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Delhi anti-graft helpline gets thousands of calls on first day

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 9 Jan 2014 14:46 GMT
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Supporters of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party listen to a speech by their leader Arvind Kejriwal (unseen) after he took an oath as new chief minister of Delhi at a swearing-in ceremony at Ramlila ground in New Delhi December 28, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
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NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An anti-corruption helpline launched in the Indian capital on Thursday by the new city government received thousands of calls and more than 30 useful leads on its first day, the government said.

The helpline, number 011-27357169, was created as a top priority by the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and aims to empower the public to become anti-graft inspectors by giving them advice on how to expose officials who demand bribes.

"People should understand that this is not a complaint number but a helpline, and an official will advise and explain to the public how to conduct a sting operation," AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a news conference late on Wednesday.

"After carrying out a sting operation, members of the public should contact the same adviser following which a trap will be laid to nab the accused," he added.

Kejriwal said on Thursday that the helpline had received 3,904 calls by 3 p.m., and that 38 serious cases of graft had been reported. The helpline was found to be constantly engaged, despite repeated calls by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kejriwal, a 45-year-old former tax official and social activist, said the helpline  would be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and would enable every Delhi citizen to become an anti-corruption crusader by helping to record evidence - audio or visual - against bribe takers.

"The purpose of launching this helpline is to create fear in the mind of every corrupt individual. Such people should fear they could be under surveillance at any time," he said, adding that a team from the vigilance department would look into all corruption allegations.

The government will place advertisements in newspapers and on radio stations and put up hoardings in the city streets with the helpline number.

Tackling corruption was the AAP's main policy in the run-up to the Delhi Assembly elections last month, and a dedicated anti-graft helpline was one of the main priorities in the party's manifesto.

The party was formed in late 2012 after a two-year nationwide anti-corruption drive led by Kejriwal's former mentor, Gandhian activist Anna Hazare.

The fledgling party stunned many - including the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - in the Delhi polls last month, winning 28 of the 70 seats and forming a new city government with outside support from the Congress Party.

Political analysts say the party has tapped into growing middle-class anger with Indian politicians, who are often perceived to be siphoning off public funds instead of providing public services.

Its success in Delhi rang alarm bells for the Congress and the BJP ahead of a national election due by May, underlining that an increasingly young and urban electorate is fed up with the established parties.

The AAP promised in its manifesto send corrupt city lawmakers to jail within one year. Nationally, almost a third of India's lawmakers face criminal charges, but many are shielded by the slow-moving legal system.

The AAP now plans to convert the growing public anger over corruption into votes in the national elections.

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