Society

Stirring the nation into action

Supporters of social activist Anna Hazare during a victory celebration after Hazare ended his fast-unto-death for Jan Lokpal Bill, at India Gate in New Delhi.  

SWATI DAFTUAR from Delhi:

Anna has won, so have the thousands of people who stood by him and supported his five-day fast. With the government issuing a gazetted notification constituting a panel to draft an effective Lok Pal Bill, Anna's unbending will and resolve finally saw results. But that's not all. These five days transformed this 73-year-old man into a youth icon almost overnight.

Mass momentum

As he sat there, cross-legged and flanked by social activists and A-listers from not just politics but also religion and Bollywood, Jantar Mantar filled with supporters of all ages. But the most conspicuous was the large group of students, artists and young executives. Taking a break from their busy schedules, these young people gathered in the scorching Delhi summer to raise their voices and banners in support of Anna Hazare, the man they think holds the answer to India's colossal problem of corruption.

Once the e-mails and forwards started flying, along with the status updates and tweets urging participation and support for Hazare, this mini revolution gained momentum rapidly. Soon, youngsters from all over the country were gathering in their towns and cities voicing their support.

“I think it's brilliant what this one man has managed to do. We've always complained of corruption but finally, he has raised his voice and shown us that it is possible to make yourself heard,” says R. Radhika, a 23-year-old PR consultant from Delhi.

Anna's fast has literally shaken a nation awake, and the youth participation shows how all they required was a spark to ignite their spirits. When the UPA government capitulated, it was not just Anna's victory. The whole country celebrated with him.

What's next?

The question now on everyone's mind now is ‘what next'?

“A law or bill is all very well. While Anna Hazare has made his contribution, it's time we made ours. We have held banners and shouted slogans, but to really end corruption, we'll have to fight at a direct level,” says Dhruv, a 20-year-old student of Delhi University.

There's a danger of this wave of protest and activism dying down post-victory, and it is important that the impetus that Anna Hazare's fast gave the youth of the nation be carried forward. Hazare himself thanked the youngsters for supporting the cause, adding that ‘the support of the youth is a symbol of hope'.

“We are restless for change, and we can all see how corruption has become a problem at every step. This is a nation ripe for a mass movement to end corruption.

But we can't sit back and let men like Hazare do all the work. We have to carry it forward, take the matter into out own hands,” says Subhashree Das, a 24-year-old from a reputed advertising agency.

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NILEENA M.S. from Chennai:

At a time when every day we wake up listening to new stories about scams and find ministers, bureaucrats, politicians, business tycoons, the media and even the judiciary under the dark cloud of corruption, it’s no wonder that the campaign led by Anna Hazare caught the imagination of a large number of people. The revelations have shaken off people’s belief in the whole system of governance, and left them shocked at the obscene amount of money involved in it.

“The people have said enough is enough. They have realised that they have to act now to root out corruption from the society,” said Chandramohan, one of the coordinators of ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) in Chennai.

While many celebrate the formation of the Joint Draft Committee for Lok Jan Pal as an achievement of people’s will power, others seemed sceptical about the bill and the plausibility of a black-and-white solution to deal with the enormous issue of corruption. Some see the bill as naive and expressed concern about ‘mass hysteria’ and the religious undertones attached to the campaign.

Call for protests

Senior citizens, RTI activists, students, professionals, retired officers, and housewives joined the prayer meetings, token fasts and candle light vigils in Chennai to register their support. The organisers in Chennai had a tough time as they were denied permission to hold meetings in public places on account of the elections.

“We are organising a peaceful event and we have the right to do so in a democratic country. It makes me worried about the country's future, when we are denied even the permission to hold a peaceful event like this,” said Chandramohan.

The discontent among the supporters was clear when some shouted “all because of the stupid elections and for what use?”

Social networking sites and blogs were brimming over with calls to join the campaign. On April 7, around 200 people joined the candlelight vigil at the Gandhi Statue in Marina defying the police order.

Supporters carried posters saying, “Lokpal is the lifeline of democracy, not a joke pal” and “We need a corruption-free India”. Indian flags and slogans like “Bharat Mata ki jai” filled the air with patriotic fervour.

The protesters gathered at Marina Beach early on April 8, but the police arrested them and took them to the Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya in T.Nagar, which was the focus of anti-corruption campaign in Chennai.

“I was disappointed when I saw that only around 10 students had turned out for the protest. I saw more middle aged people and senior citizens. May be it is because of the board exams or the IPL matches, but young people like us should come forward to fight for society,” said Madhuresh, a CA

The other side

While there was enthusiastic participation from young people, the campaign didn't seem to have clicked with all. Some gave a confused look when asked about the Bill. Kowsiga V.M and Anitha, P.G Diploma in finance planning, ICOFP, confessed, “We read about it in the paper. But, we are yet to know the exact details.”

The students of Asian College of Journalism held a demonstration at the Tidal Park. Supporters held posters urging people to join the campaign at the Chepauk Stadium during the IPL opening match.

On Saturday, when the government conceded to the activists' demands and Hazare ended his fast, sweets were distributed and a victory march held at the Marina.

But Sneha Bhura, M.A Internal Affairs from Stella Maris College, said “But, tell me what is to celebrate? Tackling corruption is a Herculean task, it's everywhere in society and I don't think one body can do much. How can you guarantee that the people in the committee are not biased? How much space will civil society representatives get? I am very sceptical.”

“Corruption has been rampant in society for decades now. How can a body like Lok Janpal wipe it out just like that? The change should come from within. The media is exaggerating it. It is not going to work the way the supporters of the bill say,” says Riyanka George, I M.A Economics student from Stella Maris.

Lone crusader

Many draw attention to the hunger-strike of Irom Sharmila. “This is someone who has been fasting and is being force-fed for 11 years and all we get to see are occasional reports in the print media. Neither the media nor the people in the rest of the country are bothered about the problems faced by the people in the North East. In this case, because of the media coverage, the government couldn't let anyone die in front of the television cameras, so they gave in. It is just an attempt to pacify people and nothing more,” points out Sneha Bhura, M.A Internal Affairs, Stella Maris College.

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K.H. ARUNA from Mumbai

As Anna Hazare's fast entered the second day, thousands of people joined the movement at Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik and several other cities of Maharashtra. The Gateway of India, Mumbai, saw people exuding a sense of unity. Youngsters were making their presence felt.

As Ranbir, a business analyst, said, “The youth have provided maximum support for the movement on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Orkut, and promoting the campaign to get people to participate. They also argued with the police for not giving permission to enter the site.”

Another youngster Bhargav was more forthright. “When the 2G scam broke out, the Prime Minister said he was unaware of the situation and promised to take adequate measures. What they do not realise is that ultimately people like Raja are still free with the amount safely in their pockets. What measures have they taken so far?”

Sharda from SIES College was clear. “Corruption has seeped so deeply into India that it requires powerful people like Hazare to root it out. You should not be surprised if politicians stoop to any level to have this bill fail in Parliament. We should be vigilant and united if we want to end the menace of corruption.”

Check out the e-mails doing the rounds: “I apologise for each time I have bribed a traffic cop when I got caught jumping lanes and I promise I won't encourage corruption by doing this any more. For every corrupt cop or politician, who accepts bribes, there are thousands who give bribes. Support Anna by apologising for encouraging corruption and make a promise to yourself and India to stop. Spread this if you care.”

Aruna is a BMM graduate from SIES Sion College, Mumbai.

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Unlikely icon

A soldier who was the lone survivor in his unit in the1965 Indo-Pak war, Anna Hazare has dedicated his life to serving society. A bachelor and an ascetic, he is especially recognised for his contribution to the development of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, and his efforts for establishing it as a model village, for which he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1992.

Anna has also worked towards transforming barren and dry regions of Maharashtra into green and food surplus areas. He has fasted unto death on several earlier occasions. He forced the Maharashtra government to dismiss 6 ministers and 400 officers charged with corruption. It was due to his efforts that the government enacted the Maharashtra RTI Act. In 2006, when the Centre tried to amend the Central RTI Act, he again went on an indefinite fast and forced the Indian government not to amend RTI Act.

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Jan Lokpal Bill

The Bill was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, and refined on the basis of feedback received on the website and series of public consultations.

It was sent to the Prime Minister and all the Chief Ministers on December 1, but received no response.

What it proposes:

An institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each State will be set up. These institutions will be completely independent of the government. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations, which will have to be completed in one year. The loss incurred due to the corruption will be recovered from the accused. The members of the Lokpal will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process. The entire functioning of Lokpal/Lokayukta will be completely transparent.

Any complaint against any office of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months. CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.

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We react

“I had expected more people to join. I think young people are aware of the movement; I see my friends and classmates talking about it. It's just that they have to join. People should realise that it is time to act and we should seize this opportunity to bring in change.” - VIKAS, X, Shri Sankara Senior Secondary School

“Anna Hazare is the real democratic leader of India; the people of the nation are with him. We got the news about the campaign in college and I immediately started off. But, not many students showed much interest in it.” - AMAN KUMAR, Mass Communication, SRM University

“The picture of the beaming man on the front page went straight to our hearts, for here's a man who achieved an amazing task that no one had the courage to take up. His action mobilised the entire country and made us a united front in our fight against corruption. We dreamt it. He did it. And that makes all the difference. Jai Ho Anna Hazare!” - SAMIRA MOHIDEEN, III BASLP, Sri Ramachandra Medical College

“If there is one thing that has broken along with Anna Hazare's fast that is to an extent the complacency in the minds of the people. At least a fraction of the population is ready to step out on the streets to fight for their rights.” - NANDHITHA HARIHARAN

“In a society as this, Anna Hazare reminds us that non-violence is still effective and will always be the weapon of the strong. Kudos Anna Hazare! We're with you!” - SUPRAJHA SRIDAR, XII, Vidyodaya Matriculation Academy

“The change should start from within. We must stand tall, take responsibility for our mistakes and pay the fine with our heads held high. The time has come to raise our standards, as individuals and as citizens of this great nation. The time has come to show respect to ourselves, to Anna Hazare and to India. The time is now.” - PAVITHRA G. RAMESH, III Year, B.Tech, SRM University


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 1:57:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/Stirring-the-nation-into-action/article14681843.ece

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