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Jhatkaa: Getting India to 'Shake Up'

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, July 12 2013

Deepa Gupta, founder of Jhatkaa, discusses her vision for the project in a campaign video. (Jhatkaa.org)

Urinating into an empty dam to fill it, using late-night television as a contraceptive and suggesting Valentine's Day causes rape are a few of the public comments made by Indian politicians, as voiced by frustrated Indian citizens in Jhatkaa’s campaign video. Jhatkaa, which means “to shake up,” is a new civic startup pioneered by Deepa Gupta, a young Indian campaigner. She is described by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the partner of the late Aaron Schwartz, as “quite possibly the Indian in the world who is most expert in online campaigning techniques” and “one of the most dedicated, talented, and humble social change agents.”

Through vigorous campaigning, such as using a web platform, text messaging and social network sites, Jhatkaa hopes to inject a dose of grassroots power into the corrupt sphere of Indian politics. India currently ranks 94th on the Corruptions Perception Index, 14 spots behind China.

Gupta and her team at Jhatkaa believe the time is ripe for an Indian Spring, for a “progressive Indian democracy where people of every caste, religion, geography, gender, and sexual orientation seamlessly band together to successfully hold public decision makers accountable to the common good.” Their campaign page lists a number of signs that India’s civil society is burgeoning and hungry for change: the recent mass mobilization over the Delhi gang-rape, a series of protests over corruption in 2011, and the multitude of citizen journalists in rural and tribal areas using platforms like CG Net and Jharkhand Mobile Radio to cover what is overlooked by the private networks.

India contains one of the fastest-growing middle classes, set to reach a billion by 2025, according to the World Bank economist Ejaz Ghani. Currently, there are already 100 million Internet users and 800 million mobile phone subscribers. Gupta’s goal is to tap 15 million people within five years, to engage them and turn “these ‘moments’ into a movement.”

Jhatkaa cites as inspiration on their campaign page, the wave of global movements like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wallstreet, and groups like Getup, MoveOn and Avaaz.org. But they aim to tailor them for “the Indian context.”

The Jhatkaa team has already launched a few international projects within India: mobilizing 2 million for GreenPeace India and another 500,000 for Change.org in India within its first 18 months, to name a few. Jhatkaa has already raised $80,000 and is using the online campaign to raise $20,000 more. With just under a month left on their campaign, they are only about $3,600 short of their goal.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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