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Interview with Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan

ICMR India ICMR India ICMR India

Interview by -  Sanjib Dutta and Ajith Sankar,
Senior Faculty Member, Faculty Associate,
ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research).

Lok Satta, founded in 1997 by Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was the largest organized movement in India by 2004, aimed at democratic reforms and better delivery of governance services. Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Campaign Coordinator, Lok Satta in discussion with Sanjib Dutta and Ajith Sankar R.N

About Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan:

Dr.Jayaprakash Narayan a physician by training, joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1980. During his nearly 17 years of distinguished public service in various capacities, he acquired a formidable reputation in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Narayan's experience in government fully convinced him that what India needs today is not merely periodic change of players, but a fundamental change in the rules of the game.

In order to translate his vision into reality, he resigned from the post of Secretary to the government in 1996, and worked with like-minded colleagues for the formation of Lok Satta and is currently its Campaign Coordinator.

Q: How do you think Lok Satta has been successful in its activities?

We have the ability to mobilize public opinion on a large scale. This is necessary to influence any public debate. Many of the NGOs are focused on narrow areas and hence the impact of their work is restricted to only that area. We utilize any opportunity to speak about the needed reforms in delivery of governance services. We are quick to respond to the change in environment. In that sense, Lok Satta has been successful.

Q: What has been the greatest achievement of Lok Satta so far?

Lok Satta had a number of achievements. I would say the September 2003 political funding reform legislation (where Lok Satta played a significant role) is going to bring about the most significant change in reforms in India. The impact of that is not felt now but it will be seen in the long term.

Q: Can we call Lok Satta a pressure group?

Lok Satta is more than a pressure group. All of us feel frustrated about what is happening around us. At the traffic junctions, at public offices…But this frustration and discontent is transient. It soon gets dissipated. Lok Satta would like to convert this discontent into concerted action. One of the criticisms against Lok Satta is that we are not strident. But the point is we see the difficulties faced by the other side also. Hence there is no one who seriously disagrees with Lok Satta. We do not make unreasonable demands. Rather than being populist, we have been standing with the governments on some of the tough decisions that need to be taken.

Q: What has been the major hurdle for Lok Satta in its growth?

Results don't come everyday. And hence it is difficult to maintain a high morale for a continuous period of time. This office works practically seven days a week. All the people work at less than market rates. The work here is different and there is no definitive outcome on a day to day basis. The public discourse in the country is distorted and hence it is difficult for Lok Satta to communicate effectively. We would like the public discourses to be focused on solutions and not on problems. People are not that forthcoming in partnering.

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