Mockery of Democracy: Local Unit elections of YHAI, Delhi State Branch raise questions

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Mockery of Democracy: Local Unit elections of YHAI, Delhi State Branch raise questions
Mockery of Democracy: Local Unit elections of YHAI, Delhi State Branch raise questions

New Delhi : A  Press Conference was organised in Delhi on 14.12.2021 by lifetime members of YHAI namely Hemant Kumar Sharma, Naman, Suman Lata, Ranjana Sood and many other youths/social activists to highlight gross discrepancies and violation of well-established rules in the ongoing Local Unit elections of YHAI, Delhi State Branch.  A two-minute silence was observed to pay homage to the youths who had died during the trekking expeditions of YHAI. The members present stated that they also plan to hold a candlelight march at India Gate and urged Union Minister for Youth Affairs Shri Anurag Thakur, and  Delhi CM Mr. Arvind Kejriwal to intervene in the matter urgently to restore sanity. They also stated that if everything is going as per laws of the land, then why office bearers of YHAI are resisting implementation of RTI which tells the whole story.

Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) is a national-level NGO headquartered at 5, Nyay Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The NGO is known for conducting Trekking, Family Camping programs, etc. across the country for the general public and these programmes are endorsed by DoPT, Govt. of India. Moreover, Central and State govt. employees along with those of Public Sector Banks, Courts etc. are eligible to get 30 days Special Casual Leave in a year and also get reimbursement for programme fees etc. provided they participate in these programmes.  YHAI is a three-tier organisation having bodies/Chapters at Unit, State and National Level. It has been a huge beneficiary of govt. funds and even its financial statements of recent years show govt. assistance/funds to the tune of Rs.68.63 lacs.

However, recently YHAI is in news for all the wrong reasons with regard to its opaque functioning and misuse of funds,  which has led to demand for implementation of RTI, audit of accounts by CAG, deaths of more than 20 youths in recent years, and farcical election process of ongoing Delhi State Branch. 

YHAI elections mocking democracy

Mr. Hemant Kumar Sharma said that among all these controversial elements, the conduct of elections stands apart, as it shows people how democracy can be killed brutally. The election process adopted in the ongoing Local Unit elections of  YHAI, Delhi State Branch is receiving widespread criticisms from all corners especially the youth as they feel alientated in their own organisation. Shockingly, the voters' list has not been updated for the last six years or so, and it is a general perception that the same is done to protect the interests of certain National Office bearers and some of YHAI, Delhi State Branch. 

It should be noted that both the State President and State Chairman of YHAI have been residing outside Delhi for several years, but still, they are eligible to contest in the elections. The state president and state chairman are both contesting in the elections for different posts from Central Delhi and East Delhi units respectively. 

The address of Mr. K.L.Sharma, State President of YHAI Delhi is House No.12, Block No.20, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi which is a govt. accommodation whereas the State President has superannuated from service more than 9-10 years back and is residing in Gurgaon now. 

Similarly, Mr. Jyoti Kumar Srivastava is the State Chairman and his address as per the voters' list of YHAI is  D-722, Ganesh Nagar, Shakarpur, Delhi- 110 092 whereas he is currently residing in Cherry County, Greater Noida. Srivastava retired from Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Sector-46 Branch, Faridabad in 2020, and before that he was posted in IOB, Mathura for 4-5 years. The address of another official named Mr. J.S.Rawat is 513, Parliament House Annexe whereas he had retired from Lok Sabha Secretariat more than two years ago. Another National Council member from Delhi Ms. Usha Jain's address as per the voter list is Mandir Marg, New Delhi whereas she also retired from Lok Sabha two years ago. 

Blatant Violation of YHAI Memorandum of Association

Shockingly,  Members of the Scrutiny Committee were nominated by the persons who were contesting the elections themselves which is a clear case of conflict of interest. It may sound bizarre but an undated and unsigned notice regarding scrutiny was displayed on the website of Delhi State Branch which neither displayed the composition of Scrutiny Committee nor  15 days advance notice for scrutiny of nomination papers were intimated to the candidates in these Unit elections. Scrutiny was done two days before elections so that rival candidates do not get time to file objections regarding violations of YHAI green book in Court or carry out canvassing.

Ms. Suman Lata said that no emails or written communications were sent to Life Members of Delhi State Branch regarding the ongoing elections or published prominently in Local Newspapers, which clearly indicates that the entire election process is being carried out as a covert operation to protect the interests of a particular section of people. Another life Member and social activist Shri Deepak raised serious doubts over the intentions of office bearers of YHAI Delhi State branch regarding ongoing Local Unit elections since they are being conducted on working days which clearly depicts the motive to reduce the voting percentage.

Shri Naman, LIfe Member and Civil Services Aspirant pointed out that the only panacea is to implement RTI in YHAI and CAG audit of accounts of YHAI so that truth comes out in the picture. He also appealed to Shri Anurag Thakur, Hon'ble Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Delhi CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal to intervene urgently to restore the rights of youth and stop misuse of govt. funds. 

This imprudent way of conducting elections has literally disappointed lifetime members of YHAI, Delhi State Branch, and they consider this practise as a clear violation of their fundamental rights. They hoped that the Central Govt under PM Modi will intervene to save the rights of millions of volunteers and Life Members of YHAI