Nation supports Hazare crusade

A man salutes the Indian flag during a protest against corruption in Mumbai, India, Thursday, April 7, 2011. Indian activist Anna Hazare has been fasting for a third day Thursday to push for parliament to create a watchdog committee to investigate corruption allegations. Public anger has been building following a series of recent scandals, including an investigation into the sale of cell phone spectrum in 2008 that reportedly cost the country tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue. (AP Photo)
 
NEW Delhi, April 7 (Agencies): Support for social activist Anna Hazare for his campaign against corruption and for the Jan Lokpal Bill swelled on Thursday with tens of thousands of people in scores of cities across the country responding to his indefinite fast. In Bangalore, four techies and MBAs joined the hunger fast even as people rallied in support of the 71-year-old Magsaysay award winner. In Mumbai, 25 people went on indefinite hunger fast in solidarity with Hazare.
National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy lent her full support to Hazare in Jaipur saying the Lok Pal Bill needs wider consultation. “This is only the beginning of a (struggle for) a seminal legislation which is the basis of people’s hope to build a more accountable system,” Roy said. Hazare got more traction in Rajasthan with NGOs staging demonstrations in various towns and cities. There were candle-holding processionists at the statue circle in Jaipur on Tuesday evening. In Chandigarh, Gandhian Sham Lal began his hunger strike even as several people and organisations in towns and cities across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh joined Hazare’s fight against corruption.
While Kultar Singh Sandhwan, grandson of Giani Zail Singh, too threatened to start a hunger strike, social activists in Sangrur are on dharna outside the deputy commissioner’s office. There were protests in Sirsa, Jind, Rewari, Ambala and Kurukshetra against increasing corruption. Many others from Haryana are leaving for Delhi to join Hazare’s fast. In Mumbai, Activist Teesta Setalvad said, “Probity and transparency in governance, and safeguards against corruption are essential to a democracy. Constitutional governance demands not just laws that ensure accountability and transparency in the use of public resources but also their thorough implementation.”
Supporting Hazare in Lucknow are people from across the society. Teachers, lawyers, social activists, senior citizens, students, trade and bank unions came forward and pledged support to citizens movement to demand a strong anti-corruption law and Jan Lokpal. “We’ll spend two to three hours protesting every day until the demand for a comprehensive Lokpal Bill is met,” said RB Singh, secretary, Lucknow University Teachers Association. The villagers of Ralegan Siddhi, where Hazare lives, will observe a bandh on April 7 in solidarity with his indefinite hunger strike. Ralegan Siddhi sarpanch Jaisingh Mapari said that villagers hoisted black flags on April 4 as a mark of protest against the government.
“After Thursday’s bandh, the villagers will begin a chain hunger strike for two days. On April 11, a morcha will be taken to the Parner tehsil office and a jail bharo agitation will be launched from April 12 as asked for by Anna,” Mapari said. Around 60 villagers left for Delhi in two batches on Monday and Tuesday to sit with Hazare on his strike, he added. Before leaving for Delhi, Hazare had told villagers that he would not return until his demand was met by the Centre. He also told the villagers that in the event of his death, his body should be brought to Ralegan Siddhi and buried under the first step of the Yadavbaba temple (village deity).
 
Sonia Gandhi appeals to Anna Hazare to end fast
 
New Delhi, April 7 (PTI): Declaring that there were no two views on the need for combating corruption, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today appealed to Anna Hazare to give up his fast, assuring the Gandhian that his views would receive government’s “full attention”. “I am pained by Anna Hazareji’s fast-unto-death. The issues he has raised are of grave public concern. There can be no two views on the urgent necessity of combating graft and corruption in public life,” she said in a statement.
In the backdrop of Hazare resorting to the protest action since Tuesday to demand an effective Lokpal Bill, Gandhi said that she believed that the laws in these matters must be effective and “must deliver the desired results”. “I am sure that Hazareji’s views will receive the government’s full attention as we move forward to fight this menace. I appeal to Anna to give up his fast,” Gandhi, who is also United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, said. The appeal by Gandhi came when the hunger strike by the 71-year-old social activist entered the third day and the government began talks with anti-corruption campaigners led by him.
During the parleys today, the government agreed to form a joint committee to draft a stronger Lokpal Bill but there was no consensus on who will head it and as to whether it should be notified. Hazare rejected the government’s offer of an informal committee and said he would not end his protest till the demands were met. Top sources in Congress said that the public appeal issued by Gandhi is a reflection that she shared Hazare’s concerns and also agreed that there is indeed a need for further strengthening the laws to combat corruption. “Congress president has issued a public appeal to Anna Hazare to end his fast... she is the president of the largest party of the country and therefore any important and serious thing happening in the country has to be her concern,” AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters when asked for the reasons for Gandhi’s intervention in the matter.
Dwivedi added that Gandhi has expressed her concern and “positive action” will be taken in this regard. Sources in the party said Gandhi’s intervention in the matter took place as the issue raised by Hazare was of public concern and she has been repeatedly stressing on the need for tougher actions to “check the disease of corruption”. Party sources said the appeal shows Gandhi believes the government will respond to it after the sincerity with which Hazare has raised the issue. They said the appeal in a way assured the civil society groups that their concerns will be taken care of. They said that Congress was committed to the issue, which becomes clear from the fact that it was being discussed between the party and the government for a long time. A senior party leader speaking on the condition of anonymity sought to recall that Gandhi had expressed concern over corruption even at the party’s plenary session at Burari in December last year.