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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ANTI-CORRUPTION MOVEMENT: The Anna phenomenon, boosted largely by the government!


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ndtv.com / Imtiaz Jaleel, Updated: August 17, 2011 17:28 IST.


New Delhi:  It's tough to believe that the government hadn't anticipated the reaction to Anna Hazare's arrest. 

In April, when the 74-year-old began a hunger strike against corruption, even his closest aides seemed surprised by the impact. Housewives, children, office-goers, senior citizens joined his base camp in Delhi, or satellite protests in other cities. They came in thousands, holding candles, wearing Anna topis or caps, chanting "hum tumhaare saath hain, Anna (we are with you)."

A country upto its ears in financial scandals orchestrated by those in positions of power had found its hero. At 74, Anna became the epicentre of a movement that sprang seamlessly from Twitter and Facebook to the streets of not just the metros, but smaller cities.

When the government arrested Anna yesterday in Delhi for trying to proceed with a second hunger strike, it seemed a desperate attempt at proving it's still in charge. Through the day, as anger was drummed up both in Parliament and outside, it was clear the government was clueless. A series of ministers tried to justify the arrest of Anna and his aides, declaring it was Team Anna that had forced the hand of the Delhi Police by refusing to obey prohibitory orders.  The defense sounded hollow and misguided, making a bad situation worse. Legal experts, political parties, and civil society activists - even those who have sought to keep their distance from Mr Hazare's group - said the government had violated a citizen's right to peaceful protest.

The government had in the space of a few hours expanded the dimensions of Mr Hazare's superhero status.

It is correct that many who march in support of Mr Hazare are not aware of the details of his real agenda - the Lokpal Bill that he has developed along with his team that he insists should be introduced and reviewed in Parliament. The Lokpal Bill, debated for decades in different versions, proposes the setting up of an ombudsman committee to investigate charges of corruption among politicians, bureaucrats and judges. After his fast in April established his hold over middle class India, the government asked Anna and four of his nominees to join a committee that would draft the Bill. Five ministers worked with Team Anna. Not with happy results. Both sides were unable to agree on basics - like how the Lokpal members would be selected. Two vastly disparate versions of the Bill were readied by the two sides. Team Anna's version has been virtually discarded by the government. 

In Parliament today, the Prime Minister answered the Opposition's demand for an explanation of Mr Hazare's arrest. It fell flat. Dr Manmohan Singh made the point that legislation is the prerogative of Parliament alone. The Opposition said it has vast differences with Mr Hazare's Lokpal Bill, but it cannot condone the activist's arrests, or the government's "lack of will" in tackling corruption.


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