• A Virtual Call Center by Aam Aadmi Party

    AAP's Virtual Call Center

    Did any political party ever respond to a citizen’s question? – Aam Aadmi Party answers every email ever written to it !!

    15,049 emails from ordinary Indians (Residing all over the world), asking the party various questions about AAM AADMI Party, their agenda, Vision and  many of other subjects

    Another 10,966 emails from AAM AADMI SUPPORTERS,  providing the party ideas and suggestions on how to campaign, how to tackle tricky issues etc.

    These 26,000 + emails were not just in English and Hindi, but some were in other Indian languages too.

    A Project of humongous proportions, especially when these emails have to be replied individually in their respective languages. On top of that, all emails had to be replied within 2 months

    The Web Response Team comprised of about 30+ members from different parts of India and few from the USA and UK.

    Interestingly, almost  none of the team members had ever met each other.  Most communications were through email, chat and maybe an occasional phone call.

    Documents (Both in English and Hindi) that provided standardized formats of replies were created. A Web-Based Software was designed to manage the responses of these emails.

    Questions or Ideas that were tougher were escalated to be replied more thoroughly.

    A Total of 18067 emails were individually replied back either in Hindi or English

    1858 emails were escalated & replied in more details and 4893 emails were archived and not replied, since they were either repeated emails/spam or plain absurd.

    A near impossible task of individually replying to each of the 26,000+ emails, was achieved by the dedicated volunteers of Aam Aadmi Party for absolutely free

    Friends — Please take a bow to this team for achieving an unbelievable feat, 9 days before their Self Imposed  deadline !!

    If you wish to volunteer and help Aam Aadmi Party, please register to volunteer at http://support.aamaadmiparty.org/user?destination=profile-volunteer

    – Anand Sharma (AAP USA VOLUNTEER)

  • Medical appeal: Support RTI activist & Brave-heart Santosh Koli

    Sk_GetWellSoonDear Friends,

    We are sending this appeal with a heavy heart and ardent hope of rehabilitating the life of an extra-ordinary woman, a corruption crusader, who has positively impacted lives of so many people and whose bravery and sacrifice is an inspiration to many of us.
    Santosh Koli, noted RTI activist and AAP volunteer, was attacked by a speeding car on June 30th, 2013 and received serious head injuries. She has been battling for life and is still in ventilator support. We suspect that this is a deliberate attack to silence her and stop her transparency work. A close friend and a colleague of RTI activists Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, Santosh joined their NGO Parivartan to work for social causes when she was barely 18 years old. She is a meticulous worker, who used RTI very effectively to expose various scams in Delhi neighbourhoods, especially her battle against corruption in Public Distribution Systems. This got her many enemies and earned several threats and attacks. In 2005, local goons affected by her work slit her throat with blades but Santosh not only survived that brutal attack but also emerged stronger to continue her crusade. We all are hoping that she will come out safe and strong this time as well.

    She is currently getting treatment in Fortis Health Management, Gurgoan and her medical bills have reached close to 10 Lakh rupees (~ $17,000). She comes from an economically disadvantaged background and will not be able to meet it without support from friends. So, we are appealing to all friends and supporters to donate generously in this time of need to help her family in meeting the expenses.

    You can directly send your contribution to this hospital or send us an email to aamaadmiusa@gmail.com with your interest/pledge and we will work with you to make sure money reaches Hospital/Santosh’s family. You can find more details at http://usa.aamaadmiparty.org

    We look forward to your support. Attached document has transfer details of the hospital.

    Friends of Santosh
    United for clean governance in India

  • For a clear perspective

    Original Source – http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/Edits/For-a-clear-perspective/Article1-1072072.aspxcongressBJPBhaiBhai

    Mention transparency in public life and one is reminded of Justice Louis Brandeis’ quote that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants…” Our political leaders, however, seem to disagree. Their opposition to the ruling of the full bench of the Central Information Commission, placing six political parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act, is proof of this. The move to bring parties under the RTI is a positive step towards ensuring transparency and thereby reducing corruption in public life.

    Contrary to the view held by the parties, the country’s transparency watchdog felt that parties are public bodies as they are allotted prime property at concessional rates and get free air time on the public broadcast platforms of All India Radio and Doordarshan. The parties — the Congress, the BJP, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the CPI and the Bahujan Samaj Party — have been given six weeks to appoint public information officers who will reply to RTI queries.

    It is too early to call the judgement a watershed moment that will lead to a reduction in corruption because the six political parties can challenge the ruling in a high court. And the government on Tuesday said that it will approach the high court on the CIC judgement. The JD(U), which is not one of the six parties, has reacted sharply with its president Sharad Yadav saying that the move is not justified and that “political parties are not shops”.

    The CPI(M) has also rejected the CIC’s order. The BJP has said it would prefer a larger debate on the issue and the ruling Congress has called it an “adventurist” approach that it will “create a lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions”.

    Interestingly, the Trinamool Congress has welcomed the order. The fear expressed by parties that they will be flooded with RTI applications on sundry issues is misplaced as the law does not give blanket powers and has sufficient safeguards to deny frivolous requests.

    In the US, Britain and Canada, to name a few, disclosure laws make it mandatory for political parties to make public all financial details. In this context it should be mentioned that a relatively newer political party, the Aam Aadmi Party has been more upfront about its means of funding. The question that needs to be asked is: If there is nothing to hide, why fear the RTI or any other mechanism of transparency.

  • An Alternative to the Average Indian Politician – Manu Joseph

    Donate Money The voters of Delhi face the terrifying certainty that their most fervent wish will be granted.

    Original Source – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/world/asia/06iht-letter06.html?_r=2& (By Manu Joseph)

    In November, they will have the opportunity to bring to power the kind of person they have claimed for years they want to see in politics: an incorruptible man who is good at math, who has not been marinated in politics. An indignant man with genuinely black hair who does not wear the starched white clothes that Indians recognize as the costume of corruption, but instead appears in public in a modest cotton shirt that he never tucks into his modest trousers and with a cap that has a reprimand to politicians written on it. An engineer who once cleared the toughest engineering entrance exam in the country. A man who could have grown rich had he pursued a management degree or written terrible books, which elite Indian engineers do successfully, but who instead chose to enter public life vowing to disrupt political corruption and who became one of the key activists who persuaded the Indian government to pass an extraordinary act granting citizens the right of access to public documents.

    Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party will debut in electoral politics this November and contest all 70 seats in the Delhi assembly elections. On trial will be the people of Delhi themselves, and a beloved Indian hypothesis that they deserve better than rotten politicians. If virtue alone were to decide elections in India, the two major parties in Delhi, the governing Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, would not stand a chance against Mr. Kejriwal.

    “We will form the government,” Mr. Kejriwal told me on Saturday when I interviewed him before a small audience that had come to listen to him in a lakeside restaurant. He said this without any facial twitches or the high passion of delusion, but as a matter of fact. He said that in most of Delhi where the poor and the lower-middle class live there is no water supply for days and no electricity for hours every day. Politicians from both the Congress party and the B.J.P. control “cartels,” he said, that own water tankers, and it is in their interest to ensure that people face water shortages. According to Mr. Kejriwal, there is “an undercurrent” in Delhi against established political parties that was perceptible only to the poor, and to him. “People are fed up,” he said.

    On Sunday, he announced at a public gathering that he would run from the high-profile constituency of New Delhi, the fief of the current chief minister of Delhi and a powerful leader of the Congress party, Sheila Dikshit, who is often described by political observers as “maternal” by way of a compliment. There is more to her, of course. She has been diminished in recent times by corruption charges, but she still has a reputation for being very efficient. She pushed through Delhi’s excellent Metro system, where her image is featured on the walls of the trains, indeed looking somewhat maternal, while warning young people against sexually transmitted diseases. Mr. Kejriwal used to ride on the Metro until fame ensured that he had to deny himself the best feature of Delhi.

    Mrs. Dikshit is popular in Delhi, but Mr. Kejriwal wants to take her on. He announced that if she flees the New Delhi constituency to another district out of fear of him, which is unlikely, he will shadow her, which is certain.

    Mr. Kejriwal, naturally, is careful about obeying the law and will ensure that none of the candidates his party will field in the assembly election will spend more than 1.4 million rupees, or $25,000, on his or her campaign. That is sufficient, he said, as long as the candidate is not interested in distributing cash and liquor to potential voters, which is common practice, almost a tradition. “Major expenses, I think, in elections are on the last night” of the campaign, he said, “the money that is distributed to the voters and the freebies that are distributed.”

    What he truly requires to make an impact in the polls is hundreds of millions of rupees’ worth of free news media attention, which he has enjoyed over the past two years. But journalistic interest in him has declined.

    About two years ago, when the elderly social reformer Anna Hazare went on a death fast in Delhi to protest political corruption, Mr. Kejriwal rose to fame as one of Mr. Hazare’s able deputies on the dais, who often had something important to whisper into the old man’s ear. Soon, Mr. Kejriwal eclipsed Mr. Hazare as the hero of these times. He held news conferences accusing some of the richest and most powerful people in the country, and reporters saw in him a medium for telling stories their editors would not normally permit. But, slowly, people tired of him even though they continued to find him endearing and important. Also, according to Mr. Kejriwal, the editors and managers of several media organizations who had cheered him when he attacked the government were uncomfortable with his revelations about corporations and businessmen, who are major advertisers.

    He said that last November, after he accused HSBC in India of assisting some of its clients to launder money, he received a taunting text message, “from the editor in chief of a television channel, saying, ‘So you are a leftist?”’

    Mr. Kejriwal, who is acquainted with modern India’s most severe expletives, assured the gathering that he was “not wedded to any ideology.”

    Manu Joseph is editor of the Indian newsweekly Open and author of the novel “The Illicit Happiness of Other People.”

  • Why the public must fund candidates for elections – Pran Kurup



    Original Source for this article –

    http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/outsideedge/entry/why-the-public-must-fund-candidates-for-elections – By Pran Kurup

    It is universally accepted that elections are the very source of corruption. You need several crores to contest and campaign in an election and ultimately win it. According to the Election Commission, each candidate is allowed to spend a maximum of Rs. 15 lakhs in a constituency in the state assembly election. This amount is a real joke in this day and age. Despite this stipulation, no candidate has ever landed in serious trouble for spending more than this amount. As a result, candidates, especially from major political parties, spend several crores of rupees to contest and win elections. Where does this money come from? Clearly, these are from vested interests and undeclared black money that pours in from different quarters. These contributors automatically expect favors once the candidate wins the election. So, compromises are made at the very start of the process.

    None of the current political parties are ever going to bring about any reforms whatsoever to fix this problem. Over the years, they have established a well-oiled fund raising machinery that ensures the smooth and steady influx of hordes of cash to fight elections. This is often used to dole out goodies at the time of election ranging from liquor, plain hard cash, TV sets, laptops, etc., in order to win votes. The Election Commission has not shown the wherewithal to do anything about this either. So sadly, the practice continues undeterred. The amounts required to fight elections increase so dramatically with each election that it has now become virtually impossible for an honest candidate to contest and dream of winning an election without making compromises. Under these circumstances, what choices do we have? We can continue to remain bystanders while our elected representatives are well and truly sold out to big donors even before they are elected, or we can take steps to reform the process ourselves by crowd-funding candidates and parties we support that are committed to a process of open and transparent fund raising.

    The Aam Aadmi party (AAP) has taken a unique step in this direction. They have sought funds directly from the people and routinely list the contributors and the amounts collected on their website. The party announced that it has managed to raise about 2 crores from the public. At the 15 lakhs per constituency stipulated by the Election Commission, AAP is going to need five times as much as it has raised to date before November to contest all 70 seats in Delhi. A tall order indeed. Considering that AAP is up against the endless funds of BJP and the Congress, this amount is clearly a paltry sum. Nevertheless, it’s a start. As a nation, if we care to curtail corruption at the very source, we need to step up and support parties like AAP that say no to contributors who wish to remain anonymous.

    In the US, less than one percent of the population contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008. Still, this helped his campaign raise a substantial amount of funds that eventually fueled his victory. US citizens are accustomed to making campaign contributions. Besides, in the US, the process of online payments is far more streamlined and credit cards are universally available to all and sundry. All of this is fairly new to India. Nevertheless, this is likely to be the future. It’s up to us as the caring public of India to circumvent the major political parties who are more than happy with the status quo. The public has to fund and ensure the success of parties and candidates that are committed to open and transparent fund raising. This is an area in which the often maligned middle class can also play a very critical role. From the comfort of their living rooms, they can make generous contributions and spread the word among their friends and families.

    Kudos to AAP for pioneering this process despite serious challenges. Firstly, there is the challenge of encouraging people to contribute online, something most people have never done before. Secondly, the party has had other challenges like banks and payment gateways that are fearful of working with them. The ball is in the people’s court to step up and set the stage for a future where candidates are not sold out before they are elected into office. The people of Delhi have a unique opportunity in the upcoming state assembly elections to ensure that this experiment actually works. If successful, this could prove a terrific model for the rest of the country and would be an exciting triumph for democracy and people power over vested interests and black money.

    You can follow Pran’s tweets at http://twitter.com/pkurup