Anna Hazare group promises nationwide Lokpal agitation from August 1

India Against Corruption (IAC), the umbrella body leading the fight against the Government’s ‘toothless’ Lokpal bill, has unveiled an elaborate and ambitious agitation program for the two weeks leading up to India’s Independence day.

The highlight of the program would be distribution of pamphlets, mass burning and tearing of a copies of the Government’s version of Lokpal bill and switching off lights on the evening of Independence day for one hour.

“Anna’s fast from 16th August is our last hope. We can’t afford to fail this time. For if we fail, we may never get another chance. Its now or never,” Arvind Kejriwal, information activist, Magsaysay award winner and one of the key members of the anti-corruption movement said in a blog post IAC’s website.

The movement, lead by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare, is inspired by India’s own independence struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi from the 1920s to 1947.

Like Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare too has an spotless, impeccable reputation as an ascetic and pluralistic spiritual and political leader. Like Gandhi, the odds too are stacked against him.

Just as the former British Viceroy of India, the Marquess of Linlithgow, called Gandhi’s fast in 1943 “a form of political blackmail,” the current government too has repeatedly called Anna Hazare’s fasts blackmail.

Again, like Gandhi, Anna too seemed to have energized a till-then dormant and apolitical Indian middle class into action. Tens of thousands across the country poured out onto the roads in his support in April in the biggest mass protests the Country has seen in decades, taking even the optimists by surprise.

However, the government is loathe to be part of the creation of yet another independent power centre in the country.

As it is, it faces considerable pressure from the existing independent organizations like the Supreme Court, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) etc.. While the CAG digs out violations and financial irregularities, the Supreme Court ensures that the violators are brought to book.

Yet another anti-corruption body in the form of the Lokpal is likely to add to the Government’s discomfiture. The government is now pushing for a Lokpal which will be indirectly beholden to itself, partly to deflect criticism that it is against institution of any Lokpal at all.

However, Anna Hazare and his ‘Civil Society’ group have called for a Lokpal which will address the concerns of ordinary people.

Unlike the Government version of Lokpal, which will be a Delhi-based body concerned primarily with upper bureaucracy, the agitators want a Lokpal institution that would stretch right down to the District level.

According to their version of the Lokpal bill, there would be an office of the Lokpal in each district and any ordinary citizen who finds his work delayed by government officials can approach the office and lodge a complaint. The government, however, does not want lower level officials to be under the scrutiny of Lokpal and the August agitation is part of the Civil Society’s attempts to force the issue.

India has gained the reputation for being amongst the most corrupt countries in the World, where normal government facilities and permissions are not provided unless the officials concerned are bribed. The corruption and lawlessness is often quoted by many overseas Indians as their primary reason for leaving the country.

Pointing out that after the departure of the British, India’s progress has been held to ransom by corrupt government officials, Anna Hazare and team have called the agitation India’s second independence struggle.

“If the people take a week off from their work from 16th August and take to the streets- in front of their house, on the crossings, in parks, everywhere – with a tricolor in their hands, raise slogans against corruption – Government can crush one Anna, but it won’t be able to crush 120 crore Annas.

Government could impose section 144 on one Jantar mantar. But will it impose curfew on the whole country,” Kejriwal asked is his posting.