Every year 30th January is celebrated as a ‘Death Anniversary’ of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi. M.K.Gandhi was a social activist who actively participated in the Indian national struggle movement and preached the idea of non-violence or ‘ahinsa’ in the political discourse. Gandhi aspired several generations, who not only followed the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence but they used this philosophy to mark their dissent against the various governments after the Independence.
A Hunger strike by Anna Hazare
This year we celebrated the 71st Death Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. People across different ideologies paid their tribute to Gandhi but a few of them also shot and burnt the effigy of M.K.Gandhi. On the same day, the man popularly known as ‘Anna Hazare’ began a hunger strike over ‘non-fulfillment’ of assurances by the Centre and the Maharashtra Government on the appointment of Lokpal and passage of the Lokayukta Act in the state. Apart from this Hazare demanded the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and some electoral reforms.
Hazare in his letter to CM on January 28 observed that:
“It has been five years since the Lokpal Act was passed. Yet the Narendra Modi government has not appointed Lokpal. Lokayukta Act has not been passed in Maharashtra for four years.”
The activist further stated that the Chief Minister had mediated when he had launched the agitation at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi last year. Hazare said that he had withdrawn the agitation because the central government assured him in writing that the government will fulfill the demands. But the activist registered his disappointment and stated in his letter that,
“Nine months have passed, yet the demands have not been fulfilled. Hence, I will be on hunger strike in my village Ralegan Siddhi on January 30.”
As the announcement of the hunger strike became public, the Maharashtra Government decided to bring the office of Chief Minister under the jurisdiction of Lokayukta. After this Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Girish Mahajan urged the activist to cancel the agitation because the government has accepted his demand of implementing Swaminathan Commission recommendations. He further stated that in that direction his government has already approved the recommendation of 1.5 times MSP (Minimum Support Price) for the farmers.
After these announcements, the activist commented and stated that,
“I thank them on behalf of the people for taking the decision towards the appointment of Lokayukta through a constitutional process. But, that does not mean I will not stage a hunger strike. The agitation will go on until the Act is in place.”
After the beginning of Anna’s strike, several parties like Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, and MNS extended their support to the strike. MNS President Raj Thackrey met Hazare and requested him not to put his life on risk for the “useless” government. The spokesperson of NCP Nawab Malik accused Hazare of being RSS and Sangh Agent. After Malik’s statement, Hazare had warned him that he would consider filing a defamation case.
Who is Anna Hazare?
Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare was born on 15th June 1937 in Bhingar, near Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. He was the eldest son of Baburao Hazare (father) and Laxmi Bai (mother). He has two sisters and four brothers. He later adopted his name as Anna, which in Marathi means “elder person” or “father”. Anna is an Indian social activist who led movements to promote rural development, increase government transparency, and investigate and punish corruption in public life. Hazare frequently conducted hunger strikes to organise and encourage grassroots movements, a tactic reminiscent, too many of the work of M.K.Gandhi. Anna Hazare, with his fasts, had galvanised the country against corruption in 2011. The agitation was backed by a number of civil society members, who later formed a political party — AAP– that formed a government in 2015 under Arvind Kejriwal. Anna was the leading member of India Against Corruption Movement in 2011-12, which demanded the introduction of Lokpal Bill. Hazare has also given his contribution to the development and structuring of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India in 1992 for his efforts in establishing this village as a model for others.
What is The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013?
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, commonly known as The Lokpal Act, is an anti-corruption Act of Indian Parliament in India which “seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for states to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries including Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, ministers, MPs, Group A,B,C,D officials of the Central Government and the State Governments and for matters connecting them”.
For more details on The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 please follow the given link:
What is the Swaminathan Committee Report?
Under this report, The National Commission on Farmers was constituted on November 18, 2004, under the Chairmanship of Professor M.S.Swaminathan. The NCF submitted 4 reports in the following years – December 2004, August 2005, December 2005 and April 2006. The fifth and final report was submitted on October 4, 2006. The reports contain suggestions to achieve the goal of “faster and more inclusive growth” as envisaged in the Approach to 11th Five Year Plan. The fifth report is considerable among the reports submitted by the National Commission on farmers. It mainly focused on the causes of farmers distress and the rise in farmers suicides. Based on the recommendations submitted in 2006, a ‘National Draft Policy for farmers’ was placed before the Parliament in October. The National Commission on farmers findings and recommendations emphasis on issues of access to resources and social security entitlements.
For more details on the Swaminathan Commission report, please open this link:
End of the strike
Anna Hazare on Monday 4th February claimed that senior BJP leaders like Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj once backed his ‘Lokpal’ demand but as they came into power, they had become ‘allergic’ to it. Hazare further stated that due to his Ramlila Agitation on Lokpal and Lokayukta, the environment was formed against the corruption and scams. Due to this environment against the corruption people voted for the BJP. But now the BJP government is betraying the trust of the common masses.
In the wake of such statements Maharashtra CM, Mr Fadnavis on 5th February reached Anna’s native Ralegan Siddhi village in Ahmednagar district in the afternoon and held talks with him. He assured Anna that his demands would be met. After the assurance from CM and Union Cabinet Minister Anna called off his hunger strike on 5th February, exactly after 7 days. After ending the fast, the activist Anna Hazare addressed the gathering at his village and said that the state government would take a decision on his main demand that was the appointment of the anti-corruption body on 13th February.
This hunger strike by Anna came at a time when the BJP had lost assembly elections in the Hindi belt. Along with this in the Centre and State, BJP governments are facing some serious challenges from the opposition on the issues like Rafael deal, farmers agitation and unemployment. The upcoming General elections in May have further mounted huge pressure on the government. Hazare has a big support base amongst the farming community in Maharashtra and also in different parts of India. So, it was very important for the BJP to assure Anna regarding his demands. But if the BJP Government fails to deliver these promises than it is a possibility that Anna Hazare can go for the strike again just before the General elections of 2019, which will definitely dent the votes of BJP.
Along with this a very interesting analysis comes out from the recent strikes and agitations of Anna Hazare. As compared to 2011 India against corruption movement there is a continuous decline in the public participation in Anna Hazare’s strikes and agitations. This thing shows that to mobilize people Anna needs a core team, which is lacking in his side.
This strike further shows that the issues like problems of Farmers, Corruption and jobs are now gaining space in the political discourse which needs to be addressed by the current BJP Government in the centre. Otherwise, it will be very tough for the government to garnish the support amongst farmers and youth.
Finally, whenever Anna Hazare had done his agitations and strikes it had always benefited the opposition whether be in centre or states. So, the current centre and states governments shouldn’t take Anna’s strikes and agitations.
Sources: Indian Express, PRS, India Today, Outlook, Financial Express, Wikipedia and Frontline.
Image Credits: iDiva.com, Scroll.in, Money Control, New Indian Express