Social activist Anna Hazare on Monday said the “Rafale scam” would not have taken place if the government had appointed a Lokpal at the Centre. He announced an indefinite hunger strike from January 30 to protest against the delay in implementation of the anti-corruption law.
Hazare is considered the face of the Lokpal movement. This will be Hazare’s third hunger strike in eight years to demand a Lokpal. In 2011, he sat on a 12-day hunger strike, after which the then Congress-led government passed the Lokpal bill. In January 2014, then President Pranab Mukherjee granted assent to the law. A Lokpal has not been appointed yet.
Hazare said he felt the country was in danger of slipping towards autocracy. “If Lokpal was there, scam like Rafale would not have happened,” Hazare told reporters at a press conference, according to PTI. “I have plenty of papers on Rafale and I will hold a separate press conference after studying it for two days. One thing I do not understand is how a company formed a month ago before the deal was made partner in it.”
The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi-led government of buying overpriced jets from France, and also of helping Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence secure an offset contract under the deal after taking it away from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Hazare said he will begin his hunger strike at his village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra, and will continue until the government meets his demands. The anti-corruption activist asked his followers not to crowd Ralegan Siddhi, but hold their hunger strikes at their respective places.
Several farmer outfits from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, among other states, have said they will join the hunger strike.
He also accused the government of failing to meet his demands for farmers, including pensions, adequate price of crops and loan waivers. “In the past, the government said in writing that they will implement Lokpal law and provide pensions and 1.5 times of minimum support price to the farmers but did nothing. Now I will not have any more false assurances and continue the hunger strike till there is life in my body,” he added.
He questioned why the government had not yet followed the 2017 Supreme Court order, which had said it was not justified to keep enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments were cleared by Parliament. “Is it a government, or some bania ki dukan [provisional store],” said Hazare.