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Sunday, April 10, 2011

From Gudi Padwa in Ralegan Siddhi to New Delhi

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The Social Environment

Ralegan Siddhi, the home town of Anna Hazare in Maharashtra’s Ahmed Nagar district resolved to end corruption on the day of Gudi Padwa, the New Year’s Day celebrated all over Maharashtra. A procession was organised on the day with women in traditional 9 yard- saries moving in line with firm resolution for the New Year.

Image: A march to end corruption on the Gudi Padwa ( taken from the Hindu)

The anti-corruption movement was taking momentum across the state and to mark their resolution to abolish corruption in their state about 80 per cent of the residents of Ralegan Siddhi town erected a Gudi with black coloured cloth against the traditional red as they use on this day. It is important to note that the anti-corruption movement was launched by Anna Hazare, the noted social activist and the movement was reportedly firm to get passed the JanLokpal Bill drafted by RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and Santosh Hegde, the Lokayukta of Karnataka through the Central Government. The movement is of the opinion that passing of the Bill would end corruption in every India state.

Image : Anna Hazare, the Social Activist on his march to end corruption

The Gudi on the occasion of Gudi Padwa is placed outside every home to mark a new beginning and the new beginning this time was to start a life without corruption. Anna Hajare undertook a historic task of an indefinite fast- unto- death with thousands of followers that later multiplied to many times, in most of the Indian states.

The people in the movement were firm with their resolution on ending corruption and the social activist had reportedly told the movement not to come back without getting passed the bill. And yes … Anna Hazare has now become able to come back as the government at least now conceded his demands.

The Hindu((April 9, 2011) reports – Hectic parleys between the Centre and emissaries of Anna Hajare, the social activist, finally bore fruit late on Friday night(night of April 8, 2011) as the social activist announced that he would end his fast – unto – death on Saturday morning. It took several rounds of talks within the government on the issues relating to the proposed joint draft committee. The demands of the social activist included setting up of a joint committee having 50 percent members from the civil society and having a non- political person as its head. At this point it is important to note that the government had proposed the name of Pranab Mukherjee for this post. From the side of Anna Hajare, the names proposed for this post were the former Chief Justice of India, J.S.Verma or former Supreme Court Judge, Santosh Hedge. Later, the social activist proposed the name of former Union Minister Shanti Bhushan as co-chairman.

Following Anna Hajare’s march for fast-unto-death, urban people from all over the country had started supporting him by organising meetings, sending messages and organising demonstrations in various ways. As per reports, many known corrupt persons too were in the line of supporters from different parts of the country. However, the social activist got success.

It is important to note that Baba Ramdeo, the so called Yog Guru by his followers in modern time had already started raising his voice against corruption some years back and he is still on his way in his own style and action, but it was Anna Hajare got the work done on record. The Hindu writes in its editorial of 9th April issue -The stand-off over corruption -Few could have anticipated that Anna Hazare's movement for a stronger Lokpal bill would generate such an extraordinary groundswell of public support, particularly among the urban middle class. By the fourth day of his indefinite fast, the nationwide protests led by 71-year-old social activist have forced the Centre to drop the anti-corruption bill it had drafted, to agree to prepare a new and stronger draft in consultation with civil society activists, and to desperately seek an agreement to end the crisis. It is imperative that the Manmohan Singh government seeks to resolve the remaining differences — on whether the committee must be formally notified and whether a civil society nominee should head it — by forsaking obstinate stances and respecting the popular mood. With the Centre rejecting the positions staked out by Mr. Hazare on these two issues, he has called for a nationwide jail bharo on April 13. It is not certain how long the deadlock will continue. But in the welter of protests and the general anger about corruption, the key details about what this specific crusade is really about must not be lost.

Essentially, the battle is to formulate a Lokpal bill that will allow for impartial and effective inquiries into complaints against public officials. The civil activist camp is correct in pointing out that the official draft is weak and ineffectual. For instance, rather than allow the Lokpal (or ombudsman) to probe all corruption-related complaints against public officials received from the general public, it restricts such inquires to those forwarded by the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairman. The reluctance of the Centre to draft a tough Lokpal bill has been coupled with a longstanding reluctance to enact it; one or another version of the bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha eight times since 1968 only to find the House being dissolved before it could be passed. Mr. Hazare and his supporters have demanded that the Jan Lokpal bill drafted by civil society activists be adopted instead. But this piece of legislation, although having much more teeth, is not without its share of serious flaws. For instance, it stipulates that the selection committee for the Lokpal must include Nobel laureates of Indian origin and recent Magsaysay award winners. It also makes drastic changes in the existing criminal justice system by envisaging the Lokpal as something of a super cop, under whose jurisdiction a good portion of the Central Bureau of Investigation will be subsumed. The challenge is to formulate a Lokpal bill that has the teeth lacking in the government draft and is free from the angularities of the civil society version.

As per reports, Mr. Hazare drank neeboo-pani through the hands of a girl and broke off his fast at 11 A.M. on April 9th, 201. During the period of his fast Mr. Hazare had got support of reportedly 44 lakh people. At last he agreed after a government notification for formation of a committee. The social activist had declared that he would try to get the bill passed up to August 15th 2011. The government has already formed a committee which is reportedly unacceptable to baba Ramdeo of Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar. However, with the decision of the government Mr.Anna Hazare kept his promise and became able to come back to join his followers in Ralegan Siddhi. Now it is up to the government in New Delhi to keep its promise and not to enforce Anna Hazare and his followers from the whole country to start another movement in future.

Key Words : Gudi Padwa, Anna Hazare, Jan Lokpal Bill, corruption, Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra

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