Mumbaikars throng to pledge support for Hazare fast

Dabbawalas' association will strike work on Aug 16 in support


Geetanjali Minhas | August 10, 2011

Thousands of supporters gathered at Azad Maidan on Tuesday pledging support to 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s fast scheduled to start August 16 protesting the government’s lokpal bill. Hazare and activist Arvind Kejriwal addressed a gathering at the packed venue which was preceded by press briefings at the nearby Marathi Patrakar Sangh and Press Club.

“The government’s intentions are not honest. Since last one week, it has dilly-dallied on giving us a venue for fasting. If it is denied to us we will go to jail and continue our peaceful fast there. We  are ready to face death”  Hazare said, and urged citizens to support his anti-corruption fast for one week by hitting the streets and taking leave from work from August 16.

To mark support and protest, Kejriwal requested citizens to switch off their lights between 8-9 pm on August 15. “The government can impose curfew on Jantar  Mantar, it cannot impose a curfew in the entire country” he said.

Condemning the bill drafted by the government, Kejriwal said the government lokpal bill is a mockery. It is a "black bill" and not acceptable to citizens. “Why have prime minster, judiciary and parliament been kept outside the purview of Lokpal? Why does the government expect us to compromise on corruption when like rape and murder corruption  it too is a crime? he asked.

The civil society advocated the inclusion of 71 points in lokpal bill in the joint drafting committee meetings of which the government refused to admit 9-10 points.

“Government should withdraw the bill or bring out  a fresh bill with our demands or bring out the amended bill so that a debate can be held in parliament on the bill. We will appeal to the standing committee on Wednesday to reject this bill and present a bill with our demands” he said.

“My  records in the army are being checked  and people are being sent to my village in Ralegan Siddhi to check on my organisation and find out something controversial. What will they find when I have no bank balance, have one plate to eat and live in a temple. They (government) filed 12 cases against me. I am ready to face another one dozen cases,” Hazare said.

“For the last twenty years, I have been fighting corruption and went to jail many times," he said, asserting that his team of activists were gearing up to court arrest if the fast was impeded.

“I fought for ten years for the right to information before it became an act. Now, jan lokpal bill will take the right to information further. But the government is not honest and does not want to implement it” Hazare  told the audience.

Commenting on the number of youth at the pledge meeting, Hazare said it was a welcome sign that the youth found the anti-corruption fight a dear cause.

Over 80 associations and unions including the Mumbai tiffin box suppliers (dabbawallas') association, and metalworkers and cine employees unions have pledged their support to Hazare's campaign.

"Every day, our two lakh 'dabbawalas' deliver two lakh tiffins to our customers. For the first time in 120 years, our association will strike work to join the protest. We will be requesting our customers to  support us by avoiding the tiffin service on the 16th (sic)" said Sopan Laxman More,president of the  Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association.

The crowd later marched in a torch rally with Hazare and Kejriwal to the historic August Kranti Maidan where Mahatma Gandhi had launched the Quit India Movement on August 9, 1942.     



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