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Hazare expands ambit of his crusade

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Anna Hazare’s fast demanding a strong Lokpal to tackle corruption crossed 100 hours in New Delhi on Saturday, with the Gandhian expanding ambit of his fight to include electoral reforms and a farmer-friendly land acquisition law.

As his fast entered the fifth day, his team said they were ready to talk to the government but no such communication channels have been opened so far but insisted the August 30 deadline set by the Gandhian for passing of Jan Lokpal Bill should be met with.

With the government indicating that the deadline could not met with, the Team said it appeared to be an exercise which will waste the time of people and Parliamentarians and demanded that the Jan Lokpal Bill be introduced in Tuesday.

Mr. Hazare, who addressed the gathering at Ramlila Maidan twice in the day, said the funds in government treasuries were being threatened not by thieves but from those guard it and the country is being threatened by these traitors.

“Why should we fight? The funds in government treasuries are ours. The treasuries are not threatened by thieves but by those who guards it. The country is not betrayed by enemies but by these traitors,” the Gandhian said.

He told the gathering the fight will not end with the passage of Lokpal Bill but they have be ready for a longer struggle for electoral reforms as well as ensuring farmers’ right to their land.

“I want to tell the youth of this country that this fight should not be stopped with Lokpal alone. We have fight for removing the faults of the present electoral reforms. Because of the fault in electoral system, 150 criminals have reached Parliament,” Mr. Hazare said.

Mr. Hazare said the country actually did not get “actual freedom” even after 64 years of independence and the only change was that “the whites have been replaced by the blacks“.

“The same loot, same corruption, same rowdyism still exists,” he said.

Touching upon the contentious issue of land acquisition, he said there was a need to fight for a proper law regarding this.

“After the fight for Lokpal, we will also have to fight for farmers’ rights. Bring a law that ensures permission of gram sabhas before acquiring land of farmers,” Mr. Hazare said.

Noting that the chain of corruption should be broken, he said, “Government is giving land to the companies which employs labourers and suck their blood. They tell the labourers you ensure production or else you will lose job.

“Is this democracy? All have come together to make money. The chain of corruption has to be broken,” he said.

Earlier, Mr. Hazare came to the podium at around 10 a.m. as supporters started pouring in Ramlila Maidan where he launched his protest on Friday after coming out of Tihar Jail.

He said he has lost three-and-half kg in the last four days. “I feel a little weak. But there is nothing to worry about it. The fight will go on till we get a strong Lokpal,” Mr. Hazare said in his brief address to the gathering.

Activists Mr. Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia said the Team was ready to talk to the government on the issue of Lokpal Bill but no one has approached them.

“We are ready to talk to the government but there is no communication from their side. Where should we go to talk and whom should we talk to?” Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Sisodia said.

Mr. Hazare had on Friday raised the political stakes by giving a deadline to the government to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill by August 30 failing which he would continue his fast “till my last breath”.

On the deadline, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan said the government can pass it within days if it has a “strong will” to do it. “It can happen. I have been a Union Law Minister and I know how things happen in government,” he said.

Mr. Shanti Bhushan indicated that they were open to minor changes in the Jan Lokpal Bill and said an assurance from the government to the Gandhian on his demand will be like showing respect for the public sentiment demanding action against corruption.

Asked whether the deadline was a little impractical, Mr. Kejriwal told reporters, “If the government desires, it can pass 15 Bills in five minutes. But for the anti-corruption Bill, they are taking more than 42 years. So we want to know how many more years will they take?”

The government version encourages corruption and saves the corrupt, Mr. Kejriwal alleged and demanded that the Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament be “rejected completely” and the Jan Lokpal Bill be replaced by it.

Reacting to newspaper advertisements seeking suggestions from public on Lokpal Bill, Mr. Kejriwal said it appeared to be an exercise which will waste the time of people and Parliamentarians.

“We appeared before the Standing Committee earlier and told them that the present bill is actually for promotion of corruption and save the corrupt people. It ends up in targeting those who complain against corruption,” he said.

Mr. Kejriwal said they had urged the Standing Committee to reject the Bill and send it back to Parliament. “It is wasting precious time on a wrong and faulty Bill,” he said.

“This seeking of feedback is basically to divert attention,” he said.

Asked about some MPs, including the BJP’s Varun Gandhi, planning to introducing Jan Lokpal Bill as private Bills, he said private Bills do not achieve much.

COURTESY : THE HINDU

Unlikely Echo of Gandhi Inspires Indians to Act

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SOCIAL ACTIVIST ANNA HAZARE

In a “new” India often obsessed with wealth and status, where cricket batsmen and Bollywood movie stars are wildly idolized, Anna Hazare is a figure from an earlier, seemingly discarded era. His pointed white cap and simple white cotton clothes evoke a Gandhian simplicity.                                                                                   His rural, homespun demeanor ordinarily might elicit snickers from India’s urban elite.

Supporters of Anna Hazare at a rally in New Dehli on Thursday. Mr. Hazare is expected to lead a hunger strike and mass protest.

Yet Mr. Hazare, 74, has emerged as the unlikely face of an impassioned people’s movement in India, a public outpouring that has coalesced around fighting corruption but has also tapped into deeper anxieties in a society buffeted by change.

His arrest on Tuesday, made while he was en route to a park in New Delhi where he intended to commence ahunger strike as part of his anticorruption campaign, drove thousands of people onto city streets across India. Under public pressure, government officials tried to release him within hours, but Mr. Hazare refused to leave jail unless the government released him unconditionally. On Thursday, the two sides reached a compromise, and Mr. Hazare is expected to leave jail on Friday to lead a hunger strike and mass protest in central New Delhi to push his demand that the government create a powerful, independent anticorruption agency.

The popular outpouring he has set off has inevitably drawn comparisons with the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring. Most analysts agree, though, that India’s moment is a different one. But in its own way it may prove to be no less important.

India already has the democratic freedoms sought by protesters in the Middle East and North Africa and has enjoyed rising global influence after two decades of fast economic growth. Yet India is also experiencing what one observer has called a “churning” period, as public frustrations are boiling over about poor roads, shoddy schools, inflation, rising inequality and the pervasive reach of official corruption.

Running through each of these issues is a deepening public disillusionment with India’s political process and a growing disconnectedness between the governing class and the governed, making the corruption issue especially explosive. As the crowds supporting Mr. Hazare grew larger and more passionate this week, person after person seemed to arrive on the New Delhi streets carrying their own tale of official graft.

“It is the middle class who is worst affected by corruption,” said Asha Bhardaaj, a woman who traveled more than 30 miles from the suburbs to join a rally. “The upper class is not affected. The upper classes can get what they need by paying money.”

Mr. Hazare’s appeal seems partly rooted in the traditional values he embodies. He is a longtime social activist who has campaigned against corruption for nearly two decades in the state of Maharashtra, living off a military pension and financing charitable work through donations. If his clothes evoke Mahatma Gandhi, India’s founding father, then so do his protest tactics of nonviolent hunger strikes and peaceful marches.

Yet Mr. Hazare and his advisers have also proved adept at the necessities of modern politics: they have adroitly outmaneuvered the police and government officials who sought to defuse the anticorruption movement, after the decision to arrest him backfired dramatically. They also have exploited the nonstop, often sensationalistic coverage on India’s television news outlets to build public support for their cause. Mr. Hazare’s face is now visible in almost every corner of India.

Mr. Hazare and his advisers — a group of prominent lawyers and social activists nicknamed Team Anna — have spent months campaigning across the country. His aides distribute a flurry of daily e-mail updates to journalists, and his close advisers have used social media to connect with young followers. Early Thursday, one adviser, Kiran Bedi, used Twitter to announce a breakthrough in negotiations with the authorities.

Later on Thursday, Ms. Bedi released a video of Mr. Hazare made inside Tihar Jail, where he is being held. “I got my energy after seeing the young protesters,” he said. “Today is only the third day of protest. I can continue like this for another 10 or 12 days more.”

The governing Indian National Congress Party, by contrast, has seemed rattled, unprepared for the public anger against the government and incapable of delivering a consistent counterargument. One party spokesman personally attacked Mr. Hazare, describing him as a corrupted figure, while another spokesman blamed the United States for supporting the anticorruption movement.

“This is a moral moment,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, a social activist in the city of Hyderabad. “Everybody is sick and tired of corruption. And in dealing with this, the government has shown no political sense at all. There is a lot of anger in the country, not only to end corruption but to end politics as it is conducted today.”

Mr. Hazare was born Kisan Baburao Hazare in 1937 in rural Maharashtra. He still speaks Marathi as his primary language and eventually assumed the name Anna. Beyond his admiration of Gandhi, Mr. Hazare drew inspiration from Swami Vivekananda, a prominent reformer during the 19th century. Having stumbled across the teachings of Vivekananda while serving in the Indian Army, Mr. Hazare decided to dedicate his life to public service after narrowly escaping death while posted on the Pakistan border, according to his official biography.

He served 15 years in the military, qualifying for a pension, and retired to Maharashtra to take up social work. He was awarded two of India’s highest civilian awards for his work, which includes drought-relief efforts and working to create a sustainable Gandhian “model village.”

By the 1990s, Mr. Hazare had begun staging hunger strikes in Maharashtra to pressure state officials linked to corruption. Several were ultimately removed from office. At one point, countercharges against him claimed that money from one of his trusts had been used to pay for his birthday celebration. A government-appointed commission concluded that the money was improperly spent, but Mr. Hazare was never implicated in any personal corruption.

His national profile has risen sharply since this spring, when he came to New Delhi to begin a hunger strike demanding that the government introduce a bill in Parliament to create the anticorruption agency, known as a Lokpal. When thousands of people unexpectedly came out in support, government officials invited Team Anna to join a special committee drafting the Lokpal bill.

For several weeks during the early summer, Mr. Hazare was a periodic visitor at a government guesthouse in New Delhi while attending committee meetings. During an interview in early June, he often spoke with dramatic flourish about the need to eliminate corruption, while also predicting that people would support him again, if necessary.

“I’m confident that people will stand up again,” he said. He had been traveling the country, appearing at rallies to gather support for a Lokpal. “Yes, I feel empowered,” he said in June. “It happens because a large number of people are standing with you. Otherwise, what do I have? I’m a beggar. I live in a temple. I do not have a bankbook. I have only a plant and a bed.”

His methods and goals have not impressed everyone. Critics accused him of trying to hijack the democratic process through protest pressure tactics. Others warned that the type of Lokpal he envisioned could upset the balance of the country’s democratic institutions and accused his group of refusing to compromise.

Ultimately, negotiations broke down in June on the Lokpal legislation. The government has since introduced a bill in Parliament during the current session, but Mr. Hazare has criticized it as too weak. This week, he came to New Delhi to begin another hunger strike when the police arrested him.

Under the compromise reached for his release, Mr. Hazare agreed to limit his hunger strike to 15 days, and the police said they would remove their original restrictions on the number of supporters allowed to attend the protest.

Outside Tihar Jail and elsewhere in the city, people have chanted Mr. Hazare’ s name and voiced anger over the pervasiveness of corruption in daily life. One college student complained that rich families are able to buy admission for their children to top colleges. A man who has a trucking business complained that he had to pay a 10 percent bribe to a petty official in order to get a certificate proving he paid a transport tax on his vehicle.

“Today, when we were coming, a traffic cop stopped our vehicle and suggested that we shell out some money,” said Ajab Singh Gujar, the owner of the trucking business. “I shouted, ‘Victory to Anna Hazare!’

“The cop immediately allowed us to pass through without any bribe.”

COURTESY : NEW YORK TIMES

Anna writes to PM, says if not helped, he will court arrest on Aug 16

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Anna Hazare and his team have rejected Delhi Police‘s conditional permission for his August 16 fast over Lokpal Bill. Expressing his unhappiness, Hazare has once again written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “If you can’t help us, we will court arrest,” he has said in the letter.

The 74-year-old Gandhian wants to begin an indefinite hunger strike at the Capital’s protest hotspot Jantar Mantar. But he was denied permission for this venue. The Delhi Police instead said he could hold his fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park. The permission, however, is conditional – only 5000 people will be allowed to gather and they will have to vacate the venue by August 18. Rejecting these restrictions, Team Anna said today, “We cannot control the number of people since it is an indefinite fast. We will decide where to hold the fast. Police may arrest us.”

“Can’t our PM get us a location to protest peacefully,” Hazare asks Dr Singh in his letter. “People say your government is the most corrupt. Because of what’s happening in the government, America intervened in our matters. If you can’t help us, we will court arrest on August 16,” he has further added. (Read Anna’s full letter)

Addressing a press conference this evening, Mr Hazare said that the government is curbing free speech and is creating an Emergency like situation.

Mr Hazare said that he is running from pillar to post for a venue for the fast and that he has written to the Prime Minister requesting him to allot a venue for the fast.

Yesterday, Home Minister P Chidambaram requested Anna Hazare to call off his hunger strike. “Everyone has a right to protest. But the context and circumstance decide whether the protest is legitimate or not. When there was no Lokpal Bill, the protest was justified. But now that there is a Bill in Parliament, and the Standing Committee has asked Anna Hazare to testify, the protest, at this stage, seems to be unjustified,” Chidambaram said.

On charges of not providing Jantar Mantar (in New Delhi) as a venue for Team Hazare’s agitation, Chidambaram had said, ”Anna’s is not a special case. Jantar Mantar cannot be given for long protests or to one group alone. As there are many other people with causes, the day has to be divided and the group given slots.”

The Lokpal Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 4, has been sent to the Parliamentary committee for its consideration. But its draft did not include several key suggestions made by Team Anna. Earlier this week, the panel had invited Hazare for the discussion in yet another bid to strike an understanding with civil society activists.

The Lokpal Bill provides for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal, or ombudsman, to fight corruption in public office. Hazare and four of his nominees were initially invited by the government to help draft the new Bill, along with five ministers. The elected and non-elected teams of representatives clashed bitterly, and ultimately produced two dramatically different versions of the Bill. But the government chose to introduce its version of the Bill in Parliament. In this version, senior judges and the PM are exempt. Team Anna has accused the government of “betraying” the nation by delivering a Bill incapable of really taking on politicians or public servants over corruption.

Only bureaucrats, politicians gain from quotas: Apex court

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The supreme court of india. Taken about 170 m ...

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In a recent path-fracturing judgement given by the Apex Court regarding the reservations has been a thrust to the various reservation legislations and to the three pillar of the Democratic country. Reservations in India has been a hot debated topic in the recent time period and now it has been a matter of fear for the various bureaucrats when the Supreme Court on Thursday established and admitted to such a subject.

The Supreme Court said that the benefits of quotas are being grabbed by bureaucrats and politicians and don’t reach the people they are intended for.

An apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik said that people who should get the benefits of quotas were not even aware of them.”It is only the wards of the bureaucrats and people serving in the government who walk away with the benefits of reservation. None of the tribals from Bastar (in Chhattisgarh) ever get reservation benefits as they are not even aware of it,” said Justice Patnaik.The apex court was hearing a petition alleging flawed implementation of the reservations for other backward classes (OBC) in admission to the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Delhi University.

The judgement has emerged as a matter of uproar among the students of the general category and is now the matter which can be a scourge to the reservation system.