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Half a victory

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Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Indian politician, spea...

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VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN  IN THE FRONTLINE

Team Anna wins the first round, but the way ahead in the fight against corruption is full of uncertainties.

“A BATTLE has been won in the campaign for cleansing public life through the rallying of vast sections of people across the country. But a purposive piece of legislation has finally to be passed by Parliament even to rate this victory as truly meaningful. Indeed, the state of peace that has descended after the tumult is pregnant with uncertainties. Uncertainties of such dimensions that no one has a clue as to what this will ultimately deliver.” These words spoken by a key player in the negotiations between Team Anna and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during the tumultuous 12-day fast undertaken by Anna Hazare, which rocked the national capital and most other parts of the country, sum up the mood prevailing among individuals and groups that would play a role in the drafting and passage of a new Lokpal Bill. The government, the big and small opposition parties with representation in Parliament, Team Anna and various other institutions and bodies that have come up with suggestions on the proposed Bill, such as the Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and the Udit Raj-led Justice Party, all share these uncertainties and the lack of clarity about the future.

At the moment, of course, the prime mover is the Standing Committee of Parliament, chaired by Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The committee is expected to take up and initiate negotiations on the various proposals from different sides sometime in September itself. Central to these negotiations are the three points on which Parliament expressed its sense-of-the-House agreement in response to Team Anna’s demands. The sense-of-the-House resolution stated that the issues of “Citizens’ Charter, Lower Bureaucracy also to be under the Lokpal through appropriate mechanism, and establishment of Lokayuktas in the States” would be taken up by the Standing Committee. This process itself has historic dimensions because it is for the first time that the members of the Standing Committee will be discussing the provisions of an already introduced government Bill in response to a sense-of-the-House resolution suggesting incorporation of new provisions.

The mainstream political parties and Team Anna expect this process of the Standing Committee to be completed before the winter session of Parliament. On their part, both Union Finance Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, who emerged as the most important player on the government side during the latter stages of the anti-corruption agitation, and Anna Hazare himself have come up with public postures that have signified a sense of caution and accommodation, which in turn is considered conducive to the smooth conduct of deliberations. In repeated comments to the media after Anna Hazare concluded his fast on August 28, Mukherjee made it clear that the government had bowed before people’s power and its genuine representative leader. Anna Hazare responded by agreeing that there was a lot more to be done peacefully to take the negotiations to the level of fruition. Asserting that “this is only half a victory”, he said he was confident that Members of Parliament would not go back on their word to provide “an effective and strong Lokpal”.

While this sense of accommodation and optimism bodes well for deliberations in the future, large sections of public opinion still harbour apprehensions as to how things will unfold. Speaking to the media immediately after Anna Hazare ended his fast, Infosys founder V. Narayana Murthy hailed the ‘in principle’ agreement of Parliament to the demands put forward by Team Anna but added that it was only the first step. “We have to go through the process of implementation and take it to success. And that is the toughest part. For implementation is the Devil.”

According to Professor Nil Rattan of the Patna-based A.N. Sinha Institute of Political Studies, the apprehensions about implementation have arisen essentially on account of the very track record of the players involved in the process. “Both sides have shown intransigence at different times. While the government has bumbled about from one mistake to another for long spells while addressing the issue, Team Anna had initially taken the obstinate position that nothing short of its version, the Jan Lokpal Bill, would do. The present atmosphere for deliberations could be arrived at only because the government rectified some of its mistakes and Team Anna was ready to come down on some of its demands like bringing the higher judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal. What is the guarantee that this will stand? Who knows whether sections of the government will embark on some adventurist path again,” Nil Rattan told Frontline.

Indeed, the UPA’s track record in handling the early days of Anna Hazare’s August agitation is pathetic. Almost every section of the government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, kept on making mistakes. Interventions by Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal made matters worse. Finally, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi contributed his mite to the rank confusion in the ruling establishment. These mistakes were in many ways directly proportional to the rising popularity of Anna Hazare.

Undoubtedly, the biggest mistake was the imprisonment of Anna Hazare on August 16, that too in Tihar jail, where people like Suresh Kalmadi and A. Raja, who were arrested on charges of corruption, are incarcerated. Subsequently, an official spokesperson of the Congress classified Anna Hazare as a “top to bottom” corrupt person.

Interestingly, the decision to take Anna Hazare to Tihar jail was made in an apparent effort to keep him away from the crowds. The political bosses and the administrative-bureaucratic leadership, especially of the Home Ministry, had reportedly considered different options, such as placing him in a government or private guest house or moving him out to Ralegan Siddhi (his hometown in Maharashtra), but finally decided against all these, fearing that his supporters would gather in front of the guest house or at Ralegan Siddhi. Informed sources said that they finally decided to shift him to Tihar because it was thought that the jail would not be accessible to Hazare’s supporters. But what happened was the exact opposite. Crowds gathered at Tihar in big numbers, forcing the government to order his release.

In the days following his release, and during the fast undertaken by him at the Ramlila Grounds, Anna Hazare was perceived as the symbol of all that is positive in society and in many ways the one-stop solution for all social problems. Various organisations, such as sections of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar and non-governmental organisations of different hues and patterns of funding, pitched in for crowd mobilisation. Cumulatively, the impact of genuinely inspired participation and motivated organisational mobilisation resulted in massive crowds at the maidan.

Meanwhile, the government made another faulty move: it stated that Parliament cannot give up its supremacy. This when it had undermined Parliament in April by calling Team Anna to draft the Lokpal Bill and keeping the opposition parties out of the drafting committee. While this move was made by the Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi made a facile attempt to score some brownie points through an intervention in Parliament highlighting the same supremacy-of-Parliament position.

Ultimately, it required the intervention of some youth power from the government side itself to untangle the mess that senior politicians such as Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Sibal had created. It was through the good offices of a young Delhi MP, Sandeep Diskshit, that the government built channels of communication with Team Anna and managed to bring about a solution. To start with, Dikshit’s intervention was followed by an appeal from Manmohan Singh to Anna Hazare to withdraw the fast. He made this appeal even while crediting Anna Hazare with valid slogans representing the people’s aspirations.

However, in the euphoria created by this collection of crowds day after day, shrill voices questioning the very legitimacy of political processes and leaderships were heard from the Ramlila podium – from Team Anna leaders including Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, and supporters such as the actor Om Puri. The campaign was such that it sought to raise visions of an apolitical leadership replacing politics in the country. Voices like those of the social activist Swami Agnivesh, which emphasised the need to accord validity to political leaderships and elected representatives, were fiercely criticised by the volunteers of Team Anna and by sections of the crowd. Agnivesh’s comment that Hazare ought to have responded positively to Manmohan Singh’s appeal was targeted for special vitriolic treatment by many of Team Anna’s supporters.

Despite this, the government persisted with its efforts at negotiation. It was in this process that Pranab Mukherjee’s role came to the fore, even though Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal continued to argue that a tough line would ultimately compel Team Anna to compromise. This tussle on strategy reflected in a different manner within Team Anna too. Though voices like those of Swami Agnivesh had been sidelined, there also developed an impression that Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi were pushing things to the brink. A group within Team Anna, including senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, took the lead in meeting a number of political leaders, particularly in the opposition BJP and the Left. These initiatives were supplemented by the Mukherjee-led negotiations.

Gradually, sections of Team Anna that had raised a rant against the political class as a whole had to listen to the less aggressive sections. And, it was this that finally led to the discussion of Anna’s demands in Parliament and the final passage of the resolution.

Notably, when Anna Hazare’s fast was withdrawn on August 28 following the passage of the resolution, Kejriwal made it a point to underline the fact that at no point of time had Team Anna sought to denigrate the entire political class as corrupt. While this was sought to be presented as a clarification, many observers perceived the effect of a corrective reverse pressure in this statement.

The passage of the resolution in Parliament and the acknowledgement of Anna’s agitation methods by parliamentarians have evoked high praise, especially from sections of the media, some of whom have described the agitation as the most phenomenal people’s movement to have happened in the history of independent India. In fact, some commentators have even gone to the extent of suggesting that there could be a classification of national politics as pre-Anna and post-Anna phases.

While it is true that the agitation and the fast touched an emotive chord in large sections of the people, including the middle class which has never participated actively in political initiatives, the fact remains that many other movements, ranging from the struggle for land reforms to the empowerment of Dalits, have had more lasting historical impact on Indian society.

Professor Sudhir Panwar, an Uttar Pradesh-based social activist associated with the Kisan Jagriti Manch, who supported the Anna Hazare agitation as a significant effort to initiate a new democratic discourse in the country’s political system, also pointed out that the increased participation of the middle class had helped get enhanced media attention to the movement compared with other grass-roots initiatives such as those of farmers and agricultural workers.

“The fact is the issue of corruption, especially corruption by the political class, is so pervasive and the fight against it has such widespread resonance that even those who have never thought of the country and its people in a larger sense joined in,” he said.

Panwar pointed out that the middle class, which had assiduously kept away from politics and refused to respond to phenomenal political developments such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots of 2002, was triggered into action on political and other forms of corruption also because of the global economic crisis and its impact on day-to-day life.

Panwar emphasised that the leaders of Team Anna should use this opportunity to broadbase the movement with a larger understanding of other social issues and an earnest incorporation of other social movements. “Only then will this have a lasting impact,” he stated.

Naturally, this would involve adopting a more open approach to issues such as the demands of Dalits and backward classes in relation to the Lokpal and looking at broader issues such as the impact of neoliberal policies. Team Anna has announced its resolve to continue struggles in new areas such as electoral reforms, which will include the right to recall and the right to reject legislators. It has also stated that it will strive for decentralisation of power through the greater empowerment of gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas.

A one-line overview of the national political situation in the context of the agitation and the related developments was provided by Pranab Mukherjee when he said, “We are at a crossroads.” It was with this phrase that Mukherjee began his speech marking the beginning of the August 27 debate in Parliament on the Lokpal Bill.

Clearly, as the statement implies, it is time to move with caution to enhance the democratic content of the nation and its institutions and systems. It is a message that applies equally to the largely discredited and beleaguered political class as also to the new civil society players who have had a modicum of success in initiating a corrective process.

And exactly because of this success, Team Anna needs to be extra cautious in what it preaches and practises. For, the hallucination among some of its leaders that India is Anna and Anna is India militates against the very concept of democratic discourse.

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Messianism versus democracy

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ANNA HAZARE SUPPORTERS AT RAMLILA MAIDAN

PRABHAT PATNAIK in THE HINDU

The substitution of one man for the people, and the reduction of the people’s role merely to being supporters and cheerleaders for one man’s actions, is antithetical to democracy.

The Central government’s flip-flops on Anna Hazare are obvious: it went from abusing him (through the Congress spokesperson) for sheltering corruption, to extolling him for his idealism; from arresting him, without any justification, and getting him remanded to judicial custody for a week, to releasing him within a few hours. But the Anna group’s flip-flops are no less striking: it moves from “we-have-a-democratic-right-to-protest-and-place-our-views-in-public,” which is an unexceptionable proposition, to “Anna-will-keep-fasting-until-his-bill-is-adopted-or-amended-with-his-permission,” which amounts to holding a gun to the head of the Centre, and by implication of Parliament, and dictating that the bill it has produced must be passed, or else mayhem will follow. The government’s flip-flops are indicative of incompetence; the Anna group’s flip-flops arise because of the compulsions of a particular style of politics on which it is embarked, which can be called “messianism” and which is fundamentally anti-democratic. The fact that it is striking a chord among the people, if at all it is (one cannot entirely trust the media on this), should be a source of serious concern, for it underscores the pre-modernity of our society and the shallowness of the roots of our democracy.

Democracy essentially means a subject role for the people in shaping the affairs of society. They not only elect representatives periodically to the legislature, but intervene actively through protests, strikes, meetings, and demonstrations to convey their mood to the elected representatives. There being no single mood, freedom of expression ensures that different moods have a chance to be expressed, provided the manner of doing so takes the debate forward instead of foreclosing it. For all this to happen, people have to be properly informed. The role of public meetings where leaders explain issues, and of media reports, articles, and discussions, is to ensure that they are. The whole exercise is meant to promote the subject role of the people, and the leaders are facilitators. Even charismatic leaders do not substitute themselves for the people; they are charismatic because the people, in acquiring information to play their subject role, trust what they say.

Messianism substitutes the collective subject, the people, by an individual subject, the messiah. The people may participate in large numbers, and with great enthusiasm and support, in the activities undertaken by the messiah, as they are doing reportedly at Anna Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila grounds, but they do so as spectators. The action is of the messiah; the people are only enthusiastic and partisan supporters and cheerleaders. If at all they ever undertake any action on the side, this is entirely at the messiah’s bidding, its ethics, rationale and legitimacy never explained to them (no need is felt for doing so); whenever they march they march only in support of the messiah, not for specific demands that they have internalised and feel passionately about. When they gather at the Ramlila grounds, for instance, the occasion is not used to enlighten them, to bring home to them the nuances of the differences between the government’s Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill, so that they could act with discrimination and understanding. On the contrary, the idea is to whip up enthusiasm among them without enlightening them, through the use of meaningless hyperbole like “the government’s bill is meant not for theprevention but for the promotion of corruption”, and “Anna is India and India is Anna”. If the venue was one where discussions, debates, and informative speeches were taking place, the matter would be different, but those alas have no place in the political activity around messianism.

Informative speeches have been the traditional staple of political activity in India. Maulana Bhashani, a popular peasant leader in what is now Bangladesh, used to give marathon speeches that were interrupted when people went home for lunch or dinner, or even for a night’s rest, and resumed when they re-assembled afterwards; and the speeches contained much information about everything, not just politics but even crop-sowing practices and the best means of irrigation. A speech was virtually a set of classes; it had an educative role. I myself have heard election speeches in West Bengal by the inimitable Jyoti Basu, and also others. The speeches were based on solid homework, and conveyed information and argument to the audience. They also sought to rebut what was being said by the opponents, and hence carried forward a debate in public. Political activity of this kind assumed a subject role of the people and prepared them for it; it was quintessentially democratic. Messianic political activity does no such thing; it quintessentially creates a spectacle, not just for the audience but above all for the TV cameras upon whose presence it is crucially dependent.

I am not concerned here with whether the Jan Lokpal Bill is the best piece of legislation on the subject; nor am I concerned with the possible RSS links of the Anna campaign. These issues, though important, are not germane to my argument. My concern is with the “dumbing down” of the people that messianic political activity entails: “leave things to Anna but do come to cheer him.” Just as in a potboiler Hindi film the hero single-handedly does all the fighting required to rid the locale of villainous elements, messianic activity leaves all the fighting, that is, the subject role, to the messiah. The people stand around with sympathy, and cheer. When the Anna group announces that he will take up issues like land reforms, corporate land grab, and commercialisation of education, once his fight against corruption is over, one almost feels that Shekhar Kapoor‘s “Mr. India” has finally arrived on the scene! The problem, however, is that “Mr. India” is a negation of democracy; and relying upon “Mr. India”, like relying upon the arrival of an incarnation of Vishnu to cleanse the world of evil, is a throwback to our pre-modernity. It is not just an admission of a state of powerlessness of the people that may prevail at the moment; it reinforces that powerlessness.

Messianism is fundamentally anti-democratic because it is complicit in this objectification of the people, this self-fulfilling portrayal of them as dumb objects that need a messiah. When the Anna group uses the term “people” as a substitute for itself (referring to its own bill as “the people’s bill,” its own views as the “people’s views”), it is implicitly carrying out a conceptual coup d’etat, namely, that messianism is democracy! But quite apart from the fact that the messiah is not elected by the people, a point made by many, there is the basic point that nobody, whether elected or not, can substitute for the people in a democracy.

This presumption, however, explains the flip-flops made by the Anna group. If Anna is the people, then democracy, where the people are supreme, demands that his version of the bill must be accepted over any other version, including what the parliamentary Standing Committee may come to formulate. The people’s supremacy over Parliament entails ipso facto Anna’s supremacy over Parliament. Messianism necessarily implies an “Anna’s-bill-has-got-to-be-adopted” position. Members of Anna’s group, many of whom have been associated for long with people’s causes, may have occasional discomfort with this messianic position, and may retreat to a “we-are-only-exercising-our-democratic-rights” stance; but since they do not repudiate the messianic position, they perforce come back to the “Anna-is-the-people-and-hence-supreme” stance. To accept that Anna’s version of the bill is only one of many possible versions, which the final bill could draw upon, amounts to seeing Anna as one among equals, and not as the messiah, that is, to an abandonment of messianism; the Anna group is loath to do this. “Negotiations” with the government therefore come to mean negotiations to make it accept Anna’s version; “compromise” comes to mean a compromise that makes Anna’s version final.

It may be asked: if the people prefer “messianism” to “democracy,” then what is wrong with it? Those thronging the Ramlila grounds or marching in support of Anna in the metros are not necessarily “the people” of the country, and it is dangerous to take the two as identical. Besides, even if a majority of the people genuinely wish at a particular time to elevate a messiah over Parliament, this is no reason to alter the constitutional order, just as a majority wishing to abandon secularism at a particular time is no reason to do so. The Constitution is the social contract upon which the Indian state is founded, and it cannot be overturned by the wishes of a majority at a particular time. If perchance the government accepts messianism out of expediency, it would be violating the spirit of the Constitution and undermining democracy. Besides, any such licence will make multiple (quasi-religious) messiahs sprout, who would compete and collude, as oligopolists do in the markets for goods, to keep people in thralldom.

(Prabhat Patnaik recently retired from the Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2389694.ece

Ramlila Maidan becomes a learning ground too

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ANNA HAZARE AT RAMLILA MAIDAN

The battleground of the crusade against corruption a learning ground too for discipline and collaboration.

Ramlila Maidan, where activist Anna Hazare continues his fast, is probably one of the rare places in the country today where people are willing to stand in queue and patiently wait their turn.

On Saturday, as Anna’s fast entered the fifth day, people turned up in droves, curbing their instincts to jostle and jump the serpentine queues. Standing in the blistering heat, they kept the morale up by raising slogans, but gave the police and the organisers little to complain about as they were ushered in and frisked.

Inside the ground, volunteers were busy cleaning the place, serving food and water, helping supporters find a place, answer queries on the Jan Lokpal Bill. On the peripheries of the “maidan,” doctors attended to the unwell.

“It is indeed a rare sight. Where do you see such regulation without a danda [stick] these days? People are willing to cooperate. Yes, there have been complaints of some mischievous elements creating a nuisance, but those have been too few and far in between,” said a volunteer of India Against Corruption.

Periodically requests were made on the public address system, urging the visitors not to litter the “karmbhoomi” (place where one works) and cooperate with the volunteers. Anna’s supporters are learning. “The one thing that we need to learn from Anna is discipline. Have you ever seen a place where people willingly stand in a queue? Look around today and you will see how everyone is trying to fall in line. Our society lacks discipline and if each one of us and our leaders become more disciplined, things will gradually fall into place,” said Rahul, an IT professional who came with this wife to show solidarity.

At the free kitchen, where the queues again were long and winding, there has not been a moment of rest; food is served without a pause. “We are not even keeping track of how many are eating. Till there is food, it will be served,” said a volunteer at the kitchen, who also runs a food service during the Amarnath Yatra.

From morning till late afternoon, five quintals of rice had been consumed. “People are donating whatever they can, we are providing what we can, it is an ongoing process and we don’t even want to keep count of what is being consumed,” he said.

Dr. Kamal from Jodhpur has been sitting under a canopy handing out medicines, checking people for ailments. “Since morning, 15 people have been sent off to hospital because their condition was serious, otherwise we are equipped to deal with dehydration and the minor cuts and bruises that are the common complaints,” he said. The medicines have again come from voluntary donations and arranged for by the doctors themselves.

There are, however, reasons to complain too. While some women have had to deal with unwanted attention from the anti-social elements, a large number of people are unhappy with the inadequate arrangements for sanitation. “There is a huge problem of clean toilets. For those of us who are staying here for longer periods, and for women and children in particular, it is definitely a put off. But when you see a 70 plus person sitting in the sun, hungry, you can complain only so much,” said Sanjay Dhiman, a mechanical engineer from Hardwar.

COURTESY: THE HINDU

Anna Hazare rides wrath yatra, ups ante on Jan Lokpal Bill

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ANNA HAZARE DEMANDING FOR JAN-LOKPAL BILL

Emboldened by the swelling crowds at Ramlila Maidan, Gandhian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare upped the ante within hours of emerging from Tihar Jail on Friday. He set a three-week deadline for Parliament to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, pending which he wouldn’t budge from the ground. This was not only contrary to his group’s commitment to vacate the protest site by August 31, but was also seen to be brushing aside parliamentary processes as no such deadline is set for standing committees to study draft legislations in detail.

The ultimatum marks a hardening of stand which could queer the pitch for negotiations and a settlement to the dramatic face-off. While Team Anna has insisted on the Lokpal Bill being passed in the monsoon session ending September 8, it had refrained from setting a deadline for the passage of their version of the bill, maintaining that they respected Parliament and would abide by its decision.

Anna also gave a call for a jail-bharo campaign if the deadline was not met. Although his associate Prashant Bhushan said they were open to negotiations with the government, the ultimatum narrows the scope of a settlement. Taken by surprise by the groundswell of support for Anna, government leaders seemed inclined to wait out Anna’s protest, reckoning that it would be difficult for his team to sustain this level of popular support.

Addressing the media at Ramlila Maidan, the 74-year-old Anna said: “I have made the decision of my life. It is up to the government to pass the (Jan Lokpal) bill. If it is not passed in this session, I will continue my fast till my last breath.” The pledge drew huge applause from his growing band of supporters. His aide Arvind Kejriwal brazenly declared the group’s lack of faith in parliamentary democracy. “Parliament is not supreme, the public is,” he said. “It’s our right to raise our voice against corruption and the elected representatives must hear it.”

Asked if the three-week deadline was not impractical, Anna shot back that it was the government’s headache. “They have the majority in Parliament and it is up to them to see how they get the bill passed,” he said.

There is, however, a view that two private member’s bills – introduced by BJP’s Varun Feroze Gandhi in Lok Sabha and independent member Rajiv Chandrashekhar in Rajya Sabha — can offer a way out.

Varun plans to move the Jan Lokpal Bill as his bill, while Chandrashekhar’s bill has incorporated features of civil society’s version of the legislation.

Since the grouse of the civil society is that Parliament won’t get to debate the merits of their bill, the two private members’ bills can give the two Houses an opportunity to assess the merits of the two rival pieces of legislation, potentially clearing the way for a resolution.

However, procedures and conventions may come in the way. A private member’s bill can be introduced in the House only after a month’s notice. While Varun Gandhi hasn’t yet formally sought the Speaker’s permission to move the bill, Chandrashekhar submitted his bill in the first week of August. So, neither has a month’s time to be taken up for adoption in this session. Still, extraordinary situations often lead to “creative” solutions. Perhaps, with the House’s permission, the process may be fast-tracked.

Prashant Bhushan told the media: “We are not afraid of discussions. If somebody from the government wants to discuss, we have no problems. But we are not ready to compromise on corruption.”

Kejriwal added that nobody from the government has approached them so far for discussions.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Anna-Hazare-rides-wrath-yatra-ups-ante-on-Jan-Lokpal-Bill/articleshow/9666529.cms

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 Hazare leaves Tihar, vows ‘Our fight has just begun’

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Cheers rang out as Anna Hazare emerged from Tihar Jail a little before noon, 45 minutes later than promised by his team.  The steady drizzle all morning did not dampen the enthusiasm of the 2000 people who had gathered with flags to catch a glimpse of the anti-corruption activist who launches a 15-day mass protest today at Ramlila Maidan in Central Delhi.
It was near impossible to hear Anna’s short speech.  He referred to the campaign against corruption -as he has so often in the last few months- to “a second freedom struggle.”   Now on the fourth day of his fast, he seemed strong.  “Whether I am there or not, this fight will continue,” he said to a huge roar of applause. His close associate, Arvind Kejriwal, who has spent three nights in Tihar with Anna, stood behind him. After his address, Anna was seen waving the national flag.  Hundreds of smaller flags fluttered in response in the crowd that chanted “Anna zindabad (long live Anna).”

Anna will head in a truck to Ramlila Maidan. En route, he will stop at India Gate and visit Mahatma Gandhi‘s memorial at Rajghat.  The Delhi Police has asked commuters to avoid roads near Ramlila Maidan.  Anna’s close aide and former cop Kiran Bedi  has asked his supporters to let him travel alone to Rajghat and then onto Ramlila Maidan to avoid causing traffic jams.

Anna has been fasting since Tuesday, when he was arrested and taken to Tihar.  Doctors have been examining him regularly in prison. They will check on him thrice a day once he moves to Ramlila Maidan, the large grounds in Central Delhi that have been granted to Anna’s team as a base-camp.  About 1000 people have gathered there already, despite rain all morning.

Though Anna was told he could leave Tihar on Tuesday night, hours after he was arrested, he refused, launching a complex and extensive negotiation with the Delhi Police.  What Team Anna wanted- and won after 24 hours of talks – was permission to hold a huge demonstration that would not restrict either the length of Anna’s fast, or the number of people that could join the protest.  In a matter of huge relief for the government, Team Anna has said his fast is “not a fast unto death but an indefinite fast.” A set of conditions imposed upon the mass-protest mandate that Anna will allow doctors from both a private and government hospital to examine him.

Since Anna was arrested on Tuesday morning, the country has responded with huge marches and candlelight vigils.  The government has finally accepted that the 74-year-old Gandhian has been nominated by the country as the icon of the war against corruption.  So the government will work behind-the-scenes to persuade Anna to cut short his fast. It will also try and engage with Anna’s close aides, some of them from his home turf of Maharashtra, in new discussions.

What Anna has been pushing is his team’s version of a new anti-corruption law that Parliament plans to debate during its current session.  Team Anna says that the Lokpal Bill which provides for an independent investigating agency to handle charges of corruption – an ombudsman committee-   is weak.    Team Anna has developed a parallel version of the Lokpal Bill and wants the government to circulate this draft in Parliament too.

As a possible compromise, the government may request Anna to appear before a Parliamentary committee that’s studying the Lokpal Bill.

Link : http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/lokpal-bill-row-anna-hazare-leaves-tihar-heads-to-ramlila-maidan-127564