Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed
Showing posts sorted by date for query Tamilnadu. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query Tamilnadu. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Special Report: 'Who Cries When A Mothers Die?'

The probability of an Indian mother dying during childbirth is roughly 10 times that of her Chinese counterpart. Reducing the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by three-quarters in 10 years is now a Millennium Development Goal. Why is MMR in India so high and how far are we from the goal? INNLIVE unravels the many challenges to saving mothers' lives.

Lhamu, a mother of twelve, lives in a remote village in Western Tibet. Three of her children died within a month of birth and the four year old strapped to her back looked as small as a one year old. She gave birth all alone, at home, all twelve times.

Focus: Will 'Aam Aadmi Party' Deliver The True 'Swaraj'?

The initial euphoria over its emphatic electoral win over, the focus is now on realities within which the AAP will have to deliver on its promises. INNLIVE explores if the party can realise its vision of ‘swaraj,’ living up to the true ideals of decentralisation.

Ever since the AAP's win in Delhi, there have been a spate of articles on right wing websites, questioning the rationale of issues that form the core of the AAP's political ideologies.

Monday, November 03, 2014

After Maharashtra debut, Hyderabad Based Majlis Party to be launched in Tamil Nadu

After debut in Maharashtra, now Hyderabad based All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimen (AIMIM) which stunned many by its performance in recently held Maharashtra assembly polls by winning two seats today announced to launch its branch in Southern state of Tamil Nadu .

It was officially declared today when a delegation of Indian National League, TamilNadu met AMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi and legislature party leader in Telangana assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi at Majlis headquarter Darrusalam and joined the party.

The delegation led by Abd ur Raheem congratulated MIM leaders for party’s performances in Maharashtra and opined that it is the dream of people in TN to see AMIM winning MP, MLA and Corporator seats there.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Analysis: Electing A Lesser Evil On The Right Side Of India!

By Jaipal Singh (Guest Writer)

Canvassing and voting for the 16th Lok Sabha for the biggest democracy in the world is at full swing during this summer in India. By the time I am writing these lines, franchise for more than fifty percent parliamentary constituencies has already been locked in the ballot boxes aka electronic voting machines. Politics these days is synonymous to a dirty game in the muddy water and the limitation of the democratic process is that you can choose only from amongst the choices available. Yet the choice made at the ballot box is crucial as it determines what kind of governance you are opting for the next five years.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Editorial: Is Arvind Kejriwal Dangerous For Indian Politics?

By M H Ahssan | INNLIVE

Who is more dangerous for India – Arvind Kejriwal or Narendra Modi? This is a question that India needs to answer. But a recent article titled ‘Arvind Kejriwal: The Most Dangerous Man In Indian Politics’ has ventured to supply a one-sided answer to this question. The title is as catchy as it is misleading if not subversive. 

The ensuing ‘analysis’ is sadly not borne out by facts but relies on obfuscation and rhetoric. The tragic outcome is that many pertinent facts have been buried beneath the rubble of unsubstantiated allegations and sinister accusations. On the whole the article is an anti-Kejriwal diatribe disguised as an intellectual treatise.

While conferring on Modi the respectable halo of a “firebrand Hindu nationalist”, the writer goes on to indulge in pure speculation and sweeping generalizations about Kejriwal and other AAP leaders.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Political Twists & Turns In Tamilnadu: Perfecting The Art Of Switching Sides To Stay Afloat In Power Pool Settlements

By Sujata Pillai | INNLIVE

TAMILNADU POLITICS The birth of new alliances in Tamil Nadu this election once again proves that politicians don’t hesitate to find strange bedfellows at will. Ever since smaller regional parties began to flaunt their distinct vote banks in 1998, ideology has taken a backseat during polls.

The PMK, which consolidated its base in the Vanniyars belt in the north and north-west regions has the reputation of hopping camps almost in every election since 1998, barring the 2006 Assembly election when it remained in the DMK camp.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Audacious Rural Girls Talk Power And Politics In Tamilnadu

By Siddique Azad | Chennai

The small village of Thazhaiyattam in Gudiyattam panchayat in Tamil Nadu’s parched district of Vellore is likely to be overlooked as yet another nondescript rural hamlet that dot the state. But an intriguing political initiative is taking shape here, giving a new spin to the term ‘grassroots politics’.

A group of young women have come together to spread the message of democracy and rights in Thazhaiyattam and its neighboring villages like Ananganallur, Melallattur and Gudanagaram, among others. They get young people to speak about the promises they want their political leaders to fulfill, initiate lively discussions on the various social and governance problems they are up against, and even motivate them to come forward and join local panchayat bodies.

Friday, November 01, 2013

'Happy Birthday Andhra Pradesh': A Sad Day Of Formation And Likely Bifurcation Makes People To 'Think Twice'!

By M H Ahssan / INN Live

'Happy Birthday Andhra Pradesh' has a sad tinge to it today. For this November 1 could well be the last Andhra Pradesh Formation Day that the state is celebrating in its present form. If the Congress has its way, by December, the state would be cut into two to create a new state of Telangana with ten districts while the remaining 13 districts would continue to call themselves Andhra Pradesh.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Agri-Innovation: The Wonder Climber For Areca Nut Trees

By Srikrishna D / Bangalore

A new mechanical device that makes areca nut harvesting less labour-intensive and hence affordable could solve one of the major problems faced by farmers of the crop. 

In recent years, labour scarcity has emerged as one of the foremost challenges in farming. One crop that has been most affected by this is the supari, or areca nut. Areca nut trees attain a height of about 60-70 feet. It is mandatory to climb the trees a minimum of five times a year for a successful harvest - twice for the preventive spray against fungal disease, and thrice to harvest the areca bunches. The spraying is done in monsoon, while harvest time is typically in summer.

Only skilled labourers can carry out these farming operations. They have to climb the trees using muscle power. In an acre that has 550 trees, a labourer has to climb a minimum of 100 to 150 trees.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Changing Face Of Tamil Nadu’s Muslim Politics

By Syed Maqdoom / Chennai

Over the last year, agitations by radical Tamil Muslim groups have effectively influenced the Tamil Nadu government’s policies. In September 2012, the Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) and Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ) protested against the film, The Innocence of Muslims, and laid siege to the U.S. Consulate in Chennai. In early 2013, in the face of similar protests, Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam was first taken off the screens and exhibited only after cuts were made.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Initiative: Humble Jackfruit Eyes Haute Cuisine Status

By Swetha Reddy / INN Bureau

Of the abundant quantities of jackfruit grown in India annually, an estimated 70 per cent rots away, due to lack of awareness and difficulties of usage. Now, a joint initiative by an academic institute and a farmers' group seeks to change that. Sixty seven-year-old Prema Bhat Thottethodi, a farmer woman, was restless. Leaning on a walking stick, she was busy running around in the massive kitchen. Age and her knee-ache couldn’t deter her spirit. Later in the day, she stole the show by demonstrating many ‘unknown’ preparations.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Poverty Forced Her To Live On Brick Bites In Tamilnadu

By Selvanatham / Chennai

Born into a poor family with no means for two square meals a day, an octogenarian and her family members had no option but to subsist on pieces of bricks, mud and ash for a long time — and now she has become addicted to it. “I was born in a poor family and at times we had nothing to eat. We used to eat pieces of bricks, mud and ash. Even after my marriage to a daily wage earner, the situation did not change,” said Saraswathi, a resident of Vishwapuram in Thoothukudi in Tamilnadu, who works as a domestic help at several houses in Muthammal Nagar.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


By M H Ahssan / Hyderabad

Television news in the southern part of the country has largely become the preserve of the various political dynasties, with a glut of channels acting as mouthpieces of the owners rather than objective news broadcasters. INN brings us the true picture. 

A joke in Tamilnadu one has heard several times is about how Tamilians ensure they get the right news.

Friday, May 03, 2013


By Venugopal / Kottayam

Meet M B Santosh, one of India's only three FIFA-accredited referees, who drives an auto-rickshaw and works as caretaker of an apartment in Kottayam, Kerala to support a family of five. Here, he shares the incredible story of his life and passion with INN.

A day in the life of Santosh, FIFA referee, at his hometown Kottayam, in Kerala Santosh is up and about early in the morning. He goes to the stadium ground for an hour of rigorous work-out; drops his daughter at school; takes out his auto-rickshaw and operates in the town for a few hours before reaching the Skyline apartments, of which he is the caretaker. He is back once again with the auto rickshaw in the afternoon; returns to the apartment in the evening and attends to the routine work there. Also takes up assignments as a personal driver on hire.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


By M H Ahssan / Chennai

Tamilnadu has a history of mixing politics and food. With Jayalalita’s Re 1-idli scheme becoming a hit with even the middle class, has she perfected the art of food bank politics?

At 8am, the sun shines bright over Sant home High Road which leads to the panoramic Marina beach in Chennai. A newly painted small stucco building on this road is making waves. A long queue is weaving out of the verandah of the two roomed building and if you walk past it and step into the kitchen, the smell of freshly cooked idlis and sambar, the staple Tamil breakfast, assails you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


By Shreya Reddy / Hyderabad

By scrapping the Bayyaram mining leases in Khammam district and announcing a decision to hand them over to the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy queered the pitch for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

In fact, the TDP, which has been crying hoarse over the allocation of Bayyaram mining leases for quite sometime, was caught napping when the State Government announced its decision. Aside from this, the State Government announced that it would insist the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), the public sector company that runs the Vizag Steel Plant, to establish a benification plant and also a steel plant in Khammam district.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CJ REPORT: Voters’ Rolls Found In Waste Paper Mart

By CJ Ramalingam Shetty in Chennai

The staff of Tambaram taluk office in Chennai, Tamilnadu, were busy at a local waste paper mart —  in a bid to recover 10 bundles of electoral rolls that went missing from the taluk office.

Revenue staff had che­­cked the bags of te­m­porary workers, who cleaned the taluk office, and were shocked to fi­nd voter rolls. Ten of total 20 such bags, in which were stocked dr­a­ft voters rolls, were found missing. The sea­r­ch led to a waste paper mart and eight bundles of voter rolls were reco­ve­red.

Local RDO P. Ettiappan admitted the incident but allayed fears as they were only draft rolls dating back to 2008. The draft roll bundles were intact and the attempted sale thwarted. The stationery had been discarded but the issue was being probed, he added. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant: Ready To Produce Power?

Will the Kudankulam nuclear power plant finally become operational this month as assured by the Prime Minister? INN takes an in-depth look at the long history of delays and conflicts that has plagued the project since its inception. 

Almost 11 years after concrete had first been poured in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in March 2001, India still awaits the 2000 MW electricity that the plant could generate. Six months after nuclear fuel-enriched Uranium was loaded into the core of the plant, with repeated tests being run to satisfy all safety parameters, Kudankulam is still on the brink. For the nuclear protesters that brink denotes a lurking disaster while for India's nuclear establishment, it is the power that could relieve a crippling shortage that has come in the way of growth.

The stalled project had seen its share of delays right from the beginning. A product of the Indo-USSR pact in 1988, the first hurdle came in the form of collapse of the USSR. Clearances, in line with the laws of those days, were obtained in 1989 and land acquisition completed by the 1980s. The plant had to be renegotiated with Russia in 1997.

But a different set of rules for environment safety were in place in 1997, under the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Any project that cost over Rs 50 crore needed to go through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a Public Hearing, after the copy of the EIA was given to the public/panchayats (local body governance) of the village in which the project was to come up. The notification mandated any expansion and modernisation of existing projects and new ones should go through a process of EIA by an expert committee chosen by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The report had to be placed before the State Pollution Control Board, which would then convene a public hearing to find out objections to the project. Schedule I of the notification included nuclear plants and allied industries.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, the Indian company that is implementing the project, had also proposed four more plants in the site. A fresh inter-Government agreement was signed in 2008. While the two plants for which permissions were already in place did not have to go through additional processes, the other four proposed plants had to. Permissions for those four plants had come only in 2012 after much deliberation and changes in the safety plan, after EIA and public hearing.

Home-grown industry and its safety
The civilian nuclear energy programme in India is 62 years old with one of the safest records in the world. There have been no Chernobyl-like or Three Mile Island-like accidents, events that were believed to be caused by human factor. India also collaborated with the likes of Canada, France, USA. However with the Smiling Buddha operation in 1974, the country faced a nuclear apartheid. Countries that had then helped India set up reactors backed out of their commitments, setting back many projects. The fast breeder reactors, for which India was working with France, were delayed. A smaller test breeder reactor has been in operation for almost 30 years now, but the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is yet to go on stream, the nuclear establishment attributing this delay to the manufacturing of a first-of-its-type equipment.

Since then the nuclear energy programme has been almost entirely home-grown and has often been praised elsewhere for the ingenuity and experimental facilities that is matched only by Russia. In that sense, Kudankulam then would come to mean a collaboration between two of the best in the world.

But then the project attracted so much opposition that it was almost derailed twice, and while the last rounds have come very close to commissioning, it has not reached that state. The residents of Idinthakarai, a village 6 km outside the 5 km sterilisation zone, have called for the project to be abandoned. In September 2011, the anti-nuclear movement started gaining momentum, forcing the State of Tamilnadu to call for a suspension of works in a ready-to-be commissioned project.

Summer of discontent
Tamil Nadu was going through an unprecedented power shortage, with an installed capacity of 11,640 MW including from Central projects like Neyveli Lignite Corporation through power sharing agreements, and the state experiencing a 4,460 MW deficiency. The demand from the Power Utility was projected at 13,450 MW for 2013-14.

The Tamil Nadu Generation and Transmission Company – TANGEDCO – had to resort to extensive power cuts throughout 2012, some extending up to 12 hours in rural areas to manage the crisis. The crisis continues in 2013, with the state being energy-starved this summer also.

There has been little capacity addition since 2000 in the state and opposition to projects like the 1600 MW Jayamkondan Lignite Power Project had meant that the state quickly went from energy surplus to buying power from the North Eastern States. Demand had increased from 6000 MW in early 2000 to 12000 MW within a decade. Many of the thermal plants are operating only at 50 percent capacity and dwindling resources at Neyveli Lignite Corporation poses its own problems. The state needed to add capacity and add it quickly.

This prompted the Chief Minister to do a volte-face on her stand that KKNPP can only be commissioned after allaying the fears of the locals and seeking immediate consent. The consent came a day after parliamentary by-elections to Sankarankoil constituency, in the district of Tirunelveli, the same as Kudankulam in March 2012. It was an election fought over the poor management of power crisis. The AIADMK-government leveraged its victory to give consent to the project. It also upped its ante by demanding all of the 2000 MW for the state, negating the original power-sharing contract.

Both the AIADMK and its bitter enemy the DMK had contributed to the power crisis, by not adding capacity and by distributing freebies promised during elections like TVs, blenders, grinders and fans (and where fans were redundant induction stoves). These energy intensive appliances added another requirement of 250 MW per day, according to some TANGEDCO estimates. But with the by-elections won, the AIADMK government put the ball firmly in the centre's court.

Expert group struggles to win over
The centre was urged to win over the support of locals after allaying fears. Well-respected scientists including the former President of India Dr A P J Abdul Kalam were part of that effort. An Expert Group that went into safety aspects presented its report to the State Government. 

That report addressed how the Fukushima meltdown happened and how the design of the Kudankulam plant does not allow for that kind of events to happen. The Japanese plant was shut down when the 9.03 Richter scale temblor hit the North Eastern Japanese island; the six tsunami waves that followed cut off power supply to the plant that resulted in a level-7 meltdown. The earthquake was so powerful that it moved the entire main island of Japan, Honshu, by 8 ft and shifted the earth on its axis. Of note is the fact that entire Japan sits on seismic zone 5, while Indian authorities says Kudankulam sits on zone 2, the least prone to earthquakes.

When the Boxing Day tsunami, caused by a 9.1-earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia, struck the Eastern Coasts of the Indian peninsula, two nuclear establishments saw some flooding. The Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam (70 km from Madras) was minimally affected. Water entered one of the 220 MW plants, which had been manually shut down safely. The residential colonies for the workers fared worse with five employees of the Madras Atomic Power Station drowning..

Kudankulam plant also saw tsunami water entering its incomplete premises. Kudankulam's neighbouring fishing villages were minimally affected by the tsunami.

The Expert Committee then pointed out the low seismicity of the region, the plant safety features including the higher elevation of the building and diesel generator to cool, double containment, measures to prevent explosions caused by release of hydrogen gas, like those that happened in Fukushima, to prove their point that Kudankulam is no Fukushima waiting-to-happen. The Nuclear Establishment has also agreed to implement the safety plan that the International Atomic Energy Agency proposed. Yet, these assurances were not good enough for the protesters.

The activists still demanded that the project be scrapped and even sought that the blueprint of the reactor be made public, an unprecedented step. This time around they also wanted it scrapped on the basis that it went against public sentiment. Their rhetoric revolves around nationalistic sentiments of Tamils and has received widespread support among parties that have espoused those values. After the main parties of Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK and the DMK, toed the line of the expert group report, the Tamil Nationalistic PMK and the MDMK have extended support. This movement has also attracted the attention of supremacist elements involved in the Tamil separatist movement, like Naam Thamizhar Iyakkam.

Close to commissioning
While the Nuclear Establishment was looking at an October 2012 commissioning, the residents, organised under the umbrella of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), filed a case in the High Court seeking the scrapping of the project. When that case was thrown out, they went to the Supreme Court to stop the loading of fuel into the plant. The court refused to stop the loading, but reserved its order pending the satisfaction of safety norms.

The residents then resorted to a sea siege. There were many incidents of disturbances of law and order, including a charge against peacefully protesting villagers. The atmosphere around Kudankulam continued to be rife with rumours.

With the plant expected to be commissioned by the following month, local media started reporting leakage of radiation claiming 40 lives. Those reports were then rescinded the next day and apologies issued. Sri Lankan anti-nuclear groups became involved at this stage claiming leaks and the Sri Lankan Atomic Energy Authority, which has radiation detectors installed near the Indian coast, had to issue a denial.

Moving toward transparency
In the last decade, India has signed the 123 Indo-US Nuclear Treaty with the USA, which mandates it to separate civil and military nuclear facilities and to open up its civil facilities to scrutiny by the IAEA.

As a last step of activating the pact, the government had to legislate The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. With these steps the Nuclear Establishment of India hoped it could work toward removing some of the cynicism about its safety record and accusation of secrecy. These measures, however, have not even been recognised by the anti-nuclear movements in the country that quote the example of Germany and wants India to stop all civil nuclear energy efforts.

Those for nuclear energy have also demanded greater transparency in the working of the Nuclear Establishment. Most of the officials from the regulatory body, AERB, are from the nuclear establishments themselves. That expertise on nuclear energy does not exist outside the realms of the Department of Atomic Energy has been a concern. Many of the dialogues between the establishment and anti-nuclear activists have therefore been trenchantly inimical - a rather technical “he said-she said” than ones trying to move towards consensus building. And the one catastrophe that Kudankulam has already left us with is that of public relations.

For instance, the first ever nuclear project to have undergone a public hearing was the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in 2001. When the public hearing was on in the presence of the Kancheepuram district Collector, the anti-nuclear groups organised residents to complain of the incidence of congenital deformities, believed to have been caused by radiation. These were listed by Doctors for Safer Environment. The then Collector, also a medical doctor, had requested that these be documented instead of blanket accusations being levelled. However, when this reporter spoke to those doctors and asked why the report was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, instead of being presented to journalists first, they were reluctant to answer questions.

On the other hand, the Nuclear Establishment maintains that radiation levels in Kalpakkam were much below those minimum requirements mandated by the AERB and that they are much below background radiation already present.

In recent times, the anti-nuclear protesters have also called into question the design/safety criteria that were taken into account during the design process.  Most reactors were designed taking into account storm surges, given that the east coast is prone to cyclones. But that the entire region is considered to be low-seismicity zone and not tsunami prone, unlike the Pacific Ocean, is pointed out as a poor design factor. Protesters have also put forth the view that a scientific body like the DAE and its constituents cannot afford to pick its safety concerns. It is true that these contentions of theirs have not been sufficiently addressed by the establishment.

Since the fuel loading in October 2012, NPCIL has run many tests and has submitted their results to AERB. The AERB has also called for many tests to be done in thoroughness. People who are observing the process see it as strategies to assuage the Supreme Court, where a PIL against the KKNPP filed by Prashant Bhushan in September 2012 is still pending. The Supreme Court had observed that the plant could be put on hold at this stage - when it is about to be commissioned - if it is not satisfied with the safety measures.

In all of this, the commissioning of the plant has simply been pushed beyond one deadline to another; The AERB has been periodically stating that the plant would be commissioned shortly; now, the latest assurance comes from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has promised Russian president Vladimir Putin that the plant will be operational this month.  However, given the long history of roadblocks, and the fact that the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case against the power plant is still pending, one can only wait to see when the assurance becomes reality.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Financial Irregularities: Annamalai University VC Suspended

INN published a news report "Irregularities Unearthed At Annamalai University" on March 14, 2013 in these columns. The authorities and Tamilnadu government has ordered a high level enquiry an this issue and result: issued orders of suspension of Annamalai University Vice Chancellor and other officers and sacked many more responsible officers. 

Following financial irregularities at the 84-year-old Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu governor K Rosaiah suspended its vice-chancellor M Ramanathan. The action comes two days after the state government appointed IAS officer Shiv Das Meena as the university administrator. 

A special audit team had found that university funds were diverted, appointments were made in excess and provident fund money was not deposited. 

The lapses occurred due to maladministration and lack of proper control over the functioning of the university, read the government order signed by the governor. "As principal executive officer of the university, vested with various powers including the power to appoint clerical and other staff, the vice- chancellor is responsible for proper functioning of the university. 

It has become necessary to investigate into the matter in detail, from all angles and in particular with respect to the working of the institution, persons responsible for the maladministration and the role played by you as the vice-chancellor," read the order. 

The suspension will come into effect immediately and will stay till further orders. 

The sate government had constituted a special audit team under Section 28 of the Annamalai Universtiy Act, 1928 to assess the financial and other irregularities in the university. After inspection, the team submitted its report to the government, in which it mentioned about diversion of funds running to several crores of rupees and misappropriation of funds.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Loksatta Is Flexing musles Over Electoral Reforms

As the Lok Satta party, with its crop of image-defying politicians, raises hopes for a new brand of politics, INN catches up with party leader Dr Jayaprakash Narayan on the party's hopes at the Karnataka polls and possibilities of a larger wave of political reforms in the country. 

The Lok Satta party headed by Jayaprakash Narayan is flexing its muscles in Bangalore as the state gets ready for elections in May. The party has so far named 15 candidates for MLA elections in the state; more are expected. Nine are contesting in Bangalore city itself, and the rest from other parts of Karnataka. Lok Satta has a reformist positioning in the Indian political sphere. It supports clean governance, setting up of a strong Lokpal, liberalising agriculture, closing of populist subsidies, FDI in retail, and so forth.

Jayaprakash Narayan, 57, the charismatic leader who is more widely known in Andhra Pradesh than Karnataka, is the sole MLA of the party anywhere in the country. He ran and won his seat in AP assembly elections from Kukatpally in Hyderabad. In AP, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra, there are a handful of local representatives (in municipal councils and panchayats) of the party.

Given the cynicism around the state of politics in India, many consider the chances of candidates with strong credentials and track records to enter legislatures to be very low. However, in the past few years, India, and urban India in particular has seen a surge of demand in the streets from a largely frustrated young citizenry. There has been an outpouring of protests around the country on several counts. From the huge wave of public support for a Lokpal bill for fighting rampant corruption to the most recent protests over the Delhi gang-rape incident, the yearning for change among large sections of the Indian populace has been evident.

Lok Satta has been at the forefront of many such change campaigns from a time when public angst had not even made itself so visible. In Bangalore for example, Lok Satta party volunteers were originally involved in sparking off Saaku, an anti-corruption movement in the city that peaked during the support campaign for Justice Santosh Hegde. During his tenure as Lokayukta, he had exposed the BJP government's ministers including former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa. Many volunteers who were part of the India Against Corruption (IAC) group that campaigned for the Lokpal bill in the city during Anna Hazare’s fast in New Delhi were also Lok Satta party cadres.

Better known as JP, Jayaprakash Narayan is no mean achiever in public life. He is a doctor by training, and a former IAS officer with a long track record of accomplishments. He is well known for his campaign and role in bringing electoral reforms to India in 2002 that made disclosures by candidates running for office mandatory.

Prior to founding Lok Satta as a political party, he founded it as a movement for better governance in Andhra Pradesh. Lok Satta's work on electricity reforms became visible as it took over and operated four power distribution stations in the state to demonstrate the efficacy of several reform measures they had advocated.

In Bengaluru today, Lok Satta party candidates, most of them reasonably well known in their neighbourhoods and the city, are running for MLAs. Jayaprakash Narayan or JP as he is called has been moved by the upsurge in Bangalore and says it has the most cosmopolitan electorate in the country. “Bangaloreans are more likely to transcend old loyalties and parochial power that mainline parties have,” he says.

As the campaigns in Bengaluru have begun to peak, INN caught up with JP for a detailed conversation. He spoke many things and seems passionate, thoughtful, clear and yet restrained. Excerpts of the Interview.

You have been the single MLA for Lok Satta in AP. What are your hopes for the next AP election (2014)?

Being a single MLA in the assembly is not such a bad thing. We have shown that it is still possible to influence significant public policy outcomes.

We feel 15-20 per cent of the electorate certainly wants change. But there are systemic compulsions in India because of which even if you have good support base, and strong credibility, conversion to votes is not easy.

We are considering issue-based alliances for the AP 2014 elections. If there is an iron clad guarantee on specific issues from a bigger political party in constituencies where we are strong, we may transfer our support to them.

These are issues on which we will seek issue-base alliances:
  • Full decentralisation of power to local government at the ward and panchayat level.
  • Services guarantee law, with compensation to citizens when there is delay or denial
  • Radical change in the power sector
  • Agricultural reforms – liberalisation of agriculture, not merely giving short term freebies, but long term benefits
  • Anti-Corruption agenda – A Lokayukta for AP with real independent power
  • Education and Health care reform.
  • We currently have strong presence in 80 constituencies in AP, and there are around 20-25 people who have been working hard in these areas for the people. They may become the MLA candidates for LS in 2014.
What significant outcomes have you been able to influence as MLA, even as a lone representative in the AP assembly?

There are several concrete outcomes. There is a robust Societies Act in use in AP. The Congress party wanted to amend it in a way that would bring in far more controls. The amendment was unconstitutional according to me. I have stood against this and held it up for the past four years in the legislature and have got the rest of the opposition to stand against it as well. The Congress could have passed it by brute force and has not because of the opposition I have led.

Next is the Citizen Services Delivery Guarantee bill. While this is not enacted yet, there has been debate on the bill and the rules the government needs to put in place for it to function effectively. This has already resulted in real action on the ground, even without the bill being passed.

There is a now a Lokayukta bill pending in the AP assembly. This is also my party's work and we have pushed for it. It is not enacted yet, but we will continue to push for it.

In the 2010 elections in AP, Lok Satta had a well articulated vision with many reform points that the Congress party copied from us. Our party has a lot of credibility in the state in arguing its points and other parties have drawn from us whenever they want. That is also impact.

Tell voters what the Lok Satta party has done for Bangalore and Karnataka that legitimises its claim that it is ready to fight big electoral races such as MLA elections.

The Lok Satta party has already contributed to Bangalore, in three areas.

First, through Ashwin Mahesh, whose work on transportation and traffic control for Bangalore is remarkable, especially for its focus on strengthening public departments. He has also been leading the water management efforts, including lake revival.

Second, it has covered a lot of ground in waste segregation and management: N S Ramakanth and Meenakshi Bharath have been doing stellar work in this area. This is part of our focus on urban planning.

Third is the Saaku movement itself. Lok Satta volunteers were at the core of triggering off that movement in Bangalore earlier, with an initial focus on safeguarding the institution of the Lokayukta. The IAC happened immediately and naturally after that.

More broadly, Lok Satta members are at the core of virtually all the civil society-led changes in the city. That is a very good thing. Politics and development should be strongly connected, and the example of our Bangalore party unit is a very good one in this regard.

Some voters think that too often in elections, people run to make statements, satisfy their egos, etc., even though chances of winning are considered slim. This has happened to parliamentary races before. What will you say to Bangalore voters this month who worry that Lok Satta candidates 'might not win'? How should citizens think about 'winnability'?

You have hit the nail on the head. Winnability does seem to dominate during elections. And with our first past the post system (FPTP), winning for new candidates is a challenge. Our political parties – when you talk to individual politicians -- are themselves not so terrible. Many of them also want the right candidates to run, but they are concerned about winnability.

But when people worry about new candidates not being winnable – they should look at the following.

Congress has won in Karnataka, the state is still in a mess. BJP has also won, that is they are winnable too, and they have also not fixed the mess in the state. Likewise with JD(S). So it is not as if the winners of the past have been able to bring about serious reforms or bring down corruption.

Lok Satta candidates, even though they are fewer in number, offer a genuine alternative. Moreover, Bangalore city offers a unique opportunity. It has the most cosmopolitan electorate in the country. Voters in Bangalore are more likely to transcend old loyalties and parochial power that mainline parties have. Secondly, because of the way Karnataka politics has gone, there are now many factions and hence fragmentation of votes. There is an opportunity for Bangaloreans to vote with their heart for candidates with an excellent track record.

There is also a difference between unattached independent candidates who do not belong to parties and party-backed candidates. Parties can articulate an agenda, they have organisational memory which they can bring into the Assembly even if they have only one or a few seats in the legislature. Single independent candidates cannot do that.

Your manifesto makes a promise that implies that 12-hour three-phase power supply in rural Karnataka in possible. How?

It is possible. First we must separate rural electricity feeders from agriculture feeders. Secondly every consumer of electricity, even a farmer who gets free power has to be metered. Long back, when Lok Satta was an NGO, we took over four distribution stations and ran it for the AP government. We brought about an 18 per cent reduction in line losses from 27 per cent to 9 per cent. These are all audited figures, publicly available.

There are around 9.75 lakh transformers in the AP power system. 5-7 per cent of these usually fail each year and when taken down for maintenance, it takes several days for them to come back online. Lok Satta showed that we can spend a few hundred rupees to fix these transformers and bring them back online much sooner which helps in running the power system with less outages.

Separating agricultural power from the rest of rural power itself can ensure that 12 hour supply is possible. This provides a boost to SMEs in rural areas because otherwise they have to come to the cities. Making more rural power available will boost rural investment and employment, and cut back on migration to the cities.

Gujarat is the best example for all this. By taking this approach they have already managed 24-hour single-phase power in all of rural Gujarat. So it is possible to promise and deliver 12-hour single-phase power in rural Karnataka.

An opposing candidate from some mainstream party is going to promise very low-cost housing or some freebie to low-income citizens in his constituency. Are you going to compete with that? People are used to a patronage relationship with their MLAs, you know this.

Yes, Promises will be made. After all elections are all about public money. Lok Satta candidates will explain an alternative vision. Our option is to explain to people that short term freebies are not making problems go away.

Our plan also is go to educated voters and youth, and especially women to get their backing.

We are hearing this view from several people – that women are supporting new candidates who stand for change, more than men. Why do you think this is so?

This is an important question and it must be studied. I can only hazard a guess.

Ultimately men see these battles as power games. Patriarchy, caste, linguistic and regional affiliations are above all about power won over identity and parochial loyalties. Men who already have power as part of patriarchy become concerned about who will win. Once issues are boxed into identity politics, there is no coming out.

Women on the other hand do not have power; they tend to be concerned about survival, and what will happen to family, prices, schooling of their children, etc. So they tend to be more open to voting for change. Women and youth definitely helped us win the MLA seat from Kukatpally. So men are concerned about who, and women are concerned about what.

The first-past-the-post system voting system in India presents serious challenges to new parties. Comment on the chances in the Karnataka elections for your Bangalore MLA candidates.

Yes, FPTP for India is a huge challenge. But I have some good news to report here.

Look at India’s most influential states for parliamentary seats: UP, Bihar, Bengal, TN, Maharashtra and AP. Except AP (even there, Congress is shaking), in none of these states has the BJP or the Congress been able to win on their own. Together these states contribute 65 per cent of Lok Sabha's seats. This is because of the FPTP system; it has already caused serious problems for these parties.

In UP for example, Rahul Gandhi invested a substantial amount of time and strategy. See the results though. Samajwadi Party got 3.7 per cent more vote share and got 127 more seats in the last elections. Even though Congress got 3 per cent more vote share, it got only 6 more seats. In Maharashtra, Congress cannot come to power on its own either.

The FPTP system is hurting the national parties in the most influential states.

But leaders of parties should be alive to this problem, it cannot be that they do not understand all this…?

Parties have not taken a hard look at this problem till now. The reality is that leaders do not have time. They are mostly caught up in day-to-day running of the party and the problems that keep emerging. But this is changing now.

The Congress Party has set up a high-powered committee under Ambika Soni, with Veerappa Moily, Mani Shankar Aiyyar, and others to look at reviewing FPTP. There is discussion on this issue also within the BJP at a mid-level. Left parties are already on board to change the FPTP system.

What is interesting is that this does not require a constitutional amendment or even a change in the law. It is just a rule being used to run our elections. If the parties agree, the rule can be changed.

What would you like the FPTP system to change to? You have advocated proportional representation; does that also mean you will support multiple representatives per constituency?

As a winner-takes-all system, FPTP overweighs the views of the winner and ignores all others. This is true even if the winner himself gets only 15 per cent of the vote, as we saw in one recent case. A proportionate system would correct this, and give voice to a greater diversity of views. This is all the more important when, as in India today, we are seeing an increasing fracture of the vote among different parties. Ideally, an elected representative even in a single-member constituency should represent 50 per cent of the voters at least. That's clearly not the case today; in fact it is the exception.

A number of solutions, including multi-member constituencies, run-offs and other options can be considered. Once we accept that FPTP is hindering the broad representation of public opinion in elected houses, a lot of other things will become possible. It has taken many decades for parties to come to this realisation. Now we must act on this, and strengthen democracy by a new system with greater inclusion of voices and views. 

You mentioned Arvind Kejriwal. What happened between Aam Aadmi Party and Lok Satta that they could not come together?

There are genuine issues we have to iron out.

One is the whole approach AAP has about good and evil. An approach that says one side is always good and the other is always evil is not right in a democracy. I have always held that our political parties are not evil and they cannot be blamed for everything that is wrong in India. Yes, our parties have bungled, no doubt.

We have to recognise the historical process we have gone through as a nation. Federalism, states, peaceful transfer of power, and universal adult franchise have all come to stay in the country, and our political parties have seen through this. So it is not right for AAP to make this contest one about good and evil.

The good and evil approach also caused us to lose an opportunity earlier. Take the Lokpal bill. In 2011, the bill that went to Parliament was 80 per cent of the bill “we” wanted. But Hazare and IAC did plenty of grand-standing that it could either be 100 per cent or zero. Media also made it into a big deal. In such a negative climate for the government's bill, the path became clear for other parties to use the ruse of 'states rights' to kill the Lokayukta provision. So now, while the Lokpal bill has Lokpal provisions, mandatory Lokayuktas for all the states is gone from it. But 80 percent of corruption impacting people is at the state level, not central. We have lost the chance for getting that option through the central bill.

We all want an ethical india. But the fight against corruption alone can only be a minimum qualification for politics, it is not the maximum. There needs to be more. AAP, for instance, does not support our positions on FDI in retail, and also on power sector reforms.

Having said this, our differences need not be blown out of proportion in the media. In a democracy, there is always a need for a spirit of accommodation. We have not written off working together.