Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Anna Hazare: I Asked PM Whether His Team Shares His Values

On April 5, Anna Hazare will begin a fast unto death if the Prime Minister does not commit to instituting a tougher Lokpal (or Ombudsman) Bill. Hazare believes this Bill will go a long way in reducing corruption

Published: Mar 31, 2011 06:09:51 AM IST
Updated: Mar 31, 2011 08:33:41 AM IST
Anna Hazare: I Asked PM Whether His Team Shares His Values
Anna Hazare

Kisan Baburao Hazare a.k.a. Anna Hazare
Career: Served in Indian Army as a driver for 15 years. He has been an activist since he left the army around 1975 and has been one of the main persons responsible for the Right to Information Act. Has been working in other areas like development of villages, and against corruption
Education: Studied till the standard seven; has a doctorate from Gandhigram Rural Institute, Deemed University
Hobbies: Reading, especially Swami Vivekananda’s works

What is lacking in the current draft of the Lokpal Bill?
The current legislation gives no power to... people. If a person has any complaint then he... is expected to get in touch with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. We should use things such as SMSes to ease the process of raising a complaint. Secondly, this law should not be under the government. This institution should be independent of the government just like the High Courts or the Election Commission. To dissuade corruption, we must have strict action against the guilty.

Is that not the case right now?

No. At present the penalty is not commensurate to the amount of corruption. For example, A. Raja has swindled Rs. 1.76 lakh crore. He went to jail and within four months he is out while he has made enough money for five generations... the money should be recovered from his property and other assets. Only then will the people be afraid of committing corruption.

So how can we improve the prosecution process?
The Bill should be drafted by equal number of members from the civil society and the government. If we leave it to the government... the Bill will not have [strict enough] provisions.

Corruption has been a long-standing problem in India. What prompted you to call for a fast unto death now?
Today, the poor man in India can barely survive. This trend has increased under the UPA because it is a coalition. Bulk of their [the coalition partners’] time is spent managing each other like in the case of A. Raja. But the prime minister (PM) has repeatedly said that the guilty will be punished. That is just misleading the people. He is the PM… why doesn’t he decide? When I met the PM... I asked him whether all his Cabinet colleagues share his values and views.

So what was his response?
He just kept quiet (laughs). It seems he does not have the power to effect change… matters are remote controlled [by someone else]. So now there is just one way [to bring about change]. And that is through public pressure. The government will only listen when it feels there is enough public pressure to threaten even its existence.

Corruption is not limited to the government. It is more widespread. Are you confident that the people will join you in this fight against corruption?
Yatha raja, ratha praja [The people closely follow the ruler]. If the ruler is corrupt then even the ruled become corrupt. Today there is a decline in the moral rectitude of the ruler... the situation has reached a tipping point and that will ensure that people join in.

How do you plan to take this movement forward?
I do not know how many will join. But I have Arvind Kejriwal, Baba Ramdevji, Swami Agnivesh and Sri Sri Ravishankarji... We have already received six crore SMSes... and 55 lakh [people] have assured that they are with us. And this inspires me and gives me hope.

(The interview was conducted in Hindi)

(This story appears in the 08 April, 2011 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)