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Anna Hazare : The man who can’t be ignored

April 12, 2011

Anna Hazare


Anna Hazare
Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare (born 15 January 1940), popularly known as Anna Hazare , is an Indian social activist who is especially recognized for his contribution to the development of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India and his efforts for establishing it as a model village, for which he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1992.

He calls himself a “fakir ” a man who has no family, no property and no bank balance”. He lives in a 10ft x 10ft spartan room attached to the Yadavbaba temple in Ahmednagar’s Ralegan Siddhi village, 110km from Pune and wears only khadi.

But when 71-year-old Kisan Baburao Hazare alias Anna starts an agitation, every leader from Mumbai to Delhi sits up and takes notice. Even his detractors and politicians who hate his guts, grudgingly accept he is the only person who has the power to mobilize common people across the country and shake up a government. His small frail body has taken several blows from the countless agitations, tours and hunger strikes he has undertaken since he came in public life in 1975

“I am not scared of death. I have no family to cry over me and if I die while doing something for the country I would be happy. We need to start a second freedom movement to get rid of corruption, red tapism, delays in government offices, frequent transfers of honest officials and lack of transparency,” he says. Anna lost his mother Laxmibai in 2002 and has two married sisters” one in Mumbai and another in Sangamner who worry everytime their “stubborn brother starts an indefinite hunger strike”.

Soon after, he joined the Army and trained as a truck driver but his days were spent reading books on the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

That turned him to social work. Two near-fatal mishaps in the 1965 war with Pakistan changed his outlook towards life and seeking voluntary retirement from the Army, he returned to Ralegan Siddhi in 1975 which was then in the grip of drought, poverty, crimes and alcoholism.

He used his savings for developmental work of the village. “I asked them to take an oath banning liquor, excessive grazing by cattle and felling of trees. Another oath was to have small families with men undergoing vasectomy,” he recalled during an interaction.

On 5 April 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 with two of the most important demands of the movement — that at least 50% of the members of the bill draft committee be non-politicians and that the Co-chairman of the draft committee be a non-politician — met by the Government of India.

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