'Nobody built movement; it just emerged'

Interview

He spoke to Deccan Herald’s N Niranjan Nikam about his stand, his own concerns and the way it is taking shaping now.

 Anna movement, like all over the country, continues unabated and has entered the 11th day today. You are in the forefront of the movement in Mysore. Has it led you anywhere?
RB: You might be surprised to know that the whole movement started in Bangalore by the name ‘Corruption Saku’. A few of us including Arvind Kejriwal drafted a Bill.

That is how the movement began. Then Anna Hazare who was already involved in a few movements in the past fighting against corruption and others, met the Prime Minister on March 7 this year with the draft bill.

The PM was dismissive about this. Anna got irritated. On April 5 the movement began and I also fasted. Then when we drafted the  bill and presented it to the government, it took us for a ride. What they presented in the Parliament was completely different. All of us became angry.

On August 16 when Anna decided to fast, the government should have allowed him to fast. It bungled badly and arrested him.

Otherwise the movement would have been dead by now. The moment Anna was put in jail, we all asked him to stay put.  The movement built itself. It was due to the frustration of the middle class.

 Anna was a messiah. I wanted to build it on the platform of emotion. My first experience in the first week was, all kinds of people were coming in.

However, the people who are really affected, the poor had not come. I didn’t expect them to come.

Now I have formally called off the agitation.

How are you taking it forward now?
RB: Things are happening quietly now. We have started Mysore against Corruption campaign. Every day the volunteers are going to houses to educate the people.
 They are being told to take a call as citizens. If they believe in strong law, they have been asked to call up their MPs and ask them to vote for it. If the MPs do not react properly, then of course in the next election, they will be ignored.

Sticker campaigns are also going on and even auto drivers have been given stickers and they are being educated to explain about the anti-corruption law. That is the shape it is taking.

The urban middle class are participating against the anti-corruption movement. Have they at any point told you that they have given or accepted bribes?

RB: Most of them have said that they have given bribes. However, as far as accepting bribe is concerned, I had a unique experience just the other day when I was traveling to Dharwad in a train.

The railway constable saw me and he hugged me, saying that he had seen me on television and my photographs in newspapers.

He told me , ‘I will not take any bribe from today.’ I was moved to tears. Otherwise no one has told me that they are taking bribes.

HD Kote is your area of concern. Have they volunteered to be a part of the movement?
RB: Many of them have. On April 5, they did join me in fast.
The merchants association there asked me why I was confining myself to Mysore. They want to be a part of the movement.

However, the real problem is the farmers are busy now with their farming activities. I don’t want to trouble them. When there is a lull in agriculture activities, then I want them to join us.

Has the PDS system irregularities of which you were heading been brought into the anti-corruption campaign at present?
RB: I don’t mind being called selfish. We are piggy backing on the PDS irregularities.
It is such a subtle corruption. The subsidy component is Rs 850 crore. But where is the remaining Rs 900 plus crore coming from?

The study I have done is extremely valid and scientific. I can tell you I am proud of two things I have achieved in my life so far.  One is the battle for rehabilitation of tribals and the other is this work on PDS.

In fact, I had done a study in Harward on corruption when I was a student there.
 I did not imagine that I would be using the same experience to study the level of corruption in PDS in my own country and state.

Don’t you think Anna should give up his fast and be ready for talking with the government for a middle ground approach?
RB: You bend the government, don’t break it. Anna should give up his fast.
Leadership is not about becoming a martyr, it is about staying alive and taking the movement forward.

It is reconciliation and not compromise. Gandhiji never lived for others. Sadly, nobody understands Gandhi.

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