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With funds and ideas, Indians abroad advance Anna’s struggle

Posted on August 23, 2011
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Anna NRI supporters

The upsurge of sentiments in Indian cities and towns in support of Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption is being matched measure for measure by a focussed mobilisation by Indians overseas who are contributing with ideas to take forward the fight against corruption.

From Hong Kong to Singapore to Sydney to cities in Europe and the US, non-resident Indians have been staging demonstrations in support of Anna Hazare, helping to spread awareness about the Jan Lokpal Bill and contributing with money and mindpower to advance the cause.

Supporters of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, the umbrella organisation that is spreaheading the movement, made their presence felt overnight at the India Day parade in US cities to celebrate India’s independence day. The parade routes were lined with Indians sporting the trademark “I am Anna” Gandhi topis and placards in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

On Sunday evening, at a meeting of the Hong Kong chapter of the IAC, a large gathering of Indians resolved to mobilise themselves and press their MPs and MLAs back in India to support the Jan Lokpal Bill. “The intention is to get our elected leaders to take a stand in the fight against corruption – and contribute in every way to keeping Anna Hazare’s campaign going,” said Dilip K. Pandey, convenor of IAC-Hong Kong.

Campaigners were also urged to become more aware of their MPs’ and MLAs’ record in office by tracking information about them on an online database of elected representatives. “Do check out the database, and get to know your own MPs and MLAs, their criminal record and history of corruption, and you might get a sense of the candidate you’ve been supporting ,” says Pandey.

The campaign to pressure legislators, which follows up on Anna Hazare’s call to get elected representatives to support the Jan Lokpal Bill, has already picked up momentum in India, with activists and supporters on Sunday picketing the homes of several leaders – from the Congress as well as the BJP – to get them to take a public stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill .

At least two activist-members of IAC-Hong Kong are in India, having taken leave from their investment banking careers to participate in the hunger strike and demonstrations against corruption that have galvanised India in recent days. As Firstpost noted earlier, they said they felt the need to be part of this historic movement, and not be mere spectators from the outside.

But even those who cannot take leave and join the protests are contributing with ideas to keep the spirit of the movement alive. “One important way that Indians abroad can contribute is by conveying to people back home the efficiency of anti-corruption systems that have been put in place overseas, which are worthy of replication in India,” says Vinod Venkatasubramanian, an IT professional with a multinational.

In particular, Hong Kong’s own experience of establishing a strong anti-corruption agency in the 1970s has served as an inspiration for Team Anna, whose members studied several overseas models and drew on best practices from around the world while drafting their Jan Lokpal Bill.

As Arvind Kejriwal, one of the core members of Team Anna, noted in his recent speech at IIT-Chennai, Hong Kong’s model of establishing the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) , which came after a community uprising against widespread corruption in the police force, offers perhaps the most striking example of the importance of setting up an anti-corruption agency that is independent of the government.

In addition, NRIs are helping to raise general awareness about the demerits of the Lokpal Bill – as has been presented to Parliament by the government – and the case for the Jan Lokpal Bill by mobilising the social media. “We’ve launched an ‘NRI phone home’ campaign, as part of which we’re asking each NRI to make 20 calls to India – to friends and family – and explain to them why the Jan Lokpal Bill is needed to fight corruption,” says Pandey.

Vinod adds that there are other ways in which NRIs can contribute. On his visit home to India in September, for instance, he plans to enlist with the Bangalore chapter of IAC – and see if he can organise a visit by activists to nearby villages to spread the word about the differences between the two versions of the Lokpal Bill and explain why the Jan Lokpal Bill matters.

At a recent phone-in interaction with NRIs from around the world, Kiran Bedi, another core member of Team Anna, discussed yet more ways in which Indians overseas could contribute to the movement.

All of which just goes to show the extent to which Team Anna’s campaign has energised and resonated with not just Indians at home, but with Indians overseas as well, and given them a chance to contribute – with funds and with ideas – to keeping the momentum of the protests going. Just by standing up and being counted, Indians overseas are doing their bit to keep the tricolour fluttering on foreign shores.

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