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Anna Hazare fasts again in Delhi, now against Modi government

Anna Hazare

NEW DELHI: Social activist Anna Hazare launched a fresh anti-corruption agitation with an indefinite fast here on Friday and vowed to continue it till the Modi government comes up with an action plan on Lokpal appointment, remunerative crop prices and election reforms.

“I have written 43 letters to the Modi government in the last four years but did not get any reply. So I have been forced to sit on an indefinite fast,” he said soon after he started his hunger strike at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan here after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

The activist, who held a major agitation in 2011 against corruption catching the imagination of Indians, said Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh and some ministers from Maharashtra met him on Thursday and gave certain assurances.

“They said the government will look into our concerns. But I said I don’t trust you. How many promises you have fulfilled so far? Nothing,” he said.

Hazare said he would hold discussions with the government during the agitation but his indefinite hunger strike, called ‘Satyagraha’, would continue “till the government comes out with a concrete action plan”.

The anti-corruption activist said the agitation had begun on March 23 — the day Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged during British rule.

“They laid down their lives not just for independence from British but for democratic rule as well. But what happened? Democracy has not been established in our country yet,” he said.

Hazare has been pressing for setting up a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states to probe corruption cases, bring in new electoral reforms and implementation of the MS Swaminathan Committee report to address the agrarian crisis in the country.

“The farmers in the country are in distress as they are not getting remunerative prices and the government is not acting to ensure fair prices,” he told the gathering comprising of mostly of farmers.

According to police, the agitation witnessed participation of about 5,000-6,000 people, mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Assam.

Hazare took a dig at the Modi government for creating hurdles for farmers wanting to join him. “They have stopped trains and buses so that people who want to join us don’t reach here. But it will not deter us.”

A Maharashtra farmer from Ahmednagar, Popatrao Sathe, said people from his area were not allowed to board the train by police at Bhusawal on Thursday night. Some farmers said they dodged the police and made it to Delhi.

“We removed all banners from the buses we were in and remained quiet throughout the journey. Police let us go assuming we were regular passengers,” said Kanaihya Sharma, a farmer from Jaipur.

Rakesh Pegu from Assam’s Madhuli said he was compelled to participate in the agitation as the livelihood of farmers was at risk due to consistent incidences of price fall.

Hazare said the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which decides prices for 23 crops, should be made autonomous for fair price fixation.

Currently, the Central government controls the CACP and cuts the fair price rates suggested by states by 30-35 per cent, he said.

“I will prefer dying for the nation than by heart attack,” said the 80-year-old activist, whose 2011 agitation gave birth to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) now ruling in Delhi.

While thanking former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde for being with him since 2011, Hazare said “I am thankful to him for being with us today. There was a team in 2011. Later many became ministers, Chief Ministers and Governors. But Hegde remained with us.”