A day before what turned out to be Anna Hazare's flop show in Mumbai, his colleagues were full of hype and hubris during a television debate.
It wasn't only that they claimed overwhelming popular support for their cause - 80 per cent of the surveys confirmed this, according to them - they argued from this figure that since 80 per cent of the people were with them, the elected representatives in the legislatures were not genuine representatives at all in view of their opposition to Team Anna's version of the Lokpal bill.
As such, Prashant Bhushan, a member of the team known for his sympathies for Maoists and Kashmiri separatists, wanted the present parliamentary system to be scrapped in favour of a "participatory" democracy where the vox populi will have greater resonance.
It is doubtful whether Bhushan, and Justice Santosh Hegde, who was also present, will reiterate their demand for changing the system now that all the hot air has seeped out of their balloon. But it is noteworthy how a temporary exhibition of mobocracy can fuel irrational sentiments.
Nor this is the first time that the country has been held hostage to such simulated feelings. Two decades ago, mobs were similarly mobilised by the saffron brotherhood to bring down a mosque and target other sacred sites of the minorities to boost Hindu pride.
The slogan then was 'garv se kaho hum Hindu hain' (say with pride I am a Hindu), just as the (rapidly fading) chant now is 'main Anna hun' (I am Anna).
But it may not be fair to blame the politicians and civil activists-cum-politicians alone for overblown campaigns. The media, too, similarly misread whipped-up emotions as real ones, especially those television channels that are forever at war with rivals.
However, even some in the print media, who usually have greater time to mull over what they write, saw Tahrir Square in the Jantar Mantar gatherings last summer.
Yet, they must have found out over the last few days how absurd was their comparison if they saw the intensely argumentative Indian in parliament on one-half of their television screens while other half showed the near-empty meeting ground of Anna and his men in Mumbai. That split-screen presentation was proof enough why India was not Egypt.
If hauteur was the hallmark of Anna and immaturity of a section of the media, deviousness and cussedness were those of the ruling side and the opposition, respectively. The Congress may, or may not, have anticipated the fizzling out of Anna's movement despite the strong support for his cause if not his methods.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Now, Congress to take its battle onto streets to teach Anna lesson
Intent on launching their counterattack even before Team Anna recovers from its recent dismal show at the MMRDA grounds, the Congress is planning to take their battle against corruption onto the streets, apparently with the aim of teaching the social crusader a lesson.
Reacting to Team Anna’s resolve to “campaign against Congress in the BMC elections in Mumbai and five other states during assembly elections”, the state Congress has decided to hold a massive public rally of all India Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the MMRDA grounds at the Bandra-Kurla complex — the same venue where Anna failed to put up a solid show of numbers.
Apart from conveying a strong political message to the masses, the Congress rally is expected to help scaling the attack against the ruling Shiv Sena and BJP in the BMC for the last 15 years. A senior All-India Congress Committee (AICC) functionary told DNA, “The parliament session may be over, but it’s just the beginning of a bigger fight on the streets.” Explaining the objective of the Sonia rally, he added, “Sonia will be our trump card when it comes to wiping out the Anna fever in five states, including the civic elections in Maharashtra.” However, the final dates of the rally are to be worked out once the BMC elections dates are announced.
Stating that the proposed Sonia rally will speak volumes for those doubting the party’s commitment to combating corruption, the AICC functionary indicated that state Congress leaders have been after them to organise at least one Sonia rally at the MMRDA grounds. A general secretary of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee on conditions of anonymity said, “Ahead of the crucial UP elections, a message from Sonia in Mumbai will serve multiple purposes, both social and political.” Compared to the poor 15,000-odd turnout at Anna’s fast, we can easily beat them with one lakhcrowd at any given time,” he added.
Recalling the Lokpal proceedings in the Parliament, MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said by now “all have seen for themselves how much effort the Congress had taken to pass the Lokpal bill, which was sabotaged by BJP and others”. He added: “Moreover, we have an upright CM in Prithviraj Chavan, who is determined to bring transparency in administration and public life.”
A Sonia rally held at MMRDA before the 2009 Parliament polls was described by the Congress as “mother of all rallies.” And significantly the party reaped electoral success in the Mumbai.Political managers in the state Congress said, “In 2009 rally, Gandhi had said Mumbai is the gateway of India.”
Ahead of the BMC polls, a message from Sonia could work as a magic wand, believe officials in Mumbai and Maharashtra Congress.
Anna Hazare’s transformation—from a social activist with considerable moral force to being a catalyst in the rough and tumble of India’s party politics—was nearly complete when he tragically declared before the thinning crowds at Mumbai’s MMRDA grounds that Team Anna will campaign against the Congress party in the forthcoming assembly elections as well as in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Anna Hazare displayed uncharacteristic hatred for the Congress when he described the ruling party as a bunch of “gaddars”(traitors) for not getting the Jan Lokpal Bill cleared in Parliament. After the Lok Sabha vote was concluded, television reporters asked Anna what he thought of the BJP, which too had not endorsed the essential features of the Jan Lokpal inside Parliament. When journos forced him to take a position on the BJP’s double standards, Anna simply got up and walked away, to the utter astonishment of the mediapersons. Even Arvind Kejriwal, sitting next to Anna, seemed a bit startled at the way Hazare walked away from the impromptu press conference.
Arvind Kejriwal also painstakingly refrained from commenting on why the BJP was clearly falling short of accepting the fundamental features of the Jan Lokpal proposed by Hazare. After all, the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, clearly spoke against the CBI being entirely brought under the Lokpal as demanded by Team Anna. Swaraj also spoke against a central Lokpal Bill mandating the legal structure and working of state Lokayuktas as this would go against the spirit of the federal structure of our Constitution.
In fact, it was clear from the very beginning that Team Anna’s super-Ombudsman with powers to investigate and prosecute 65 lakh employees across the Centre and states would not pass the test of India’s federal framework of politics as well as the Constitution.
Indeed, it was Team Anna’s absolutist stance that has resulted in some of its popularity dwindling since Hazare’s successful August agitation. Hazare squandered some of the goodwill and moral force he had acquired by being too rigid on his stance of either Jan Lokpal or nothing, by publicly denigrating the parliamentary process and finally by openly getting associated with party politics.
Hazare had retained his credibility and purity, as it were, by keeping away from politicians of any hue during his April and August agitations when he got massive support from the urban middle class. That purity got significantly diluted when he shared a platform with the Opposition parties at Jantar Mantar sometime ago. In my view, that was the biggest mistake committed by Team Anna.
That mistake is being compounded by Anna Hazare and his advisers who have announced a sustained campaign against the Congress until the 2014 elections. The movement is now about removing the Congress from power.This position is unsustainable simply because it is now clear no political party, not least the BJP, is in favour of altering the basic structure of the Indian Constitution to create an all powerful fourth pillar with a similar status as the Legislature, Executive or Judiciary. This issue is long settled among all political parties and it reflected in the Lok Sabha debate. If anything, the entire Lok Sabha debate simply served to reinforce some of the critical features of the Indian Constitution, such as inviolability of federalism, which may not have been music to Anna’s ears.
Instead of going into deeper introspection on tactics and strategy in regard to the agitation, and indeed the content of their maximalist position, Anna Hazare has committed the cardinal mistake of declaring a sort of election campaign against the Congress. This will completely destroy their movement, which needs to be preserved to drive other important institutional changes at various levels that India needs. In a sense, Anna is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.Particularly appalling were Arvind Kejriwal’s fulminations after the Lok Sabha vote on the Lokpal Bill. He came onto the stage as Anna was still fasting in Mumbai and declared the outcome of Lok Sabha proceedings as a fraud and handiwork of the Congress High Command. “We have to free the country from the High Command. The High Command cannot dictate laws for us citizens,” Kejriwal said. The implicit attack on the Gandhi family was quite visceral, and this seemed to give away some of Team Anna’s latent political predilections too. The only other political formation that has such deep dislike for the Gandhi-Nehru family is the Sangh Parivar. Kejriwal also told a prominent television anchor that his mission in life was to uproot the Congress from power permanently.All these tendencies create a sort of suspicion as to whether there are multiple motives hiding behind the agitation for Jan Lokpal. Team Anna’s pledge to campaign against the Congress is problematic on other counts too. For instance, will they not campaign against the gargantuan corruption charges against Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. It would seem odd if Team Anna campaigned against the Congress which is a small player in Uttar Pradesh and left Mayawati alone. Incidentally, the BSP is dead opposed to Jan Lokpal. The NDA has also enacted what Team Anna considers very weak Lokayuktas in states such as Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Narendra Modi is refusing to accept one in Gujarat. Will Anna spare them simply because they are part of a non-Congress formation.Team Anna’s overall vision and strategy are riddled with many contradictions. It will only destroy their core branding in the longer run.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Bags of potatoes, flour, sugar and rice are stacked to the roof at the shed that works as, “Anna ki Rasoi” the kitchen that's feeding thousands of supporters fresh food free of cost.
The kitchen at the Bandra Kurla complex charged no money for feeding anyone and followed a strict ‘no counting' policy. “I don't know how many people have come or how much ration has been consumed,” Swami Param Chinatain from Jan Sewa Sansthan, Rohtak said. The Sansthan along with Mumbai's Sri Giri Raj Sewa Samiti have made the generous arrangements. “Why should we count, our only aim is that every person has his fill at every single meal. We were with Annaji at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi and we would go with him wherever he goes,” Swami Param Chinatain said. Member in-charge of disposable plates estimated that over 20,000 people ate at the kitchen.
The day started with an endless supply of hot tea and ‘poha' for breakfast and without any break between meals the 60-member kitchen staff started to serve ‘dal,' ‘alu matar,' poori and rice to thousands of supporters. Five men sitting in a row mechanically toss poories, passed to them from the poori-rolling team sitting behind, in massive vessels with boiling oil, to ensure that the long queues get fresh food without any wait.
The size of cooking utensils seemed small when compared to the dedication with which the culinary service was executed. “There is a saying — pehle pet pooja phir kaam dooja: the protesters need to shout loudly so that the voice can be heard by Parliament, so they need to be well fed,” a cook said as he turned a plate of heaped sugar into a drum of boiling water.
Kadam and his family left their home in Thane early morning to participate in the protest. “My wife was worried how the children would eat, what if it was not clean? So we carried tiffin with us but we had breakfast and lunch at the Rasoi as the children liked poori more.”
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Cyclone Thane to cross TN coast Friday morning
Chennai: The severe cyclonic storm Thane is expected to cross the north Tamil Nadu coast between Nagapattinam and Chennai, close to Puducherry early Friday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Thursday.
Cyclone Thane over the Bay of Bengal lay centred about 250 km east-southeast of Chennai and 270 km east of Puducherry.
Cyclone Thane to cross TN coast Friday morning. Under the influence of the cyclone, isolated rain is predicted over north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry till Saturday afternoon. Rain is also predicted over south coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema.
Squally winds with speed reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph are likely along and off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh coasts.
For full coverage of Cyclone Thane: Rajan's Take: Climate Change
Posted by Rajan Alexander at 5:42 PM
Here's a tale of two hunger strikers.
The first guy, Swami Nigamanand, went on an indefinite fast in February to demand a ban on mining in his home state of Uttarakhand. He slipped into a coma and died in May.
The second guy, Anna Hazare, fasted for a good while this summer to garner support for an anti-corruption ombudsman, which the government is even now trying to create. But he says the government's corruption cop will be too weak, so he went on a fast again this week -- only to stop when hardly anybody turned up and doctors told him his health was in danger.
But this is the good part. It's taken until now for an investigation to determine that Nigamanand was not poisoned, but died of malnutrition related to his hunger strike, according to the BBC. And Marathi-language media is claiming that Hazare's chief lieutenants in the anti-corruption movement -- Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi -- actually tried to force him to keep fasting, according to India Today.
Meanwhile, across the country in Manipur, Irom Sharmila has been fasting -- or trying to fast -- for 10 long years to try to convince the government to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in her state.
So far, mining has been stopped in Uttarakhand and the government is trying its darnedest to get some sort of anti-corruption law passed. But for Sharmila, all they've offered is force-feeding.
That's gotta be a gender thing or a Northeast India thing... Probably the latter, since India only acknowledges that the Northeast is part of the country when it's trying to put down separatist movements or wrangling over borders with China.
Journalists are not always the best prophets when it comes to predicting the future (see how often they get poll results wrong), but when Anna Hazare announced his fast in Mumbai, the consensus was that it would be a flop show. Journalists here can take a bow: they were right, even more than they bargained for.
So what was different between Mumbai and Delhi, or what had changed from April to December, in just eight months? In hindsight, it is perhaps easy to say that Anna’s fast was doomed from the start for a variety reasons. It would seem that Team Anna made some cardinal mistakes while its main opposition, the Congress, played its cards far more astutely. There is some irony here, because in a column on August 23, I had said Hazare’s success had much to do with his clever tactics, right timing, and the focus on the big picture. All three were missing this time.
First, as a leader, Hazare should have stayed focussed on the big picture and not on the details. He had wanted a Jan Lokpal that would oversee the PM and bureaucrats; to be honest, that is what the government’s bill offered. Details may vary, and always will, but as far as the common man saw it, the Congress-led government was actually making an effort to get a bill through and now, paradoxically, Team Anna was against it. This was perhaps the biggest mistake of all. Never take the people of India for granted. They will punish you, as many bruised politicians can swear by.
As far as the people were concerned, the fact that the government agreed to a Lokpal was proof of their success; asking for more sounded like seeking the spoils of war, and that is how the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi came across — desperate to promote themselves.
Timing was the second biggest mistake. Anna styles himself as a Gandhian; one wishes he had learnt his lessons from Gandhi better. Gandhi led three major movements: Civil Disobedience, Salt March, and Quit India. There was a gap of a decade between each such movement. This gap reflected his understanding of India’s psychology. Few people can afford to keep taking time off from the daily drudgery of earning a living to back a movement, no matter how important for the country (and nothing was more important that India’s freedom). Giving long gaps allowed people to marshal their resources, earn some money to clear the outstanding debt, finish college, and prepare for the next battle.
Here, Hazare goofed, and badly.
While on timing, is also the question about the role of the media, which has been credited (or blamed depending on your viewpoint) for making the Anna fast in April a success. The April fast came just after India had won the cricket world cup and the media (particularly news channels) was looking for the next big story.
Hazare’s timing then was perfect, and the topic was timely given the ongoing 2G scam. This time, the timing was all wrong. The 2G guilty have spent time in prison, and many journalists, particularly those in Maharashtra who have experienced Hazare’s fast before, were a far more sceptical lot. Not to mention that a Test series was on.
The Congress also played its cards far better, particularly on the point that Team Anna had no Dalits, adivasis, OBC, or minorities. That took large sections away from Team Anna, whose tokenism to woo the marginalised was simply too little, too late. And many of the upper classes who turned out the last time were cautious of hitting the streets so soon again.
Finally, Hazare and his team were wrong in targeting the Congress. It is no one’s case that the Congress is perfect, but then who is? And what is the alternative? The BJP may cry itself hoarse, but for too many people, it is just not an option. The local council elections in Maharashtra clearly showed that the people have no time for the likes of the BJP and Shiv Sena, who may be appear less corrupt, but far more communal. For millions, in the choice of a communal party or a corrupt party, it is always the latter.
After Hazare’s last fast and the government agreeing to introduce the Lokpal bill, Team Anna should have been graceful and given the government time to go through the necessary motions that parliamentary procedures demand. In failing to do so, Hazare let down the people, the very same people who cheered him the first time. No wonder then that they did not turn up at Mumbai. The fear now is that a triumphant political class might simply not allow the Lokpal bill to pass.
There has been an intriguing change in the demography of the protesters at the Ramlila Maidan this time round. When Anna Hazare had flagged off his crusade in August this year, students and young professionals had thronged the Ramlila Maidan.
Since Tuesday, however, this picture has been turned on its head. Along with the number of supporters, that of youth participants too has declined, and severely at that. Instead, most of those protesting at the ground are senior citizens.
"I had sent out text messages to my friends as well as relatives and had even started a drive on Facebook to reach out to people of my age. But everyone declined, claiming that they had greater priorities," said Neha Joshi (name changed), a class 12 student, who was among the handful of youngsters at the ground on Wednesday.
Senior citizens, who were protesting, claimed the protest was poorly timed. "Even though people are frustrated with the system, this time a lot of young people have not come. This is because the movement has come at a wrong time. Our children cannot leave their daily jobs on a week day and come and sit here," said Lajin
For the second time, efforts of India Against Corruption to court Muslims have failed squarely, with prominent organisations in Mumbai slamming the doors on it. Responding to India Against Corruption's Arvind Kejriwal's appeal, Muslim organisations, for the first time ahead of key polls, could be heard speaking favourably of the Congress, whose ratings in the community have been bolstered by a recent government decision on affirmative action for Muslims.
Why was Anna Hazare, the lead anti-graft campaigner, "targeting only the Congress" when all parties tend to be corrupt, they asked. Analysts say it is still too early to judge which way Muslims will vote in UP.
Desperate to shrug off anti-corruption icon Anna Hazare's alleged links with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Kejriwal had met key Muslim leaders ahead of his fast in Mumbai.
In a joint statement, Muslim groups not only said they had "serious doubts" about Hazare's connections with the RSS, but also condemned him for "strengthening communal forces". Minority rights campaigner and film-maker Mahesh Bhatt was one of the signatories.
Keen on enlisting minority supporters in Mumbai, which has a significant Muslim population, Kejriwal emphasised that Hazare's fight was against corruption and Muslims were wholeheartedly invited.
The appeal fell flat. "Any movement that targets only the Congress is aimed at strengthening communal forces and the BJP," All India Muslim Personal Law Board secretary Abdus Sattar Sheikh said.
Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind's Maharashtra president Mustaqim Ashan Azmi said Muslims were not convinced Hazare had links with the RSS. Jamiat's powerful all-India chief Arshad Madni said: "Hazare's campaign is for the right cause, but the intentions are wrong. He wants to directly strengthen communal forces."
Mumbai Aman Committee chief Farid Shaikh said: "Now that UPA has done something good for Muslims (reservation in jobs), communal forces are getting at it."
Muslims maintain that they perceive Hazare to be "friendly" with "anti-minority elements". In August, when Hazare held a similar protest in Delhi, Kejriwal and close aide Kiran Bedi had sought Muslim support, which too failed to move the community.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
This is tunnel vision
Remember the Six Blind Men of Hindoostan? In that old Jain fable, which was introduced to us 10 year olds as an 'English' poem, six blind scholars try to discover the essence of an elephant by touching little parts of him. The one who happened upon the tail thought it was like a snake, while the one who got the ear was struck by the resemblance to a fan. And so on.
I am afraid that Anna Hazare might be one of those blind men. Having struggled all his life, often with great courage and determination, against a petty bureaucracy that routinely preys upon the lives of the villagers in his area, he seems to have concluded that the State primarily exists to blight the lives of people, and hence we must try and do our best to throw the fear of God into its representatives.
The problem is that we also need the State: someone needs to decide where bridges need to be built, how best to clean drinking water, what it takes to get the nutrients into would-be mothers. Taxes have to collected, education policy has to be decided, female infanticide has to be resisted and punished. While a lot can be done to simplify and limit what the government does - is there anyone who knows the names (just the names!) of all the 'anti-poverty' schemes we have on the books - what remains is an immense and enduring set of tasks that have to be done and done well.
Sadly, there is absolutely no reason to believe that fighting corruption is all that we need to do to ensure that this happens. Indeed, it will probably make things worse in some ways.
A recent paper in the very prestigious American Economic Review by Oriana Bandiera, Andrea Prat and Tommaso Valetti, provides important insights into what can go wrong. They study waste in government procurement in Italy, which is often rated as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. It turns out that in Italy, different branches of the government pay very different prices for the exact same product (down to the brand and the colour). Differences can be as large as 50% or more - they estimate that the government could save up to 2% of GDP if it could get most purchase officers to pay the prices some of the more aggressive among them pay.
Now it turns out that government bodies in Italy can get their supplies either from the market or from an approved supplier, Consip. Consip charges a publicly announced price - no scope for kickbacks. If you go to the market, you can negotiate your own deal, which might very well include something to make you happy.
One would imagine that the most corrupt government offices would be the ones who would be least inclined to turn to Consip when a good comes on the Consip list. In fact we see the opposite - the ones who switch tend to be the ones that were already paying very high prices for the product, and moreover, those were precisely the ones that were, by all accounts, the best monitored - the centralised bureaucracies rather than the more autonomous hospitals and universities. It seems the main reason why some departments pay much higher prices than others is not so much because they are corrupt (though that is there too) but because they cannot be bothered to find the lowest-priced supplier and deal with the questions that inevitably arise when one buys from some no-name vendor (who just happens to be cheap). For these people, the option of switching to Consip was irresistible. Buying from the official supplier requires no justification - and no effort. Why not enjoy your leisure?
I fear that this is how large parts of our bureaucracy will react when the cold gaze of the lokpal is turned upon them. Why try to do anything innovative when sticking to tried-and-true is less likely to raise questions? Why try to save money by using unorthodox strategies when the lokpal is liable to be asking questions? Indeed, why do anything when sitting on your hands is an option - after all our bureaucrats are not paid based on what they get done - and it is easy to get into trouble. In my own work, I have written about how our public sector bank officials avoid making any new lending decisions - because lending always exposes them to some (infinitesimal) risk of being blamed for the loan going wrong.
This is not an argument for not doing anything about corruption. Corruption is a huge problem and the poor and the powerless are often its most egregious victims. But it is not an accident that the most effective bureaucracies in the world rely much more on internal controls rather than on independent ombudsmen. People in the department tend to know who is bending the rules to do his job better and who is just lining his pockets; the ombudsman can only see that the rules were not followed. We need to find ways to strengthen our control systems, but the lokpal is the wrong answer to the question of how to make the local irrigation office or postal department run better. We will end up stifling all initiative and discouraging talented people from taking the jobs. Let us keep the lokpal for where we really need it, to fight those whose wrongdoing is apparent, who only survive because they are too powerful to be taken down.
Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT. The views expressed by the author are personal.
Anna's 'sexist' remark has women's groups fuming
Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Anna Hazare found himself on the wrong side of women activists and medical practitioners on Tuesday after using a colloquialism referring to childless women in his pitch for a strong lokpal bill.
At one point in his speech at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground, Hazare said, "Banjh kya jaane prasuti vedana (what would an infertile woman know about labour pain)?"
Activists said the remark was insensate and smacked of sexist mentality.
Lawyer and women rights activist Flavia Agnes strongly opposed Hazare's remark.
"Anna can't be anti-women, and saying this from a public platform is very insensitive. He might have used other similes or anecdotes to make his point."
Agnes said protests by women's organisations had not deterred so-called activists and social reformers from being sexist and insensitive to women. She said there would have been childless women in the audience at the ground and among families watching live telecast of Hazare's speech.
Dr Duru Shah, who treats infertility, said such remarks could disturb childless women, who even otherwise go through a lot of mental trauma.
"But I don't hold this against Anna because he might have said this to explain the pain he has gone through during a series of agitations."
Rajani Patil, a Congress leader who works for saving the girl child in central Maharashtra, said she was shocked to hear Hazare's remark.
"Hazare says he's a Gandhian, so I expect him to be as sensitive as his idol (Mahatma) Gandhi."
India Against Corruption media coordinator Preeti Sharma Menon did not respond to a text message seeking comment on Hazare's remark.
Poor crowds and failing health on Wednesday forced Anna Hazare to end his three-day fast ahead of schedule as he also announced calling off all other agitation plans, including a jail bharo protest and gherao of MPs' residence.
The 74-year-old activist made the surprise announcement midway through his three-day fast at MMRDA grounds which reported poor attendance of people for the second continuous day, in stark contrast to the mass swelling in Delhi earlier this year during his three fasts.
"...Whatever we are seeing today in Parliament is tragic. So I have decided to call off the fast today. There is only one way now. We will make a programme in the five states and go and awaken people there. I will tell them don't vote for traitors," he told a sparsely attended protest meeting in the afternoon.
"Now two years are left for the general elections. In between, I will go to various parts of the country and keep awakening the people till next general elections," he said.
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said:
"everything (all agitations) has been called off."
Hazare, who was running fever and was advised by doctors to call off fast, and Team Anna members faced a volley of uncomfortable questions about the poor crowd response for last two days and what is perceived as their attempt to target Congress and Sonia and Rahul Gandhi on the Lokpal issue.
After his announcement that he and his team will campaign against Congress in the five poll-bound states early next year and later in the general elections, he was asked whether Congress was sought to be made a villain and whether the strategy adopted by them was not wrong.
Hazare said they had no reasons to oppose other parties.
"In the last five months, it was the UPA government has betrayed us. They were betraying us again and again in the past one year," Hazare said.
One reporter asked whether he will campaign against BJP which betrayed the Hazare campaign in Lok Sabha yesterday and whether Team Anna was not following a wrong strategy, Hazare said, "Congress has cheated them the maximum."
Hazare abruptly quit the dais, leaving Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia to field searching questions from the media which was heckled by the crowds that had gathered there.
Addressing the gathering, Hazare said he was deferring the jail bharo agitation indefinitely as it would not be proper now to go ahead with the plans.
He said they will go ahead with a voters' awareness programme in the five poll-bound states.
Asked by a reporter whether he had to call off the fast because of poor crowds and why he was not able to attract people in large numbers, Hazare said, "this is not correct. I don't have power or wealth. Still people are coming in big numbers and you will see them again when we do campaign during elections."
To a question whether Hazare and his team would stage outside BJP MPs' houses as they did not support their demand for strengthening CBI, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said the jail bharo agitation and dharna have been called off.
About the poor crowds in Mumbai, Kejriwal said it takes time to warm up people. Yesterday was only the first day and today's response has been impressive, he said.
Even in Jantar Mantar in Delhi, first two days, people were slow in coming, he said adding false impression has been created about the agitation in Mumbai.
Kejriwal said he does not know the programme of Hazare and he would probably be going to Ralegan Siddhi.
In bleak December, Anna Hazare's 'August kranti' appears to be a thing of the past. A chill seems to have seeped into the country's ardour for the latest fast of the social activist.The response to the protest, however, was lukewarm. The organisers claimed 30,000 volunteers participated on Day 1 but police put the figure at 4,000-4,500.For a movement that has always based its claims of legitimacy in numbers, be it at public meetings or on the web, the first day of Anna Hazare’s latest fast threw up a significant reality check.None of the numbers freely bandied around by Hazare and his team — “lakhs” and “crores” — were in evidence at the MMRDA ground in Mumbai’s Bandra- Kurla Complex, where the peak attendance did not appear to have gone beyond 5,000.From Mumbai to Kolkata to Jammu to Bhopal, Day One of Hazare's three-day agitation saw only token support, which the activists of India Against Corruption (IAC) were hard put to explain. From the weather to state governments and the India-Australia cricket match, everything was blamed.Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, where a crowd of nearly 40,000 a day came during Hazare's 11-day fast in August, saw around 500 people turn up on Tuesday morning.Leader of the protest Shanti Bhushan said, "It is a cold, foggy day. It will take some time for people to turn up." But around mid-day, the crowd swelled to a mere 2,000, and dwindled to a few hundreds in the evening.Punjab's main cities -Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Bathinda - witnessed symbolic protests. In Jalandhar, around 20 activists of IAC began a three-day relay hunger strike.
The question of 'indefinite fast vs relay fast' split the activists in Lucknow.The members of IAC wanted a relay hunger strike. They also demanded an undertaking from participants that they would not participate in the coming assembly elections.RK Agrawal, city coordinator of the IAC, said, "People in Delhi are also on a relay fast. What is wrong with that? And it gets cold during the nights."
The suggestions did not go down well with many, who decided to launch a separate stir.
Jhulelal park, the hub of protests in Lucknow, finally saw 10 people go on a relay fast while 10 others started their indefinite fast.
The 'protest' was attended mostly by IAC activists, though around noon, some students from nearby colleges made an appearance.The muted support to the campaign in Jaipur pushed the IAC to blame the state government and the India-Australia test match.
"We requested permission for rallies at Statue Circle and Udyog Maidan. The government denied permission and imposed Section 144," said one of the IAC members.
Kolkata, perhaps, put up the worst show, with hardly 80 people turning up at the protest venue despite repeated invitations from blaring loudspeakers.
Twitter, FB not abuzz with Anna support
Anna Hazare is looking for moral support ahead of his three-day fast against corruption in Mumbai, one place he should certainly avoid is Twitter.
On Monday, the social network community seemed more concerned about the India-Australia Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne than Hazare’s agitation. Several tweets on Hazare’s call to court arrest were sceptical.
“Go ahead, drink & drive on NYE. Congress govt wants to turn Jail Bharo Andolan into a flop show. No cops will arrest you,” tweeted a user from his handle @taklooman.
Laughing off claims that over a lakh people had signed up online for the “jail bharo”, Twitter user @nimeshpatelnp asked, “Team Anna launches online campaign for ‘jail bharo’. Are they planning any online jails like Farmville? Will it be called Tiharville?”
Yet another user @abhiandnow posted, “1 Lakh people have signed up for Jail Bharo andolan. Do you know what that means? Do you really know what that means? Less traffic.”
Earlier this year, Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi had received tremendous support on social media platforms. But the script has changed. A sense of fatigue was palpable in @Alphabetiya post: “Dear Santa. I know I’m late, but can I have one entire week where the word “Anna” or “Anti-corruption” doesn't appear in the newspaper?”
Another Twitter user @vinodsundaram asked, “Why is it that only Anna Hazare fasts every time? Kiran, Kejriwal and Bhushans can also fast, right?”
Meanwhile, India Against Corruption (IAC) continued to seek support for the agitation through its Twitter accounts. On Facebook, IAC Mumbai’s page saw people expressing support for Team Anna’s agitation. But action on the Jail Bharo Andolan community page was slow with only 993 ‘likes’.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
'Anna Ki Rasoi' at MMRDA ground to feed supporters
Courtesy: Hindustan Times
A nna Hazare is on a fast for a "strong" Lokpal, but elaborate arrangements have been made to feed his supporters during the three-day protest.
'Poha' for snacks and 'puri-sabji' for lunch and dinner are some of the items being dished out by some organisations who have set up base at the sprawling MMRDA ground in Mumbai, the venue of the fast.
"We have made arrangements to provide snacks, tea and food to 10,000 people," said Sumit Gupta from Giriraj Seva Samiti, who has set up 'Anna ki Rasoi along' with Janseva Sansthan, an NGO from Rohtak.
Swami Chaityna Maharaj from Janseva Sansthan said that 60 people will be working round-the-clock to prepare the food.
"Tea and 'poha' is being prepared for snacks and 'puri-sabji' for lunch and dinner," said Maharaj, who will fast with Hazare on all three days.
"Anna says he will fast and others should support him. So they need to eat, to be here for three days," he said.
Since early hours, over 2000 people from the media descended on the MMRDA ground for live coverage of the three-day event.
Media and police contingents heavily outnumbered Anna supporters at the venue.