When an Army truck driver returned to this village after surviving strafing by enemy planes, being the driving force behind a major anti-corruption campaign was not on his agenda.
But 72-year-old Kisan Baburao Hazare, famously known as Anna Hazare, into the third day of his fast-unto-death for a stronger anti-corruption law, has become the most visible face of the movement that is garnering growing support.
Mr. Hazare was born into an agrarian family in Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Ahmednagar district of western Maharashtra. After the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the Indian government had made an appeal to the youth to join the defence services. Mr. Hazare was one of those who responded and joined the Army in 1963.
During the India-Pakistan war, he was posted in the Khemkaran sector, where Pakistani fighter jets bombarded Indian positions. Even though Mr. Hazare had a lucky escape, he saw his colleagues die before him leading to his decision of remaining a bachelor.
During his days in the Army in the 1960s as a truck driver, he spent a lot of time reading about Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave.
Mr. Hazare returned to Ralegan Siddhi village in 1975, after seeking voluntary retirement from the Army after 15 years of service. He was faced with a village in the grip of drought, poverty, crimes and alcoholism.
He inspired villagers to join him in building canals and bunds to hold rainwater which increased irrigation possibilities in the village. Literacy programmes were also taken up transforming the village into a model village. This experiment made him famous across the country.
During that time, Mr. Hazare first came across a case of corruption by forest officers in Maharashtra and went on an indefinite hunger strike in Alandi near Pune. His agitation jolted the authorities into taking action against the erring officers.
Right to information
He formed the ‘Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan' in 1991 that gradually spread across the State.
He launched a campaign for the Right to Information in 1997 that resulted in the Maharashtra government legislating an Act, which was subsequently adopted by the Centre in 2005.
Mr. Hazare lives in a small room attached to the Yadavbaba temple in his village.
Keywords: Anna Hazare life