Sunday, April 10, 2011
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On April 5, 2011, Hazare started a 'fast unto death' to exert pressure on the government of India to enact a strong anti-corruption act as envisaged in the Jan Lokpal Bill, a law that will establish a Lokpal (ombudsman) that will have the power to deal with corruption in public offices. The fast led to nation wide protests in support of Hazare. The fast ended on 9 April 2011, the day after all of Harare's demands were agreed by the government of India and the government issued a gazette notification on the formation of a joint committee (of government and civil society representatives) to draft an effective Lokpal Bill.
Anna Hazare was born on 15 January 1940 in a small village called Bhingar, near the city of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Hazare's father, Baburao Hazare worked as an unskilled labourer in Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy and his grandfather was in the army, posted at Bhingar when Anna was born. He died in 1945 but Hazare's father continued to stay at Bhingar. In 1952, Hazare's father resigned from his job and returned to his own village, Ralegan Siddhi. At that time Hazare had six younger siblings and his family had to face significant hardships. Hazare's childless aunt then took Anna to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) and offered to look after him and his education.
Hazare studied up to the 7th standard in Bombay and took up a job after the 7th standard due to the economic situation in his household. He started selling flowers at Dadar in order to make his living and support his family. After gaining some experience, he started his own shop and brought two of his brothers to Bombay. Gradually, Hazare's income increased to around 800 per month, a decent income in those times.
In the Indian Army
Anna Hazare started his career as a driver in the Indian Army. He spent his spare time reading the books of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave that inspired him to become a social worker and activist. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he was the only survivor in a border exchange, while driving a truck. During the mid-1970s he survived a road accident while driving.
In Ralegan Siddhi
The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without self-reliant,
self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment
& involvement of the common man." - Anna Hazare
After voluntary retirement from the army, Hazare came to Ralegan Siddhi village in 1975. Initially, he organized the youth of the village into an organization named the Tarun Mandal (Youth Association). He also helped to form the Pani Puravatha Mandals (Water Supply Associations) to ensure proper distribution of water.
As the next step towards social and economic change, Anna Hazare and the youth group decided to take up the issue of alcoholism. It was very clear that there could be no progress and happiness in the village unless the curse of alcoholism was completely removed from their lives. At a meeting conducted in the temple, the villagers resolved to close down the liquor dens and ban the drinking of alcohol in the village. Since these resolutions were made in the temple, they became in a sense religious commitments. Over thirty liquor brewing units were closed by their owners voluntarily. Those who did not succumb to social pressure were forced to close down their businesses, when the youth group smashed up their liquor dens. The owners could not complain as their business was illegal.
Though the closure of liquor brewing reduced alcoholism in Ralegan Siddhi, some villagers continued to drink. They obtained their liquor from neighboring villages. The villagers decided that those men would be given three warnings, after which they would be physically punished. Twelve men who were found in a drunken state even after initial warnings were tied to a pole with help from the youth group and flogged. Anna Hazare says, “Doesn’t a mother administer bitter medicines to a sick child when she knows that the medicine can cure her child? The child may not like the medicine, but the mother does it only because she cares for the child. The alcoholics were punished so that their families would not be destroyed.”
Anna Hazare appealed to the government of Maharashtra to bring in a law whereby prohibition would come into force in a village if 25% of the women in the village demanded it. In July 2009, the state government issued a government resolution amending the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. As per the amendments, if at least 25% of women voters demand liquor prohibition through a written application to the state excise department, voting should be conducted through a secret ballot. If 50% of the voters vote against the sale of liquor, prohibition should be imposed in the village and the sale of liquor should be stopped. Similar action can be taken at the ward level in municipal areas. Thereafter, another circular was issued, making it mandatory to get the sanction of the Gram Sabha for issuing new permits for sale of liquor. In some instances, when women agitated against the sale of liquor, cases were filed against them. Anna took up the issue again and in August 2009 the government issued another circular that sought withdrawal of cases against women who sought prohibition of liquor in their villages.
Along with the removal of alcohol from the village, it was decided to ban the sale of tobacco, cigarettes and beedies. In order to implement this resolution, the youth group performed a unique "Holi" ceremony twenty two years ago. The festival of Holi is celebrated as a symbolic burning of evil. The youth group brought all the tobacco, cigarettes and beedies from the shops in the village and burnt them in a ‘Holi’ fire. From that day, no tobacco, cigarettes, or beedies are sold in any shop at Ralegan Siddhi. 
The Watershed Development programme
Anna Hazare realized that the only way to increase agricultural production in a sustainable manner was to build a better irrigation system. Taking into account the geographical location of Ralegan , located in the foothills, Anna Hazare persuaded villagers to construct a watershed embankment to stop water and allow it to percolate and increase the ground water level. He motivated the residents of the village into shramdan (voluntary labour) to build canals, small-scale check-dams and percolation tanks in the nearby hills for watershed development; efforts that solved the problem of scarcity of water in the village that also made irrigation possible. The first embankment that was built using volunteer efforts developed a leak and had to be reconstructed this time with government funding.
Hazare also took steps to stop the second big problem, soil erosion. In order to conserve soil and water by checking the run off, contour trenches and gully plugs were constructed along the hill slopes. Grass, shrubs and about 3 lakh ( 300,000) trees were planted along the hillside and the village. This process was supplemented by afforestation, nullah bunds, underground check dams and cemented bandhras at strategic locations. The Watershed Development programme became a huge success and helped increase the fortunes of many farmers as they now had a reliable source of water. Ralegan has also experimented with drip and bi-valve irrigation in a big way. Papaya, lemon and chillies have been planted on a plot of 80 acres (320,000 m2) entirely irrigated by the drip irrigation system. Cultivation of water-intensive crops like sugar cane was banned. Crops such as pulses, oilseeds and certain cash crops with low water requirements were grown. The farmers started growing high yield varieties of crop and the cropping pattern of the village also changed. He has helped farmers of more than 70 villages in drought-prone regions in the state of Maharashtra since 1975.
The Government of India plans to start a training centre here to understand and implement Hazare's watershed development model in other villages in the country.
As a secondary occupation, milk production was promoted in Ralegan Siddhi. Purchase of new cattle and improvement of the existing breed with the help of artificial insemination and timely guidance and assistance by the veterinary doctor has resulted in an improvement in the cattle stock. As a result, the milk production has increased. Crossbred cows are replacing local ones which give a low milk yield. The number of milk cattle has also been growing, which resulted in growth from one hundred liters (before 1975) to Around 2500 litres per day which is sent to a co-operative dairy (Malganga Dairy) in Ahmednagar. Some milk is also given to Balwadi (kindergarten) children and neighboring villages under the child nutrition program sponsored by the Zilla Parishad.
From the surplus generated, the milk society bought a mini-truck and a thresher. Besides transporting milk to Ahmednagar, the mini-truck is also used for taking vegetables and other produce directly to the market, thus eliminating intermediate agents. The thresher is rented out to the farmers during the harvesting season.
In 1932, Ralegan Siddhi got its first formal school, a single class room primary school. In 1962, the villagers added more classrooms through community volunteer efforts. By 1971, out of an estimated population of 1209, only 30.43% were literate (72 women and 290 men). Boys moved to the nearby towns of Shirur and Parner to pursue higher education, but due to socioeconomic conditions, girls could not do the same and were limited to primary education. Anna Hazare along with the youth of Ralegan siddhi worked to increase literacy rates and education levels. In 1976, they started a pre school for the primary school and a high school in 1979. The villagers started taking active interest in the village school and formed the Sant Yadav Baba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (Charitable trust), which was registered in 1979. The trust decided to take over the function of the village school which was in a bad state due to government neglect and also lack of interest on behalf of teachers who were moonlighting.
The trust obtained a government grant of 4 lakhs (400,000 rupees) for the school building using the National Rural Education Programme (NREP). A new school building was built in the next 2 months with volunteer efforts and the money obtained via the grant. A new hostel was also constructed to house 200 students from poorer sections of society. After the opening of the school in the village, a girl from Ralegan Siddhi became the first female in the village to complete her SSC in 1982. Since then the school has been instrumental in bringing in many of changes to the village. This school has a hostel for 150 boarders. Traditional farming practices are tought in this school in addition to the government curriculum.
Removal of untouchability
The social barriers that existed due to the caste system have been broken down by Ralegan Siddhi villagers and people of all castes come together to celebrate social events. The people of Ralegan have largely succeeded in eradicating social discrimination on the basis of caste. The Dalits have been integrated into the social and economic life of the village. The villagers have built houses for the Harijans and Dalits, and helped to repay their loans to free them from their indebtedness.
Most rural poor get into a debt-trap as they have to incur heavy expenses at the time of marriage of their son or daughter. It is an undesirable practice but has almost become a social obligation in India. Ralegan's people have started celebrating marriages collectively. The feast is held together where the expenses are further reduced by the Tarun Mandal taking the responsibility for cooking and serving the food. The vessels, the Loudspeaker system, the mandap and the decorations have also been bought by the Tarun Mandal members belonging to the oppressed castes. From 1976 to 1986, 424 marriages have been held under this system.
The Gram Sabha is an important forum for collective decision making in the villages in India. If villagers are involved in the planning and decision making process, they are more open to any changes taking place in the village. Anna campaigned between 1998 and 2006 for amending the Gram Sabha Act, so that the people (meaning the the villagers) have a say in the development works in their village. While the state government refused to bend to his demand, it had to give in due to public pressure. As per the amendments, seeking sanction of the Gram Sabha (collective of villagers, and not just the few elected representatives in the gram panchayat) for expenditure on development works in the village, is mandatory. In case of expenditure without the sanction of the Gram Sabha, 20% of Gram Sabha members can lodge a complaint to the chief executive officer of the zilla parishad with their signatures. The chief executive officer is required to visit the village and conduct an inquiry within 30 days and submit the report to the divisional commissioner, who has powers to remove the sarpanch or deputy sarpanch and dismiss the gram sevak involved. Anna was not satisfied, as the amended Act did not include "the right to recall a sarpanch". He insisted that this should be included and the state government relented.
In Ralegan Siddhi, the Gram Sabha meetings are held periodically to discuss issues relating to the welfare of the village. Projects like Watershed development activities are undertaken only after they are discussed in the Gram Sabha. All decisions like Nasbandi (bans on alcohol), Kurhadbandi (bans on tree felling), Charai bandi (bans on grazing), and Shramdan were taken in the Gram Sabha. Decisions are taken in a simple majority consensus. In case of a difference of opinion the majority consensus becomes acceptable. The decision of the Gram Sabha is accepted as final.
In addition to panchayat, there are several registered societies that take care of various projects and activities of the village. Each society presents its annual report and statement of accounts in the Gram Sabha every year. The Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandali monitors the educational activities. The Vivid karyakari society gives assistance and provides guidance to farmers regarding fertilizers, seeds, organic farming, financial assistance, etc. Sri Sant Yadavbaba Doodh Utpadhak Sahakari sansta gives guidance regarding the dairy business. Seven Co-operative irrigation society provide water to the farmers from cooperative wells. Mahila Sarvage Utkarsh Mandal attends the welfare needs of the women.
Anti-corruption protests in Maharashtra
In 1991, Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) (People's Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption in Ralegan Siddhi. In the same year he protested against the collusion between 40 forest officials and the timber merchants. This protest resulted in the transfer and suspension of these officials.
In May 1997, Hazare protested against the alleged malpractices in the purchase of powerlooms by the Vasantrao Naik Bhathya Vimukt Jamati Vikas Manch and the Mahatma Phule Magasvargiya Vikas Mandal. These institutions were directly under the charge of then Maharashtra Social Welfare minister Babanrao Gholap of the Shiv Sena, since their managing committees were dissolved after the Shiv Sena-BJP government came to power in the state in 1995. Hazare also raised the issue of alleged massive land purchase by Gholap's wife Shashikala in Nashik between April to September 1996. He forwarded the available documentary evidences in support of his allegations to then Maharashtra Governor P. C.
Alexander. On 4 November 1997, Gholap filed a defamation suit against Hazare for accusing him of corruption. He was initially arrested in April 1998 and was released on a personal bond of Rs 5,000. On 9 September 1998, Anna Hazare was imprisoned in the Yerawada Jail after being sentenced to simple imprisonment for three months by the Mumbai Metropolitan Court. The sentencing came as a huge shock at that time to all social activists. Leaders of all political parties except the BJP and the Shiv Sena came in support of him  Later due to public protests, the Government of Maharashtra ordered his release from the jail. After release, Hazare wrote a letter to then chief minister Manohar Joshi demanding Gholap's removal for his role in the alleged malpractices in the Awami Merchant Bank. Gholap resigned from the cabinet on 27 April 1999.
In 2003, the corruption charges were raised by Hazare against 4 ministers of the Congress-NCP government belonging to the NCP. He started his 'fast unto death' on 9 August 2003. He ended his fast on 17 August 2003 after then chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde formed a one man commission, headed by the retired justice P. B. Sawant to probe his charges. The P. B. Sawant commission report, submitted on 23 February 2005, indicted Suresh Jain, Nawab Malik and Padmasinh Patil. The report exonerated Vijaykumar Gavit. Suresh Jain and Nawab Malik resigned from the cabinet in March 2005.
Right to Information movement
In the early 2000s, Anna Hazare led a movement in Maharashtra state, which forced the Government of Maharashtra to repeal the earlier weak act and pass a stronger Maharashtra Right to Information Act. This Act was later considered as the base document for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Union Government. It also ensured that the President of India assented to this new Act. Law professor Alasdair Scott Roberts mentions,
“ The state of Maharashtra - home to one of the world's largest cities, Mumbai, adopted a Right to Information Act in 2003, prodded by the hunger strike of prominent activist, Anna Hazare. ("All corruption can end only if there is freedom of information," said Hazare, who resumed his strike in February 2004 to push for better enforcement of the Act). ”
Lokpal Bill movement
Anna Hazare's hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi
Main article: 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement
On 5 April 2011, Anna Hazare initiated a movement for passing a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman) bill in the Indian Parliament. As a part of this movement, N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka, Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court along with the members of the India Against Corruption movement drafted an alternate bill, named as the Jan Lokpal Bill (People's Ombudsman Bill) with more stringent provisions and wider power to the Lokpal (Ombudsman). Hazare began a fast unto death from 5 April 2011 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, to press for the demand to form a joint committee of the representatives of the Government and the civil society to draft a new bill with stronger penal actions and more independence to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Ombudsmen in the states), after his demand was rejected by the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh  Before commencing his 'fast unto death' he stated, "I will fast until Jan Lokpal Bill is passed".
The movement attracted attention very quickly through various media. It has been reported that thousands of people joined to support Hazare's effort. Almost 150 people reportedly joined Hazare in his fast. He said that he would not allow any politician to sit with him in this movement. Politicians like Uma Bharti and Om Prakash Chautala were shooed away by protesters when they came to visit the site where the protest was taking place. A number of social activists including Medha Patkar, Arvind Kejriwal and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and Jayaprakash Narayan have lent their support to Hazare's hunger strike and anti-corruption campaign. This movement has also been joined by many people providing their support in Internet social media such as twitter and facebook. In addition to spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh and former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, many celebrities showed their public support through micro-blogging site Twitter. As a result of this movement, on 6 April 2011 Sharad Pawar resigned from the group of ministers formed for reviewing the draft Lokpal bill 2010.
Wikinews has related news: Indian activist begins "fast-unto-death" hunger strike to end corruption
The movement gathered significant support from India's youth visible through the local support and on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There have also been protests in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Shillong, Aizawl among other cities of India.
On 8 April 2011, the Government of India accepted all demands of the movement. On 9 April 2011 it issued a notification in the Gazette of India on formation of a joint committee. It accepted the formula that there be a politician Chairman and an activist, non-politician Co-Chairman. According to the notification, Pranab Mukherjee will be the Chairman of the draft committee while Shanti Bhushan will be the co-chairman. “The Joint Drafting Committee shall consist of five nominee ministers of the Government of India and five nominees of the civil society. The five nominee Ministers of the Government of India are Pranab Mukherjee, Union Minister of Finance, P. Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs, M. Veerappa Moily, Union Minister of Law and Justice, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Human Resource and Development and Minister of Communication and Information Technology and Salman Khursheed, Union Minister of Water Resources and Minister of Minority Affairs. The five nominees of the civil society are Anna Hazare, N. Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan Senior Advocate, Prashant Bhushan, Advocate and Arvind Kejriwal.
On the morning of 9 April 2011 Anna Hazare ended his 98-hour hunger strike by first offering lemon juice to some of his supporters who had gone on a hunger strike in his support. The social activist then broke his fast by consuming some lemon juice. He addressed the people and set a deadline of 15 August 2011 to pass the Lokpal Bill in the Indian Parliament.
“ Real fight begins now. We have a lot of struggle ahead of us in drafting the new legislation, We have shown the world in just five days that we are united for the cause of the nation. The youth power in this movement is a sign of hope. ”
Anna Hazare also said that if the bill was not passed, then he will call a mass nation-wide agitation. He called his movement as "second struggle for independence" and he will continue the fight.
Awards and honours
Awards - received by Anna Hazare
2008 - On 15 April 2008, Anna Hazare received the World Bank's 2008 Jit Gill Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service: "Hazare created a thriving model village in Ralegan Siddhi, in the impoverished Ahmednagar region of Maharashtra state, and championed the right to information and the fight against corruption." 
1992 - Padma Bhushan award, by the Government of India
1990 - Padma Shri award, by the Government of India
1989 - Krishi Bhushana award by the Government of Maharashtra.
1986 - Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra award by the Government of India on 19 November 1986 from the hands of Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.
Felicitations: He was felicitated by the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation on 15 January 1987 and by the Pune Municipal Corporation also.
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