Social activist Anna Hazare began an indefinite hunger strike in New Delhi on Friday demanding for a Lokpal.
Hazare hit out at the government’s “sly attitude” and accused it of cancelling trains carrying protestors to New Delhi, The Times of India reported. “Thousands of people are coming,” Hazare told the crowd that gathered at Ramlila Maidan. “How can a government make its poor people suffer. Is this democracy?”
Hazare took a dig at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was a prominent member of his team during the protests in 2011, while introducing Justice (retired) Santosh Hegde. “He [Hegde] is from our original team,” the social activist said. “Many people from that team broke away and have become mantri [minister], mukhyamantri [chief minister], but he is still with us.”
Hazare’s anti-corruption movement in 2011 saw millions of Indians participating, and shook the then United Progressive Alliance government. He will protest at the Ramleela Maidan from where he held his 2011 hunger strike demanding that the government sets up the anti-corruption ombudsman.
This time, Anna Hazare said he was protesting as dozens of his letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone unanswered.
Hazare has been demanding that the government sets up a Lokpal for the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states. He has also asked for the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report, which suggests relief measures for the agrarian distress mainly in central India, PTI reported. In November, Hazare announced his plans to relaunch the agitation. He had said earlier that it will be a “never-seen-before kind of massive agitation”.
March 23 was chosen for the protests as it was the day Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged by the British in 1931, an unidentified aide of Anna Hazare said on Friday. Anna Hazare will first visit Rajghat, before marching to the Ramleela grounds, reports said.
The Delhi Traffic Police has issued an advisory asking commuters to avoid routes towards Aruna Asaf Ali Road, Delhi Gate, Darya Ganj, New Delhi Railway Station, Ajmeri Gate, Paharganj, ITO, Rajghat, Minto Road, Vivekanand Marg, and JLN Marg.
The Lokpal Bill
Anna Hazare first went on a hunger strike to demand the anti-corruption ombudsman in 2011, during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance government. The 12-day strike was followed by another one in 2012, after which the government passed the Lokpal Bill.
Some of the main organisers of the first anti-corruption movement later formed the Aam Aadmi Party.
In April 2017, the Supreme Court had criticised the government for the delay in the implementation of the Lokpal legislation. It had said the legislation passed to appoint the Lokpal was a workable one, and there was no need for the Centre to keep its implementation pending.