Econintersect: As reported on August 17 by GEI News, Indian activist Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday (August 16) as he left his home to start a hunger strike in a public park in New Delhi. He was ordered released on Wednesday, but has refused to leave jail until a previously issued permit for his use of the park is restored. He has started the fast in jail.
Hazare has been leading a campaign to get more vigorous anticorruption action in India and for the passage of more rigorous new laws. His proposed legislation is called the Jan Lopkal law. Legislation that has been submitted in Parliament following Hazare’s previous hunger strike in April is much weaker than the Jan Lokpal proposal. The earlier fast ended when the government committed to bring the Jan Lokpal proposals into the legislative discussion.Hazare’s current actions are prompted by the failure to see follow through of the commitments made by the government to end the previous hunger strike. His actions are causing much consternation because he has a following of many millions in India. Hazare has been called the “new Ghandi,” of whom he is a disciple. According to Reuters there are many thousands of demonstrators in each of countless locations around India in public support of Hazare.
Some quotes from Reuters:
1. The anti-corruption movement led Hazare is snowballing into one of the biggest challenges in decades and if not contained risks sparking India’s own version of an Arab Spring revolt.
While no one is expecting an Egypt-like overthrow in the world’s biggest democracy, a galvanized and frustrated middle class and the mushrooming of social networking sites combined with an aggressive private media may be transforming India’s political landscape.
2. “I acknowledge that Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals,” a stern-looking Singh said. “However, the path that he has chosen to impose a draft of the bill on parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.
“We must not create an environment in which our economic progress is hijacked by internal dissention.”
3. “The government really doesn’t know what it is doing,” said Kuldip Nayar, a veteran political analyst. “It is bungling, mishandling. They do not know at all how wide and how deep the resentment is.”
4. “We don’t have faith in our government,” said Sujeet, a young software engineer from the IT city of Gurgaon, as he protested at tourist site of India Gate in the capital. “We are living in a democracy but only in letter, not in spirit.”
5. “I was forced to pay a bribe while getting my passport approved and I felt helpless,” said student Rahul Acharya, 21. “This is the time all youngsters should join the movement so that the future would be corruption-free.”
6. “It is a wake-up call for all of us unless we put our house in order. The people of this country are becoming restless,” said Arun Jaitley, a leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
According to CNN, Hazare has been outspoken against corruption for twenty years, but only in the past year has he taken center stage nationally and become known around the world. From CNN:
He wears only khadi, a simple garb of homespun cotton, and lives in a small room off a temple in a remote, drought-prone western Indian village. A veteran of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, he retired from the Indian army and took vows of chastity and public service.
According to public statements in June, the septuagenarian bachelor has $1,500 in his bank account.
But ascetic social activist Anna Hazare has galvanized the nation of India, rattling the country’s leadership at the highest levels, as he garners support that cuts across economic and social divides.
His grassroots effort to fight corruption through public fasting has drawn comparisons to Mohandas Gandhi, whose non-violent efforts helped lead to India’s independence from British rule in 1947.
“We are tired of the problem of corruption, but he is saying: There is another way,” said Usheer Mohan, a New Delhi business owner who took to the streets to protest Hazare’s arrest this week ahead of a planned anti-corruption demonstration.
“He gives hope for all Indians. There is a feeling he can take us out of these problems. People have started considering him another Gandhi.”
Hat tip to Sanjeev Kulkarni.