Inspired by Gandhiji: Anna Hazare
AN INDIAN septuagenarian whose 98-hour hunger strike against corruption ended with big concessions from the government said yesterday he had no idea his campaign would win national support.“I did not know that this protest would spread throughout the country,” said Anna Hazare, a Mahatma Gandhi devotee, a day after his demands for changes to a new anti-graft bill were accepted.Hazare began the hunger strike in New Delhi on Tuesday (April 5), winning wide support amid rising public anger over rampant corruption scandals that have tainted Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s government.Hazare’s main demand was that activists be included on a committee tasked with drafting an ombudsman bill, giving teeth to anti-corruption laws that could ensure potential prosecutions of government ministers and bureaucrats.The committee will be jointly led by a prominent human rights lawyer, Shanti Bhushan, and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, with people from pressure groups among its members.Hazare issued a warning to the government, saying: “If the government doesn’t listen to us, we will start our protest again. If ministers interfere in the process, we will start our protest again.”“As long as there is life in my body, I will keep protesting,” he said.He promised that the process of formulating the bill would be transparent and accessible to the public.“We will set up video-conferencing so our country’s people can see what we are doing... there will be nothing hidden, it will all happen in partnership,” he said.Hazare’s use of methods made famous by independence leader Gandhiji, who pioneered fasting as a form of protest, his resemblance to the father of the nation, and blanket media coverage helped the frail 73-year-old spread his message.“I have been fighting corruption for 25 years, but my strength is weak,” Hazare said, crediting technology and social media for boosting his ultimately successful campaign.“What happened this time is that corruption has increased so much in the country that not a day goes by without hearing about crores (millions) of rupees being lost in corruption,” he said. One such online petition linked to the hunger strike drew more than 500,000 signatures in 24 hours.Thousands gathered in Delhi to watch Hazare break his fast, while protest marches were held in Bangalore, Mumbai and other cities.After prolonged negotiations, Dr Singh’s Congress party-led government, fearing more controversy ahead of several state elections, caved in to Hazare’s demands and promised to introduce the ombudsman bill in the next parliamentary session.
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