A pact to make politicians more accountable

March 15, 2009: The Hindu

JAIPUR: Transparency International has entered into a first-of-its-kind memorandum of understanding with the Jodhpur-based water conservation NGO, Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, to implement a “Jal Pact¶, a water agreement.

The Jal Pact, drafted on the lines of the Development Pact that Transparency International has been advocating for some time, is expected to work as a tool in the hands of common people while bargaining with politicians for more accountability.

“This is a totally new concept and we are doing it on an experimental basis. We want to make politicians more accountable to the people. After they make promises to people while seeking votes, they cannot get away with them later,¶ says Anupama Jha, executive director of Transparency International India. The new pact would serve as a tool in the hands of the poor to fight corruption, she asserts.

Development Pacts are being conceptualised with the notion that disadvantaged citizens would join efforts to expose corruption in development processes only when they benefit directly from it at social, political and economic levels. “The Pact converts political choices exercised through voting to a more authentic and continuous engagement of citizens in decision-making with immediate livelihood benefits,¶ says Prithviraj Singh, managing trustee of Jal Bhagirathi Foundation.

Jal Bhagirathi Foundation is a trust instituted in January 2002 that has taken up the responsibility of creating an environment of “Gram Swaraj¶ – a dynamic, self-reliant and responsive village community. “We are in the water sector and that is why the MoU on Jal Pact,¶ Mr. Singh explains.

“The programme will apply a successful anti-corruption tool, the integrity pact, traditionally used for addressing corruption in public contracting and to prevent corruption in development,¶ Mr. Singh notes. Explaining the way the pact would be implemented at the grassroots level, he says the Jal Sabhas or water users’ forums set up by Jal Bhagirathi Foundation would have pacts with the local panchayats.

The MoU between Transparency International India and Jal Bhagirathi Foundation acknowledges the lack of accountability of political and administrative institutions as a key factor to inequitable development and high levels of poverty in India. “The time has come that a potent tool in the hands of the poor is important to create political incentives to fight corruption in development,¶ it said.

Ms. Jha feels that the Jal Pact could be tried out in the current Lok Sabha elections and put to use in the polls to the panchayats and the local self-government bodies as and when they come, till the next Assembly elections.

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