Anna Hazare is a well known and respected social activist of India. He has led various movements in order to promote rural development, increase government transparency and eradicate official corruption. He has adapted the method of Gandhism of hunger strike to pass the anti-corruption law of The Lokpal Bill in 2011. He has awarded with the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1992. He was named among the top 100 global thinkers by the Foreign Policy Magazine in 2011.
Early Life & Background
Anna Hazaar was born was as Kisan Baburao Hazare on 15th June 1937 in Bhingar, near Ahmednagar. His father use to work in pharmacy. He has two sisters and four brothers and as Kisan was the eldest son, he was called Anna.
Later, Anna’s family moved to Ralegan Siddhi from Bhingar. Soon Anna moved to Mumbai for the education, however, his family was unable to support Anna due to financial problems and thus, he left the school during 7th grade. He then started selling flowers at Dadar Station and then opened his own flowers shops in Mumbai.
During the Indo-China War of 1962, Anna was attested as a soldier after undertaking the training at Aurangabad. Anna did not meet the physical requirements but due to emergency recruitment of soldiers, he was drafted to the war.
Later during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Anna was posted at the border in the Khem Karan sector. He was the sole survivor of an enemy attack. During the mid 1970s, Anna survived a road crash while driving for the army.
After the Indo-Pakistan war, Anna was badly affected by the experiences of war and the poverty. At some point Anna considered committing suicide but then he decided to dedicate his new life to the well being of people. He started reading the works of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave.
Later when Pakistan claimed about Kashmir, Anna said that Kashmir is an integral part of India and if required he would once again take a part in a war against Pakistan.
In Ralegan Siddhi, though villagers owned their own land but the cultivation on it was difficult due to rocky ground. More to that, trees were cut down in these region causing erosion and droughts. It also led to various diseases. Meanwhile, the economy of the village fallen down and crime, violence and illegal acts like sale of alcohol increased in the village. Those who borrowed money from moneylenders to survive paid 10% of interest rates. Anna who has got his perks from his army service, used those money for the welfare of the village. Some of the other people also joined Anna and provided small financial donations. While some youth people, participated in the work of welfare. He formed the youth group ‘Tarun Mandal’ and take up the issue of alcoholism to drive a process of reform and the liquor shops were closed down and ban was input on alcohol in the village. Tarun Mandal used to trash drunkards and even to those who didn’t close the liquor shops in the village. In 2009 on the request of Anna, the State Government of India passed the Bombay Prohibition Act 1949 for the prohibition of alcohol. Later, it was decided to ban tobacco, cigarettes and harmful smoking products in the village. During one of the Holi festival, villagers got all the tobacco products from the various shops and burned it in Holi.
Earlier Ralegan Siddhi only had school which provided only primary education and even the literacy rate was too low in the village. Anna and the Tarun Mandal started pre-school in 1976 and high school in 1979. They also formed a Charitable Trust named as Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal in 1979. Anna even contributed in the removal of untochability and the caste discrimination. He made the Dalits involved in social and economic life of the village. With the help of the upper caster villagers, Anna helped Dalits to repay their loans and also build houses for them. Anna along with Tarun Mandal started the process of Collective Marriages in Ralegan Siddhi. Tarun Mandal took the responsibility of cooking and serving the food along with making the arrangements of loudspeakers, mandap (marriage tents) and decorations. They conducted approximately 424 marriages from 1976-1986.
In 1980, Anna started the Grain Bank movement, in which he used to collect the quintal from the wealthy farmers and use to provide food security to poor farmers during the period of drought. Then he started the Watershed development program at Ralega Siddhi, where he persuaded villagers to construct a watershed embankment. The reason of the program was to increase the ground water level and to improve the irrigation in the area. The program banned the cultivation of sugar-canes as it required more quantity of water and started growing pulses and cash crops. It also increased the growth of irrigated land.
Since 1975, Anna has successfully conducted this program in more than 70 villages of Maharashtra. He also endorsed the milk production as a secondary occupation in Ralegan Siddhi, were with the help of artificial insemination and veterinary surgeon he tired to improved the cattle stock to increase the milk production. Between 1998 to 2006, Anna held the campaigned for amending the Gram Sabha Act which provides right to all the villagers to make a collective decision about village’s development. Initially the State Government refused the proposal but later made it legal.
Protests in Maharashtra:
In 1991, Anna started a Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan movement to fight against the corruption in Ralegaon Siddhi. He also protested against the collusion between forest officers and timber merchants, resulting into the suspension of these officers.
In May 1997, he also protested against the Governor P.C. Alexander for the malpractice in the purchase of powerlooms. In September 1998, Anna was arrested for the charge of corruption. He was imprisoned in Yerawada Jail Mumbai for almost three months. Later, due to public protest and political support, Anna was released from the prison.
In 2003, Anna protested against some NCP ministers for corruption. He declared the fast unto death on 9th August 2003. He ended his fast on 17th August 2003, when then chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde started the investigation of these case. Two of the NCP ministers resigned from the cabinet in March 2005.
Anna has also led a movement to enact a revised Maharashtra Right of Information in Maharashtra in 2000. When Union Cabinet amended to exclude the Act, Anna began his fast unto death in August 2006. He ended his fast in 10 days after the government agreed to change their decision.
During 2006, Anna led a movement against government to pass the Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act 2006. The Act provided action against officials who moves files slowly and for those who are involved in a corruption. Maharashtra was the first state to introduce this act.
Protest for India:
In April 2011, Anna began his fast at Jantar Mantar Delhi after his demand to form a joint committee of the representatives of the Government and the civil society to draft a stronger anti-corruption bill with stronger penal actions and more independence to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas was rejected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This news of Anna spread as fire through media and thousands of supporters joined Anna’s campaign. Many social activist, spiritual leaders and celebrities joined him. The protest spread throughout India and finally Government accepted Anna’s demand. It accepted the joint committee consisting of five nominee ministers of the Indian Government and five non-politician nominees including Anna Hazare. Later, the Union cabinet approved a draft of the Lokpal Bill but not in a much favor of common man. Anna rejected this bill by describing it as ‘cruel joke’ and decided to begin an indefinite fast. Within twenty four hours, Government started receiving thousands of faxes demanding for a stronger bill.
Anna was arrested four hours before the hunger strike for illegally gathering crowd in a Delhi park. Later, Anna refused the bail and was dispatched to Tihar Jail for seven days. Thousands of people marched from India Gate to Jantar Mantar in support of Anna. Meanwhile, Anna continued his fast in jail. Later, Government allowed him permission of hunger strike and on 20th August 2011 at Ramila Maidan Delhi, Anna initiated a satyagraha movement for passing a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in the Indian Parliament. Thousands of people came to show their support for Hazare. He ended his fast when Lokpal Bill was passed on 28th August 2011. Later, he was admitted to Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon.
In 2011 Anna demanded for the option of ‘None Of The Above’ in the electronic voting machines during the elections. ‘None Of The Above’ stated that if a person is unhappy about all the candidates then he can reject his vote. This demand was supported by Chief Election Commissioner of India Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi. He had also stood up against Government decision for making alcohol from food grains. When some of the State Ministers opposed him, he began fasting at Shirdi due to which Government promised to review the policy. But later court refused to hear the suit and the law was cancelled.
Anna Hazare is unmarried who lives in a Sant Yadavbaba temple in Ralegan Siddhi. He has donated his land for village use which he has got by the Indian Amry.