Anna Hazare revives demand for Jan Lokpal Bill at Ramlila Maidan: Farmers' grievances also part of protest

As Anna Hazare waved the tricolour on Friday from the pedestal at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, the crowd greeted him with a thunderous ‘Bharat mata ki jai,’ waving hundreds of tricolours in reciprocation.

The scene was reminiscent of the historic India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare at the same ground in the year 2011. In that movement, Anna Hazare sat on a fast for many days demanding the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Parliament. It was an agitation that shook the UPA government, and played a part in uprooting it.

On Friday, Anna Hazare began another protest at Ramlila Maidan after praying at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi.

“But there is a difference between the movements led by Anna Hazare then and now,” said a journalist who covered the 2011 agitation extensively from the first day, on the condition of anonymity.

He said that the movement in the year 2011 was mostly unorganised, and support towards it was spontaneous.

 Anna Hazare revives demand for Jan Lokpal Bill at Ramlila Maidan: Farmers grievances also part of protest

File image of Anna Hazare. PTI

“This is not the case this time around. Various organisations have not only extended support, but have also provided logistics to arrange crowds,” he added.

Significantly, nearly 25 organisations have extended moral support to the movement this time around, which has a direct bearing on the footfall at the venue.

“Last time round, there were only a bunch of people on the first day of the movement. However, this time, the Ramlila Maidan has seen more than 3,000 participants on the first day itself,” he said.

There are differences in the demands also. On the last time, the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament was the only demand. This time, farmers' issues such as loan waivers and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's report are also included in the demands.

Significantly, this time around, a huge gathering of farmers from various parts of the country has been seen from the very first day.

“We demand that all the farmers who took loans from banks should be granted a one time loan waiver and that minimum support price of farm products should be fixed at fifty percent above the expenditure incurred for production,” said Shiv Kakaji, leader of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, who has participated in the protest with thousands of supporters.

Ravender Chouhan of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Nationalist) said that though the minimum support prices for the agricultural products are fixed by the government, the private sector does not follow it as a rule.

“The major buyers of agricultural products are in the private sector. If they do not pay the minimum support price, it is of no use of us. So, we demand that anyone violating this rule should be punished,’ he said

Ajmer Singh, a farmer from the Bhind district of Punjab said that if the minimum support price is paid to farmers as per the Swaminathan Commission report, no farmer will face financial hardship.

“We are not beggars to ask for loan waivers. It is the wrong policy followed by the government regarding the minimum support price that has made us insolvent,” he said.

Significantly, the first day of the movement also saw a substantial number of youngsters at the ground.

Vikas, a Delhi resident who aspires to appear for competitive exams, said, “During the present regime, the youth and the farmers are the biggest sufferers. We were told by the present government that 2 crore jobs will be generated every year. But where are the jobs?”

He also said that the jobs which have been provided by the government are also mired in controversy.

“Take the example of exams conducted by the Staff Selection Commission. There was enough proof that the question papers of the exams were leaked. We protested demanding a CBI inquiry for 18 days, but not a single representative of the government approached us.”

He said that he shares Anna Hazare's dream of a corruption-free India. “We will have a bright future only in a corruption-free India,” he added.

Updated Date: Mar 23, 2018 20:45:54 IST