Updated: January 30, 2019 12:39:23 pm
With the Supreme Court last week asking a search committee to suggest by February-end a panel of names for appointment of the country’s first Lokpal, the focus is back on anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who has begun a fast on Wednesday at his village in Ralegan Siddhi over non-implementation of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act.
The timing of Hazare’s protest, just three months before the Lok Sabha elections, assumes significance as it is widely believed that agitation helped in toppling the UPA government, which was facing a series of corruption allegations, even though the government passed the Lokpal Act in December 2013.
On January 1, 2014, the President gave his assent to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act. However, five years down the line, the Act is yet to be implemented and the 81-year-old social activist has issued a stern warning to the Narendra Modi government, recalling his India Against Corruption movement of 2011.
Birth of India Against Corruption movement
Even though Lokpal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008, none of these was passed. This led to a public movement for a Jan Lokpal Bill, initiated by Hazare and others such as Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal.
India Against Corruption movement gained momentum from April 2011, when Hazare began an indefinite fast at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The movement was named among the “Top 10 News Stories of 2011” by Time magazine.
Four days into his fast, the government agreed to set up a joint committee with an equal number of members from the government and civil society to draft the Lokpal Bill together.
However, Hazare was unhappy with the government version of the Bill and declared that he would begin another fast in Delhi on August 16. Hours before he was to begin his hunger strike, the Delhi Police detained and later arrested him.
Team Anna splits
However, after failing to press the government to pass the Lokpal Bill in 2011, fissures erupted in Team Anna on the issue of the outfit dabbing in politics. While Hazare was against entering mainstream politics, Kejriwal opined to join politics. Finally, Kejriwal and others formed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on November 26, 2012.
Renewed push in 2013 sees passage of Lokpal Bill
Despite holding small protests in between, Hazare made a renewed push for the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Parliament on December 10, 2013, and launched an indefinite hunger strike in his village in Ralegan Siddhi, under the banner of his new organisation “Jantantra Morcha”.
However, the bill was finally passed in the Rajya Sabha on December 17 and in the Lok Sabha a day later and Hazare broke his nine-day fast. “If there is one individual who should be given credit for this, then it is the old man who has been fasting, again and again, shaking our consciousness,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj famously said in the Parliament that day.
The Act provides for establishing a body to be called the Lokpal and headed by a chairperson, who is or has been a Chief Justice of India, or is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, or an eminent person who fulfils eligibility criteria as specified.
Hazare resumed his battle for Jan Lokpal Bill in 2018 and announced a fresh agitation from March 23. This time, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report, which has suggested ways to address the agrarian crisis, became an addition to his list of demands.
However, the activist ended his fast after six days fast at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, saying he had been assured by the government that appointments of Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states would be made soon. He gave the government six months time to come good on its assurance and warned that his protests would begin again if the demand was not met.
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