citizens to report themalpractices committed and to forward the same to the appropriate machineryin place; (c) assisting the constitutional machinery to carry out their vitalmission without fear or favour, by cooperating with them as stake holders. Thisis necessary in order to restore and enhance the faith of the people in our institutions and in those persons who are running them. These objectives aretranslated into 10 programmes to be implemented by the partner organizationsinvolved all over the state.A handbook published by Vedika containing useful information isalready revised thrice and redistributed. Voter awareness means not onlyknowledge about their ‘Dos and Don’ts, but also about the norms that theofficials, the parties, the candidates and their followers should follow. Not onlythe relevant Acts but also the model code of conduct for the parties and thecandidates are being made widely known to the public by various means. 2 lakhhandouts as brief and ready-reference on the code of conduct are beingforwarded so as to reach not only the mandals but also, in some cases, even tovillages. We are ensuring that the very useful booklet brought out by the CEO inTelugu and Urdu reaches all districts.1
 
Building district level networks of a district committee with one or twoconvenors and a help centre are almost in place in all districts; while, in somedistricts even constituency committees are formed. This has become possible, because of a series of regional meets that preceded, with the dynamic presenceof Sri.K.J.Rao along with our convenors. The former Advisor to the ElectionCommission, in spite of his commitments in New Delhi, has been able to findtime to come to visit the districts, one after another, mobilising the activists,communicating with the press and meeting with the district level officers likethe D.E.O. and S.P.s for better cooperation between our activists and theofficials.Help Centres: While the State Centre has started addressing thecomplaints received, to the appropriate authorities, the 5 centres established inGHMC area have, just, started functioning after some initial training to thecentre operators. They inform the voters regarding their voting rights and polling stations as well as the names and tel numbers of the local DEOs,Observers, Returning Officers, Presiding Officers, Police Officials, etc. Theywould also revert the complaints received to the appropriate authorities. Thesame kind of help centres are designed to function in about 23 places, so far, inthe districts. Their efficient functioning is yet to be ensured. Activists arecarrying badges to show their commitment towards cleaner elections and a fewdistrict and constituency level activists are issued ID cards to facilitate their communication with the officials, on sight.In the interests of transparency, we should indicate that we have notlaunched any fund raising campaign for the expenses incurred during theseactivities. Many expenses are borne by the convenors themselves or collectively by the whole body. If the future activities turn out to be expensive, then theVedika might have to explore supplementary ways and means.The whole thing is started off with a whirl wind tour of different parts of the city and its outskirts by our team led by Sri.K.J.Rao to photograph thedefacement of public places and the unauthorized and abusive publicitycampaign by all parties without exception. A quick response by the C.E.O. has,finally, ended the defacement of the public places and publicity campaigns thatdisturb the normal life of the citizen and peaceful and pollution-freeenvironment. The parties that trespassed and defaced the public places are‘chalaaned’. The resultant effect is visible every where in Hyderabad and sameis the case in many towns and other cities.The state level convenors have, initially, created the momentum, byholding a series of press meets by projecting our Advisors to establish thecredibility of the Vedika. Later, the heads of the parties are visited and,surprisingly, most of them positively welcomed the presence of the Vedikaduring this election process. They offered to establish cells of communicationwithin their party with the convenors. While all parties condemnedmalpractices, they expressed helplessness to stop it. This situation stronglyconfirms and endorses the role of civil society to intervene to stop thisunhealthy competition among the parties. The meeting with the members of the National Election Commission and almost daily contacts and visits to the mostcooperative CEO, Sri.I.V.Subba Rao, IAS as well as the sincere and enthusiasticcooperation from Police headed by Sri. A.K.Mohanty and Sri.A.K.Khan have brought a lot of effectiveness to the activities of the Vedika. The heads of the2
 
Excise department as well the Income Tax department were requested to fall inline with the efforts of the election commission and create a synergy.The focus of the Vedika and its achievements, so far, are in their fightagainst distribution of liquor and money which has already started flowing.Previously, liquor distribution was never challenged and, nobody believed, tillthe Ennikala Nigha Vedika emerged, that it is possible to control it. More hardwork on the part of the Vedika might produce better results in future.The belt shops are recognized to be in existence and are ordered to beclosed. Started in Hyderabad, the practice of Women’s groups taking an oath,not to accept any inducements in other places. Musical notes and other culturalexpressions, like skits and street plays are being used to communicate themessage, under candle light is finding many emulators. Similarly, slush moneydistribution to buy the voters is being arrested and the amounts are beingconfiscated. The Police officials, encouraged by this success, are aiming atraiding the godowns in which the currency notes are already stocked fodistribution. A mere coincidence of the fact that the D.G.P. had to be appointed by the Election authority has brought a new morale and efficiency to the policeestablishment and, thereby, visibly, people’s level of confidence in thefunctioning of the police also has increased. This situation has, naturally,contributed to obtain better cooperation between the civil society and the police. Next phase of our action would focus more on making the votersknowledgeable, before they go to polls about the illicit accumulation of fundsand criminal background, if any, of the candidates. This will be done bystudying and comparing the affidavits filed by the candidates. Also arrangingcommon platforms in the constituencies: Active citizen would invite thecandidates to present themselves and their capabilities, contrary to, or, probably,in addition to, the sole practice of candidates going in groups to target votersand to shower un-accounted promises. The debate during the elections should bediverted from relief measures and promises to vital issues of polices regardingeconomic and social growth and employment. Further, more complaints againstelection malpractices are sure to reach us and our liaison mechanisms need to bestreamlined and strengthened to meet the demand. Finally, more innovativeinitiatives are needed to increase the percentage of voting in the urban areas andamong the educated voters.At the mid stage of this campaign by our movement, we can, already,discern certain positive trends in terms of our political values. Firstly, it is proved that, if our administrative bodies are allowed to function autonomouslyas per their constitutional or statutory obligations, they can produce better results in the interests of the nation. Secondly, in a society, where many peoplestill, do think that the politicians can do anything, while in power or whiletrying to capture it, we are able to prove that nobody is above law. The futurelaw-makers are being taught to learn to respect the rule of law. Can we producea lasting effect out of this, beyond the electoral period?----------------------------------------------
07/04/09
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