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NEW DELHI: If the success of the Jan Lokpal movement owes much to the campaign's online presence, then a substantial part of that credit goes to a Canada-based Indian-origin businessman.
Ricken Patel's online campaign forum Avaaz has been a key player in the Jan Lokpal initiative, sending online petitions, faxes to political parties along with a creative billboard campaign. Also, it was Avaaz's mediation that saw the DoPT inbox inundated with Save Jan Lokpal e-mails in the run-up to the deliberations of the joint drafting committee.
Started in 2007, Avaaz is an online advocacy forum that acts as a pressure group and its "servant leadership" motto is an echo of Gandhian Anna Hazare's oft-repeated line that people are the masters.
Avaaz joined hands with India against Corruption (IAC) in April during Anna's fast at Jantar Mantar. It runs on donations from members, but does not accept any money from corporate and governments to ensure that the causes it supports are not compromised. Besides, there is a donation cap of $5,000. The issues are chosen by an online poll, where members vote. Avaaz has expanded its activities to India recently, and Jan Lokpal is their first Indian initiative that is not limited merely to online presence.
Patel is half-Indian - his mother is English - and was born and brought up in Canada. "I worked for years in conflict zones - from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan - and saw how many of the world's problems are because of failures of governance at national and global level. When I saw a new kind of hi-tech, people-powered politics started to change countries from the US to Australia to the Philippines, I dreamt of Avaaz to take that powerful model on a global stage," Patel told TOI in an e-mail interview.
Among the campaigns, Avaaz, which means voice in several middle-eastern and Asian languages, has been a part of, are the Egypt uprising that removed president Hosni Mubarak, preventing the introduction of a law to gag the media in Italy, preventing an Ugandan law to be passed that would sentence homosexuals to death, ensuring that the whale hunting ban remains in place, helping Iranians access news by keeping banned internet sites live during the 2009 election.
Explaining the role of Avaaz, a member of IAC, said: "They have sent almost eight lakh signed petitions to the government for the Jan Lokpal Bill and about 13,000 faxes to various political parties. The billboard campaign in Lutyen's Delhi is entirely their baby as was the survey commissioned in six cities, which showed that 48% are willing come onto the roads to protest against corruption."
A consultant with Avaaz talks about how a system was put in place, where each time a person signed an online petition, a fax would go to the office of political parties. "It came to a point where smaller parties started pleading that we should come and talk instead of sending faxes," he added. timesofindia
- 927 days ago via site