Back in April, when Anna Hazare talked about his campaign of Corruption Bharat Chhodo movement, it seemed a clumsy attempt to re-stage a bit of swadesi theatre. However, transforming the protest for Lokpal bill into a phenomenon was only possible by this 74 year old man.
Anna Hazare gave a second life to the Jan Lokpal bill, introduced in 1969, which had failed to become a law for nearly over four decades. ‘The last Gandhian standing’ turned the bill from just a legislative chore into a vehicle of social movement.
A former soldier in the Indian army, Anna Hazare is one of India's well-acclaimed social activists. Anna is well known and respected for upgrading the ecology and economy of the village of Ralegan Siddhi, located in the drought prone Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra state, metamorphosing it into a unique model of rural development.
From a tenacious soldier to a social reformer, and a right to information crusader, the four decades journey of Kisan Baburao Hazare, who became popular as Anna Hazare, has witnessed his efforts in trying to empower the faceless citizen through his pioneering work on Right to Information.
Fasting is not new to this revolutionary; Anna in each step of his life has gone on to protest against the wrong doings of the authorities. In 1991, he started a new venture called Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) or public movement against corruption in a protest against 42 forest officers who had duped the state government for crores of rupees through corruption in confederacy. However, the government chose not to take action against the officers involved in the scam. Anna did not stop. He returned both his Padmashree Award and Vriksha Mitra Award to the government that was given to him for his contribution to development.
He further went on an indefinite hunger strike in Alandi on the same issue. Hazare’s sustained campaign on this issue had a great effect - six of the ministers were forced to resign and more than 400 officers from different government offices were sent back to home.
When Hazare realized that it was not enough to merely take action against fraudulent ministers or officers but to change the entire system that was studded with loopholes, he campaigned for the Right to Information Act.
He first agitated in the historical Azad Maidan in Mumbai in 1997 regarding the issue. However, since the government turned deaf ears to it, he went on an indefinite hunger strike again at Azad Maidan in the last week of July 2003. At last, the President of India signed the draft of the Right to Information Act after his 12-day-long hunger strike and ordered the state government to implement it with effect from 2002.
Terming his movement as ‘the second freedom struggle’, Hazare has been able to gather thousands of supporters across the country, making the protest ripples turn into waves.
Anna’s message of anti-corruption has been successful in triggering widespread passionate action not just in the country but throughout the world.