Anna opens fast with focus on gram sabhas

Scene from Mumbai: Critics say IAC was out to please media, not the people

Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare expanded on Tuesday his struggle against corruption, stating that in order to cleanse the politics of the country, it was extremely important to “give power back to Gram Sabha so that forcible acquisition of land can be stopped and to introduce ‘Right to Reject’ voting bill in the electoral politics.”

Unfazed by the thin crowd at the MMRDA Ground at the Bandra-Kurla Complex here, the Gandhian who embarked on his three-day fast said, “It is going to be a long haul and our struggle for a strong Lokpal bill will continue but it is also extremely important to take our struggle to other important dimensions requiring immediate attention.”

Hazare landed in Mumbai from Ralegan Siddi late on Monday night and stayed at the government department guest house.

Early in the morning, after paying obeisance at Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Juhu beach amid much pomp and glory, he was escorted by motor-cycle riders as the Gandhian stood atop a truck waving a tri-colour flag through the two-hour trip to MMRDA Ground.

Soon after Hazare’s arrival, a doctor checked his temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate. Hazare launched his fast with a slogan, ‘Inquilab Zindabad,’ sitting on the upper dais of a specially-created two-deck podium.

Hazare did reiterate the need for a strong Lokpal bill but within minutes, introduced in his address the need to look into the ‘land acquisition policies’. “It is shocking that the government just takes away whichever land it wants, throwing out villagers or adivasis.

People’s Parliament is supreme and those who say that they will decide sitting in Delhi… then they should be reminded that they are there because of us.”

Expressing disgust at the ‘usurpation of land,’ he said time had come to “show to Delhi that bigger than the Parliament is the State Assembly and much bigger and important is Gram Sabha.”

Hinting at the possible launch of a struggle for ‘Panchayati Raj,’ Hazae said: “We need a new law empowering our villagers and Gram Sabha. Nobody should be allowed to carry out forcible eviction of villagers from their villages or forests or for that matter take over community lands.”

In the same breath, Hazare, without bothering about the Election Commission’s stand on the issue of ‘Right to Reject’, said that the people should not only have a right to reject the electoral candidates, “if they (candidates) are not up to the mark, but there should be a clause debarring these rejected candidates from standing again.”

On the issue of Jan Lokpal bill, Hazare asked the people to be ready for the ‘jail bharo andolan,’ starting from January 31. “Let us make the government realise that they are in power because we have put them there to serve us and protect our interests and that we will not allow any dictatorship in our country.”

Earlier, social activist Medha Patkar spoke about the displacement and the government’s subservience to corporate interests. She said that the government was scared that bringing in a strong Lokpal bill might in the long run “clear the battlefield for other strong people-oriented laws…which is the need of the hour.”

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