Last evening in Pune was historic! It was probably only the third time that the city has witnessed such euphoria after the Samyukta Maharashtra movement and the JP movement all those years ago
The imposing ramparts of Shaniwar Wada were witness to an electrifying moment in history, as more than 15,000 Puneites turned out on Friday evening in support of the campaign led by Anna Hazare against corruption in the country. The candle-light march, which was more than two kilometers long, began from Bal Gandharva and culminated at Shaniwar Wada. Candles in hand, the protestors marched in triumph-the young and the old, the feeble and the physically challenged, all joined in with a missionary zeal. The shouts were predictable: 'Anna Hazare aage bado, hum tumhare saath hain' and 'Hum honge kaamayab ek din'. But the passion was unexpected and quite unbelievable.
The mobilisation from the morning was by word of mouth, and through emails and SMSs. It spread like wild fire. By 6pm there were already more than 5,000 Puneites lined up on Jangli Maharaj Road, opposite Bal Gandharva. With every minute the crowd began to swell, all with the singular determination to eradicate corruption.
It's a long time since Pune witnessed any such euphoria. Mangesh Tendulkar rightly said, "The first time was during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. The second was during the JP movement. This is the third in support of Anna Hazare's fast.''
Through the day, streams of people visited the pandal outside the Pune Municipal Corporation, where we undertook a day-long fast. Teenagers and youngsters joined in a 'skip a meal' campaign that required citizens not to eat any one meal of the day, whether it is breakfast, tea, lunch or dinner.
Youngsters made passionate speeches about how they were fed up with the corruption in everyday life that was even affecting their education. They talked about joining the fight because they wanted to have a better life in the country and not run away because of the daily inconveniences.
Representatives from IT companies told us that at least 500 techies had joined in the candle march. Around 85 NGOs pledged their support to the cause. And passersby stopped to inquire and lend their support too.
All described the common agony: Corruption that has reached mind-boggling levels and how high-profile politicians and bureaucrats who were guilty of this were getting away easily. They were angry and did not know how to express their anger-till now, that is. The untainted figure of Anna Hazare on a hunger protest at Jantar Mantar helped draw them together, like iron filings to a magnet.
It's the biggest victory of a people's movement since Independence. The nation has indeed arrived! Corrupt politicians are realising that they will not be able to take people for granted! It has been a triumph of the people's collective resolution and sacrifice. It's the beginning of the end of the corrupt scoundrels who rolled in wealth and luxury with the people's money!
Thank you for your support.
Apart from the terms of what the committee would do, the notification contains the names of those on the 10-member panel headed by the finance minister
New Delhi: Giving in to the demands from anti-corruption activists, the government today issued a gazette notification on the formation of a joint committee headed by senior minister Pranab Mukherjee to draft an effective Lokpal Bill, reports PTI.
The notification, one of the key demands of the anti-corruption campaign launched by Gandhian Anna Hazare, has been signed by VK Bhasin, secretary, Legislative Department of the law ministry.
The notification was proudly displayed at the site of Mr Hazare's fast at Jantar Mantar by Kiran Bedi to the loud cheering of the assembled gathering there.
Apart from the terms of what the committee would do, the notification contains the names of those on the 10-member panel headed by the finance minister.
The committee will also include law minister Veerappa Moily, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, home minister P Chidambaram and water resources minister Salman Khurshid as members.
Besides Mr Hazare himself, those representing the civil society in the joint committee will be eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prasant Bhushan, retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be the co-chairman.
"We had demanded a government order (GO) in this regard.
The government went a step ahead and issued a notification," said social activist Swami Agnivesh.
Getting Baba Ramdev in on Day 4 was brilliant, and timed with the statements by the Bajajs and Munjals added value which nobody could have predicted. The government totally miscalculated the rapid growth of the protests, not just in Delhi, but in the rest of the country. It could impact the forthcoming elections in various states, too
I was among a group of the Defence Colony Welfare Association Residents' Welfare Association-a mixed group of retired services personnel, professionals, home-makers and business-people-who joined in the protest against corruption, spearheaded by Anna Hazare, at Jantar Mantar, on Friday. The atmosphere there was vastly changed from what it was the previous day; not just because of the support from Baba Ramdev and Bollywood personalities like Farah Khan, Tom Alter and some others, in as much as there was a feeling that the government is on the back foot.
(Click here to see Kareena Kapoor and Mallika Sarabhai pledging support to Anna Hazare Courtesy: ANI, Sify.com)
If anything, the contingent of plain-clothes people, probably from an assortment of intelligence services, appeared even more worried, probably for having miscalculated the ground realities, as well as the strategic moves by the organizers. Getting Baba Ramdev in on Day 4 was brilliant, and timed co-terminus with the statements by the Bajajs and Munjals added value which nobody could have predicted. One particular gent, with whom I have developed a nodding acquaintanceship over the last few days, told me that they had totally miscalculated the rapid growth of the protests, not just in Delhi, but in the rest of the country. How it was likely to impact the forthcoming elections, too, in various states. And, how now not just the foreign press, but also diplomats were walking around openly.
The uniformed police and fire service personnel, on the other hand, looked even more relaxed and part of the milling crowds-it almost looked as though everybody had already figured out that these are our people, about each other. People were following instructions given by the local police and fire service and their ambulance services were parked strategically. Even the much-reviled Municipal Corporation of Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Corporation did their part-the mobile public toilets are an example in cleanliness, with some sanitation workers on duty explaining that this was one duty they were going to make sure was impeccable. And for the first time we saw what looked like off-duty armed forces people in fatigues walking around, without any of that uniformed self-consciousness that sometimes accompanies such events.
This has on one side grown into a nation-wide people's movement, that's not so much about a Lokpal Bill which people do not understand, or a man variously being referred to as hazaar, hazaara, hazaroo, hazra or something similar, but more about people now wanting an end to corruption across all levels. On the other side, the rumour mills were working overtime, with all sorts of stories about such and such leader having run away abroad, or the government planning stern reprisal, and then what happens next. Some were even asking why Shobhaa De, for example, has not been seen of or heard from lately!
A couple of major questions on the minds of protestors were 'how do we go about courting arrest' and 'what other methods will we use to make sure this is a success too'. Some volunteers on the fourth day of their fast were taken away to hospital; others appeared as resolute as before. The percentage of women in the crowd seemed to have gone up, and so too the visible number of wealthier and upper middle-class people. Also, people appeared to have reacted with disappointment to the statement by Mohandas Pai of Infosys that he did not want to say anything about corruption in India. Bajaj and Munjal, on the other hand, were cheered through some hand-written posters.
It is encouraging to see the number of people present going up multiples, this despite the cricket frenzy that has not ebbed. The whole of Jantar Mantar, from the Ashoka Road end to Tolstoy Marg end, is barricaded and converted into a walking-only zone. This is a stretch of 1.5 km, a change from the 50 metres space that was initially alloted on one side of Jantar Mantar Road. The special space I had on top of the South Indian Snack Centre is now totally occupied by many others who have discovered the place. Barring the few people sitting in front, at Jantar Mantar, the rest of the area is "standing room only".
My advice to those who want to go to Jantar Mantar is to head there early in the morning. Make your presence felt. Get counted, now. Where the movement will eventually lead may not be entirely clear yet, but it cannot get any worse than what the government has already brought matters to-now, things can only improve.