By Sanjeev Kulkarni
Econintersect: The government has detained the Indian activist Anna Hazare. Hazare (pictured) had planned to start a public hunger strike on August 16 to protest lack of progress on anti-corruption action by the government. It’s reported that Hazare has started his hunger strike in jail. In April, GEI News reported on the successful hunger strike effort at that time by Anna Hazare here and here. That strike ended after two days when the government agreed to take action to pass anti-corruption legislation and to increase diligent prosecution of the law. Proposals so far have fallen far short of what has been demanded by Hazare.Reaction among the populace was immediate. From The Times of India:
The arrest of Anna Hazare ahead of his indefinite fast in Delhi on Tuesday to protest a toothless anti-corruption bill approved by the cabinet, evoked countrywide protests. The Gandhian was detained this morning by the police in Delhi as he was about to set out for his fast in support of the Lokpal Bill.
Activist Arvind Kejriwal, who was also detained along with Hazare just as they stepped out of their residence in east Delhi, was also taken to Civil Lines, Police Officers Mess in north Delhi along with him.
As news of Hazare’s arrest spread, sporadic protests broke out across the capital, leading to the detention of more than 500 supporters, including former top cop Kiran Bedi and lawyer Shanti Bhushan.
Later reports say that widespread protests have broken out across India.
According to the BBC, a recent survey said corruption in India cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.Further from the BBC:
On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said hunger strikes by campaigners would not help to tackle corruption.
Mr Hazare says the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman should be able to investigate any official – including the prime minister and judges.
India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals, including a multibillion dollar alleged telecoms scam, alleged financial malpractices in connection with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and allegations that houses for war widows were diverted to civil servants.
Hazare has managed to continue to get his message across, even as he is being detained. Describing his detention by police as the beginning of the “second freedom struggle“, Anna Hazare on Tuesday asked people to participate in a “jail bharo” agitation. “My dear countrymen, second freedom struggle has begun and now I have also been arrested. But will this movement be stopped by my arrest. No not at all. Don’t let it happen,” Hazare said soon after being detained by police. (Quotes from the Hindustan Times.)
There is widespread support of Hazare and a number of other prominent activists. However, the government has attempted to discredit the group by “heaping unmerited abuse” on them. This has been criticized in the press. From The Times of India:
…few doubt the personal probity of Anna Hazare and most members of his team, which includes Magsaysay Award winners Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal. Going by the scurrilous imputations made against them with little supporting evidence, it certainly looks as if the government is nervous and has something to hide.