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August 15, 2004, deadline to set India ‘free’
- ‘Country First’ campaign to cleanse system

That You Can Win, too, is the dream Shiv Khera has been selling for years. The promise that he is now holding out to millions of Bengali readers is Tumio Jitbe. Khera expects the Bengali version of his bestseller, launched in the city on Thursday, to take off, but that isn’t the only win-win proposition he has up his sleeve.

‘Country First’ is the new society he has floated to “set India free by 2004”. The management guru, who has sold over 600,000 copies of his now multi-lingual handbook on success and happiness, is turning his attention to his country. His influential guns are trained on the electoral and criminal justice systems of the country.

Even before Khera touched upon his plans at Thursday evening’s Science City book launch, he had received a standing ovation from the crowd. After Calcutta University vice-chancellor Ashis Banerjee released the book, the best-selling author spoke of the power of positive thinking. The audience of students, managers and readers needed little more to keep them hooked.

“If you don’t vote, you are a bad citizen. If you do, you have to pick the better of two evils,” says the New Jersey-based Khera, who travels to India at least once a month. So, to clean up the system, Country First is lining up a public interest litigation for the introduction of an abstention vote on the ballot sheet. “If enough people abstain, the candidates should be barred from elections in that constituency for 10 years. After all, the people have spoken.”

Khera believes that, as there can never be a vacuum, honest people will eventually come forward for public office. “Right now, we end up with the same rascals, either in power or in the Opposition. This is a slap on the face of democracy.” Freedom through education and justice is the dream Khera has for a country that he is still, despite living abroad for 25 years, a citizen of.

Also to be included in the two-part petition, to be filed in “four weeks”, is a call for reform of the justice system. “We want all corruption cases to be dismissed without a time lag. Judges should hear only such cases after lunch to dispose of them as fast as possible.” This, feels Khera, will reduce the number of witnesses backing down, and limit the role of “money and muscle” involved.

“Right now, decent people are afraid to file a case because of the harassment they feel they will face,” adds the author. “People languish in jail for years, just awaiting trial. These could be innocent people like you and me.”

Plans for a public-support campaign are also on for the programme, to be launched officially on October 29. Talks at universities in Coimbatore, Salem and Jabalpur have already been scheduled through October. “The Rotary network in India, the ex-defence services, chambers of commerce across the country have already pledged their support… That is a lot of people,” stresses Khera, who hopes to have the laws amended on the strength of public support. He is also scheduled to address Delhi judges later this month. “This is not an open-ended plan, where we will try to do some good if we can. We have a deadline of August 15, 2004, where we hope to see our dreams fulfilled. It is already 50 years too late.”

But Khera denies any plans of getting into politics himself. “Lots of people ask me that, but no. I just want to bring some dignity to the people of this country, and I will take as much time and go as far as I need to achieve that.”

Two more books are in the pipeline — one on leadership and the other on social responsibility. “Many people give money for ambulances and arrange blood camps. But why are there heart attacks and who are the blood suckers in the first place'”

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