The Times of India

JAIPUR: Emphasizing on the need for public participation at the level of drafting bills and forming policies, MKSS chairperson Aruna Roy on Saturday said the foundation of a democracy would weaken without a transparent process.

Roy was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day 9th annual conference on electoral and political reforms of the Association for Democratic Reforms at the Indira Gandhi Panchayati Raj Institute. Activists from 22 states and several districts of the state are participating in the meet.

"The need of the day is debate and discussion at the stage of planning. Else policies like FDI in retail, SEZs would be implemented without the common man having a say and soon such policies and details would not be available under RTI," Roy said. She emphasized that discussions were required both at state and national levels.

Roy also said while elections were the foundation of democracy, they were not "everything". Terming corruption as a disease, she called for making public all financial dealings of political parties. "Transparency will help us moved ahead on the path of reforms,'' she said, highlighting that accountability of public money is a must.

Later, chairing a session on 'People's movement and elections', she said, "Elections today are controlled by corporate houses. Earlier, we were fighting just the political parties, now we have a new enemy which is not visible." Roy talked about how the "democratic space" was "shrinking" with business interests being there behind most government decisions and debates. "The state is being manipulated by forces not visible to us," she said.

Political activist Kumar Ketkar, during the inaugural function, raised a concern over the growing trend of the term "anti-political and hence anti-democracy".

"'The two cannot be separated and cannot be thought about with the other. Strengthening politics is necessary for strengthening the democracy,'' said Ketkar, adding that corporatisation of political parties and of individual candidates along with "communal fascism" are the major threats today.

Prof Trilochan Sastry talked about the increasing role of money, which was previously limited to elections but now has spread to governance and legislation. "'A one-time 2G scam was estimated at Rs 1.75 lakh crores but an estimated Rs 1.50 lakh crore to Rs 2 lakh crore is spent on elections every year," he said, underlining the need for electoral reforms.

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