Puneities are known for being politically aware,but not often credited with actively raising their voice against injustice. This year,however,was different. Citizens,cutting across classes,took to the streets to register their views on issues ranging from the anti-graft bill to the construction of a bio-diversity park.
The Janlokpal Movement that took the country by storm also received an encouraging response in the city. An eclectic mix of IT professionals,activists,businessmen,homemakers,students and others participated in the movement,with the hope that it would help curtail corruption in the society.
The citizens,heeding Anna Hazares clarion call,staged protests,courted arrest and fasted. Even the organizers,the Pune unit of India Against Corruption,were surprised at the response of the usually reticent Puneite. We had never imagined that the movement would become so strong. Before Annaji began fasting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi,we started a signature campaign and a rally on April 3 and 4. We had decided to stage a token fast on April 5. But as the protest in Delhi grew,we started getting calls from people asking us to continue the agitation here. The number of supporters went up with each passing day, said Yatish Devdiga,a 23-year-old engineering graduate who has been a part of the movement since the beginning.
Things were no different for Rajesh Mittal,who according to the IAC volunteers,was the first along with his colleague to start the movement in the city.
Initially,when we used to approach people and request them to join the movement,they thought that we were foolish. But with increasing support to Annas fast at Jantar Mantar and the unprecedented media coverage quickly changed their mind, said Mittal.
According to IAC Pune,over 60,000 Puneites and people from the neighbouring areas joined the protest,over 250 people fasted and in one rally during Hazares Ramlila protest,over 35,000 walked the roads en masse. The Facebook page of IAC Pune has over 12,000 members and over 9,000 people receive information about the IAC through email or SMS.
The citizens also opposed the government proposal of allowing four per cent construction in bio-diversity parks and on river beds. The public uproar that followed forced the government and the Pune Municipal Corporation to drop the plan.
Had the environmental activists and citizens not agitated against the decision,the government would have gone ahead with it. The government is now aware that it cannot force its decision on people,so it will have to take us into confidence while deciding on such matters and build a consensus among the stakeholders, said Ranjit Gadgil,programme co-ordinator,Parisar.
Observers now hope that the increased awareness will translate into Puneites making informed choices in the upcoming civic polls. Vivek Velankar,convener of the Pune Nagrik Sangathan,a civil society alliance that has declared its plan to contest PMC polls,said,This awareness should translate into prudent voting. Protesting is necessary,but its not enough.