By Bandhan : Since there’s so much talk about Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, we take you back to some basic information you might have missed in all the frenzied action.
Most middle-class Indians hadn’t heard of Anna Hazare till he became the face of the anti-corruption movement. Anna’s real name is Kisan Baburao Hazare, and he hails from Maharashtra. He worked for a while as a driver in the army. He was on the verge of suicide when he happened to pick up a book by Swami Vivekananda, which inspired him to take up social service. He returned to his impoverished, drought-prone village. His water conservation efforts won him praise and support. The Guardian gives a quick overview of his life, tracing his rise from despondent driver to popular anti-corruption campaigner.
What has he done so far?
His philosophy is shaped by Gandhian ideals of truth, non-violence, and village empowerment. Wikipedia gives us an idea of the projects he took up in his village. They cover prohibition, education, sanitation, grain and milk production, water conservation, removal of untouchability, and collective marriages. He has also campaigned against corruption earlier. In 1995-96, his His attire is Gandhian too.
Why is he in the news?
He is spearheading a movement to demand stricter laws against corruption. His core team in this campaign comprises Arvind Kejriwal, former income tax commissioner, Kiran Bedi, former police commissioner, and Santosh Hegde, former Lokayukta. The government had put a proposed Lokpal Bill in cold storage for decades. Pressure from Team Anna forced the government to draft and pass the bill in July this year. Anna Hazare and his team find the new law weak to deal with the problem of corruption, and are demanding that the prime minister and the judiciary also be included under its preview.
Why are some people opposing him?
Politicians feel he is undermining the authority of parliament, whose members are elected by citizens, and placing ‘civil society’, which he wants in the new anti-corruption mechanism, at an unfair elevation. Others feel his demands, if conceded, will create more chaos and confusion in a country burdened with too many procedures. They feel institutions exist to deal with corrupt politicians and government officials, and a new one won’t serve any purpose. Anna’s argument is that institutions like the CBI are controlled by politicians, and can therefore not discharge their duties impartially.
What are his critics saying?
Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine, writes in The New York Times that the Indian middle class is hypocritical, and points fingers at politicians without looking inwards at its own venality. Bijoy Venugopal compiles opinions that call for more nuanced debate on the anti-corruption law.