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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Anna unwell, puts off Karnataka visit

BANGALORE/MYSORE: Your wish to meet Anna Hazare, the man who woke the Indian middle class up to a new revolution against corruption, will have to be put on hold as of now. Due to ill health, the 74-year-old leader has decided to postpone his Karnataka visit.

Anna Hazare was supposed to visit Mysore on May 5 and Bangalore on 6. Swamy Vivekananda Youth Movement founder R Balasubramaniam told STOI in Mysore: Hazares blood pressure is varying and is suffering from knee joint pain. He is likely to be discharged from hospital in a couple of days. But we decided against forcing him to stick to his schedule in Karnataka. His visit to Varanasi and Bhopal this weekend have been put off. He has to attend the meeting of the joint committee drafting the Lokpal bill on May 2 and likely to be in Karnataka between May 12 and 15.

Anna was to address a public meeting at National College, Basavanagudi in Bangalore. However, a candlelight march will held in four places across Bangalore on Sunday.

India not a free country in 'true sense': Hazare

Sultanpur: Alleging that less than 10 paise to the rupee actually reaches the intended, social activist Anna Hazare on Saturday called for another "freedom struggle" to free the country in a "true sense".

"The corruption has emerged as a big ailment hindering development. Of the total Rs one sanctioned hardly 10 paisa reaches people," Hazare said while addressing 'India Against Corruption' rally here over phone from Pune.

Gandhian Hazare said that their agitation would continue till government did not pass the 'Jan Lokpal Bill'.

"The country has not attained freedom in its 'true sense' yet and we have to fight a second 'freedom struggle'. We are prepared to go jail for that," he added.

Coming down heavily on the state government, Swami Agnivesh said that corruption was prevailing in the state and "rate" of every work was fixed in Uttar Pradesh.

Satirist and actor Jaspal Bhatti and Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad also addressed the rally.

‘Gandhigiri is back with Anna Hazare’

Dear Friend Hitler that was unveiled at the Berlin Film Festival and will now be premiered at Cannes Film Festival's Marche du Film on May 11, has gone for a title change. “The Indian cut will go with the name Gandhi To Hitler but we may still go ahead with Dear Friend Hitler for the international version,” says the film’s actor-writer Nalin Shah.

The original title had come from the two letters Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wrote to Adolf Hitler to try and prevent World War II from happening. The Nazi dictator had ordered his assassination but despite knowing this, Mahatma Gandhi still addressed him as ‘Dear friend Hitler’.

“The film propagates the Gandhian principles of  ahimsa to promote world peace in today’s troubled times. But we were apprehensive that despite the press conference called to underline the fact that the film was not pro-Hitler, a section of our society that doesn’t read newspapers, might still perceive it as such,” reasons Shah.

He further adds that according to an online poll conducted by them, 60 per cent Indians favoured the new title. “Also, after Anna Hazare’s successful peaceful protests that found a strong backing amongst the middle class, Gandhigiri is back. And it was advisable to have more of Gandhi and less of Hitler in the title rather than vice versa.”

Shah says that they are targeting a post-IPL release and while the film is in Hindi, it is being dubbed or subtitled in regional languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil and Malayalam, besides English. Abroad, it will release in the US, UK, France, Germany and the Middle East among other countries.

Quiz him about protests from Jewish groups and he says he hasn’t received a single email or call from any such group. “There was only a minor section in the western media who tried to create controversies by implying that we were glorifying Hitler that led to Anupam Kher opting out,” clarifies Shah.

Kher was later replaced by Raghuveer Yadav and Shah insists he couldn’t have got a better Hitler, pointing out that three of Yadav’s films, including Massay Sahab, Lagaan and Peepli (Live), were nominated for the Oscars. He adds, “Still, I believe it’s the characters  rather than the actors who contribute to the film’s success.”

Akhil Gogoi and Anna Hazare, will you dare to fast with Irom Sharmila


It was the 6th of November 2000, the third day of fast-to-death by a young woman with unmatched inner strength, whom now we call as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila. She was fasting against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which had provided the Indian Army all the power in the world to kill and rape civilians of North East India. The reason why she started the fast on 4th of November was to protest against the Indian Army brutally killing ten innocent civilians at a bus stop in Malom, a town in Imphal valley, on November 1st, 2000. The killings by the Indian Army had included a 62 year old woman and a youth, a former national Child Bravery Award winner. Instead of paying any respect to Sharmila’s democratic and peaceful protest against a barbaric act, instead of even trying to listen to what she wanted to speak about, the state forces of the great (!) Indian democracy arrested her charging her of suicide attempt.
Irom Sharmila’s peaceful non-violent means of protest, the hunger strike idolized by the Gandhis and the Nehrus whom India still claims to follow, was labeled as “attempt to suicide” on her third day of protest. With her courage and patience, Irom Sharmila continued to hunger strike and but was arrested several times throughout the decade, each time with the same charge of suicide attempt. In fact seeing Irom Sharmila’s case, we people of North East India now have the right to question if India gained its independence because of suicide attempts by Gandhi and his followers by not eating or drinking.
Few days back, a 73 years old Anna Hazare decided stage a hunger strike to implement a bill that might help bring down corruption. On his third day, he was contacted by the Prime Minister’s office, accolades flowed into him from all section of media and public and the Government agreed to his demands. This time the State forces did not consider him to be staging a suicide attempt. Instead, he was showered with praises by the Government as well as opposition. Though there is no denying the fact the Anna Hazare deserves credit for his strong stand against corruption, the way he succeeded in just three days has understandably astonished the people of North East India because of the paradigm shift of policy of Indian Government in handling the two hunger strikes.
The pain that Iron Sharmila has gone through in the last decade, without food and water, with a food pipe forced into her nose by the Government of India only to keep her alive, is unbelievable. She is undergoing this pain with so much courage and patience only for the people of North East India and if India indeed believes that the people of this region are its own citizens, India must accept that she is fighting for none else but for the people of India against a draconian rule which violates all norms of human rights. Time and again the people of this region has felt and complained that they live under colonial rule of the Indian state machine and the fact that India continues to pay no importance to her only shows how true the anguish of the people of North East India is.
As pointed out by eminent writer Sanjoy Hazarika, who recently called for Anna Hazare to fast for Irom Sharmila, Irom Sharmila has challenged the system of Indian State Machine while Anna Hazare has only stood against people who works in that system. This is one of the reasons why her justice is long overdue now. The other reason of course is that India does not want to bow down to someone who has challenged the Indian Armed forces, especially if that someone is from a region where Indian Army has created most trouble as well as faced most trouble in the decade long armed rebellions since the first decade of India’s Independence.
However the reason why the above is written is not to just compare Irom Sharmila from Anna or to blame the Indian Government again and again, while we sit and enjoy at our homes. The reason is to question a recent controversy in Guwahati whether the authorities should permit the public rally against corruption, in which Anna Hazare is set to take part in the Judges field. Guwahati Town Club, led by veteran ex-ULFA Munin Nabish is strictly against letting the newly laid out sports field to be used for a public gathering as it will destroy not only the sports field but also require huge efforts to bring back the field to a condition favorable for sports. The Judges field, after being used only for political reasons for decades was recently given the new look and conditions for hosting several sports and Guwahati Town Club has been taking care of it quite well so far. Even it had denied All Assam Student’s Union from organising cultural function during the Bihu days, in the sportsground.
It’s really sad to see that Akhil Gogoi, whom now entire Assam looks up to as a hope for the state, is trying to make the controversy of the Judges field political by using the name of Anna Hazare. For the rally, there are several grounds in the city where even a bigger gathering could be hosted, but Akhil is adamant in using the Judges Field since it gives him a chance to put up blame against Himanta Biswa Sharma and the Congress (I) Government whom he had long been fighting against.
What is even sadder and really shameful is that the people of Guwahati as well as all section of media are in support of Akhil Gogoi to hold Anna Hazare’s meeting in the Judges Field. In fact when Munin Nabish of Guwahati Town club lost his temper in a press meet asking what Anna Hazare has done for Assam or North East that they should allow the Judges Field to be destroyed, the media only made fun of him. Next day he too started a hunger strike, protesting Anna Hazare’s meeting at Judges field and asking that it be held somewhere else, only to be made fun of him by the Media further. Akhil Gogoi, the new savior of Assam too is silent.
The question to Akhil Gogoi is why he is so adamant in having Anna Hazare in the Judge Field. It is indeed true that Anna Hazare has done nothing for Assam and has probably never even heard about the problems of the North Eastern Region. While we can not take credit away from his strong stand against Corruption, we Akhil Gogoi must understand that just because he has been showered with love and blessings by the people of Assam does not mean he is above everything else. Just as no farmer would like if his cultivable land is converted to a sports complex overnight, no sportsmen would like to see a sports ground being destroyed due to a rally. And as a leader of farmer’s association, Akhil Gogoi is till unable to understand this.
Where was Akhil Gogoi when Irom Sharmila was fasting for the least ten years? He never supported her or took any step to save the rural people, whom he claims to represent and who suffers most from the brutal AFSPA. Now he is keen in fighting for the sudden nationally acclaimed figure, Anna Hazare’s meeting but he has never dared to show any support for Irom Sharmila in her fight against the Indian State system. Akhil Gogoi, would you or your hero Anna Hazare dare to fast with for Irom Sharmila? We are sure you won’t because fighting against corrupted people, though essential, is easier than fighting against the Indian Army and the Indian Government. More than corruption, you now fight for a playground for your ego while Irom Sharmila continues to battle more pain and hard times to saveguard human life.

‘When corruption is viewed fuzzily’

We are here, all of us, because like many others in this country we are concerned about the rampant corruption that is hollowing out the institutions of our democracy. Twenty years ago, when the era of “liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation” descended on us, we were told that public sector units and public infrastructure needed to be privatised because they were corrupt and inefficient.

We were told the problem was systemic. Now that nearly everything has been privatised, when our rivers, mountains, forests, minerals, water supply, electricity and communications systems have been sold to private corporations, we find that corruption has grown exponentially, the growth rate of corruption has surpassed everything we could possibly imagine. In scam after scam, the figures that are being siphoned away are completely off the charts. It is not surprising that this has enraged the people of this country. But that anger does not always show signs of being accompanied by clear thinking.

Among the millions of understandably furious people who thronged to Jantar Mantar to support Anna Hazare and his team, corruption was presented as a moral issue, not a political one, or a systemic one — not as a symptom of the disease bu the disease itself. There were no calls to change or dismantle a system that was causing the corruption. Perhaps this was not surprising because many of those middle-class people who flocked to Jantar Mantar and much of the corporate-sponsored media who broadcast the gathering, calling it a “revolution” — India’s Tahrir Square — had benefited greatly from the economic reforms that have led to corruption on this scale. (The same media has in the past ignored rallies of hundreds of thousands of poor people who have gathered in Delhi in the past because their demands did not suit the corporate agenda). It was not surprising then, that several corporate CEOs generously donated lakhs of rupees to support the campaign, cellphone companies weighed in with free SMS messages — here was their chance to undo the beating the public image of the corporate sector and corporate media had taken when the 2G scam hit the news.

When corruption is viewed fuzzily, as just a touchy-feely “moral” problem then everybody can happily rally to the cause — fascists, democrats, anarchists, god-squadders, day-trippers, the right, the left and even the deeply corrupt, who are usually the most enthusiastic demonstrators. It’s a pot that is easy to make but much easier to break. Anna Hazare threw the first stone at his own pot when he shocked his supporters from the left by rolling Narendra Modi onto centre-stage, in his “Development Chief Minister” clothes. Leaving aside the debate on Modi’s extremely dubious achievements in the field of “development” — many of us were left to wonder whether we were being offered a supposedly incorruptible fascist as an alternative to hopelessly corrupt supposed democrats.

I am not against having a strong anti-corruption body, though I would like to be reassured that it in itself does not become an unaccountable, undemocratic institution accruing great powers to itself. However I do not believe that we can fight communal fascism or economic totalitarianism (that has led to us having more than 800 million people in this country living on less than 20 rupees a day) with only legal measures.

As long as we have these economic policies in place, the National Employment Guarantee Act will never be able to do away with hunger and malnutrition, anti-corruption laws will not do away with injustice, and criminal laws will not do away with communal fascism, the twin sibling of economic totalitarianism. They will, at best, be mitigating measures. As the historian Howard Zinn said “the rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and power in such complicated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.”

Will the Right to Information Bill or the Jan Lokpal Bill force the government to disclose the secret MoUs with private corporations it has signed in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand for which it is prepared to wage war against its poorest citizens? If they do, then these MoUs will disclose the fact that the government is selling the country’s minerals to private corporations for a pittance, a small royalty. It’s not corruption. It’s completely above board, it’s legal plunder which is more scandalous, and has economic, environmental and human costs that will outstrip the 2G scam several times over. If we do get the information, what will we do with it? I do believe that if anyone present at the “revolution” at Jantar Mantar had raised the question of the secret MoUs, the adoring TV coverage and a good proportion of the crowd would have disappeared very quickly.

The lawyer Prashant Bhushan who is on the drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill understands all of this very clearly. In his years as a public interest litigation lawyer he has consistently represented mass movements as well as individuals who have been fighting these policies with their backs to the wall. He is the counsel in the PIL in the 2G scam in which Tata and Reliance, the biggest corporations in the country, along with their allies in the government and the media, have been badly exposed. Yesterday in court he asked why only the paid employees of these corporations were being arrested and not their proprietors. Such a man must be targeted, taken down, right?

The viciousness of the smear campaign against him is proof of the threat he poses to vested interests. I have known Prashant Bhushan for years. First as a comrade and now as a close friend. We may disagree about some things, but I would vouch for his integrity anytime, anywhere. He is acutely aware of his family’s social and economic privilege. Even more so of the fact that that most of that privilege is derived from his father to whom is he is very close, but with whom he has major ideological differences. Like many of us who are privileged compared to the majority of the people in this country (some of us by birth, caste, race, gender, and/or by virtue of writing a best-selling novel), Prashant had to decide what to do with that privilege. He chose to use his training as a lawyer to create as much space as possible for those against whom the Powers are arraigned. This is why he has been at the barricades of almost every issue of social justice that is being fought in this country. This is what has been turned against him. And this is why he is being hunted down.

In a filthy battle such as this one, in which facts are made up, none of us can ever be pure enough or righteous enough. None of us can hope to emerge untainted. However, the fight will continue. Retreat is not an option.

Presented at the ‘Convention Against Corruption’ in New Delhi, April 29

Reporter’s Diary: When Rajiv Gandhi realised the value of regional Press

Critics say that the ‘Anna Hazare’ revolution was nothing but a media hoopla created by national TV channels and newspapers. But let me add here, regional media, especially newspapers, had reported at length on this issue. And, in a way, apart from inflation, it has given one more reason to small town aam aadmi (which is the core vote bank of any national party) to hate the Congress-led UPA Government.

Regional Press, perhaps, could not make them (small town voters or citizens) understand the technicalities of the Lokpal Bill, but it did create an impression on them that the Government is not in favour of eradication of corruption. And this impression, created by the regional media in small towns, can certainly impact the Congress in the next Lok Sabha Elections.

During the 90s, Indian Press was going through a transition period post the censorship during the 1975-77 Emergency setback. The myth of national newspaper was diluting as newspapers started widening their scope covering new territories. Regional newspapers were mushrooming in small towns and being taken seriously by the readers.

As the Congress Government had seen the power of the Press during the Emergency period, Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, realised the power of the regional press. Most of us know that whenever any Prime Minister goes for a trip abroad, he takes a delegation of journalists with him. During the 90s the PM’s trip was not as frequent as they are today. Still, Gandhi thought of engaging a set of regional press journalists in this practice to get more familiar with regional media.

Gandhi decided to take a few editors of regional press as well whenever he went for trips abroad. He used to interact with them and get photographs clicked too. His trick worked well. And, the impact was that whenever editors used to come back from the trip, they used to write glowing reports about the trip and the Government as well, dedicating entire pages of their respective newspapers. This practice not only filled the vacuum between the regional press and the Government, but also indicated towards the power of regionalism.

Today, every government knows well the value and the might of regional media. With the State Assembly elections currently underway in five states, we can even witness it in the poll campaigns in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry. However, it will be interesting to know that how much importance Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gives to regional press journalists in his delegation when he goes for international trips. Does anybody know?

SC refuses to intervene in legality of Lokpal drafting committee

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday rendered infructuous the challenge to the constitutional validity of the notification appointing a joint committee for drafting of the Lokpal Bill to fight corruption in high offices.

Three PILs focused on different aspects -- the notification being coerced by social activist Anna Hazare's fast to death, the inclusion of private persons in drafting a legislation and that the order was constitutionally not valid.

But, these did not impress a bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar. It insisted that these challenges were premature since the law has not yet been enacted and that the Bill was in the drafting stage.

When counsel R K Kapoor and M L Sharma insisted on arguing the legal points, the Bench tersely asked: "We do not want to sit in judgment over the wisdom of the executive or the legislature. Please point out the constitutional infirmities in the decision and the fundamental rights it breached."

Advising the counsel to reserve their breath for a full-fledged argument in July, the bench adjourned the hearings to mid-July, when the court reopens after the summer break.

With the joint committee mandated to draft the Lokpal Bill by June 30, the PILs are expected to lose their relevance by mid-July.

Lok Pal panel to meet on Monday Hazare in hospital

While osteoarthritis is keeping social activist Anna Hazare confined to a Pune hospital, a cautious Union finance ministry is going the extra mile to ensure everything is in place for the next meeting of the drafting committee on the Lok Pal bill. The panel is chaired by Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The second meeting is scheduled on Monday and the government had, till today, no intention of cancelling it due to Hazare’s ill health. The committee — of five Union ministers and five campaigners for a strong ombudsman to address graft — is the outcome of a much-reported agitation led by Hazare.

A joint secretary, supported by a few Director-level officers, have been specially assigned to make all arrangements for the meetings of the committee. According to a top official in the ministry: “We have handled a lot of high-profile meetings of Groups of Ministers to draft new legislations or discuss contentious issues. Never before have so many officers been deployed to make arrangements for meetings.”
As Hazare had requested for a Hindi or Marathi interpreter in the previous meeting, the ministry has hired two from the Lok Sabha Secretariat. The two interpreters will take turns to simultaneously interpret the English deliberations. Each is expected to be paid Rs 450 a day. According to sources, the joint secretary (vigilance) will oversee all the arrangements, including handling and preparation of drafts, notes and other important papers. He has especially been roped in as the matter is related to transparency and tackling corruption.

The ministry is keeping audio records of the meetings. These will be transferred on to two CDs and one of these sent to the Central Vigilance Commission. The other copy will be kept in the ministry. The JS (vigilance) has been asked to oversee the making of the CDs and promptly sending one in a sealed cover to the CVC’s office soon after the meeting, to avoid any allegation of tampering.

Hazare’s attendance remains doubtful for the second meeting of the much-hyped committee. Doctors at the Pune hospital have advised him bed rest for a week, after the osteoarthritis pain intensified. As of now, the government plans to go ahead with the meeting with the other members, even if Hazare is unable to attend.

Apart from Hazare, the four other non-government members are Shanti Bhushan (also the co-chair), Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Santosh Hegde.

Journalists claim Anna Hazare's support to agitation

The Patrakar Halla Virodhi Kruti Samiti, a committee formed to protest attacks on journalists, today claimed social activist Anna Hazare has supported its agitation on May 1 to demand a law to make attacks against them a non-bailable and cognisable offence.

"Hazare has extended his support to our agitation to be held at Karad," convener of the Samiti, SM Deshmukh said.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan hails from Karad, located in western Maharashtra's Satara district.

In February, journalists in Maharashtra had staged demonstrations demanding immediate enactment of the law against attacks on mediapersons.

"The state government has been assuring us since 2005 that it will bring a legislation on the issue but has not taken any concrete step," Deshmukh said.

Journalists, while doing their duty in collecting news, are increasingly facing violent attacks by those representing powerful vested interests, local goons and underworld dons, he said.

Now, Bhatti invokes ‘corruption devta’

The onlookers in Sector 17 were in for a surprise as a group of people sang hymns in praise of ‘Corruption devta’ on Thursday. A closer look showed satirist and actor Jaspal Bhatti in his own unique style all set to join Anna Hazare on his anti-corruption campaign starting from Varanasi. Carrying along an idol of ‘Corruption devta’, Bhatti and members of his Nonesense Club put his point across at the Sector-17 Plaza.

‘Corruption devta’ was given a warm send-off before it went on a tour of Varanasi, Lucknow and Sultanpur.

Bhatti said if the menace of corruption was not stopped the day would come when “we will have to have a ‘temple of corruption’ in every state”.

“I am going to demand land from Mayawati ji for raising such a temple right in front of the Secretariat in Lucknow. If those indicted in corruption cases pay obeisance at this temple regularly for 11 days and offer 11 per cent of their black money, they will be acquitted of the charges against them by the grace of ‘corruption devta’,” said Bhatti.

LU's changing stand on Anna visit irks teachers

LUCKNOW: Anna Hazare's visit to Lucknow might have been cancelled. But, the conflict between Lucknow University (LU) administration and teachers continues. With LU administration changing his statements every day, university teachers on Thursday demanded that university administration stick to one reason for rejecting their request to allot Malviya Hall for organising an interaction between Hazare and students on May 1.

On Thursday, Lucknow University Teachers Association (LUTA) president and secretary met LU vice-chancellor (V-C) Prof MK Mishra. The V-C asked LUTA office-bearers whether their decision to invite Anna was passed by LUTA's executive committee or not. He also raised objections as to why he was not informed about the entire programme.

On this, LUTA secretary, RB Singh clarified that LUTA president and secretary hold enough powers to take any such decision. He, however, said that the above decision was duly passed by the committee. "Our programme with Anna was not fixed. Once everything was put in place, we would have invited him. But, he turned down our first request by not allotting Malviya Hall," said Singh claiming that V-C denied permission under political pressure.

University spokesperson Prof SK Dwivedi told TOI that LUTA admitted their mistake of not initially informing the V-C of the entire programme. "They must have first consulted V-C and then moved ahead with their schedule, if he permitted," said Dwivedi denying allegations of political pressure on V-C.

Interestingly, LU administration has been consistently changing its statement. While rejecting allotment of Malviya Hall for the LUTA function on Monday, it had said that the V-C wants to avoid getting into a controversy, which may arise due to Anna's meeting. On Tuesday, it cited reports of local intelligence unit stating that Anna's visit might disturb the annual examinations currently underway. However, when district administration denied about any such intelligence report, LU spokesperson on Wednesday clarified that V-C had not at all permitted LUTA to organise the function at Malviya Hall.

The university spokesperson also said that V-C is the patron of LUTA and so its their responsibility to inform the V-C before organising any function.

There were also reports that the V-C was summoned by the governor, who is the chancellor of the state universities in connection with controversy over denying LUTA to hold Anna's public meeting on the campus. However, senior officers in the Raj Bhawan denied reports of governor's intervention.

Media behind Anna's success

A 73-year-old unassuming man by the name of Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare got recognition for the first time when he tirelessly fought to develop a model village in the district of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. As it happens to most in our country, for all the good work, Hazare was also factitiously arrested in 1998 and was released on account of a huge public uproar.

Incidentally, the Government of India also recognised his efforts by bestowing him with the Padma Bhushan. But amongst all his mini revolutions which have advantaged the smaller sections of society, this time Hazare is taking up such an issue which is probably the biggest malaise of our democracy and is a cause which affects every living Indian in some way or the other.

Our governments time and again have been corrupt and demonocratic! But in the present government's reign, the biggest of scams have surfaced. 2010 can safely be called the year of unparalleled and historic corruption.

The year of shame, in which media had a field year and ended up making a lot of people from the civil society very vocal. Amongst them were some people with honest backgrounds and with a spotless record of serving this nation like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare himself.

It was time for the honest man to show his powers, and if necessary, arm-twist the government a little. They came out on the streets. And Anna took the lead. On a normal day, a man fasting at Jantar Mantar wouldn't bother many. But it was not a normal day. It was after a year of corruption being exposed one after the other.

Media took up the job well to give enough coverage to the protest and sustain the momentum. The electronic media, rolled programmes and it grabbed eyeballs.

At the end, it's true that Anna led from the front and was ready to put his life at stake. But the fact is that the real support of this leader just did not come from the few men who went to Jantar Mantar. It came from the much criticised newsrooms of India's electronic media, which didn't care about their party alliances but came out all supporting the movement. And anything that makes the elected representatives of India budge is democratic.

Every time governments across the world have taken their people for a ride, a people's movement has taken shape. And in modern days, it gets huge support by the online media in developed countries. But in India's case, that being ridiculously insignificant, it was the electronic media showing the way all through.

Assam endorses another Anna Hazare - Irom Sharmila!

A silent protest, which has been buried under mere negligence for a decade, suddenly paved up after the struggle showed by Anna Hazare. Irom Sharmila, suddenly, started receiving support from the masses.
People from all walks of life on Monday, Apr 25 gathered at the Dighalipukhuri area in Guwahati and took part in a candlelight vigil to extend support to the Manipuri girl who has been observing fast from last 10 years.
Enlightening their demands, supporters of the "Iron lady" stated, "The country has failed to understand her. Is there any record of 10-year-long fast anywhere in the world, even during the Independence movement?

Armed Forces Special Powers Act is being implemented in the terrorism dominated states in India and the soldiers are bestowed with tremendous power to tackle the militants. Sharmila lives in Manipur, the north east state which faces enough trouble - both from the army and the militants. Experiencing the draw-backs of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Sharmila began her long-battle to protest the anti-terror law.
It seems that Irom Sharmila's struggle remained unheard or has not received much media attention as she is protesting from an ignored state of the country. If she had held the hunger-strike from a metro city like Delhi, she also might have won like Anna Hazare.

Anna Hazare attends court hearing

‘10-12 cases against me, have full faith in judiciary; let’s not waste time in such issues’

Social crusader Anna Hazare came to Shivajinagar court on Monday to attend the hearing of a case filed by his former associate Hemant Patil. Patil alleged that Hazare had misappropriated Rs 2.20 lakh from Hind Swaraj Trust run by him and utilised the money for his 60th birthday celebrations in Ralegan Siddhi. Speaking to the media, Hazare said, “There are 10-12 cases against me at various places. I try my best to attend the hearings. These are small hurdles; but I have faith in the judiciary and I know I am clean. Let us not waste time in such issues and support the larger cause - the Jan Lokpal Bil.”

Patil through his lawyer Vrunda Karande moved an application in the court of chief judicial magistrate Suchitra Ghodke to transfer the case back to judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) H U Joshi. The case was transferred from the court of Joshi to the court of Ghodke on February 1 this year due to administrative reasons.

When the court called for Hazare’s say on this application, his counsel Milind Pawar objected to the application, stating that the court does not have jurisdiction in this transfer application. The hearing has been deferred until Tuesday. Pawar had moved an application earlier in January requesting the court to exempt Hazare from attending all hearings of the case. The court is expected to give order on this application on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Pawar, who is also the former PBA president handed, over a memorandum of the PBA’s demand of a Bombay High Court bench in Pune to Hazare. Hazare supported the demand, saying litigants from Pune and nearby areas have to travel to Bombay for even a small proceeding in their cases. “A court bench in Pune is necessary and I would make efforts for it at my personal level,” Hazare said.

Lokpal: Hazare wants judges kept out, Hegde asks why

A day after consensus emerged at a roundtable to keep the higher judiciary out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal — something that even Anna Hazare agreed to — his nominees in the Lokpal Bill drafting committee said the judiciary must be included in the Bill.

Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde told The Indian Express: “I don’t mind and do not understand why they (higher judiciary) should not be included. When even the PM is proposed to be covered under the Lokpal’s ambit, both as per the government’s version and our version too, why not judges?”

This position is different from Hazare’s suggestion that the higher judiciary “should not be covered under Lokpal”.

On Sunday, after the roundtable, former CJIs M N Venkatachaliah and J S Verma said there was consensus that the higher judiciary should be kept out of the Lokpal’s purview.

Referring to the roundtable, India Against Corruption, whose four members are part of the joint drafting committee, said “some people” were of the opinion that the judiciary should not be covered under the Bill.

Meanwhile, Jayaprakash Narayan of Lok Satta, who had organised the roundtable, today met BJP leader LK Advani and Law Minister Veerappa Moily.

Anna Hazare may require knee replacement

Veteran Gandhian and anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare probably will have to undergo surgery for replacement of both his knees. This was revealed by the orthopedic surgeon, Dr Parag Sancheti, who examined Anna’s knees on Monday.

Hazare was in the city on Monday for the hearing of a case against him filed by activist Hemant Patil.

After attending the hearing, Hazare went for his long-overdue medical check-up at Sancheti Hospital. He has been complaining of excruciating knee pain since his return from New Delhi after the 97-hour fast for the Jan Lokpal bill at Jantar Mantar.

According to Sancheti, the 72-year Gandhian suffers from osteoarthritis and has been under his treatment for the last 5 years. “This medical examination was overdue, but owing to the hectic schedule of Anna, it was not possible,” he stated.

“The over-exertion has taken its toll on Anna’s knees and the wearing-out process has increased. We are thinking of using injections to better the condition of both his knees,” he said.

The only way Anna can escape the scalpel of the surgeon, points out Sancheti, is to take complete bed rest for a long period and to cut down on travel. “I have asked Anna to be confined to his room for the whole of next week and not to travel at all. But the million dollar question is: will Anna listen to my advice,” he said.

The court of the chief judicial magistrate (first class) Suchitra Ghodke will decide on Tuesday whether Anna Hazare should attend the hearings regularly and whether the case should be retransferred to the court of judicial magistrate (first class) VV Joshi.

Patil had filed a private complaint in court of judicial magistrate (first class) VV Joshi against Hazare in June 2005 for allegedly celebrating his 61st birthday in 2004 by misusing the public money that he had garnered for his trust.

Initially, the court of Joshi was hearing the case and
later it was transferred to Ghodke’s court.

On Monday, Patil’s lawyer demanded that the case be re-transferred to Joshi’s court. However, Hazare’s lawyer said the case should proceed in Ghodke’s court. His lawyer said Hazare should be exempted from attending hearings on regular basis.

Lucknow University bans Anna Hazare's meeting on campus

LUCKNOW: The Lucknow University vice chancellor's (VC) denial to Anna Hazare's meeting on the campus is all set to snowball into major controversy with teachers alleging that the withdrawal of permission has been taken under political pressure.

"We demand VC Prof MK Mishra to clarify whether he is receiving instructions from the Raj Bhawan or the state government. If the pressure is from Raj Bhawan, it means Congress doesn't want such a meeting to take place in the university," said Lucknow University Teachers Association (LUTA) secretary RB Singh.

Earlier, he said Congress leaders tried to block Anna's anti-corruption campaign by levelling unnecessary allegations against his team and now they were not allowing Anna to interact with the public. "And if the pressure is coming from the state government, it means that BSP is opposed to Anna. However, the possibility of state government's denial seems less because chief minister Mayawati has already made it clear that she supports Anna," he added.

The university had earlier given permission to LUTA for organising an interactive session of students and teachers with Anna but later withdrew it citing local intelligence reports that the meeting may invite trouble. However, the Lucknow police chief DK Thakur told TOI that there were no adverse intelligence report and it has no objection on teachers' organising the function.

An ugly scene was created on the campus on Wednesday morning when university proctorial board tried to block media persons from talking to students and teachers over the issue. Proctor prof UD Mishra even threatened to throw out media persons with the help of the police. The LUTA intervened and facilitated media-persons' entry on the campus.

LUTA condemned the conduct of university proctorial board describing it as restriction on freedom of speech and expression. LUTA also said that it will hold the function at any other place, if the ban is not withdrawn by university.

The executive council members of the Lucknow university have also condemned VC's stand over the issue. "University's are known for giving birth to all ideological revolutions and social change. The temples of knowledge played an important role in India's freedom struggle and various movements thereafter but our VC has converted university into a government department," said Anil Singh, executive council member.

The VC was not available for comments. However, on his behalf, university spokesman Prof SK Dwivedi said "Permission has been denied because campus cannot accommodate the large crowd that Hazare may attract. To avoid any untoward incident, the VC decided to withdraw the permission."

Significantly, LUTA had had also paid Rs 500 fee to the university for using auditorium having capacity of 400 for the interactive session. It has also asked V-C to allow function in the open, if hall was not available. The teachers had also booked the university guest house for Anna's stay but it was also cancelled by the university administration.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

J&K leader follows Anna Hazare to deal with corruption

Srinagar, Apr 24 (IBNS) Following the footsteps of Gandhian Anna Hazare, Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference leader Muzaffar Ahmed Shah on Sunday came down heavily upon the state government for ‘practicing corruption’.

He said that corruption, instead of being confronted with courage by those in power, has been given a license, a long handle, as the men in power have their finger in the pie.
Speaking at a press conference in Srinagar, senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference said that it is 'really sorry' to state that Jammu and Kashmir in the whole country is regarded as the most corrupt state.

"People in power as well as bureaucrats are all indulging in malpractices. They are all corrupt. Corruption is rampant in all government departments," Shah said.

"Former chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Haseeb Drabu was removed because he refused to sign cheques worth 12 crore rupees and I know for which this money was to be used," Shah claimed.

He demanded that disclosure of property details by state officials be made mandatory before they are promoted and the information be put in the public domain, as done for central government officials in the country.

He said that corruption and corrupt practices need to be confronted by a vibrant civil society like the one seen with Anna Hazare in the lead.

"The Jammu and Kashmir needs to be armed with Lokayuktha. We suggest that the members from civil society in Lokayuktha committee be included to make it transparent and vibrant in the interest of the state," Shah said.

He said that mismanagement of funds in the central sponsored schemes, rampant corruption practices in the employment sector and in the transfer of postings have created a fuss in the state and people no longer support the present state government.

He said that his party has taken an initiative and it will make people aware about the implications of rampant corruption in the state.

The in-between movement

Having struck an angry nerve in middle-class India, Anna Hazare-led campaign now seems to be stuck in a limbo

By now it is fair to characterise the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption campaign as the ‘in-between’ movement.

In-between because of its curious timing between the World Cup and the IPL, because the particular version of the Lokpal Bill it is rooting for has led to discord even among its most ardent supporters, because the wide coalition of social leaders who were championing it started splintering apart even with the first flush of victory.

And also because, whether through dirty tricks of the Amar Singh kind or not, there are now question marks over the motivations of the core group itself. Having struck an angry nerve in middle-class India, the movement now seems to be stuck in limbo, pinned down by its own contradictions.

Whether you believe that the Bhushans are being framed for taking on the powers-that-be or not, there are legitimate doubts about a movement that campaigned in the name of India under a picturesque backdrop of Bharat Mata, only to nominate a civil society group with two people from one family, hardly any regional diversity, no lower caste representation and no women.

There has never been any doubt that a Lokpal Bill is required. The question has always been what kind of a Bill will be effective.

As this column argued two weeks ago, the problem with the current version of the Bill being pushed forward so religiously by the Hazare people is that it seeks to create an unworkable super entity.

By centralising tremendous power while relying almost entirely on the good intentions of a few, it risks making the cure worse than the disease.

When I last wrote about the pitfalls in this version of the Bill, critiques from readers were angry and predictable: nothing has worked so far, so what is wrong with trying a radical option, went the argument. Not doing anything is tantamount to accepting corruption.

Since then, events have shown that relying on personalities alone is a risky business when making policy.

The main protagonists have shown themselves to be too thin-skinned for any kind of criticism, even complaining to Sonia Gandhi to reign in Digvijay Singh’s broadsides; questions have been raised against the shining white knights, the Bhushans; and civil society consensus, never a clear concept at the best of times, has shattered over Hazare’s playing to the gallery, especially on Narendra Modi.

So what can be done? By itself, the Lokpal would be an important intervention but it won’t be a magic bullet. Corruption is only the most odious symptom of a systemic problem, so we need to take a wide-angle view of this, not just a myopic and gung-ho crime-fighting approach.

So here is my take: an effective Lokpal Bill must be accompanied by serious electoral reform to take out money power from politics, long-overdue police reforms to make the law enforcement machinery independent and the liberation of the CBI from political control.

As the Chief Election Commissioner points out, political corruption starts from the very process of elections and the money politicians spend today to get elected.

If we can legislate to stop criminals from getting elected and ensure greater transparency in political funding, it would not only remove one of the prime drivers of political corruption at its base, but also bring in more accountability.

The Election Commission, one of our few institutions that is effective and respected, is an institutional model to follow.

It works in practice partly because once an election process gets underway the enforcing arms of the state come under its control. It can, for instance, suspend or remove errant police officers. There is a salutary lesson in the fact that the same police forces which remain compromised under a partisan political dispensation can act competently under a neutral EC.

For over two decades now, the political class, for obvious reasons, has opposed sensible recommendations to reform the police system and to liberate it from political control. Every commission on this issue has recommended autonomy for law enforcement agencies and every such commission has been ignored.

If we can have autonomous police forces at the state level, responsible only to the legislature, and a CBI at the Centre, responsible only to Parliament, as opposed to the Home Ministry, that itself will do half the Lokpal’s job.

Moreover, though the focus of the current debate has remained on politicians, corruption is the by-product of a wider enabling eco-system that defines the quality of our governance. It is as much about the lowest clerk expecting a bribe to pass a file as it is about bureaucrats in the middle and the A Rajas at the top of the pyramid.

If the deliberations on the Lokpal Bill can create the space for such a wide-ranging discussion about improving our administrative structures themselves, it would make a huge difference. It would be the difference between having a Lokpal in name and a real Lokpal who can truly deliver.

Hazare should reconsider teaming with Swami Agnivesh: Bitta

Ghaziabad, Apr 24  All India Anti-Terrorist Front Chief Maninderjeet Singh Bitta today asked social activist Swami Agnivesh to clear his stand on naxalism and appealed Anna Hazare to reconsider his decision of taking support from him. "Anna Hazare should reconsider his decision of taking support from Agnivesh in the movement as Agnivesh has no ethical ideas against corruption," said Bitta. He said that Agnivesh must clear his stand before the nation about his involvement with naxalites. Swami Agnivesh had earlier called for a review of the cases of people who have been jailed for allegedly being Naxal sympathisers. He also worked as a mediator between government and naxals during the abduction of Malkangiri Collector R V Krishna in February. Praising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Bitta said, "Hazare movement is also supported by the Prime Minister and in first meeting with Hazare and other activists he assured to consider the change in Lokpal Bill." Bitta was talking to media persons today in Maharaja Aggarsen Bhawan here. Talking about the controversial CD, containing purported conversation between eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan and political leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, Bitta said that the timing of it is suspicious, it should have been exposed in 2006. He said that Amar Singh can not weaken the movement against corruption. Regarding terrorism Bitta said that India has taken a tough stand in past against Pakistan on the issue and Pakistan must punish all those terrorists who were involved in 26/11 attack in Mumbai.

Hazare once contemplated committing suicide

New Delhi, April 24  Gandhian Anna Hazare, whose 98-hour long fast paved way for an anti-corruption legislation, had at one point of time contemplated committing suicide after he lost 19 colleagues in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. "Having lost 19 of my dear colleagues in army during Indo-Pak war in 1965 on Khemaran front, I had even contemplated committing suicide. I was also injured on forehead by a pallet. "But, I, incidentally came across a book written by Swami Vivekananda and this book changed my outlook towards life and proved to be a turning point," Hazare told Seedhi Baat on Aaj Tak. After the Indo-China war in 1962, the Indian government had made an appeal to the youth to join the defence services for the country. Hazare was one of those who responded and joined the army in 1963 and during the India-Pakistan war, he was posted in the Khemkaran sector, where Pakistani fighter jets bombarded Indian positions. Hazare, himself had a narrow escape but he saw his colleagues die before him. The 73-year-old anti-corruption crusader, who began his fast on April 5 called it off on April 9 after government notified a Joint Draft Committee.Regarding the first meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal, Hazare said that only the framework had been worked out.He said he was satisfied by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's letter to him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement about tabling of the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament.Asked about the authenticity of the controversial CD regarding Bhushans and the controversy surrounding them, Hazare said, "It is a matter to be examined in Delhi. I have no old relationship with Bhushans. We came together through the formation of committee. If anybody has a doubt about anything, they should ask Bhushans. I am not in a position to comment."

UP starting point for Anna yatra


Three-day tour; Social activist to address people in Varanasi on April 29, followed by Sultanpur, Lucknow

Social activist Anna Hazare will begin his nation-wide campaign against corruption from UP next week by addressing public meetings in Varanasi, Sultanpur and Lucknow. He will also interact with people from different walks of life during his three-day visit beginning April 29.

His first destination is the holy city of Varanasi, then Sultanpur on April 30, and Lucknow on May 1. In the state capital, Anna Hazare will hold a public meeting at Jhule Lal Park. Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and social activist Swami Agnivesh are likely to accompany him. “We chose Varanasi as the starting point for Anna’s nationwide tour because it is a sacred city and it suits his image,” said Neeraj, coordinator, India Against Corruption (IAC). He said IAC did not want to target any political party or individual in its fight against corruption because “corruption is everywhere’’.

Since UP is a big state, Neeraj said, Anna would stay here for three days.

“We will cover western UP in the second phase of campaign,” said Neeraj.

Hazare’s visit comes at a time when corruption and criminalisation of politics are hot issues in UP in the wake of murder of Chief Medical Officer B P Singh on April 2, within six months of the shooting of his predecessor V K Arya.

Investigation into the two murders led to uncovering of instances of corruption and fraud in Family Welfare and Health Departments, following which Family Welfare Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and Health Minister Anand Mishra had to resign. There have been allegations that politically well-connected criminals are behind the murders.

Opposition parties believe that Anna Hazare may not target Mayawati and her govenrment, but his presence in UP at this time will automatically draw the public attention to the recent murky events. Therefore, both the SP and Congress, which had urged Hazare to come to UP to take up the issue of corruption by the state government, are happy. The BJP has also extended support to Hazare’s campaign.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Mayawati looks jittery. Last week, she broke her long silence over Anna Hazare’s campaign by welcoming it, but she also accused him, the UPA government and the civil society for not including any Dalit in the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal bill.

Significantly, Mayawati made a reference to the murder of the two CMOs, and said her govenrment was determined to bring the guilty to the book, and end corruption and criminalisation of politics, but added that this may take time because both problems were very old. These were creations of the past govenrments, which her government had only inherited, she said.

Lokpal Bill: Now, it's Aiyar's turn to criticise Anna Hazare

NEW DELHI: After AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh, former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar too has voiced his reservations over the Anna Hazare-led civil society movement for the Lokpal bill . He said the recent campaign held the danger of undermining democracy and its institutions.

"Civil society's recent movement has not understood the malaise. Their recent movement carries the danger of undermining our democratic institutions and our democracy," Aiyar told reporters on the sidelines of a function here on Sunday.

Earlier, Congress leader Digvijay Singh had questioned the way committee for drafting the bill was set up, wondering if politicians were uncivilised and couldn't be members of civil society. He had also said that it could not be expected that the draft finalised by the civil society members would be accepted as nobody could take away the rights of the elected representatives.

Aiyar, whose criticism of the movement comes days after government agreed to the agitators' demand to set up a joint panel to draft the bill, said while civil society should agitate on issues, their resolution can only take place within institutions of democracy.

"If a politician is not allowed to enter Jantar Mantar and anybody who says he has got the support of the people is described as a filthy dirty fellow and these noble people will never fight an election... then you are endangering democracy... They don't understand what they are doing is undermining democracy," the Rajya Sabha MP said. Aiyar said inclusive growth was a prerequisite to preserve democracy and ensure development.

"Widening gap will lead to Naxal problem and mindless anti-incumbency and like the recent atmosphere by the middle class in which the political class is being disrespected." Though Hazare's campaign had the Opposition's backing, the BJP too had said that it should have been taken on board the exercise of drafting the bill. Party leaders L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari were critical of the "all politicians are bad" approach.

No need for Anna Hazare to start movement in Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party

Samajwadi Party today said that there was no need for Anna Hazare or the members of civil society to start a movement in Uttar Pradesh as the party is capable of fighting against corruption on its own.

SP is competent to fight against corruption and the party had been doing so from the last four years...there is no need for Hazare or his supporters to launch a movement in the state, leader of the opposition Shivpal Yadav told reporters here.

On being asked about party's stand on Lokpal Bill, Yadav said that a decision would be taken when the bill will be tabled in Parliament.

Earlier, SP had requested social activist Hazare to come to UP and raise voice against corruption by the Mayawati led government.

"SP is fighting corruption prevailing in the Mayawati government for the past four years. We request Hazare to come to UP and raise voice against corruption prevailing here," SP state president Akhilesh Yadav had told reporters on April 11.

The Congress too had demanded Hazare to launch a movement in the state.

"The UP government has created records of corruption. We request Gandhian Anna Hazare that like Maharashtra where he did a satyagrah against corruption by ministers, he should do the same in UP," Digvijay had told reporters on Thursday last.

Yadav, when asked about a possibility of alliance with other parties before the UP Assembly elections said that the decision would be taken by the party high command.

Digvijay invites Anna to end corruption in UP

LUCKNOW: This Congress leader may be spearheading a campaign to run down Anna's army but hardly has any qualms about enlisting selective support from him. On Thursday, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh sprang a surprise by requesting Anna Hazare to "come down to Uttar Pradesh to launch a Maharashtra-like agitation against the Mayawati government". In the event Hazare actually decides to come, "the Congress would lend its full cooperation and provide Annaji with all the documents to prove graft charges'', Digvijay announced.

Lambasting the BSP government for rampant corruption, Digvijay claimed that those who refuse to help in the money-making bid were facing harassment under `Mayaraj'. The Congress leader listed the suicide by senior IAS officer, Harmindar Raj Singh and murder of two CMOs as cases to prove his point. Digvijay ridiculed Mayawati's attempt to sweep aside the controversy through the voluntary resignation of two ministers in the health department.

There are widescale fiscal irregularities in the Centrally-sponsored schemes, including MGNREGS which need to be probed, he alleged. The Congress, he said, would approach the chief information commissioner in case, under the Right To Information Act, if it fails to get information from the state body. Digvijay had a piece of advise for Vijay Shankar Pandey -- the IAS officer dumped by Mayawati after his alleged connections with Hasan Ali were highlighted by media. "Come clean about Mayawati's monetary affairs and help in exposing her,'' he urged.

Digvijay said that the UPCC would be filing a PIL to demand CBI inquiry into the CMO murder case. The party would also demand probe into the sale of sugar mills and the dubious dealings of the state mining department.

Meanwhile, the leader confirmed that prime minister Manmohan Singh and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi will address a rally in Banda on April 30.

The things you’d see if it weren’t for your blindspot

Two events this past fortnight intersected over a word. In Japan, scientists working with stem cells grew a primitive eye, a neurologically savvy optic cup. In Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, Anna Hazare fought the good fight against corruption.

And the word they have in common is blindspot.

Our eye’s blindspot is a paradox. It is the point where information from the millions of retinal cells sets off for the brain through the optic nerve. There’s more nervous tissue here than elsewhere in the eye, but it can’t see a thing. With no optical receptors, it’s simply not equipped to register light.

Anatomically, the blindspot is a very tiny area. Metaphorically, it can be gargantuan.

In Hazare’s demand for accountability, the blindspot stretches over the genocide in Gujarat and the one inevitable in Maharashtra if the Jaitapur plan is implemented.

The human eye is a great deceiver. It is not an efficient organ. If perfect vision is what you’re after, be an octopus. You can then have eight arms, perfect bilateral symmetry, endlessly orgasmic sex, planned parenthood (ten thousand eggs in one shot), eyes that see right side up when you’re upside down, and without a blindspot.

The human blindspot can be swiveled in any direction. Everybody, but everybody, wants the State to be accountable for stealing our money. We want clarity there, perfect 20/20 vision. But when it comes to human suffering, the blindspot veils it very quickly. That’s an evolution of sorts.

We have grown a special sense organ: antennae for money. Wealth is recognised as the universal panacea — with enough of it, all crimes can be erased. It is compensation, a word that recalls the old Indian practice of charity, tulabharam, where you give away your weight in gold or dross. The Latin root for the word is pendere, to hang or dangle. I like remembering that, as compensation is often dangled as reward for having a really large blindspot.

There’s something wrong with the vision of the people of Jaitapur. They see perfectly well — these villagers are better read and better informed than our policy-makers. But they lack a blindspot for human suffering. It isn’t just dread they feel when they quote instances of malformed births, fetal loss and cancers from nuclear fallout in other countries.

It isn’t just anger they feel when they remind you Jaitapur is located on a major fault and has had 92 earthquakes between 1985 and 2005.

They are not prepared to simply despair over stupidity and greed. What they feel is pain — pain becauseit does not matter to the Indian people that there could be another Fukushima right here.

That’s right. They’re mutants. They don’t have the blindspot that allows the rest of us to ignore Bhopal and Gujarat and Dantewada, and — oh, the list is as endless as octopine sex.

That’s so yesterday. News needs to be more specific. News fancies four letter words, like scam.

That’s a lovely word, and with a ’60s swing to it — it comes from scamp. A cheat, yes, but a cheat with sprezzatura; one who does it marvelously by sleight of hand, prestidigitation, and legerdemain.

All a scam needs to be successful is a blindspot. Once you acquire that—it’s Choo Mantar!—or should I say Jantar Mantar?

Friday, 8 April 2011

India wins again, Anna Hazare to call off fast today

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

NEW DELHI: After a last-minute twist almost derailed a peace deal between Anna Hazare and the government, the Gandhian on Friday announced that he would call off his fast at 10am on Saturday with official negotiators accepting all his conditions.

Civil society protesters laying siege to Jantar Mantar, where Hazare has been on fast for the last four days, won a decisive battle. After holding out over a formal notification of a joint committee of activists and ministers, the Centre agreed to issue a government order that was accepted by activists. Besides a joint panel with a 50:50 ministerial-activist composition, the Centre accepted Hazare's offer of the committee being co-chaired. This is the only compromise the activists agreed to after the Centre said it would concede the chair to Hazare's group but no minister would be on it. Hazare said the co-chair formula was a middle path as he was keen that ministers be on the panel. "Ministers will give the panel more weight, it will make the government more receptive to agreeing to the draft the committee draws up," Hazare explained.

But it was not all smooth sailing. Before Hazare told his supporters, "You will be happy with what the government has agreed janata ki badi jeet hui (this is a big victory for the people)," there were a few missteps. The deal that looked so tantalizingly close seemed to slip away. After the 6 pm meeting with HRD minister Kapil Sibal, minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed and law minister Veerappa Moily, Swami Agnivesh said an announcement would be made at Jantar Mantar by the Gandhian.

"You will be happy," he said. But at ground zero, backstage discussions seemed to stretch on forever before Hazare surprised the crowd by saying that he was still on fast and awaiting a draft.

Official sources said the draft agreement had been cleared by Hazare. But there were divisions in his camp, preventing him from calling off his fast. "The government has accepted all the conditions. It agreed that an official notification will be issued once he says his fast is over," a source said.

A Hazare group leader saw things the other way around. The Gandhian's breaking his fast, he said, was contingent on a satisfactory government order being issued. He said once the activists were satisfied that the terms agreed to had been honoured, the agitation would be over. Some activists in the Hazare camp have been insistent on a notification.

From the government side, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to be the co-chair, with other members likely to include Sibal and Moily. Defence minister A K Antony is also being considered as a member, while Moily will be the convener. The panel could finish its work by June 30.

But after the thrills and some near spills, the surging crowd at Jantar Mantar and India Gate left no doubt about how the match had gone. Civil society had won hands down. It looked like an innings defeat for the government which had only on Monday frostily expressed its "disappointment" at Hazare's decision to fast and dismissed the stir as saffron inspired.

Hazare's handsome victory seems a significant political milestone, marking the impact of popular opinion in a media-influenced age. It is the culmination of a string of corruption scams that placed graft at the political centrestage. It saw the ruling party worrying about a "JP-type" stir that turned tables on Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

As has been the case in the past, the turning point came with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's intervention on Thursday and her backing the demand for a strong anti-corruption law. On Friday, the peace moves gathered momentum after a meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence attended by Sonia. Soon, it was evident that the government was preparing to cut its losses and "stoop to conquer", as an official source put it. This saw Sibal telling the media that the government and civil society were on the same page and "this is a happy day for us. I express my gratitude to Annaji".

The official announcement is expected on Saturday as Hazare reacted to urgent messages assuring him that the government was hardly likely to go back on a deal it had arrived at after considerable heartburn. When the government's draft reached Hazare and his group, modifications were demanded. The activists also wanted a clarification that the government side should comprise ministers. After the evening meeting, Sibal and his colleagues went to meet the PM and civil society representatives conferred with Hazare.

A city sans corruption. Really?

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

On Thursday morning, as some colleagues and I walked towards Jantar Mantar to see for ourselves Anna Hazare and the crowd of protesters rallying with him, a volunteer handed me a yellowing pamphlet about the Jan Lokpal Bill. Written by the India Against Corruption society, it explains in layman’s terms what the much-talked about Bill will mean for you and me.

The pamphlet had a 9-point summary explaining the concept of the Lokpal as a body against corruption. As I skimmed through it, one sentence caught my eye. It said: “You could approach the Lokpal if the police is not registering your case.”

Any Delhiite who’s ever had to register an FIR will understand why this particular sentence stood out for me! You understand, don’t you, how empowering this could be?

Just two weeks ago, on a bright Sunday afternoon, I found myself at a police station, trying in vain to report a theft. My mother’s wallet had been stolen outside a mall and the cop on duty was trying to convince us why “lost” was a more appropriate word than “stolen” to use in an FIR . We needed the FIR more than him and he knew we would relent. We did. What choice did we have?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines corruption as ‘dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery’. In Delhi, we define corruption as survival. Bribery, touts, jugaad and other variants of rule-bending have become the norm— so much so that we don’t even consider it corruption any more.

My neighbour, Sudeep, chose to get his passport renewed through a tout rather than face any harassment at the Ghaziabad passport office. Every single person I know has bribed a traffic cop at least once. According to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, 54% Indians said they have paid bribes.

We don’t think it’s wrong, because there seems to be nothing we can do about it. But, what if there was something we could do? What if this utopian bill actually fulfills its promises — to form an organisation unaffiliated to bureaucracy or politics, to investigate any complaint against corruption within one year, and to be open to citizens regardless of who they complain about?

My question is, if our voices could be heard one day, are we really ready to stand up and shout? And has that moment arrived now?

Most peaceful protest in all these years: Police

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

Anna Hazare has got the entire nation moving right from Jantar Mantar. Thousands joined the Gandhian in his protest happening in the heart of the city, but unlike most protest, this jamboree did not force a single Delhiite to take a detour. For the first time in more than a decade a protest, and that too of this mammoth proportion, did not harass Delhiites coming to Connaught Place and beyond. There were no traffic jams or diversions and Tolstoy Marg, Parliament Street, Kasturba Gandhi Marg witnessed business as usual.

There was not even a single traffic jam even though thousands of people from all over the country thronged Jantar Mantar and held not only protests but also small concerts and other gatherings. National and international media had come with their army of men and equipment.

For Delhi Police this was the best well-managed protest ever held in the Capital, all thanks to Hazare and his non-violent followers.

“There have been no problems as far as traffic is concerned; so far the local contingent has been managing it well. We do not have extra deployment in mind for the weekend. However, the next working day might pose some problem. We are ready for that,” said Satyendra Garg, JCP (Traffic).

Last year Tolstoy Marg and Jantar Mantar witnessed not less than 1,800 protests and Delhi Police had to deploy 56,000 men throughout the year.

“This time we have deployed a little more than 50 men. The crowds are not causing any sort of problem. Otherwise for such a huge gathering we need no less than five battalions of police,” said a senior police officer who has been handing protests in the area for the last two years.  

Campaign may trigger more mass movements

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

Has the Anna Hazare campaign triggered off the process of bringing “peoples issues” at the center of national consciousness? For years, civil society has been campaigning on livelihood, health and education and issues concerning women and tribals. Pending legislations, which directly impact the masses include the food security and land acquisition bills, besides the judicial accountability bills.
However, none of these bills have generated the media hype that has been associated with the Lokpal campaign. Frustrations of civil society has also related to the fact that people-related legislation that have been passed are either toothless or have not been effectively implemented “or both”.

“The forest rights bill has been passed, but the administrative, financial or institutional mechanisms to implement the act have not been put in place”, pointed out Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women.

“The underlying dimension of the Lokpal agitation is public focus has been riveted to the fact that superficial laws are made and these are badly implemented as well. To that extent, we do foresee a situation when limelight will be brought upon other people-related issues”, said Jagdeep Chooker, founding member of the Association of Democratic Reforms.

“Corruption is an all-encompassing issue. So we do expect that Hazare’s campaign will have a domino-effect of sorts”, Chooker added.

“The Lokpal issue has taken center-stage for now, but other people-related issues will catch up. The media’s role in highlighting the issue has been immens”, said Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. “But he does seem to have set off a trend”, Hindi writer Rajendra Yadav said.

State rallies behind Anna

Apr 8, 2011

BHUBANESWAR: People from all walks of life took out rallies, demonstrations and organized dharna across the state on Friday supporting social activist Anna Hazare's indefinite fast in Delhi demanding an effective anti-corruption law.

Over 150 people, including students from different districts, took out a candle light march from Master Canteen to Lower PMG Square to show solidarity with Hazare's fast at Jantar Mantar. "The coming together of so many people from diverse backgrounds show the disgust towards corruption in the country, said Vidyut Mohanty, a protester.

Emerging from the virtual world to the real, Face Book friends met at the lower PMG and held dharna. "This is the time for everybody to come together and press the government for an Act so that there will be a graft-free society," said Biswajit Mohanty, an activist. The capital city saw dharna by school children, who sat for hours holding placards in hands in support of Anna Hazare. Kalinga Sena workers took out a rally supporting the Jan Lokpal Bill.

In Berhampur, youths and members of civil society staged a dharna near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi Nagar area supporting the Gandhian's demand. "We urge the government to introduce the Bill by holding a special session of the Parliament," said former deputy speaker Ram Chandra Panda.

In Sambalpur, civil society members organized a dawn-to-dusk mass fasting in front of the district collector office on Friday. "It was morning to evening fast," said Parag Gupta, an activist, while ABVP workers took out a candle light rally in Golbazar. In Bargarh, civil society members organized a relay hunger strike in front of the Kacheri road. tnn

Government's nod to joint panel not end of struggle: Kejriwal

Apr 8, 2011

NEW DELHI: The central government's acceptance of a joint committee to frame a strong anti-graft legislation is not the end of the struggle as the bill has to be passed by parliament where many "corrupt leaders" are present, social activist Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday.

Addressing the gathering at Jantar Mantar where social reformer Anna Hazare has for the past four days staged his indefinite fast, Kejriwal termed the government's acceptance of their demands as a "victory of the people of India".

He, however, said the protesters will only disperse after the text of the government notification reaches them and in case, the government tries any trickery, the protesters will re-assemble at Jantar Mantar.

"The people will be consulted at every step and all the decisions made by the joint committee will be shared," he said.

Kejriwal also said the people's struggle would only end after the Lokpal Bill is passed by parliament, where there are "many corrupt people" who would try to oppose the legislation.

He called on people from all across India to gather at Jantar Mantar if these elements sought to thwart the bill's passage.

Anna Hazare to end fast today, agreement reached with govt

Apr 8, 2011

Government tonight blinked in the battle of attrition with Anna Hazare by agreeing to issue a formal order to set up a joint committee for drafting an effective Lokpal Bill and the Gandhian will end his indefinite fast tomorrow.

The announcement of an agreement came from both sides late in the night on the fourth day of Hazare's fast-unto-death that triggered a nationwide support for his anti-corruption campaign.

"Government has accepted all our demands and I will end my fast tomorrow at 10am. This is a victory for the entire nation," Hazare said.

Union minister Kapil Sibal, who led the government team of negotiators, welcomed Hazare's announcement and thanked him for it.

"This is a victory for democracy," he said adding it was for the government now now to issue an appropriate order constituting the committee that will include representatives of civil society and government.

However, Hazare's emissaries Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh made it clear that the protest fast will not not be ended till the government issues the order.

The denouement came after his emissaries met ministers for a round of talks, third in two days, and after some hiccups.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will be the Chairperson of the committee that will also includeLaw Minister Veerappa Moily, Telecom Minister Sibal, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid as members.

Besides Hazare, 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.

Government blinks on Lokpal bill, Hazare to end fast tomorrow

Wilting under a sustained anti-corruption campaign, government tonight blinked in the war of attrition with Anna Hazare by agreeing to issue a formal order to set up a 10-member joint committee for drafting a strong Lokpal Bill and the Gandhian will end his fast tomorrow.

The announcement of an agreement came from both sides after four days of Hazare's fast-unto-death that evoked a nationwide support cutting across the society.

"Government has accepted all our demands and I will endmy fast tomorrow at 10:30 A.M. This is a victory for the entire nation," Hazare said.

Union minister Kapil Sibal, who led the government team of negotiators, welcomed Hazare's announcement and thanked him for it. The order will be issued tomorrow morning at around 10 AM after which Hazare will end his fast.

"This is a victory for democracy," he said adding it was for the government now now to issue an appropriate order constituting the committee that will include representatives of civil society and government.

However, Hazare's emissaries Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh made it clear that the protest fast will not not be ended till the government issues the order.

The denouement came after his emissaries met ministers for a round of talks, third in two days and after some hiccups.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will be the Chairperson of the committee that will also includeLaw Minister Veerappa Moily, Telecom Minister Sibal, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid as members.

Besides Hazare, those representing the civil society in the joint committee will be eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prasant Bhushan, retired Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hege and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be the co-Chairman.

In the agreement, the government has committed itself to introducing the new Lokpal Bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

Moily will be the convenor of the 10-member Joint Drafting Committee that will commence its work forthwith and evolve its own procedures to prepare the proposed legislation.

"A Government Order will be immediately issued constituting the drafting committee incorporating the names of 10 members of the committee, the chairperson, the co-chair and the time frame," the agreement said.

Sibal told reporters that the drafting committee will have to work as quickly as possible so that the work is completed by June 30 and the Cabinet approval is taken before the start of the monsoon session.The session is likely to start in the first week of July.

He said the government was delighted at the fact that the government and civil society representatives have worked together."This suggests the strength of democracy in our country that we are able to sit across the table and resolve issues which seem intractable."

Dismissing a suggestion that government had succumbed to pressure, he said government and the civil society were on the same page in the fight against corruption.

"It is a happy day for us," he said.

Earlier in the evening, Hazare said "Some shortcomings have been sighted in the government draft. So the fast will continue."

"We will let all of you know tomrorow about the decision."The statement came in what appeared to be an anti-climax after hopes were raised of an end to the fast tonight itself.

State solidarity show with Anna Hazare

Apr 8, 2011

RANCHI: Thousands of people in the state have found their once suppressed voice in Anna Hazare who is on fast-unto-death to root out corruption with streets across the state teeming with supporters of the Gandhian.

Silent marches, candle processions, slogans and placards besides dharna and fasting marked Friday with members of political organization, social groups, religious organizations, media and young professionals demonstrating their solidarity with the "Hazare" movement.

CPI-ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya with local MLA Vinod Singh and other state leaders sat on a daylong fast at Main Road. Addressing people, Bhattacharya said despite legal provisions being in place not a single corrupt politician was sentenced for his practices in independent India. "The moment central vigilance commissioner was also found guilty of corruption, anger of common man spilled out in the open. Hazare provided all of us the right platform and opportunity," he said.

Christian priests and nuns from St Albert College of Theology also participated in the movement by carrying out a solidarity march on the streets of capital. Participated by over 275 people, including brothers, nuns and students of Christian missionary colleges, the procession that began from college premises went through Main Road, H B road, North Samaj Street and culminated into a conference at the college in Purulia Road.

Rector Father J Pinto said despite having a different assignment of awakening people spiritually, he found the occasion apt for carrying out a social responsibility. "Learning theories in AC classrooms and library is not enough unless we can actively participate and bring about a change in the society. Fighting corruption under leadership of a man of integrity is a great opportunity to achieve it," he explained.

Members of International Library and Cultural Centre (ILCC) organized a candle light march to demonstrate support to Jan Lokpal Bill as proposed by Hazare under leadership of deputy managing trustee Jyoti Bajaj whereas, members of JP Vichar Manch who have now congregated under the banner of Hazare Vichar Manch came out on streets with cymbals and utensils, beating them continuously for 10 minutes to "wake up" the Union government and its functionaries from "slumber".

Preparing to join the agitation even if the demands for Jan Lokpal Bill is acceded by government, activists of Gram Swaraj Manch have decided to stage a foot march to Raj Bhavan on Saturday morning.

Off to Jantar Mantar after work

A laptop on her shoulder, dishevelled hair and tired eyes, thirty-two-year-old Richa Sharma, a banker, joined hundred others at Jantar Mantar on Friday. Sharma was among the many office goers who are lending their support to Anna Hazare. Sharma has little idea about the nitty-gritty of the Bill, which is at the centre of this huge people's movement."But I know it is against corruption and it is time we took some action against it. I came today for the first time but will come again tomorrow," she said.

It has been four days since Laxmi Mattel has had a proper meal. "I have been just having milk. I truly believe in the cause that Anna Hazare is fighting for and I will show my support till the end," said Mattel an employee of United Nations Human Rights Council, who has been coming to Jantar Mantar every day after work.

Sunil Dhar, who works in an information technology company, came with his five-year-old son Rudraksh. "I got my son to see what it means to fight for a cause and how it is done. It is a historic occasion," said Dhar.

Others like Mohini Sahni, a nursery teacher, have skipped work for the past two days. "The only thing we can do is show our support for Hazareji who is fighting for all of us,” she said.

11 yrs ago, PM on same page as Hazare

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

Almost 11 years before Anna Hazare went on a fast-unto-death to demand a Lokpal, Manmohan Singh had pledged his support for setting up the anti-corruption ombudsman, speedy trial of tainted politicians and confiscation of illegally acquired property. All three are also in the civil society draft of the Lokpal Bill.

As Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in May 2000, Singh was one of the 108 Members of Parliament who responded to a request from Lok Sewak Sangh, an non-profit organisation led by Gandhian Shambhu Dutta Sharma, 92.

Over the next 10 years, the NGO changed its name to Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade. But no prime minister - first Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later, Singh - was able to deliver the Bill.

"This is a Bill on which so much surgery has been done over decades that nothing has been left of it," Sharma said, hoping that fellow Gandhian Hazare's fast would yield not just a committee but a law too.

Sharma had gone on a hunger strike on January 30 to demand a Lokpal and tougher laws against tainted politicians but put it off for the Hazare-led fast.

"I didn't cancel it but only deferred it," Sharma insists, saying he will begin his fast on May 1.

Imbibing anti-corruption movement in their own lives

New Delhi, April 09, 2011

    Jantar Mantar, already a symbol of democracy, has become a magnate for people against corruption. Friday, the fourth day of the fast-unto-death by Anna Hazare and others was no different. Common people like professors, bank employees and even housewives are visiting Jantar Mantar in search of whatthey can identify with the movement.
PK Choudhury, 60, an engineer in a private firm has been visiting Jantar Mantar daily after his office hours. “If Anna Hazare can give his unconditional support for the cause, it becomes our duty to join the movement,” he said.

Sitting at a side bench, Alok Vyas, a consulting engineer, said, “I have suffered a lot because I refused to pay bribes.”

Sher Singh Punia, an advocate, half agreed. “I have personally never bribed anybody  because where I live, everybody knows me. My work gets done just like that.” But he added, “But I too might pay bribe to get something done.”    

There were people who remained firm even at the cost of suffering losses. Said Sasmita Patel, an assistant teacher from a DU college, “My refund amount from IT returns is pending as I refused to pay bribe to a clerk.” But not all are firm like her. Puja Mehra, a housewife from Malviya Nagar, confessed to having bribed for getting a gas cylinder sometimes.

But then added, “After coming here, I am inspired. I can join the fast against corruption too.”

More join Anna’s ‘army’

  April 09, 2011    

         MUMBAI: Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption has received support from the people who run Mumbai’s lifeline — the motormen of local trains, as well as Bollywood stars. On Friday, 30-odd motormen reached Azad Maidan at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and announced their support for Hazare’s cause.

They said they would drive local trains on empty stomach from 6am to 6pm on April 10 supporting Hazare’s cause.
Film stars to came to Azad Maidan to pledge themselves to the movement. Actors Dia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Pooja Bhatt and Urmila Matondkar demonstrated their support for the 48 people who were fasting by shouting slogans with the crowd. “People should stand up for this cause the way we cheered during the World Cup,” said Matondkar.


Poll-bound Tamil Nadu is witnessing a surge of support for Hazare’s fight. Be it lawyers sitting on fast in Madurai or NGOs, activists, students and businessmen rallying in Coimbatore, there is no doubt that the movement has captured the imagination of the people.

AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa has extended support to Hazare saying that a strong Lokpal Bill was necessary to root out corruption.


Hazare’s lawyer Milind Pawar has sent a letter to Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan to draw attention of the Union and Delhi government to ensure adequate security cover for the activist.

Pawar said Hazare had lodged a complaint with Parner police station in Ahmednagar district in January last year saying that expelled NCP leader Dr Padmasinh Patil had given a ‘supari’ (contract) to kill him. The case is on in Aurangabad court.

Pawar said the Maharashtra government had not provided any security to Hazare even after he lodged the complaint.

Bollywood throws weight behind Hazare

More Bollywood bigwigs on Friday joined Anna Hazare’s protest at Jantar Mantar for an effective Lokpal Bill saying the country needs to weed out corruption at any cost.

Director Farah Khan, actor Anupam Kher, music director Vishal of Vishal-Sekhar duo, poet-filmmaker Pritish Nandy and actor Tom Alter visited Jantar Mantar during the day to express solidarity with Mr. Hazare and others fighting for the anti-corruption law.

“I have three children. I don’t want them to be brought up in a corrupt country. I appeal to all Indian mothers to join us,” Ms. Khan said addressing the gathering.

She was seconded by Mr. Kher who said, “The government should stop ignoring the voices of the nation and take action now.”

Mr. Vishal lamented that the Bill did not get through despite being introduced in the Parliament eight times.

“It has to be done now. I appeal to the youth of the country to join this agitation,” he said.

The veteran social activist’s fast-unto-death protest against corruption has found many supportive voices in Bollywood, including superstars Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Hazare's fast enters 4th day, another round of talks with govt

Anna Hazare's fast-unto-death entered the fourth day on Friday even as anti-corruption activists waited for a communication from the government over holding another round of talks to iron out differences over notifying formation of a joint committee to draft an effective Lokpal Bill.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh told the news agency, "We are waiting for a communication from the government side.

On Thursday, it was informally agreed that we will meet around 9:AM. We have not got any formal communication".

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had said that two sides would be meeting this morning for the third round of talks.

"The two sides had agreed on almost all issues but there is no agreement on two issues that is issuing an official notification to form the committee and making Hazare the chairman of the committee.

Hazare announces jail bharo movement on 13th April

Gandhian Anna Hazare on Friday announced a 'jail bharo' movement across the country on 13th April after the government rejected his demands of chairmanship of the joint drafting committee being given to a civil society member and for a formal notification.

Giving the call, Hazare asked people to stick to non-violence during the agitation. After first announcing 12th April as the date for the agitation, he later changed it 13th April citing holiday on the earlier date.

"Today when Kapil Sibal and these people are saying this, I felt that the jail bharo agitation should take place in the entire country. But you should participate in the agitation keeping in mind Mahatma Gandhi. There should be no violence anywhere," Hazare said.

He recalled that he had organized similar jail bharo movements in Maharashtra in the past.

His announcement came after a meeting of HRD Minister Kapil Sibal with activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal scheduled Friday morning did not take place with both sides saying they were waiting for each other.

Rejecting the two demands of the social activists, Sibal also said that only government officials will be members of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill and that no minister will be part of it, if they insist on the chairman being from the civil society.

"There is no possibility of an official notification on the constitution of the joint committee but we have told them that we are willing to give an official letter through the law ministry and a press note," he said.