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Prof. Trilochan Sastry speaks on ‘Association of Democratic Reforms’ efforts and achievements in strengthening Indian electoral process’ at CPP Conference on Public Policy & Management

Leading the evening session of Day One of the conference, Prof. Sastry explains how ADR’s Advocacy has resulted in electoral and political reforms in the country

23 August, 2023, Bengaluru: Prof. Trilochan Sastry, faculty of the Decision Sciences area of IIM Bangalore, delivered a talk on: ‘Association of Democratic Reforms’ efforts and achievements in strengthening Indian electoral process’, during the evening session of Day One of the XVIII International Conference on Public Policy & Management, that is being hosted from 22nd to 24th August 2023 by the Centre for Public Policy (CPP) at IIM Bangalore. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Rajalaxmi Kamath of the Public Policy area of IIM Bangalore.

Prof. Trilochan Sastry, the Founder Member and Chairman of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), gave an overview of ADR and the work that it been doing in the last two decades. “ADR, set up in 1999 by faculty and alumni of the IIMs, focuses on electoral and political reforms. Today, the association’s impact is nationwide. We basically have four core areas of work – Election Watch for reliable information helping voters make informed choices; Political Party Watch to make them more transparent and accountable; Information Dissemination through website, MyNeta, social media, etc., and Advocacy.”

Prof. Sastry quoted several leaders to explain the concept of democracy, and added, “No office in the land is more important than that of being a citizen. Various questions arise since democracy, politics, elections and campaigns may not be working the ideal way in our country. There are MPs and MLAs with criminal records, a situation that needs to be addressed efficiently. What can be done and who would do it, are some of the issues facing us.” He quoted the Global Integrity Report 2009 and Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer which highlight the lack of transparency and corruption that prevail in Indian political parties.

“ADR’s early days of thinking was on the premise that the Government, political system, media, corporates, NGOs or even courts cannot bring about all the reforms. It is up to the citizens too, to actually reform the systems.”

He also explained the evolution of ADR and its impact, stating that the PILs filed by ADR (in the light of several scams) have resulted in election watch in each state, asking for disclosure of criminal, financial and educational backgrounds of contestants. “From 2007 we are working on political party reforms and incremental changes in the way elections are done, mainly in terms of transparency. We filed PILs challenging electoral bonds, unlimited corporate donations, voter discrepancy, mechanism of declaration of election results, etc. In the past 20 years, ADR and partners have won more than 20 cases from Supreme Court.” 

“ADR is constantly trying to find where changes can be brought and how, with the mission to improve governance. Measures taken based on ADR’s Advocacy have had deep positive impact on governance. The association has won six national awards. The percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases has reduced from 20% to 14% in few states. These are the incremental changes happening over the years. We believe eternal vigilance is essential for preserving democracy, and our work will continue with that motto.”

The morning session on the first day of the CPP International Conference on Public Policy & Management included an address by Dr. Arvind Virmani, Member, NITI Aayog, during which he spoke on India’s goals for growth by year 2050, external threats and opportunities, domestic weaknesses and strengths, key new drivers of growth and expected outcomes, relative to the rest of the world. The conference includes academic sessions, topical policy debates, workshops, panel discussions and practitioner-oriented discussions on contemporary topics on public policy and management.

This year’s event had kicked off with the pre-conference Prof. M. R. Krishnamurthy Memorial Lecture on, ‘Making Bangalore an Ecologically Smart City’, by Prof. Harini Nagendra, Director of the Azim Premji University Research Center, on 21st August 2023. 

For the detailed schedule of the conference, please click here.