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Monday, 31 October 2011

Yes, we backed Anna's stir, says RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday took a swipe at senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and advised him to know the organisation better before making comments on it.

Declaring that Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement was actually supported by the RSS, Bhagwat invited the Congress general secretary to see the saffron organisation functioning to understand it. In the process, he even took a swipe at the septuagenarian Gandhian.

"...Yes, RSS is supporting it (Anna's movement). What is the problem in taking RSS's support? Do you know what RSS is? See it from inside for two years... Anybody can come and go, there is no restriction. If you find it good then it is fine, or make your comments," Bhagwat said.

Bhagwat's statement comes in the wake of a string of attacks by Singh against Team Anna's movement and the RSS.

Team Anna asks PCRF banker to return donation money

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.

Anna Hazare says when his anti-corruption movement was at its peak the bank account of Public Cause Research Foundation received deposits of Rs. 40 lakh from unknown donors.

Team Anna has now asked the banker of PCRF, an NGO run by Arvind Kejriwal and his associates, to return the money to the sources from where it came.

Anna Hazare may end vow of silence in three, four days

NEW DELHI: Anna Hazare Monday said he plans to end his vow of silence in three to four days and would undertake a tour of the country to meet those who supported his anti-corruption campaign.

Hazare, 74, said in his blog that the thought of giving up his 'maun vrat' was playing on his mind.

"In the next three to four days I might end my 'maun vrat'. Crores of people have turned to reading my blog all over the world hence I think it would only seem appropriate that I end my 'maun' and hold open discussions with them," he said.

The crusader said that he would "embark on a tour and meet all those young men and women, farmers, working class, school children from all over the world who were a part of this movement against corruption and at times even went to jail for the sake of the cause".

"I have this strong urge from within to meet and talk to all these people who bravely faced the hazards. Hence I would like to end my 'maun' and start off touring different states and hold discussions with them," said Hazare, who has been campaigning for a strong Lokpal to check corruption in high places.

He has led two successful anti-corruption campaigns in New Delhi in April and August, resulting in the government agreeing to his demand for a strong Lokpal bill and passing it in the winter session of parliament.

"Especially I hope to gather as much energy from these young men and women as I had during my previous movement," Hazare said, adding that the "energy" will be utilised to get the Jan Lokpal bill, Team Anna's version of the proposed ombudsman legislation, passed in parliament.

He also said he would continue his "struggle" for 'Right to Reject' the candidates in the poll fray and 'Right to Recall' those elected.

"All my countrymen will be connected with me directly in this struggle is my belief," Hazare said.

Hazare may end 'maun vrat' in 3-4 days

RALEGAN SIDDHI, 31 OCT: Anna Hazare, who has been in 'silent mode' for the past fortnight since his team members got enmeshed in a series of controversies, may break his 'maun vrat' (vow of silence) in the next couple of days as he wants to hold “open discussions” with his supporters.
The 74-year-old activist today said he wants to start a tour of different states after ending his fast and hopes to “gather energy” from his supporters to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed and then to fight for electoral reforms including 'Right to Reject' and 'Right to Recall'.
“The thought of giving up on my 'maun vrat' is playing in my mind. In the next 3 to 4 days I might end my 'maun vrat',” Mr Hazare said in his latest blog posting 'Straight from the Heart'.
“Crores of people have turned to reading my blog all over the world hence I think it would only seem appropriate that I end my 'maun' and hold open discussions with them,” he said.
Mr Hazare conveyed his intention to break his vow of silence a day after his key aides Mr Arvind Kejriwal, Mr Prashant Bhushan and Mrs Kiran Bedi met him here and decided to write a constitution for its anti-corruption movement and revamp the Core Committee after that.
Four days ago, Mr Hazare had said in his blog that his health still does not permit him to give up his vow as verbal communication was leaving him very weak.
Mr Hazare said he will also embark on a tour to meet all those young men and women, farmers, working class people and school children who were a part of this movement against corruption and “at times even went to jail for the sake of the cause”.
"I have this strong urge from within to meet and talk to all these people who bravely faced the hazards. Hence I would like to end my 'maun' and start off touring different states and hold discussions with them,” Mr Hazare said.
“Especially, I hope to gather as much energy from these young men and women as I had during my previous movement. The same energy will be utilised to get the Jan Lokpal Bill and then my struggle will continue for 'Right to Reject' and 'Right to Recall'. All my countrymen will be connected with me directly in this struggle is my belief,” he said.
Mr Hazare began his 'maun vrat' on 16 October at his native village in Maharashtra for 'atma shanti' (peace of soul). He shifted his residence from the Padmavati Temple complex to his old residence, the Yadavbaba Temple complex, in this village, about 250 km from Mumbai.
Mr Hazare's announcement that he would be ending the vow of silence comes after Dr KH Sancheti, a noted physician from Pune, who examined Mr Hazare here on Saturday, said the activist's blood pressure was on a higher side, which could be due to mental stress. “Even if he is practising 'maun', his thought process continues, leading to mental tension. I feel he should end his silence,” Dr Sancheti had said.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to campaign against corruption in UP

LUCKNOW: Siritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will embark on an anti-corruption yatra in UP from November 7 in which he would be holding satsangs in various parts of the state, and would ask people to take oath for not indulging in corruption.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would start from Jaunpur on November 7 and will be in Sonebhadra on November 8. He would go to Mirzapur on November 9 and Sultanpur on November 10. He would end his trip in Kanpur on November 11. He would also be visiting IIT Kanpur.

Significantly, the yatra is being conducted at a time when political parties in UP are gearing for 2012 assembly elections and Congress is in the back foot on the issue of corruption. While Baba Ramdev is already on a yatra targeting Congress, Anna Hazare has announced to tour UP asking people not to vote for Congress party in 2012 assembly elections in case Congress led UPA government fails to bring a strong lokpal in winter session of Parliament. In such a situation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's yatra may create more trouble for the Congress.

The yatra also assumes importance in the light of Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's statement that RSS has put up Sri Sri Ravin Shankar after its plan A (Baba Ramdev's campaign against corruption) and plan B (Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign) failed. Not only Digvijay Singh, even SP leader Azam Khan has alleged that RSS is behind Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar despite the fact that Anna Hazare has categorically denied any links with RSS.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also made it clear that in his campaign is spiritual and not political or for lokpal. He had said that lokpal alone cannot curb corruption, hence he would be making a spiritual appeal to people to shun corruption. Last week, he had administered an oath to nearly one lakh people, asking them not to give or take bribe.

Sri Sri had supported the anti-corruption campaign of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare. Responding to Digvijay Singh's allegations, he had also said that fighting corruption is no crime and he would go on educating people on the ill effect of corruption on society.

Rakhi Sawant to approach Anna Hazare

Rakhi Sawantis upset with the decision taken by Censor Board to bleep out the words ""Choos Le"" from her item number from "" Loot"".

Reacting to the decision, Rakhisaid, ""What's the point in bleeping out the word. We have had songs like "DK Bose" which have been easily cleared by the board. Also, will the same punitive action be taken against "Desi Boys" for the movie has a song in which weird gestures have been used. This is unfair."" Since the Censor Board has shown no interest to listen to Rakhi's plea she has decided to approach Anna Hazare. Her publicist DaleBhagwagar said, "It is true that Rakhi has decided to approach Anna Hazare. She is currently doing her research on songs which she considers vulgar and objectionable."

Anna Hazare to return donation from unknown sources

Team Anna has admitted that it received the support of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in its movement for a strong Lokpal bill, albeit in a tactical fashion.

“The presence of supporters from RSS could not be ruled out, but they joined the movement as Indians who wanted to support the cause for a strong anti-corruption bill,” said core committee member of Team Anna, Kiran Bedi.

Bedi, along with Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan were addressing a press conference on Sunday at veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare’s village Ralegan Siddhi. The trio had come to meet Hazare after the committee meeting on Saturday in Kausambhi.
The meeting with Hazare assumed significance after the allegations of corruption against Bedi and Kejriwal and the apparent fissures emerging in the team. Two members waterman Rajendra Singh and activists PV Rajgopal have already resigned from the team.

Denying any rift in the team, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said team Anna had decided to weather the storm of allegations and harassment and continue with its fight for a strong Lokpal bill. “We would be betraying the trust of 120 crore people if we leave the movement at this juncture,” he said.

Replying to the allegations of high handedness and financial irregularities levelled against Kejriwal and his NGO Public Causes Research Foundation (PCRF), Kejriwal said it was decided at the outset that his NGO would work as the secretariat of the movement.

He also said the team would be writing to the banks to return the Rs40 lakh donated to the trust for the movement from unknown sources.

On charges of diverting funds for personal benefit, Kejriwal said, “I was working as a joint commissioner of Income Tax and if I had not indulged in corruption then, the mere thought of me doing the same now for just Rs40 lakh is absurd.”

He also said Hazare would be starting a nation-wide tour along with Team Anna members post the winter session of parliament in case the central government fails to pass a strong Lokpal bill by that time.

“We will continue with our campaign against the Congress in poll-bound states,” he said. He said the team does not support any party and its opposition to Congress is a pressure tactic to make the party pass a strong Lokpal bill.

Marathi play on corruption gets Anna Hazare’s blessings

MUMBAI: Anna Hazare has found echoes of his India Against Corruption crusade in Ibsen's The Enemy of the People. The Gandhian recently attended the mahurat of Kondi, the Marathi adaptation of Ibsen's masterpiece, which is a searing account of a lone crusader's fight against corruption , at a simple function in Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar. Kondi will premiere in Mumbai sometime next month.

'' Hazare was keen to know the plot of Kondi. When we briefed him about the play, he said, 'It appears that Ibsen was concerned about the issue of corruption nearly a century ago.' He wanted to go through the entire script,'' said Marathi actor Shekhar Naware , who is helming the revival of Kondi. Navare and his team drove down to Ralegan Siddhi to call on Hazare. Vijay Kuwalekar and Suresh Pathare, Hazare's close aides, did the spadework for the meeting.

Hazare agreed to break the coconut , marking the play's mahurat . He suggested that the ritual be performed near Mahatma Gandhi's bronze bust. '' Hazare speaks in soft tones. Sometimes, he was almost inaudible. His staff and the entire set-up at the Baba Yadav temple (Hazare's pad in Ralegan Siddhi) works with clockwork precision. There was no confusion , no hassles,'' Naware added.

Kondi was first staged in Mumbai in the 1970s under the aegis of the Indian National Theatre (INT). The well-known theatre group specially invited the legendary Sombhu Mitra-who had staged the Bengali adaptation of The Enemy of the People in West Bengal-to direct Ashok Shahane's Marathi adaptation. Satyajit Ray's Ganashatru, too, is based on Ibsen's play.

Experts point out that barring few exceptions, popular Marathi theatre hasn't much dabbled in political plays. Vijay Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal examines the dynamics of unbridled power and its gross misuse by those holding high offices. G P Deshpande's Uddhwasta Dharmashala discusses the dilemma of a Leftist intellectual who is torn between dogma and personal belief.

Views | Crossing the Rahul line!

Earlier this month a low profile member of Parliament from Kerala, P.T. Thomas, was in the news for his attempted mediation between anti-graft activist Anna Hazare’s representatives and Congress’ apparent future prime ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi. Thomas had earlier visited Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare’s village, in his “personal capacity” to “learn” about the village and Hazare’s style of functioning. Many party leaders had frowned on the visit, asking if it was proper for Thomas to go there without the permission of his party leadership, especially when there was a growing discomfort between Hazare’s team and the party-led government.

Thomas, who was trying to be an apostle of peace, had to apologize to the representatives from Hazare’s village saying there was a “communication gap.” Because, the ‘proposed’ meeting did not take place after Rahul Gandhi’s office clarified that there was no such meeting scheduled.
Politics is often referred to as the art of the impossible and Thomas tried it in his own way. The fact is that in India no political party entertains such personal overtures. Cadre-based parties like the Communist Party of India-Marxist or Communist Party of India would consider it as anti-party activity, which can even invite disciplinary action. Everyone has to follow the ”party line.”

A former MP of the CPI-M (again from Kerala) A.P.Abdhullah Kutty was thrown out of the party for praising Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi. Kutty, who later joined the Congress and became an MLA, tried to be more progressive than the Party by praising Modi. In the BJP, there have been instances of party leaders airing their differences in public - Yashwant Sinha still survives, Jaswant Singh returned to the party after a brief stint outside. That means, for different parties, yardsticks are different when it comes to crossing the ”party line.”

In Congress too, anti-party comments are allowed or not allowed depending on the stature of the person who makes it. Though a novice in politics, former union minister Shashi Tharoor would have got away with his controversial tweets and comments if the media had not followed them eagerly. Party general secretary Digvijay Singh keeps airing his “personal views.”

In 1965, when Tamil Nadu was protesting against the government in New Delhi, then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy. Many other senior party leaders including K. Kamaraj, who hailed from Tamil Nadu, decided to keep a distance from the violence-hit state. According to one of her biographers, Indira Gandhi, then information and broadcasting minister --- she was very junior but was made the fourth most senior minister of the cabinet by the PM – “decided to fly down to Madras to quell the trouble, without telling the prime minister about her trip” – a move Shastri termed as ”jumping over his head.”

Indira’s grandson, also has recently attempted to don the cap of a rebel. At a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his trusted cabinet colleagues were toiling day and night to make peace with Hazare and his camp, Rahul came down on the activist’s movement during a zero-hour mention in Parliament saying a “tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy.” Incidentally it came a day after Singh praised and saluted Hazare and his struggle for an anti-corruption legislation.

By trying to emulate Indira in his own way, what Thomas crossed was not the party-line but the ”Rahul-line.” And, not understanding that was the real ”communication gap.”

CBDT's extensive scrutiny of NGOs

The income tax department's headline-making notices to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) associated with Kiran Bedi [ Images  ], the ex-police officer who is member of social activist Anna Hazare's team, is part of an extensive national exercise, say officials.

The exercise being carried out by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to detect tax evasion by all such entities, a senior official said.

"About 100,000 NGOs have filed tax returns in 2010-11 and the department has started picking up the cases for scrutiny on the basis of certain criteria relating to the type of NGOs and financial activities beyond a specified limit," he added, while declining to provide details.

The charitable activities of NGOs associated with relief to the poor, education, medical relief, protection of the environment and protection of archaeological monuments and any other purpose of general public utility are not taxable.

Commercial activities of NGOs in any other purpose of general public utility, however, are taxable, said the official.

"We are taking action under this provision of the Income Tax Act and this is going to happen on an extensive basis. Notices to Kiran Bedi's NGOs have gone under this exercise," he said.

Under the I-T Act, 'charitable purpose' includes "the advancement of any other object of general public utility".

However, the advancement of any other object of general public utility is not a charitable purpose if it involves the carrying on of any activity in the nature of trade, commerce or business.

Or, any rendering of service in relation to any trade, commerce or business for a cess or fee or other consideration, irrespective of the nature of use or application, or retention, of the income from such activity, if receipts from such activity is more than the specified limit in the previous year.

The Finance Act, 2011, raised the specified limit from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh for such activities.

The official said under the proposed Direct Taxes Code (from April 1, 2012), the surplus income of  NGOs were slated to be taxed at 15 per cent and the department was conducting the current exercise to prepare a map for handling these entities in the new taxation mechanism.

A study commissioned by the government put the number of not-for-profit entities at 3.3 miliion till 2009.

The actual number could be much larger now, as the study, commissioned in 2008, took into consideration only those registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Mumbai [ Images  ] Public Trust Act and its variants in other states.

India Journal: Corruption – A Misunderstood Problem?

As public demonstrations and street protests subside, India’s anti-corruption movement is not losing momentum.

The movement’s unofficial leader, Anna Hazare, who now enjoys a cult-like following, recently secured a victory of sorts following a 13-day hunger strike after which the Indian government announced it would form a committee to consider legislation to tackle corruption in officialdom.

As public demonstrations and street protests subside, India’s
anti-corruption movement is not losing momentum, argue Hemal Shah
and Nathan Gamester.

However, there is a danger that, in focussing on this issue exclusively, India will fail to address some more fundamental economic problems such as lengthy permit application procedures and convoluted tax payments – which are arguably the cause of corruption. Corruption, therefore, should be considered as just one of a number of problems that are inhibiting economic growth in India.

Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, recently said  of India’s corruption problem: “the double-digit growth that has eluded India could have been ours if we had combated corruption.”
Certainly, this is the underlying message of the protestors on the streets and it is the message of Mr. Hazare. But what if it is not the problem? What if corruption is just one of a number of problems holding back India’s growth?

This is one of the questions that emerges from our new survey of Indian entrepreneurs    in which the data reveal that, while corruption is viewed as a very serious problem (that is getting worse), the majority of Indian entrepreneurs believe that the Indian economy will be successful anyway.

The data reveal that a staggering 91% of Indian entrepreneurs think corruption is a problem that hurts business in India and, perhaps most worryingly of all, 80% believe that corruption is getting worse. However, the same report finds that 85% of Indian entrepreneurs believe India’s economy will be stronger in five years time and, perhaps most strikingly, over 50% believe that their country will be the most important global economic power in 20 years time (just one-quarter said China, only 8% stated the U.S.) So what’s behind these seemingly contradictory findings?

The rise in corruption perception has no doubt been fuelled by a series of high-profile scams such as the Commonwealth Games building scandals and the 2G “sell-off” scam that deprived the public purse of up to $40 billion, according to a government auditing agency. This not only demonstrated that corrupt practices had reached the highest echelons of power but also sent out a damaging message to India’s competitive telecoms industry and its many industrious, middle-class workers.

However, there is reason to be encouraged about the direction in which India is headed. The fact that Indians at every level of society are becoming increasingly less tolerant of corruption is evidence to suggest that the tide is turning on this issue. Further, the government’s willingness to consider the draft Jan Lokpal Bill (or the citizens’ ombudsman bill), provides hope that the problem of corruption is finally being taken seriously after almost four decades of waiting.

But there are other problems beyond corruption affecting India’s economic progress. The economic reforms of 1991 were only half-baked and the abolition of the License Raj has never been complete. World Bank data reveal that the unusually high costs and lengthy procedures to process construction permits; convoluted tax payments; and trouble with enforcing contracts are major impediments to doing business in India. Corruption could therefore be argued as the effect, and not the cause of India’s economic problems – as a by-product of the flawed institutional environment.

Costs associated with over-regulation and frustrating bureaucratic procedures would naturally incentivise budding entrepreneurs to accelerate business processes by bribing (without negatively affecting levels of optimism about future success, hence the seemingly contradictory survey results). To pull out of the practices that preserve this bribing culture, a higher level of economic freedom through completion of second-generation reforms is needed. This would greatly encourage the entrepreneurial class – the lifeblood of any thriving economy – to take risks, invest in ideas, and develop the goods and services upon which India’s future success depends.

Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha recently argued  that India is too corrupt to become a superpower. Whether this statement is true remains to be seen but what emerges from this new survey data is that Mr. Guha’s belief is not shared by the men and women of India who are creating, running, and sustaining new businesses. Perhaps it is time to look beyond corruption and focus on the other economic issues facing Indian businesses.

Protests awaken a Goliath in India

Hazare movement that rattled establishment offers glimpse of what could happen if middle class mobilises

Shubhrangshu Barman Roy and his friends are among the winners in country’s economic rise. They have earned graduate degrees, started small companies and settled into expanding middle class. They sometimes take vacations together and meet for dinners.

Yet in August, Roy and his friends donned Gandhi caps, boarded Metro to join the anticorruption demonstrations led by social activist Anna Hazare. They waved national flags, distributed water to the crowd and vented their outrage at the political status quo. “I could feel that people really wanted change,” Roy, 36, recalled.

It may seem unlikely that middle class would crave change. They mostly live in rapidly growing cities and can afford cars and other conveniences. Theirs is the fastest growing demographic group in the country, and their buying power is expected to triple in next 15 years.

But buying power is not political power, at least not yet in India. The wealthier people have become the more politically disillusioned. The middle class has vast economic clout yet often remains politically marginalised.

Elsewhere in Asia, emerging middle classes once helped topple authoritarian governments in South Korea and Taiwan, as rising incomes brought demands for greater democratic rights — an equation still simmering in China. But India had democracy before it had vast wealth and the dissatisfaction of the middle class has focused on the failings of the democratic institutions.

For several years, the question of what could awaken middle class hovered over politics in the country. Now, the middle class seems to have awakened from its deep slumber. “People have lost hopes in all political parties and personalities,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a key adviser to Hazare. “They believe that every five years, you just change the face and parties but nothing is going to happen. There was a huge sense of despair.”

A generation ago, the middle class was smaller and centred around civil servants. Today’s middle class is a product of economic reforms of 1990s and is tightly wedded to the private sector. If the earlier middle class idolised Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, this middle class mostly regards politicians with contempt, placing more faith in business leaders or in NGOs. Government is no longer regarded as a provider, but as an obstacle.

The Hazare movement rattled political establishment because it offered a glimpse of what could happen if the middle class was mobilised across the country. Professionals and students provided organisational spine and money that brought hundreds of thousands of people of all backgrounds onto the streets in what many described as a political awakening. Some analysts say that India needs a politically engaged middle class as a corrective force. Others say middle class alienation is as much about caste as class. And still others suggest that middle class disgust with politicians stems from lack of patience with the messy mechanics of democracy.

Roy and his friends say they have spent years focusing on their career, acting mostly as spectators to politics. “We’ve been told, politics is bad, don’t get into politics,” said Partho Nag, Roy’s friend. “But the point is that somebody has to clean it up. We can’t just scold people.” In April, Roy was conducting a seminar at an auto parts factory, ignoring the messages piling up on his cellphone. During a tea break, he scrolled through his messages, stopping at one from a friend. “You shouldn’t be at work,” it read. “You should be here, trying to help your country rather than any company.”

“Here” was Jantar Mantar, where Anna Hazare was waging hunger strike against corruption. Roy had not been paying attention to the news and knew almost nothing about Hazare. That night, he turned on his television and saw thousands of people rallying behind Hazare against the government. “I saw that he was doing his bit,” Roy said. “So I thought, let me do my bit.”

Roy and his friends had grown up in New Delhi in the same government housing development. They were teenagers in the early 1990s when India embarked on the reforms that began dismantling the stifling licensing regulations that had choked the economy. Private enterprise would steadily emerge as the engine of growth. Nag would open a small IT service firm. Two other friends would start a textile trading company. Roy would earn graduate degrees and start a consulting firm.

Politics often seems to saturate life in India, but it was mostly a sideshow for Roy and friends. Roy was soured by his first taste of politics: In 1984, after assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard, riots broke out. Father of one of Roy’s friends was dragged onto street and killed. “I hated it,” he recalled. “From age 18 to 26, I never voted because I thought my vote wouldn’t change anything.” In his professional life, Roy found an ideology he could beli-eve in, the management philosophies of Toyota. He went to business school and began reading books by management gurus and wrote a thesis on reforming Indian education and eliminating corruption. He married and settled in Dwarka. Politics remained something his circle complained about — until Hazare.

Hazare’s April hunger strike forced government into negotiations over Lokpal. After those negotiations collapsed, Hazare came to New Delhi in August for a new hunger strike, sparking protests across the country. This time, Roy and his friends rushed to support him. Hazare fasted for 12 days before the government accepted some of his demands.

No one likes corruption, yet the Hazare movement raised a question: Why did the middle class mobilise on this issue?

Country’s poor have been hardest hit by rising inflation, yet inflation has also deepened the anxieties of the middle class.

McKinsey Global Institute, a consulting group, had estimated that India’s middle class could grow to nearly 600 million people by 2030. Today, nearly three-quarters of gross domestic product comes from cities, where less than a third of population lives, an imbalance that correlates with the divide between middle class economic and political power.

“For politicians, the city has primarily become a site of extraction and countryside is predominantly a site of legitimacy and power,” Ashutosh Varshney, a specialist at Brown University, wrote recently. “The countryside is where the vote is; the city is where the money is. Villages do have corruption, but the scale of corruption is greater in cities.”

Recent polls show that middle class and college-age respondents are optimistic about their long term economic future and that of the country, yet are deeply pessimistic about the state of politics and political parties.

On September 28, a month after Hazare ended his fast, a group of Hazare volunteers gathered around Rishikesh Sharma, a lawyer, as he pointed across Parliament Street at New Delhi police station. They were preparing to march onto the station grou-nds and ask officers to sign pledges refusing to accept bribes. The station house protest was one of the events organised in recent weeks to keep the Hazare movement energised and the middle class engaged.

In past month, Hazare team had waded into certain parliamentary races as part of a campaign to press the Congress on passage of a final Lokpal bill — even as it has struggled with internal squabbling. Recently, Hazare distanced himself from Bhushan over comments he made about Kashmir. Kiren Bedi had also come under attack for her handling of airplane tickets for speaking engagements. Some critics have been suspicious because of the support given to Hazare by rightwing Hindu groups.

For now, Roy is drawn to Hazare because of his rectitude more than any ideological kinship. Roy’s group has made a personal pledge to no longer pay bribes.

Anna should be grateful to RSS

Continuing his tirade against Gandhian Anna Hazare and his team members, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh on Sunday made a tongue-in-cheek remark by branding the anti-graft crusader “ungrateful” for not giving credit to the RSS despite getting support from the saffron outfit.

In his latest post on the micro-blogging site Twitter, Mr Singh said, “Baba Ramdev is being more honest about the support of RSS to his campaign. Haven’t understood why Anna is denying. Ungrateful?”
Later talking to reporters, Mr Singh reiterated his accusation that Mr Hazare has total support of the RSS. “Baba Ramdev has accepted that Anna was aware of this (RSS support), so Anna should also accept this,” he added.

When asked what made him to believe that Mr Hazare is “ungrateful” Mr Singh alleged: “Anna has total support of the RSS, then why does not he accept that.”

On Baba Ramdev’s allegations that government is not serious about bringing back black money, the Congress leader said, “First he should explain where did he get the... money from.”

On Saturday, Mr Singh had launched a frontal attack on spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar.
for releasing a book written by BJP president Nitin Gadkari. He had also charged that the BJP’s support to key Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal in his spat with Swami Agnivesh proved him right that the BJP and the RSS were supporting Mr Kejriwal.
Team-a strong, no one can break it: anna
Mumbai, OCT. 30
Clearing the air over allegations of cracks in the team, Gandhian Anna Hazare on Sunday said, “Team Anna is very strong and nobody can break it. Some persons in the Congress are trying to malign the image of our team members. By slinging mud on few people, there will be no impact whatsoever on this people’s agitation. The fight of the team will continue until the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed.”

Commenting about the Hisar bypolls, Mr Hazare stated that the Congress party is worried about the results. He further stated that the movement in Hisar was done to show the Congress that if the Jan Lokpal Bill would not be passed in the coming Winter Session, people would continue to vent their anger in a similar manner. He said the Congress should complete its responsibilities as they are ruling in the Centre or else he would tour the five states where polls are to be conducted after the Winter Session.

He stated that there are misconceptions regarding the money spent and the donations procured for people’s agitation. “From the total donation money, we received `40 lakh from unrecognised sources through bank transactions. We asked the bank to return the money.”

We stopped collecting donations after the Ramlila agitation. All these things point out that the agitation is not for minting money.

Khanduri cabinet clears way for tough Lokayukta

In the hill state of Uttarakhand, the newly appointed chief minister, Major General (retd) Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri is gearing up to subject himself and all ministers to perhaps the most stringent Lokayukta in the country.

The state cabinet cleared the new Lokayukta Bill on Saturday and an emergency session of the Uttarakhand assembly has been convened on October 31 and November 1 to pass the Bill.

With the unstated purpose of air- brushing the BJP's image, soiled by his predecessor Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank who left a trail of scams in his wake, the new CM has set out to constitute a strong Lokayukta on the lines of Anna Hazare's Lokpal Bill.

Uttarakhand already has a Lokayukta but it is stripped of any real powers.

The new Bill proposes to bring all public servants, irrespective of their rank/ position, within the ambit of the Lokayukta. This is in line with the Lokpal Bill floated by Team Anna. The central government version of the bill covers only Group A officers.

According to the draft approved by the state cabinet, the chief minister will be within the ambit of the Lokayukta. This is in line with the Lokpal Bill, which seeks to bring the Prime Minister within the Lokpal's ambit. The central government bill has kept the Prime Minister outside the Lokpal's purview.

To provide for a strong watchdog, Khanduri held negotiations with Hazare's team early this month and is now ready with a Bill that includes the chief minister and his office under its purview.

The Bill cleared by the cabinet also includes the lower bureaucracy, a provision strongly contested by the central government in its negotiations with the Hazare team.

Khanduri has also given the go-ahead for the implementation of a citizen's charter in the hill state. Now, it is possible to obtain a ration card within 10 days, cast certificate in 15 days and learner's driving license in five days in Uttarakhand.

A notification to this effect was issued in Dehradun on Friday. Ten departments have been selected for the citizen's charter. These departments will provide time- bound service to citizens.

Food and civil supply, health and family welfare, water supply, school education, transportation, revenue, home, housing, etc. are all now under the citizen's charter.

"Now, the common man won't have to make repeated rounds of government offices. The public can obtain service within a time frame. This will also bring greater transparency in the functioning of the government," Khanduri said.

Justice Santosh Hegde says 'I am against political campaigning'

Mumbai, Oct 30 (ANI): Former Justice Santosh Hegde, close associate of India's anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare, on Saturday expressed dissatisfaction over the political campaigning by the other associates of Team Anna.

Hegde said that political campaigning is not the agenda of the movement and is he is completely against it.

"I am against political campaigning. I do not think that is the agenda Anna Hazare has. Anna Hazare's agenda as of now which I know is that for the present is purely constituting a strong Lokpal bill and Lokpal institution. After this may be there are electoral reforms and other things are there in his agenda but right now political campaigning according to me is not there," he said.

The political campaigning done by Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi in a by-poll recently had led to intense 'war of words' between the UPA government and Team Anna, with both sides routinely criticizing one other on a range of issues.

Hedge further said that he supported Hazare only because of his fight to bring an effective Lokpal (Ombudsman) in the country.

"I am with Anna Hazare for only two reasons, one is passing of a strong Lokpal bill and the other is the fight against corruption. I am not in other things," he said.

Of late, certain individuals, political leaders and media reports levelled allegations of corruption on key members and 'faces' of the movement, Kejriwal and Bedi.

The enactment of Lokpal Bill by the central parliament is seen as a weapon to root out corruption and nepotism from the government machinery and in public life.

The proposed Bill envisages the setting up of a national anti-corruption watchdog to check financial mismanagement and corrupt practices that have deeply pervaded several democratic and civic institutions of India.

Hazare and his aides representing the civil society have now stepped up their efforts and are exerting increased pressure on Congress party for the passage of the Lokpal Bill in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Congress trying to topple campaign against corruption: CP Thakur

Bihar BJP president and Rajya Sabha member C P Thakur today accused the Congress of trying to topple the campaign against corruption in the country and appealed to the people to take pledge to end corruption on the occasion of Chhath festival.

"The Congress is virtually trying to topple the campaign and atmosphere against corruption in the country," Thakur told reporters.

He said, on the occasion of Chhath festival, "I appeal to the people of the state take a pledge to totally eradicate corruption".

"I also stress the need for a freedom struggle-like movement against corruption," he said.

"Be it Gandhian Anna Hazare or Yoga guru Ramdev, who have intensified the campaign against corruption, Congress party has always tried to lower the morale of such people," Thakur alleged.

Kejriwal to pay outstanding dues to government

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal Sunday said he will pay the dues that government has asked him to cough up for breaking a bond at the time of his resigning from the Indian Revenue Services (IRS). Kejriwal was slammed a fine of nearly Rs.9 lakh by the IRS, which said his resignation from

the department was a violation of terms and was not yet accepted by the department.
Talking to reporters in this Maharashtra village home of Anna Hazare, Kejriwal said he will take loan from his "friends" to pay back the dues.

"I will take loan from my friends," Kejriwal said replying to a question on how he will pay the dues.

The Income Tax Department has issued notice to Kejriwal asking him to pay his dues of more than Rs.9 lakh by end of October.

The department sent the first notice to Kejriwal in August asking him to pay the dues as he allegedly violated the provisions of the bond under which he went on study leave for two years.

The IT department later set a deadline of Oct 27 for Kejriwal to pay back the dues.

The activist, who was employed in the IRS, took two year's study leave on full pay in November 2000, after signing a bond to return his salary if he fails to join, resigns, or retires within three years of his study leave.

Kejriwal, however, took leave without pay for 18 months after rejoining at the end of his study leave. He later resigned from service.

The 18 month leave has been termed a violation of bond terms by the department

Team Anna to be revamped after formulating constitution

RALEGAN SIDDHI: Under allround attack over allegations of financial misconduct and demands for its disbanding, Team Anna today decided to formulate a constitution for its anti-corruption movement and revamp the core committee after that.

The decision was taken at a meeting here chaired by Anna Hazare and attended by prominent team members Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi, a day after the core committee meeting in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh decided against disbanding the present team and going for a revamp.

Hazare, in a written communication which was read out by Kejriwal at a press conference, said he did not find it right the clamour for disbanding the core committee.

"Team Anna is very strong and no one can break it. There were talks about disbanding the core committee. I don't think it is right. If we flee the ground due to some allegations, then it will erode the credibility of the movement and it is not good for the movement. Don't bother about allegations. The core committee members will unitedly face the challenges and fight back. Our fight will be on till Jan Lokpal Bill is passed. In future, a constitution will be framed for the movement... After framing the constitution, the core committee will be revamped," Hazare said.

The Constitution will have provisions on who can be the members of the core committee and working committee of the team and their character. Whoever, Hazare said, indulges in wrongdoing will be dealt with according to the constitution.

Emphasising that his movement was not against any party, Hazare claimed that the Hisar bypolls results had frightened the Congress though he does not view the winner as one who is against corruption.

Haridwar prepares for a Kumbh Mela, Anna Hazare to be present

Around five million people are set to gather in Haridwar on November 6 to November 10 to propagate the sacred "Gayatri Mantra" in an event that organizers say will rival the Kumbh Mela.

Also in attendance will be a galaxy of public figures including anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Chief Ministers Narendra Modi of Gujarat and Nitish Kumar of Bihar, and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

Already, some 40,000 volunteers of "Gayatri Parivar" have poured into this holy Hindu city from all over India - and abroad -- to set up a tented township spread over 240 acres on the banks of the Ganges.

The "Gayatri Parivar" was founded by Shriram Sharma Acharya (1911-90), who dedicated his life to popularizing "Gayatri mantra", the foremost mantra in Hinduism whose chanting is said to remove obstacles and increase wisdom and spiritual growth. The syllables of the mantra are said to positively affect all the chakras, or energy centres, in the human body.

"The aim is to spread collective consciousness, for the good of the society," explained spokesperson Divyesh Vyas, 43, a mechanical engineer who quit the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) in 1995 to embrace spirituality.

"The gathering will be an experiment of the amplification of the good things in life, of positive thought, of positive energy," Vyas told IANS. "We want people to recognize the goodness in them by chanting Gayantri mantra."

Once the event starts Nov 6, there will be an estimated 10 lakh people on any given day, taking the total attendance over the five days to 50 lakh. This would include around 2,000 foreigners and NRIs from Canada, the US, Britain, South Africa, Australia, Russia and Thailand.

"Without doubt Haridwar will see something even bigger than the Kumbh mela," added Sanjay Agarwal, a telecom entrepreneur and another key organizer.

But unlike during the Kumbh melas, which are held periodically in four places including Haridwar, no help is being sought or taken from the authorities -- except in the area of security.

Haridwar is already bustling with activity of an unusually high degree. "Our trust plans to spend about Rs.50 crore to set up 24 settlements for visitors," Agarwal added.

According to him, besides providing food, water, habitation and sanitation to the teeming mass, the organizers have set up a 100-bed makeshift hospital with modern facilities, disaster management teams, readied 24 ambulances, and even stored anti-venom vaccines to treat possible snake bites.

Also taking shape is a state of the art media centre.

And in a feat that startled the Haridwar administration, more than 800 "Gayatri Parivar" volunteers constructed an 815 feet long temporary bridge over the Ganges in just 13 days. Three similar bridges have also come up.

A gigantic kitchen is already in operation, employing about 10,000 people to provide food to the 40,000 who are already in Haridwar and the huge crowds who will pour in from early November. It functions from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where are the organizers getting the finances?

Spokesperson Vyas said money had been collected from individuals. "Some people gave away a day's salary and some a month's salary. All over the country many farmers have donated food grain."

He added: "There is no limit to the enthusiasm. Positive energy can do wonders."

Amid attacks, Team Anna members to meet Hazare

Three Team Anna members, facing attacks on various issues, will meet Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi on Sunday to apprise him about Saturday's deliberations at the Core Committee meeting which decided that there was no need for "dismantling" the team.

Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi left for Ralegan Siddhi on Saturday where Hazare is currently observing a vow of silence. They will meet him and discuss the deliberations held at the Core Committee meeting in New Delhi.

Amid allegations of financial misconduct, the Core Committee of Team Anna met but ruled out disbanding itself, saying it will not be cowed down by government's "attempts to target its members".

After the meeting, Kejriwal told reporters that he and Bhushan will be going to Ralegan Siddhi to brief Hazare about the deliberations at today's meeting.

However, Bedi later tweeted that she is also accompanying Bhushan and Kejriwal to Ralegan Siddhi.

"On our way to R Sidhi with Arvind and Prashant to meet Annaji and seek his further guidance," she tweeted.

This will be the first meeting the trio will be having with Hazare after they were enmeshed in allegations.

Kejirwal was accused of depositing donations for the Hazare agitation in a trust run by him which does not have have members of Team Anna while Bedi faced attack for overcharging her hosts by inflating travel bills.

Bhushan was attacked by right-wing activists for advocating a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Hazare came out in public to denounce Bhushan's view while he had supported Bedi and Kejriwal saying a "gang of four" in the ruling Congress had been behind the allegations.

Khanduri cabinet clears way for tough Lokayukta

In the hill state of Uttarakhand, the newly appointed chief minister, Major General (retd) Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri is gearing up to subject himself and all ministers to perhaps the most stringent Lokayukta in the country.

The state cabinet cleared the new Lokayukta Bill on Saturday and an emergency session of the Uttarakhand assembly has been convened on October 31 and November 1 to pass the Bill.

With the unstated purpose of air- brushing the BJP's image, soiled by his predecessor Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank who left a trail of scams in his wake, the new CM has set out to constitute a strong Lokayukta on the lines of Anna Hazare's Lokpal Bill.

Uttarakhand already has a Lokayukta but it is stripped of any real powers.
The new Bill proposes to bring all public servants, irrespective of their rank/ position, within the ambit of the Lokayukta. This is in line with the Lokpal Bill floated by Team Anna. The central government version of the bill covers only Group A officers.

According to the draft approved by the state cabinet, the chief minister will be within the ambit of the Lokayukta. This is in line with the Lokpal Bill, which seeks to bring the Prime Minister within the Lokpal's ambit. The central government bill has kept the Prime Minister outside the Lokpal's purview.

To provide for a strong watchdog, Khanduri held negotiations with Hazare's team early this month and is now ready with a Bill that includes the chief minister and his office under its purview.

The Bill cleared by the cabinet also includes the lower bureaucracy, a provision strongly contested by the central government in its negotiations with the Hazare team.

Khanduri has also given the go-ahead for the implementation of a citizen's charter in the hill state. Now, it is possible to obtain a ration card within 10 days, cast certificate in 15 days and learner's driving license in five days in Uttarakhand.

A notification to this effect was issued in Dehradun on Friday. Ten departments have been selected for the citizen's charter. These departments will provide time- bound service to citizens.
Food and civil supply, health and family welfare, water supply, school education, transportation, revenue, home, housing, etc. are all now under the citizen's charter.
"Now, the common man won't have to make repeated rounds of government offices. The public can obtain service within a time frame. This will also bring greater transparency in the functioning of the government," Khanduri said.

Borrowed revolutions

One of the most famous stories about the dazzling and indomitable Emma Goldman is when, at a party meeting, she was dancing wildly and a comrade attempted to restrain her by saying that her merriment was hurting the cause and betraying their posture of a serious revolutionary movement. Her response to this petty, puritanical, self-righteousness has become somewhat of a classic; apparently she responded by saying, “If I can’t dance, I am not coming to your revolution.” This is what youth and revolutions are supposed to be; pugnaciously creative and madly independent. Not in Pakistan, where they seem to be like the rest of the country; tired, bored and borrowed.

Revolutions and resistances are tough business, so here in Pakistan we have opted for the easier path of attempting to plagiarise other people’s revolutions. When the Arab Spring was in full bloom, there began talk of a similar Pakistani spring. A few of the inspired revolutionaries even attempted to have a roundabout in Gulberg, Lahore to be named ‘Tahrir Square’, conveniently ignoring that we did not have demagogues ruling over us for decades and hence had no parallel with the valiant struggles undertaken by the revolutionaries in the Arab Spring. As far as naming a roundabout ‘Tahrir Square’ is concerned, that is not only a geometric absurdity; it is also plain lazy and unimaginative. The significance of that square is not the name but rather the fact that it was a victorious battleground for millions subjugated by tyranny and repression. A monument in Lahore would not have any of these connotations.

Then, Anna Hazare became the new emblematic face of a revolution and we heard a lot of talk about whether Pakistan does or does not need Anna Hazare, about Pakistani Anna Hazares etc. The yearning for an Anna Hazare was repeatedly voiced without understanding or addressing the basic fact that it was an anti-democratic movement consumed by a ‘holier than thou’ mindset and perhaps, most significantly, that it operated in the context of local Indian politics. The stance of Anna Hazare of opposing corruption was simple to the point of being banal and hence is easy to admire for the uninitiated. Here again, the desire was of taking the template of a revolution and just filling in some of our peculiar features and, voila, we have got ourselves a ready-made, easy to use revolution.

The latest fad is the mindless mimicking of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The movement itself is probably the most potent grass-root movement to emanate from within the United States after the 1960s and 70s Woodstock era. Recently, I have seen calls for Occupy Islamabad and Occupy Lahore. Surely, they are not infuriated by the home mortgage crisis in Pakistan. They just want to take the ride and be part of a global bash, as long as it lasts. Substituting the word ‘capitalist’ with the word ‘feudal’ will not make any of these movements indigenous, home-grown Pakistani resistances.

I understand the argument that I am probably taking these particular examples a bit too seriously, since they are just the ideas of a few Pakistani, urban middle-class youth feeling productive and politically conscientious. I agree, but still one is entitled to be very disappointed at this display of cliché and plagiarism, especially by the young and energetic. Another interesting aspect is that the same youthful, would-be-Che Guevaras detest (or worse, are unaware of) almost every resistance which is native, for e.g., the Baloch struggle for justice and fairness. How about an ‘unoccupy Balochistan’ movement or ‘stop killing the Hazara’ movement?

Admittedly, it does not have the same catchy ring to it and will probably not be too popular on Facebook. Franz Fanon, in his masterpiece The Wretched of the Earth, writes about how in the first stage the colonised man will manifest aggression against his own people. While he will take any level of indignation and humiliation from the master or the policeman, at the slightest perceivably hostile glance from his brother, he will reach for his knife. It is probably our hangover with colonialism, or at least that is what I hope it is, as opposed to a general dullness.

Most of those who were teary-eyed on the demise of Steve Jobs are unable to understand the genuine grief and feeling of vacuum following the departure of Begum Nusrat Bhutto. She resisted Ziaul Haq with iron conviction, which emanated from within and which was our own special struggle in the face of a theocratic, repressive tyrant. Similarly, some people have woken up to the idea that the Gaddafi stadium should now be renamed. The bizarre logic of this is fascinating; for those who think that he was a demagogue, my question is: have they come to this realisation after witnessing his nauseating, indecent death, or do they only want monuments being named after living and thriving dictators?

My principal motivation here is not to undermine the foreign movements I quote or the learning value that they might impart — all of them have some merit, some considerably more than others — but to emphasise that the first step of a resistance is identifying the fight. We cannot have anyone else identify the battle we ought to be fighting in our stead. Revolutions essentially do not have boilerplates and the few that do are not worth the effort. The ‘Revolution for dummies’ model is condescending and insulting to those movements that we cheaply seek to replicate and, more importantly, to us. Homicidal religious fanaticism, corruption and bad governance are problems that need to be fought and fought consistently. However, as these problems have arisen from within, so will their solutions. Those who are delusional or dishonest enough to blame everything on Indian, Zionist or American conspiracies are exactly the people who will go around the world looking for answers. I would rather have the youth stop marching to a distant alien and start dancing to their own revolution.

Team Anna is splitting: Shiv Sena

Mumbai, Oct 29 The Shiv Sena on Saturday said that the core team of veteran anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare has developed a rift.

Interacting with mediapersons in Mumbai, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said that the members of the core committee of Hazare were on the verge of break-up.

“I think that team Anna is behaving like Congress party, all the members are splitting and going to form different parties and work using Anna Hazare’s name. Just like political parties break up into different A, B, C factions and function using the name of the parent party, Hazare team members are doing the same,” he said.

Raut further said that his party had warned Hazare not to be misled.

“We know that Anna Hazare is authentic and truthful, but people in your team are trying to mislead you and your movement is heading in a wrong direction, you should try and guide your people and not defend them. We pointed out these issues earlier and now they are coming true,” he said.

Govt trying to scuttle 'fight against corruption': Kiran Bedi

GHAZIABAD: Team Anna member Kiran Bedi alleged the government was trying to render "futile" their fight against corruption as the core committee met on Saturday with several main members like N Santosh Hegde, Medha Patkar and Anna Hazare himself absent and demands being made for a new panel to be set up.

Bedi, before going in for the meeting, told reporters: "The government is trying hard to make futile the attempts against corruption launched by Team Anna, but we won't let that happen and all attempts of the government will fail."

Info warriors

Four youths launched RTI Nation — a website aimed at helping people file RTI applications — in August 2009. And they have received around 2,000 applications so far

The seeds of the idea were sown at their college fest at IIT Kanpur in 2006, where Anna Hazare and his colleagues inspired a bunch of students with their fiery speeches on the power of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Today, as a civil society movement led by Team Anna sweeps the nation, these students have scripted their own sunshine story.

Immediately after passing out from the IIT two years later, Prateek Kumar joined a multinational company in Mumbai. The pressures of corporate life were not a deterrent for Kumar and others who wanted to do something tangible with their inspiration. On August 15, 2009, he along with his friends Rahul Gupta, Prashant Gupta and Rasaal Dwivedi — all in their early 20s — launched their website, RTI Nation.

The portal ventured into the until-then unexplored territory of using the Internet to file RTI applications. Applicants fill a basic form on the website mentioning their query and the team fleshes it out into a detailed application asking the right question to the authority concerned. The response has been overwhelming, with the website having received around 2,000 applications till date which the foursome juggle skillfully along with their regular jobs.

“Rahul created the simple interface for the website, after which we rented a small office space and hired a couple of employees to help with the application process,” Kumar says. A nominal online payment of Rs 150 is charged per application. “The money just about helps us to break even as it is used for paying the employees, the office rent and the rest is ploughed back into the venture.”

Applications pour in from all over the country and sometimes even from citizens based abroad. A majority of applicants turn to RTI Nation as a last resort when their attempts to get a passport or driving licence issued, income tax refund or provident fund transferred get stonewalled.

Prashant Gupta says in most cases, the passport is issued or the PF claim addressed within days of filing the RTI. “Officials find it easier to do the work than explain that they have been evading it due to sheer lethargy or in the hope that their palms will eventually be greased... Such applications demanding reasons for delays mostly go unanswered. So technically that RTI application counts as a failure, but at least the work gets done.”

Their website is full of testimonials from relieved applicants, one who got three passports issued under tatkal within days or a student who got his exam papers rechecked all through RTI. Another applicant got a prompt call from RTO officials asking him to come and pick up his driving licence that was pending for two years. “It’s not only the successful applicants but former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah himself has written to us appreciating our efforts,” Gupta says.

Plea against Hazare: Court asks what offence has he committed

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court hearing a plea for lodging a criminal case against Anna Hazare and his associates for allegedly instigating people against the government during their anti-graft campaign today sought to know from the complainant as to what offence was committed by them.

Unimpressed by Haryana native Satbir Singh's plea for registration of a First Information Report against Hazare, Metropolitan Magistrate Tyagita Singh asked him to first explain as to what criminal offence had been committed by them.

Agreeing with the Delhi police argument that complainant had no case whatsoever, the court remarked, "No personal vendetta is required for bringing criminal law into force."

On complainant Singh's repeated accusation that Hazare's provocative speeches led youths to participate in his anti-graft hunger strike at Ramlila Maidan and resulted in the death of a young protester, the court said the supporters had come to join the campaign on their own.

Singh, in his complaint, had alleged that 21-year-old Sandeep had participated in Hazare's hunger strike and died of pneumonia, holding Team Anna responsible for it.

He has also accused Hazare of instigating people across the country to lay a siege of the houses of Members of Parliament and ministers to press their demands.

The police, in its reply, filed earlier before the court, had said no case is made out against Hazare and his team.

Dalai Lama supports Hazare's movement

DEHRADUN: Supporting Anna Hazare's anti-graft movement, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama  today said corruption is also a form of violence.

"Yes.... Corruption is a very very serious problem.... It is also a form of violence where people try to realise their wrong dreams," the Dalai Lama said at a function marking the 76th founders day of the Doon School here.

He was asked by a student whether he supported Hazare's movement against corruption.

The Nobel laureate also said that "some countries like China don't care about corruption and moral values".

He also asked people to follow Gandhian principles of non-violence and honesty in order to make India more vibrant and rich.

Unease in Team Anna,Hazare hints at revamp

NEW DELHI, 28 OCT: Anna Hazare today hinted at expansion of his Core Committee as a sense of unease gripped his team over allegations of financial misconduct by some of its key members.

The core committee of Team Anna will be expanded soon, journalist Raju Parulekar, who is Mr Hazare's official blogger, said as two key member Ms Medha Patkar and Mr Kumar Vishwas demanded “overhaul” of the Core Committee.

He, however, declined to go into details of when and how the revamp will take place. The thinking on reconstituting the team comes ahead of the crucial meeting of the Core Committee in nearby Ghaziabad tomorrow which will not be attended by Mr Hazare, who is on a vow of silence from 16 October.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of a series of allegations against key members like Mr Kejriwal and Mrs Bedi as well as resignation of two prominent activists Mr Rajinder Singh and Mr PV Rajagopal citing the political turn taken by Hazare's anti-corruption movement.

Parulekar also said Mr Hazare is contemplating forming a pan-India apolitical organisation to achieve his objective of a change in whole electoral system. “The new outfit would aim at not playing the game of election but to change the rule of the game of election,” Parulekar said adding “it will be an apolitical organisation.”
Though Ms Patkar and Mr Vishwas did not criticise Mrs Kiran Bedi and Mr Arvind Kejriwal, who are facing flak over the running of their NGOs and their financial integrity being questioned, they have referred to the allegations faced by the Core Committee members.

“I don't think there is a difference of opinion. The only thing is a bit of overhauling is certainly becoming necessary because there are a number of allegations and Core Committee members are being targeted,” Ms Patkar, who will not be attending tomorrow's meeting due to prior engagement, said. Another prominent member Mr Santosh Hegde will also not attend the meeting.

Mr Vishwas shot off a letter to Mr Hazare demanding suspension of the Core Committee and sought its expansion to make it more representative against the backdrop of Congress leaders targeting it.
“Such attacks (against Team Anna members) and the subsequent clarifications will strengthen the conspiracy to divert the attention from the key issues...I request you to give greater representation to the Core Committee consisting of limited members and turn it into a hard-core committee comprising of 121 crore people.
“I once again urge you to suspend the present Core Committee and create a new system to enable us to see a corruption-free new India,” Mr Vishwas, a lecturer-poet, said. He said the leaders of the ruling party were targeting Mr Hazare and each member of the Core Committee and trying to tarnish their public image and credibility.

In a veiled attack on key Team Anna members, Mr Hegde said: “Anna's strength does not lies in core committee or the people's honesty in the core committee”. However, he cited a prior commitment in Mumbai for not attending the meet and said there were no differences.

Meanwhile Mr Rajinder Singh, who quit Team Anna due to differences over its political approach, alleged that Anna Hazare deviated from his objective by supporting a “corrupt” candidate in Hisar bypoll and that his team is full of “arrogant” people.

Mr Singh also attacked Mrs Kiran Bedi and Mr Arvind Kejriwal, alleging they were the “most arrogant” members of Team Anna. Being former bureaucrats they are in the habit of throwing their weight about and imposing themselves on others, he alleged.

Lawyer Mr Prashant Bhushan, another member, also triggered a controversy by advocating plebiscite in Kashmir, evoking strong opposition from Mr Hazare and other team members.

Anna and Mahatma

The mocking of lawyer-politicians by Anna Hazare and his team has transformed into a snubbing of the process of law. How would Gandhi have responded?

In the past week, leaders of India against Corruption have responded to charges of wrongdoing with characteristic belligerence. “Punish us if we are corrupt,” Arvind Kejriwal has said, “… But first pass the Jan Lok Pal Bill. We have not done anything wrong. People are with us.” On his blog, Anna Hazare writes: “Every member of ‘Team Anna’ had to face accusations and character assassination by the ‘gang of four’. Who are these people? Those are the very same people who are not in favour of Jan Lok Pal Bill.”

The word ‘conspiracy’ has been thrown about. It links, in the perception of IAC, three episodes. First, some months ago the Bhushans, father and son, were accused of accepting land from the Government of Uttar Pradesh under a scheme that used subjective, discretionary criteria. Second, Mr Kejriwal got a tax notice in reference to money he allegedly owed the Government and had — as per the income tax authorities — not paid before he resigned from Government service. Third, Ms Kiran Bedi was revealed as having inflated air bills and overcharged admittedly private organisations.

Strictly speaking, the Bhushan and Bedi cases are not illegal. The legality or otherwise of Mr Kejriwal’s case is still in contention. However, there is a question of morality hanging over all three instances.

Mr Hazare and his supporters, however, see it otherwise. In their view, this is part of a sophisticated operation on the part of the Government — one that marries filibustering with dirty tricks and has been evident since the early days of the Jan Lok Pal Bill agitation. No Government is innocent, and certainly the UPA isn’t. However, it is noteworthy how the Hazare team members have painted their position as one of artless, simple people, embodiments of folksy wisdom, up against a clever, calculating machine.

One doesn’t know who the ‘gang of four’ reference is to but it almost certainly includes two senior Ministers who also happen to be lawyers. Mr Hazare and his group have been particularly vehement in presenting themselves as people of conviction, different from the sorcery and wordplay of lawyer-politicians.

They have done this by adopting Gandhian tactics, semiotics and symbolism. It is some coincidence then that the man they have chosen as their inspiration — the Mahatma — remains India’s most celebrated lawyer-politician.

So was Gandhi folksy and frank or was he a shrewd lawyer? Typically, he could be both.

For better or worse, Gandhi was sold not on the letter of a new law but the spirit of a new awakening. It is sobering to recall that his Dandi March led to no legislation change. The iniquitous Salt Laws were repealed only by Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim Government in 1946. Having made his point, Gandhi had moved on. He hadn’t marched again and again for the same cause and was conscious of not allowing himself to be straitjacketed by one issue, one law, one blockbuster ‘solution’.

On his part, Mr Hazare arrived in New Delhi and presented himself as the uncluttered mind from the ‘real’ India, coming to a power-intoxicated, venal capital city to make a straightforward demand: End corruption, stop oppression, dis-empower the native colonialists — the term he used was “Kaale Angrez” or Black English — and accept the draft of a Bill prepared by the ‘people’ and therefore, ipso facto, superior to any legislation that could be drafted by allegedly discredited politicians in an allegedly compromised Parliament.

It didn’t stop there. The mocking of some lawyers (who happened to be politicians) was quickly transformed into a snubbing of the process of law. The contention that Parliament’s sovereignty and the timetable of parliamentary democracy needed to be respected was disparaged as pettifogging and as thrusting legal trivialities to thwart a popular upsurge.

How would Gandhi have taken this? He had the capacity as few others to switch seamlessly from the proverbial big picture to the sub-clauses of legal minutiae.

In The Last Days of the British Raj, Leonard Moseley recounts a spell-binding exchange between Archibald Wavell, then Viceroy of India, and (like Hazare) seeing himself as a simple-minded, straight-forward old soldier, and Gandhi and Nehru. On September 27, 1946, in the aftermath of the Great Calcutta Killing and with the Cabinet Mission Plan to leave India wobbly but somehow united coming under threat, the Viceroy calls the Congress’ top leadership for a now-or-never chat:

Wavell put the question frankly to Gandhi and Nehru: Will you give me the guarantee the Muslim League is asking for?

He was almost immediately plunged into the most difficult argument he had ever had with Gandhi, who chose this day to be at his most polemical. Gandhi, the Mahatma, on that evening chose to speak to Wavell purely and simply as a Congress politician.

‘Give me a simple guarantee that you  accept the Cabinet Mission Plan,’ asked Wavell.

‘We have already said that we accept it,’ replied Gandhi, ‘but we are not prepared to guarantee that we accept it in the way that the Cabinet Mission set it out. We have our own interpretations of what they propose.’

Said Wavell: ‘Even if those interpretations differ from what the Cabinet Mission intended?’

Replied Gandhi: ‘But of course. In any case, what the Cabinet Mission Plan really means is not what the Cabinet Mission thinks but what the interim Government thinks it means.’

Wavell pointed out that the interim Government’s opinion, as things were at the moment, would almost inevitably be pro-Congress and anti-Muslim League, since the League was boycotting the Government. How could it be unbiased?

Gandhi replied that he was not concerned with such bias. He was simply concerned with the legal basis of the discussion. Legally, this was a matter for the interim Government to decide. Once the interim Government was in power, such matters as the Muslim League’s ambitions and artificial anxieties could be voted upon; but not before …

Gandhi: ‘What the Cabinet Mission intended and the way we interpret what they intended may not necessarily be the same.’

‘This is lawyer’s talk,’ said Wavell. ‘Talk to me in plain English. I am a simple soldier and you confuse me with these legalistic arguments.’

Nehru: ‘We cannot help it if we are lawyers.’

F1 India- themed merchandise catches fancy of frenzied fans

NOIDA: F1-themed merchandise, ranging from t-shirts to caps, has become the latest fashion trend in the city and a constant stream of shoppers has been crowding various shops to buy the memorabilia. Interestingly, the entrepreneurs who had profited heavily from the sale of Anna Hazare merchandise are even looking to capitalize on the F1 craze. However, retailers say that they will be treading cautiously as they don't want to repeat their mistakes committed during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi .

Online retailers like have launched a new range of F1 tees in preparation of the Formula 1  Airtel Indian Grand Prix . "This is a new dawn for Indian sports as the much celebrated F1 makes a foray in India. As all fans gear up to enjoy the first such event in the country, we have received quite a few requests for t-shirts around this sport," said Kashyap Dalal, CEO, The company had previously launched a series of anti-corruption tees in support of Anna Hazare's crusade.

"We earlier sold Anna t-shirts during his campaign. We were designing the t-shirts ourselves. With F1 around the corner, we decided to capitalize on it and sell F1 t-shirts, mugs, jackets, sweatshirts and wristbands," said Shailender Rana of Impulse Marketeers, East of Kailash.

Retailers, Happily Unmarried, have launched a series of special stickers that say "What's the F1" while Party Hunterz has introduced chequered flags (for Rs 100) and balloons (for Rs 25) for F1 fans to carry to the tracks. Toy shops in the city said that sales of toy cars, especially replicas of F1 cars, have increased exponentially. "Children of all ages are coming in to buy race cars. Ferrari cars, in their brilliant red, are the most popular," said Santosh Singh, manager, Fun N Play, a toy store in Noida .

Party organizers and shops that sell themed party goodies have prepared themselves for an onslaught of customers. "Most of the official merchandise during CWG was sold only a few days before the event and we expect the same for the F1 as well. Currently, we have Ferrari model cars for sale," said Rajiv Mehra, the owner of the Party Shop in Khan Market.

Mercedes-Benz, the official automobile partners of the event, have a range of jerseys, caps and jackets available for customers on their website. Anticipating an increase in demand for F1 merchandise; caps signed by racers, t-shirts celebrating momentous victories, sweatshirts and even trainers are already available for F1 fans. "My earlier experience in China and Southeast Asia shows that once sports like F1 feature in, consumer interest also increases significantly," said Peter Honegg, CEO, Mercedes-Benz India.

Crucial Team Anna meeting tomorrow

NEW DELHI, 28 OCT: Key figures of Anna Hazare's team will meet in Ghaziabad tomorrow sans the Gandhian, who is on a vow of silence, to discuss the crisis facing the team after they were enmeshed in a series of controversies.

Besides Mr Hazare, prominent member Mr Justice Santosh Hegde is also not attending the Core Committee meeting to be held at the office of Arvind Kejriwal-headed Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) in Kaushambi in UP's Ghaziabad.

The Core Committee meeting comes against the backdrop of a series of allegations against key members like Mr Kejriwal and Mrs Kiran Bedi as well as resignation of two prominent activists Mr Rajinder Singh and Mr PV Rajagopal citing the political turn taken by Mr Hazare's anti-corruption movement.

The meeting also comes amidst a renewed attack on Mr Hazare by Congress leader Mr Digvijay Singh, who alleged that the Gandhian's anti-corruption agitation as well as that of yoga guru Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravisankar were part of an over-all plan of RSS-BJP to divert attention from right-wing terror.

Team Anna has been on the backfoot with Mrs Bedi battling charges of overcharging her hosts by inflating travel bills and Mr Kejriwal being accused of depositing donations collected for Mr Hazare agitation against corruption in PCRF as well as its anti-Congress campaign in Hisar bypolls.

Lawyer Mr Prashant Bhushan, another member, also triggered a controversy by advocating plebiscite in Kashmir, evoking strong opposition from Mr Hazare and other team members.

Mr Hazare's decision yesterday to continue his 'maun vrat', which he started on 16 October, will mean that he will not attend the Core Committee meeting when his team members were facing attacks and questions of probity.

In a veiled attack on key Team Anna members, Mr Hegde said: “Anna's strength does not lies in core committee or the people's honesty in the core committee”. However, he cited a prior commitment in Mumbai for not attending the meet.

Mr Hegde said he was also keeping a watch on the controversy surrounding Mr Kejriwal and Mrs Bedi and remarked: “It's a nice churning and 'manthan' is going on...”

Former member Mr Rajinder Singh, meanwhile, continued his attack on Team Anna saying Mr Hazare has deviated from his objective and his team is full of “arrogant people in which there is no room for good human beings”.

Describing Mrs Bedi and Mr Kejriwal as the “most arrogant members” of Team Anna, Mr Singh said being former bureaucrats they are in the habit of throwing their weight about and imposing themselves on others.
Sources in Team Anna said they will discuss all issues involving the team, including the continuance of Mr Bhushan in the team.

Mr Hazare had earlier said the Core Committee will decide on the continuance of Mr Bhushan in the team following his advocacy of plebiscite in Kashmir. The issue came to fore after the lawyer was attacked by right-wing activists in his office.

Interestingly, the Core Committee meeting is being held in Mr Kejriwal's office while last time, the meeting which took place days after the attack on Mr Bhushan, was held at his Noida residence and was chaired by his father and former law minister Mr Shanti Bhushan.

The issue also resulted in a flip flop by Mr Hazare who changed his stand on Mr Bhushan at least thrice. Initially, he said the committee will decide on Mr Bhushan's continuance, only to retract in few hours blaming media.

However, he removed the blog posting supporting Mr Bhushan soon and later gave a TV interview only to reiterate his aversion to Mr Bhushan's views on Kashmir. He followed it up with a blog posting which discussed his views on Kashmir.

Hazare to continue maun vrat

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, 27 OCT: With his team under attack and facing questions of probity, Anna Hazare today said he will extend his vow of silence as verbal communication with people is leaving him “very weak”.
His decision to continue his 'maun vrat' (vow of silence), which he started on 16 October, will mean that he will not attend the Core Committee meeting in the National Capital on Saturday which is expected to discuss controversies engulfing some of Team Anna's key members.

Mr Hazare's announcement came on a day when Congress leader Mr Digvijay Singh stepped up his offensive against the Gandhian alleging that his anti-corruption agitation as well as that of yoga guru Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravisankar were part of an over-all plan of RSS-BJP to divert attention from right-wing terror.

“My health still does not permit me to give up my 'maun vrat'. There is still some swelling on my feet and the knee troubles me a lot,” 74-year-old Mr Hazare, who is in Ralegan Siddhi which is 200 km from Mumbai, said in his blog. “Maun vrat helps me heal my body from within and outside. Verbal communication with people is an exertion for me leaving me very weak. Hence, keeping my physical condition in mind I have taken the decision to go on with maun vrat,” he said.

Team Anna has been on the backfoot with Mrs Kiran Bedi battling charges of overcharging her hosts by inflating travel bills and another team member Mr Arvind Kejriwal being accused of depositing donations collected for Hazare agitation against corruption in a trust run by him.

Lawyer Mr Prashant Bhushan also triggered a controversy by advocating plebiscite in Kashmir, evoking strong opposition from Mr Hazare and other team members.

The Core Committee meeting comes on the heels of resignation of two prominent activists Mr PV Rajagopal and Mr Rajinder Singh, apparently unhappy over the movement moving towards party politics.

Renewing his attack on Team Anna, Mr Singh said that while Ramdev and Mr Hazare were plan A and B of the Sanghj-BJP, Sri Sri Ravishankar is Plan C and asked the latter to be “wary” of the two organizations”.
Mr Singh remarked on the microblogging site Twitter “Plan A, B and C are of Sangh/BJP to divert the minds of the people from their involvement in terror activities to corruption.”

Later talking to reporters, he said that Plan A of this over-all plan has been Baba Ramdev, B is Hazare and C is Sri Sri Ravishankar.

“I hold Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji in high esteem and have done a course in the Art of Living as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2001. He should be wary of Sangh/BJP,” Mr Singh remarked.

Mr Singh said that the anti-corruption movement was part of over-all plan of RSS-BJP combine to “divert” attention from the issue of “involvement of Sangh activists in terror activities in Malegaon, Modasa, Hyderabad, Ajmersharif and Samjhauta Express.”

Reacting to the allegations, Sri Sri said: “People write so many things. I do not react to every comments. Everybody is entitled to their views.”

Hitting back at Mr Singh, BJP spokesperson Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress leader was attempting to “demonise” all those who are fighting against corruption. “I complement Digvijay Singh for his important plan of almost shameless way of demonising all those who are fighting against corruption. Good luck to him. The more he speaks, more the Congress will lose its credibility,” Mr Prasad said.

Citizens call for boycott of autorickshaws tomorrow

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Autorickshaw Commuter Association (MACA) is keeping its fingers crossed as it expecting hundreds of citizens to participate in its campaign to boycott autos this Sunday.

"We are protesting against errant drivers as well as the strong arm tactics of the auto unions. to go on indefinite strike from November 9.

You can't hold the city to ransom every time. It's high time citizens protest by boycotting autos once every month," said Parmeshwar K R, founder of MACA.

Parmeshwar added that citizens who boycott autos on Sunday should send their feedback to or on these mobile numbers: 9892720473, 9221014973. "We expect a good response as several passengers are fed up with rigged meters, rude behaviour of drivers, refusals and the flash strikes recently," he said.

MACA has even created a Facebook page.

A spokesperson from MACA said, "We will go the Gandhian way-Anna Hazare way. We are not against anybody. We are apolitical and are here for solutions. We want to send a message across to those in the auto trade."

Auto unions, however, felt it was not the correct way to protest. "If there are problems with our drivers, one can register complaints with the RTO and get the drivers punished or their licences suspended. By boycotting autos, you will only cause losses to poor drivers who live a hand-to-mouth existence in Mumbai," said a union leader. He added that every union has the right to protest and take up issues of the working class. "We are fighting for their welfare and MACA should not be objecting to this,'' he stated.

Said Mayur Hegde, a commuter, "Despite the RTO cracking the whip recently, errant drivers are back on the road.

A few weeks back, the RTO had cracked a whip and the faulty meters were replaced overnight. But the rigged meters are now back in almost every auto and we are being robbed again."

Parmeshwar said that the days fixed for each month will differ and the boycott will be increased to "two days a month" if the drivers continue to be arrogant and dishonest.

Hazare’s teams that wilted away - Former aides cite lack of ideology, dictatorial ways

Every time there’s a buzz about a split in Anna Hazare’s team, those in the Gandhian’s former circles give a knowing smile.

Some say Team Anna’s time is up. Others say, “Wait a little.” The consensus is that Anna will part ways with his “core team”, or its members will leave one by one — today, tomorrow, someday soon.

“The expression ‘Team Anna’ is a misnomer,” says Kumar Saptarshi, a socialist and former MLA who heads the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in Pune. “Anna is averse to the collective.”

Saptarshi worked closely with the Gandhian in the late 1990s to organise his anti-corruption movement. They had known each other since the 1970s when Saptarshi was MLA from Ahmednagar, and both were mentored by the late Congress minister, Balasaheb Bharde.

But, he says, when he saw that Anna picked aides arbitrarily and that his assent was needed for every appointment, “I excused myself out.”

He was neither the first nor the last. Anna’s “core team” has changed with practically every agitation since the early 1990s, when he undertook his first widely reported fast against corruption. The list of those who joined him and later drifted away has distinguished names: social activist Baba Adhao; socialists G.P. Pradhan and Govindbhai Shroff; economist H.M. Desarda.

The long-timers in the Anna camp are either “devout followers who won’t take decisions, or individuals deriving personal benefits from the movements”, said an aide who would not be quoted.

Desarda, an academic who was with Anna until his April agitation in Delhi, says he and the others had been attracted by the veteran crusader’s pro-people campaigns. “Most of us worked for a more socially equitable, alternative paradigm,” he says but adds that lasting social change has never been an objective of Anna’s movements. “It is more proprietary for him. His is not a public movement but an Anna Hazare movement.”

The common reason for the brevity of their associations, according to those who have worked with Anna in the past, is his aversion to any ideological positioning or building an institutional framework. Another reason is his alleged distrust of people who favour collective decision-making mechanisms. An Anna aide concedes: “There is no such word as ‘consultation’ in his dictionary.”

Plus, minus

Anna’s biggest strength is his simplicity. “This country loves a fakir,” says another of his associates in Anna’s home district, Ahmednagar. “He carefully projects himself as a paragon of sacrifices.”

In Ralegan, he lives in a temple, hardly ever visits his home, treats the villagers as his family, eats once a day and follows a discipline that is hard to emulate. But is he another Gandhi? “No,” says Subhash Ware, secretary of the Pune-based S.M. Joshi Socialist Centre.

“Gandhi was concerned with collective character-building and formed a team of leaders. Anna deals with corruption from case to case and doesn’t build or inspire a second-rung leadership.”

Anna is incorruptible, but tens of his volunteers in the anti-graft crusade face charges like extortion across Maharashtra. “He has been silent on that,” says an ex-aide.

Yet Anna has always received huge public support because he is exquisite with his timing, Desarda, a former Maharashtra Planning Board member, says.

When the state was reeling under drought, Anna backed the watershed development movement; when the country was discussing decentralisation, he led a campaign for power to the panchayats. In the past decade, it was the RTI campaign. Now, it is corruption and poll reforms at a time of gigantic scams.

Fog and flip-flops

Desarda spells out one of Anna’s key limitations: “His heart is in the right place, but you need a head to give it direction.”

The lack of clear thinking means Anna has often let himself be used by politicians in their games against one another, an aide says.

In 1997-98, Anna failed to provide evidence against Shiv Sena minister Babanrao Gholap, whom he had accused of corruption. That, Sena insiders say, was because a Gholap rival had promised the necessary documents but failed to keep his word.

Gholap filed a defamation suit and a Pune court sent Anna to jail for a month, though the Sena government released him the same evening at Bal Thackeray’s instance.

In 1994, Anna attacked then chief minister Sharad Pawar for alleged graft but later withdrew his allegations, recalls his supporter Ashok Sabban of the Bhrashtachaar Virodhi Jan Andolan Samiti in Ahmednagar.

Such flip-flops are usual with Anna, the critics says. A few months ago, Anna had praised Narendra Modi only to retract. In 2009, he praised a Pune MP, Gajanan Babar, but later withdrew his remarks.

Quick partings

In the early 1990s, Anna had no organisational or institutional backing but kept attracting supporters. Among the first of them was Shirubhau Limaye, a socialist leader and former freedom fighter in Pune.

Limaye, elder brother of the late Janata Party leader Madhu Limaye, headed a broad-based anti-corruption movement, the Bhrashtachaar Virodhi Dakshata Samiti. He backed Anna’s 1994 campaign against Pawar. Soon, Anna overhauled Limaye’s organisation and renamed it the Bhrashtachaar Virodhi Jan Andolan Samiti.

After Limaye’s death, Anna founded a trust, the Bhrashtachaar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas, that superseded the Samiti.

A wave of other activists — such as G.P. Pradhan, Adhao and veteran Gandhian and environmentalist Mohan Dharia — joined him, only to fall out with him silently.

“He has no vested agenda but his style is dictatorial,” says the 84-year-old Adhao, whose work in the unorganised sector over the past six decades has been colossal.

Adhao recalls how Anna wound up the Pune office of the anti-corruption campaign in his absence and moved back to Ralegan without giving him any prior notice.

“We had trained workers in the legal and constitutional aspects, but one fine day, Anna told me the earlier unorganised set-up was better,” he says. Anna was on his own again, having dissolved the network. Adhao has since not met him.

Once Anna parts with someone, he never patches up, a close aide says. But anyone who touches his feet wins his trust — for the time being. “You win his heart when you touch his feet.”