“Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
One Ravi Nair, has been posting in various FB pages, that I should be removed as Mumbai coordinator as me and my family are involved in corruption worth crores. I kept on ignoring this rant for the last two days. But last night, I thought that I owe it to my new friends to explain my position and take their opinion.
I come from a middle class family, who had started his own small business. The amount of corruption, injustice and indignity that I had to face in my life and the similar state of affair for my countrymen, especially the poor, made me get into activism in 2002. To improve the system, so that the next generation does not have to pass through the same travails . While I was active in opposing the emergency as an activist, I had got busy in making my two ends meet since 1979. But in 2002, because of some incident in my life, I vowed to spend part of my life in nation building.
Since then, I have worked with various activities like the Right to Information Bill (was with Annaji in his 2003 fast), Nagar Raj Bill (was working with Loksatta and Dr JP), Transfer laws, transparency measures in Govt etc. But, always at the back end. We had an excellent experiment of direct democracy by electing a Citizen Candidate (Adolf D’souza) in Juhu (Feb 2007). But during that time, the infighting and tussle by some of the groups, made me leave activism. Due to my spiritual pursuit, I could not stay in atmosphere of negativism and pettiness.
The 26/11 attack on Mumbai and the spontaneous public response shook me up and I again re-entered activism and formed the Jagrut Nagrik Manch (a platform of over 60 NGOs of Mumbai) to take on some burning issues. Arvind Kejriwal, whom I know for many years, asked me to take on the coordination of Mumbai for IAC on this 22nd Jan. After that, many NGOs, activists, groups and extraordinary individuals came forward and we all crafted a well thought out movement to force the govt to form a joint Jan Lokpal drafting committee.
My cousin uncle was the Chairman of a Public Ltd Construction Co in Mumbai. This company is mostly involved in affordable housing projects and was one of the first to go public, to only take cheque payments and similar. The collapse of 4 old and dilapidated buildings in the Island city of Mumbai and the death of around 100 people during the 26/7/ 2005 torrential rainfall shook him. He thought of a scheme for cluster redevelopment of old and dilapidated building (there are around 30000 such buildings in Mumbai housing 25 lakh people, who are living under the shadow of death).
He approached me and asked me to join him in this noble venture, in Oct ’06. It suited my temperament too. We started the Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF -a NGO consisting of over 40 stakeholder associations, NGOs and institutions) for the purpose. Then we were joined by some of the most eminent people in India including Justice PN Bhagwati (ex- CJ of India), Narayan Murthy (Infosys), Girish Gokhale (ex- MC of Mumbai), Padmashree Nana Chudasama, Sri Sri Ravishankarji and many others. The local people were involved in this grass root movement with over 17200 members and various associations of stakeholders involved. Global NGOs also lent support to the cause and we prepared a scheme to create a win-win solution for all stakeholders including the city, including change in the urban policies of Maharashtra for cluster redevelopment. (www.romf.org).
Because this construction company has taken the initiative for this movement, I represent this project of Remaking of Mumbai in the company as an Independent Director. I am not involved in any of the other business and commercial activities of the Company. With the untimely death of my uncle, last year, it has become my responsibility to take the project of Remaking of Mumbai forward.
When Arvind met me, I briefed him about my status and told him that the movement may become vulnerable because of my involvement in a construction company. But, he insisted that I take on the responsibility, as he knew me and my commitment to the cause.
Now, the construction company, especially after the demise of the erstwhile Chairman, has been in some kind of cash crunch. In one of the projects in Andheri East, it has not been able to deliver the flats on time. There are discussions happening between the company management and the customers. I am not a party to those discussions because I am not involved in the business and commercial side and am only an independent director, looking after RoMF only.
Ravi Nair, whom I know of, started posting strong messages in the FB around a month back, regarding the delay in giving possession of these flats – calling it corruption etc. I told him that FB is not the forum for personal messages and that he should phone me up and gave my number. He called and I told him to fix up the time of the customers and I’ll ask the management to talk to them and find a way forward. Nothing. And now suddenly in the last few days, he starts posting these messages calling me and my family corrupt and asking that I be removed from the coordinator’s position.
I am only a tool to serve my nation, and so are Annaji, Arvind, Kiran Bedi and the IAC platform. The bottom line is “India”. If my removal from the coordinator’s position helps the movement, there are enough excellent people in Mumbai to take on the role.
Friends, please tell me
In the interest of the IAC movement, should I continue as coordinator of Mumbai or step down?
Continue or Step down?
I will be posting this blog on the India against Corruption main FB and the Mumbai one, every day till Monday, the 18th. Mumbai volunteers are meeting on 18th evening and I’ll put forth the above to them too. By Tuesday morning, even if over 33% have said Step down, I’ll handover the charge to someone else without any rancour or ill-will. Please respond.
“The country is much bigger than each of us, individually and collectively”