Anna Hazare is a well known social activist. His latest crusade is against corruption in India. As part of this, he has been demanding a stronger and effective anti-corruption system. And in his view, he believes that the "Jan Lokpal Bill", drafted by citizens like him is a very effective tool (This link at the PRS site is a good read on Lokpal and Lokayukta). He wants the government to facilitate a discussion on the points mentioned in their draft bill. He, along with the co-drafters believe they have some strong points to make and hence wants the government to set up a joint committee.
And since our "honest" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not even responded to their requests, Anna Hazare announced that he will fast unto death against corruption in India. And he began this fast on the 5th of April.
Now, there are multiple issues that people are discussing. First amongst those - is this proposed "Jan Lokpal" bill the solution to all evils? No - it is not. It empowers one institution (Lokpal) with very strong powers and the person manning this institution is not an elected representative. Fellow blogger, RealityCheckInd has summarised brilliant points on the modifications that are needed to this bill. Please take a moment out, and read that blogpost. The intent behind the draft may have been very good, but there are specifics in the draft that may not be acceptable. Please read that post. Also, a blogpost by Swathi Pradeep favouring the Jan Lokpal bill is here
Second - Is Anna Hazare fasting unto death demanding that this draft be accepted? No - not at all (no wonder, that is the impression that the english media creates on gullible minds). He wants to debate this bill too. He wants the government to talk to them on how to make the bill more effective. Is that such a wrong demand to make? We have National Advisory Council which is unconstitutional to the core, and that includes members of "civil society" actually drafting bills and insisting that the government take it up. Every ministry puts up a draft bill on their website seeking public feedback - why should this be any different?
Third - It is not like Anna Hazare released the draft on April 1st, and announced intent to fast from April 5th. They have submitted this draft to the Prime Minister on December 1st. And all they sought was a forum to discuss. Now, what is so unreasonable in this?
Fourth and most importantly, I seek to explain why I am protesting today, by fasting.
This Prime Minister has shown anything but contempt while dealing with corruption. The country has seen unprecedented levels of corruption under his direct watch, and yet he gets away with it always. Upon hearing that Anna Hazare announced a fast unto death - he appoints an Group of Ministers (as always) headed by the great Sharad Pawar. Sharad Pawar ranks amongst the top corrupt ministers in this government. The man heads the Agriculture ministry but has very little time for matters of the ministry. He is also the President of International Cricket Council, and so now we know where his loyalties lie. Appointing him to head this GoM is an insult to the people crusading against corruption. I need to verify this, but also heard that M.K.Alagiri S/o M. Karunanidhi and minister in the central government is also part of this GoM. If true, can this get anymore bizzare? Is this the contempt with which Manmohan Singh treats serious issues like massive corruption?
And then ofcourse the Congress party has to see a conspiracy in every thing. They now stooped down to the level of calling Anna Hazare as an RSS agent. For a moment, let's assume he is. So? How does it anyway diminish this Prime Minister's stellar contribution to rising corruption in the country?
And then the Congress party calls this fast as "premature"? Eh? So how long should they have waited? The first time the Lokpal bill was introduced in Parliament was 1969. So it's been about 40 years. We have seen monumental corruption in recent times and yet we have to wait till your Prime Minister and ministers find the leisure to consider interacting with citizens?
Please read this letter by Anna Hazare to the Prime Minister yesterday. He nails the lie of this Prime Minister yet again. One point from the letter -
5. It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.
It is this mindless arrogance of the government that I am protesting today. It is this dismissive contempt of the government headed by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi that I am protesting today. Tomorrow, if you and I wish to protest against this government, we will also be labeled according to their whims and fancies. It is this unprecedented corruption that I am protesting today. In their fight against corruption, I support them - with the bill, there are some reservations but since all that Anna Hazare is asking is a forum to debate and discuss, I wonder why this government, headed by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi is reluctant. I protest this arrogant reluctance. And hence, as a token of my support, I have decided to fast today.