It's a fight to the finish for citizens' rights: Anna Hazare

Posted on
  • Wednesday, April 6, 2011
  • Hazare wants the Lokpal's office to subsume the CVC so that both political leaders and officials come under its ambit as well as the judiciary.  

    Photo: The Hindu
    Durgesh Nandan Jha,
    Civil society's battle against corruption acquired its sharpest edge ever on Tuesday as veteran social activist Anna Hazare began a fast unto death at the capital's landmark Jantar Mantar demanding greater public role in the Anti-Corruption Bill (Lokpal Bill), which has now been considered and put aside by successive regimes for the last 42 years.

    Anna Hazare ignored several pleas of the government to defer his fast as he stood firm on his demand for a joint committee comprising government and civil society leaders to rework the current draft Lokpal Bill. He maintained that the current Bill covering only politicians was inadequate as politicians often colluded with officials to indulge in corruption.

    Hazare wants the Lokpal's office to subsume the CVC so that both political leaders and officials come under its ambit as well as the judiciary. He also wants the Lokpal to have police powers — that is, to not just be a recommendatory body but an effective office that can file FIRs, chargesheet the accused and file cases. Hazare and other activists have been demanding for the Prime Minister's Office to come within the ambit of the Lokpal.

    It appears that the 72-year-old activist's protest is taking the contours of a popular movement. Thousands of people, including students, teachers, artistes, retired government officers and activists, joined Anna at Jantar Mantar to lend him support. On the Net, support for Anna is already a viral movement. Unless the government concedes to the demand, this support is only likely to grow.

    Anna Hazare said he would rather die than give up the fight for citizens rights. "There is no faith left in politicians and bureaucrats and it is time that people be allowed to decide what they want," he said as more than 2,000 supporters, including activists Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh and Kiran Bedi gathered around him at the protest site. While activists like Mallika Sarabhai began a parallel protest in Ahmedabad, JD(U)'s Sharad Yadav had to leave Jantar Mantar after activists said they didn't want politicians participating in this campaign.

    Speaking before he began the fast, Hazare said he wasn't going to buy into assurances from the government. "In the last few months, I sent several letters to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with our demand for a joint committee on formulation of the anti-corruption bill. We even handed over a copy of the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by us, which has been drafted by a team of public leaders and senior lawyers, but that was rejected. Only fake assurances were given."

    The Jan Lokpal bill aims at making decisions of the state and Central Lokayuktas binding and final. The Lokpal is envisaged to have powers to dismiss corrupt officials, including judges and politicians. Many in the government feel the Lokpal should be limited to making recommendations.

    The Congress party appealed to Anna Hazare to call off the protest, saying a group headed by defence minister A K Antony was examining the proposals. National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander, however, said there was a need for a wider debate and recommended that the Lokpal's ambit should include the PMO too.

    Hazare said ministers who faced allegations of corruption were part of the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up to decide on the required amendments in the drafting of the anti-corruption bill. "This is not acceptable, to me or the public at large. If the government alone drafts the anti-corruption bill (Lokpal Bill), it will be autocratic not democratic, there will be discrepancies," Hazare said.

    Cutting across the political divide, thousands came out to support Hazare's fast and the Jan Lokpal Bill. Students, farmers and social activists waved the Indian flag and held up placards in support of the bill at the protest site. Songs like "Raghupati raghav raja ram" and numbers created to highlight the need of the Jan Lokpal Bill were played.

    Earlier, the activists, led by Hazare, marched from Rajghat to India Gate and offered prayers.

    RTI activist Kejriwal said that with scams like 2G and Commonwealth Games, people have lost faith in the state. " Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and other freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for the country's independence. But power-hungry and corrupt politicians continue to exploit us. The RTI Act has given us a tool to get information hitherto not available but to punish those involved in such massive corruption a tough law is required which is not tailor-made to suit the needs of politicians," he said.

     Bhole Vishwakarma, an environmental engineer, said, "It is a pity that an asset of the country — Anna Hazare — has to die for our criminal politicians and their vested interests."
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