A day with aam aadmi

Governance Now follows Kejriwal’s volunteers as they move through lanes in a New Delhi locality, collecting signatures for their campaign against inflated power and water bills

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | April 29, 2013


An Aam Aadmi Party volunteer helps a Delhi resident put her stamp on the letter to the Delhi CM. The letters, “accepted” by Sheila Dikshit, purportedly state that these residents would not pay what they call are inflated bills.
An Aam Aadmi Party volunteer helps a Delhi resident put her stamp on the letter to the Delhi CM. The letters, “accepted” by Sheila Dikshit, purportedly state that these residents would not pay what they call are inflated bills.

A day after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sent what it claims were 10.5 lakh letters from the aam Delhiites to Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, protesting against the “unfair” hike in water and electricity tariffs in the national capital, we look back at how some of those signatures were collected. This story, done in early April during the signature collection campaign by AAP volunteers, was carried in Governance Now’s April 16-30 issue. Read on...

A kiosk set up on one side of a busy road in south Delhi’s Govindpuri was alive with activity at 10 am on the morning of April 3. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers donning the now-famous ‘I Want Jan Lokpal’ and ‘I Want Swaraj’ caps were busy distributing leaflets to passersby, urging them to support AAP in their “pro-common man and anti-corruption” endeavours. Busy dashing towards public transports, most people, though, barely paid attention to contents of the leaflets they grabbed before hastening away.  

 
This was the 12th day of the fast of activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal against “inflated water and power bills” issued in Delhi. 
To know how these signatures are taken, Governance Now accompanied some AAP volunteers to Sangam Vihar, where they collected signatures of people paying inflated bills. According to AAP, these signatures will be forwarded to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit to register the collective public grievance.
 
Who are these volunteers?
Vishwaratna Sinha, the district coordinator from Durg, said a team of AAP volunteers has come to Delhi for an indefinite period to support Kejriwal. A businessman by profession, Sinha said he felt inspired by Anna Hazare’s movement. “I was always associated with movements against injustice and inequality. I had campaigned with people in my district for six months when private schools there had hiked fees by 110 percent,” he said. “When the anti-corruption movement began in 2011, I knew I had to participate. So here I am, supporting Kejriwal.” 
 
Sinha said there are over 3,000 AAP members in three blocks of Durg district alone, most of them salaried professionals. According to an AAP functionary, committees are being formed in all states, while district-level committees are active in almost all states.
So, being office-goers, how do they manage work for a movement that has now turned political? “We wrap up the day’s work by 5 pm and make it to the party’s office,” Sinha replied.
 
Meherban Singh, the district secretary of Durg, said he has been an RTI activist for the last four years and runs a weekly newspaper, Chhattisgarh Times. “I handed over my business to my brother so that I can participate in anti-corruption activities,” he said. 
 
Both Sinha and Singh believe Delhi is a model for other states, and if it ushers in drastic changes in governance the rest of the country will follow suit.

Besides Chhattisgarh, sources in AAP said more than 500 volunteers from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana had come to Delhi to participate in Kejriwal’s 14-day fast, with many of them staying back to work for the party as the Delhi assembly elections draw closer

What do these people do?
At Sangam Vihar, a motley crowd of local and outstation volunteers set out through the maze of narrow lanes with a loudspeaker playing a recorded voice, asking people not to pay inflated bills and requesting them to support Arvind Kejriwal’s anti-corruption movement.
 
“I always wanted to be a part of change. So when I saw AAP posters requesting volunteers, I immediately signed up,” said Jeetu Singh, a BTech student and a local resident. “I have to manage my studies by night. My parents are sympathetic to my ideals but repeatedly plead with me to take care of my studies.” 
 
Singh believes the country will move in the right direction only if politics is cleansed.
 
According to AAP, some of the volunteers from other states have left and will return two or three months before the assembly elections, likely to be held in October.

 

WHOSAYSWHAT

'Water supply is extremely irregular, though we pay '400 in tariff each month. For the rest of the month we have to store water in tanks. Storing water for such long periods breeds mosquitoes. (As a result) we are fined when the municipal corporation staff comes for inspection.”

Shahnaz 

'I have not perceived any drastic change in my electricity bills. I am not aware what the bills should be like (since) I am at work all day. But people in my colony regularly complain about water and electricity. I wholeheartedly support Kejriwal and his movement.”
Rajkumar Jha, priest

'I am getting inflated electricity bills for the last 10 months. But since my daughter is in class X I pay the bill so that she can carry on with her studies.”
Ramdass, 65, formerly a day labourer

'I have never seen these people (volunteers) before and do not know who they are. I signed because everyone else in the neighbourhood did. I will wait and watch.”
Preeti Jha, uncertain whether to boycott paying the bills
 

 

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