Posts tagged ‘corruption’

August 18, 2011

Lokpal Bill row: Anna Hazare relents; accepts police permission for 15-day fast

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New Delhi:  More than 36 hours after he was brought to the Tihar Jail, Anna Hazare relented and accepted a police offer of staging a 15-day protest hunger- strike at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi. Mr Hazare is expected to be at the venue at 3 pm today, tweeted his close associate Kiran Bedi.

The breakthrough was reached  after Anna Hazare’s close associates Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan met Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta late on Wednesday night to iron out differences. The meeting took place at Commissioner Gupta’s residence in Chanakyapuri’s Satya Marg after midnight. Team Anna then went back to Tihar Jail to brief Mr Hazare about their talks.

Reports suggest there will be no limits on how many people can gather at this base camp in support of Anna, though the police will review security and safety conditions continuously to ensure that those at the protest site do not disrupt traffic or in other ways breach upon normal life for the rest of the capital.

Anna had vowed not to leave Tihar till he was guaranteed that the Government would not impose any conditions upon the mass-protest he wants to hold in Delhi. The police first said the protest would be illegal if it drew more than 5000 people or if the 74-year-old Anna’s hunger strike extended beyond three days. Anna and his supporters said they’d defy police instructions and were on their way to launch their demonstration on Tuesday when they were arrested.

The Government has learnt to regret that decision. In Parliament and outside, the consensus has been that the arrests violated the fundamental right to peaceful protest.  And India reacted with massive shows of support for Anna.

As evening fell upon Delhi on Wednesday, rush hour saw thousands of people gathering in different parts of the capital. A total of 10,000 people marched in groups between 4 and 6 pm from India Gate to Jantar Mantar, stating simply “Anna, hum tumhaare saath hain (we are with you, Anna).”

The crowd of nearly 2000 people outside Tihar Jail at 6 pm was more boisterous, roaring each time word spread that Anna and his aides had moved onto the next point in their lengthy negotiations with the Delhi Police. (Top surfer comments on Anna Hazare)

Mr Hazare knows his arrest and the overwhelming public support for him has given him considerable leverage. So when the police offered him Ramlila Maidan as a new venue Wednesday, he accepted; when he was asked to limit his protest’s duration to 15 days, he did not.

Through the early evening, there were reports that Anna would wrap up his talks with the police and emerge from jail. But shortly after 6 pm, Ms Bedi told the crowd outside Tihar, “The talks with the Delhi Police are continuing…we’ve agreed on the venue but not the duration (of the protest).”

“We are not worried, we will find a way out of this”, said the Prime Minister outside his home on Wednesday afternoon. However, the decision to have Mr Hazare arrested has proved to be near-catastrophic for the Government. Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday morning explaining the background to the arrest was described as disappointing by the Opposition.

In a powerful attack, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley charged the government of arrogance and of being advised by “too many lawyers” (a quick swipe at those like senior minister Kapil Sibal who have been countering Mr Hazare), Mr Jaitley said, “You have a serious political issue which is being debated for the last few months and climaxes in last few days…and we find that the political leadership of this country is hiding behind men in uniform…and telling us that the entire crisis was being handled by policemen.”

Mr Hazare was actually allowed by the Delhi Police to leave jail on Tuesday night, about 12 hours after he was arrested. But he turned down the offer to head out of Tihar, insisting that he wants the government to first agree that his hunger strike will not be interrupted or his protest checked as long as it remains peaceful.

Among his visitors were spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and civil rights activist Swami Agnivesh. Outside, among the crowd, popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev, was seen standing atop a car.

Mr Hazare’s hunger strike began on Tuesday morning. Since then, he has had only water. Doctors have been examining him in prison.

The war between the government and Mr Hazare centres on the Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament last week. The Bill is meant to provide an antidote to the seemingly limitless corruption among politicians, bureaucrats and judges. Mr Hazare says the government has betrayed India by drafting a Bill that has no intention of seriously and objectively investigating charges of venality. The BJP’s Arun Jaitley stressed in Parliament that while his party has vast differences with Mr Hazare’s suggestions for the Bill, it does not agree with the “government-appointed Lokpal” that the current bill provides for.

Like Tuesday, the public support for Mr Hazare played out in different cities on Wednesday too. In Bangalore, Freedom Park saw thousands of protestors. Mumbai’s Azad Maidan was also filled during the day with supporters of Anna.

(source: ndtv.com)

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June 9, 2011

Baba Ramdev to declare assets, defends call to arms

Baba RamdevHaridwar:  Baba Ramdev, who will declare his assets today to counter allegations that he has illegal wealth, has also defended his controversial call to arms yesterday.

On Wednesday, the Baba had said he would build and train an army of 11,000 men and women to fight corruption and warned the government that the next time there was police action at a protest, his supporters would be armed and would retaliate. He did not climb down completely on Thursday, but was on the defensive when he said he was not “training terrorists or Maoists, but nationalists.”

“The words should be used in the right context…I said I will make a force who will not beat anyone but they will not get beaten either,” the yoga teacher said, adding, “what is the harm or wrong if I speak about shaurya (valour)?”

Ramdev’s provocative comment in Haridwar yesterday caused a political storm in nearby Delhi. He had said: “Twenty youth from each region will come forward for our fight against corruption. They must be dedicated, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. They will be given arms training. Next time at Ramlila it will be Ravanlila. Let’s see who gets beaten up.”

The government made its stand clear. “It is anti-national and we have to take action,” warned V Narayanswamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. (Watch) An hour later, the Home Minister weighed in. “I’ve seen Ramdev’s statement. By making that statement he’s exposed his true colours and intention. Let him do so and the law will deal with that,” P Chidambaram said.

Later on Wednesday evening, a statement issued by his spokesperson SK Tijarawala said that the Baba did not mean training in the use of guns or bombs and that the intention was not to take law in their hands.

he government has been caught in a face-off with the yoga icon since the weekend, when it ordered the police to dismantle a massive camp that the Baba had organised – it combined yoga with a sit-in against corruption. On Saturday, the Baba launched an indefinite hunger strike. Hours later, the police moved in and arrested him. The 65,000 people gathered at Ramlila Maidan were teargassed and lathi-charged.

The incident brought together activists and opposition parties who condemned the government for breaking up a peaceful demonstration.

Gandhian Anna Hazare was also on a one-day fast on Wednesday at Rajghat in the Capital to protest against the action at Ramlila Maidan, and to push the government to agree to a new corruption law that’s being drafted partly by activists led by him. Mr Hazare- the face of a campaign named India Against Corruption – declared that his movement is a “second freedom movement.” If the government doesn’t introduce the new Lokpal Bill by August 15, he warned, he will go on another fast.

(source: ndtv.com)

June 5, 2011

Ramdev banned from entering Delhi for 15 days

Ramdev BannedNew Delhi: After cracking down on Baba Ramdev’s agitation, police on Sunday banned him from entering Delhi for the next 15 days and justified its action saying the organisers did not restrict themselves to a yoga camp as originally permitted but resorted to a political agitation and made provocative speeches.

Top government sources said Ramdev has been banned from entering Delhi for the next 15 days as police flew him to Dehradun in a special plane accompanied by two policemen following the action at his protest site at Ramlila Maidan.

A senior police official said they had granted permission to Ramdev-led Bharat Swabhiman Trust to hold yoga training camp at Ramlila Ground.

“But the same was withdrawn, as the events unfolded, when all efforts failed to convince Ramdev and organisers to restrict to the activities what was originally permitted, keeping in view of the heightened security scenario of the capital city and public safety.

“On June 4, the first day of the training camp, no yoga training as such was organised. Instead, leaders from political and religious organisations, including Baba Ramdev chose to incite his followers through provocative speeches from the dais and exhorted people to join in large numbers,” the official said.

When policemen moved to detain Ramdev from the protest site, the official said, his followers pelted stones, flower pots and whatever they could get their hands on.

“This ensued some pushing and pulling between the policemen and the supporters resulting in injuries to supporters as well as policemen. Thirty-nine supporters, including 4 women, and 23 policemen sustained injuries,” the official said.

(source: zeenews.com)

June 4, 2011

Baba Ramdev begins fast against corruption

Baba RamdevNew Delhi:  Baba Ramdev began his hunger strike at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi at sharp 7 am today. He describes his fast as “a satyagraha against corruption.”

Thousands of his supporters have already gathered there and many more are expected to join him through the day. Former VHP leader Sadhvi Ritambara also shared the stage with him.

Before launching the fast, Baba Ramdev held a yoga and bhajan session during which he told the gathering that his protest was intended to “save the country from corruption and ensure that the poor get a good life.”

“Nothing is impossible, everything is possible and we are not going to be defeated,” he said, referring to bringing back black money stashed in tax havens abroad. Ramdev arrived at the stage at around 4:50 am and was welcomed with a huge round of applause from his followers. The crowd cheered him whenever he spoke about bringing back black money and declaring it “a national asset.”

Yesterday, four hours of negotiation at a five-star hotel in Delhi did not give the government the out it was desperately seeking. Baba Ramdev, who met with ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay  at the Claridges Hotel, said he will launch his hunger strike on Saturday after all. So far, there is no breakthrough in the back-channel talks either. However, the talks are expected to continue today.

he yoga icon has promised that his movement will not be punctuated by either violence or abuse. “We won’t give up till our demands are met,” he vowed at Ramlila Maidan, which has been transformed into the capital city of his crusade.

Earlier on Friday, it was here that Baba Ramdev indicated that his efforts were paying off. “Barring one or two issues, a consensus seems to be emerging between us and the government.”

The evening saw a change in mood.  When the talks ended without a truce, the Baba headed to Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat where he offered his prayers. He then drove to Ramlila Maidan where he held a lengthy briefing for a crowd that cheered, waved flags and went a few sizes up every half hour or so.

At the same time, Mr Sibal met the Prime Minister to update him on the negotiations. “We are very happy with the progress, these things cannot be settled in a day,” said Mr Sibal to reporters.  He also indicated that more talks are likely with Baba Ramdev. Mr Sahay met with Baba Ramdev again later in the evening.

At their session on Friday, Mr Sibal and Mr Sahay presented Baba Ramdev with a written response to his charter of demands that focuses largely on the need to check black money, recover it from foreign bank accounts, and declare it “a national asset.”  Baba Ramdev also wants the death penalty to be a possible punishment for corruption charges.

His insistence on the withdrawal of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes was allegedly one of the issues that the government could not agree to. Baba Ramdev also wants Hindi to be made the language of instruction for higher education.

Sources have told NDTV that the Cabinet Secretary is expected to release the written response given by the Government to Baba Ramdev.

In his focus on corruption as India’s Public Enemy No 1, the Baba has provoked the interest of the thousands of people who usually attend his mass-yoga classes, which are televised to audiences of millions.

He has also won the support of the right-wing RSS, which has unnerved both the  government and   other civil society activists.  The RSS has ordered its workers to participate in Baba Ramdev’s hunger strike.  “Ramdev said no one (from RSS) will be there. He said that no party or no communal element is involved in the movement. He assured that no such element would be on the dais”, said Arvind Kejriwal, an activist at the frontline of the India Against Corruption movement.

So far, the face of that campaign has been  Gandhian Anna Hazare, whose own hunger strike in April became the centrifugal force of a new public determination to hold the government accountable for corruption.  Mr Hazare ignored the government’s pleas to end his fast.  Finally, the government met all his conditions. It agreed that a new law to check corruption will be introduced quickly and it will be drafted by a committee that includes Mr Hazare and other non-government representatives.

Worried about Baba Ramdev pulling off an Anna, the government has through this week treated Mr Ramdev as its top priority – in a gesture that annoyed the Congress party, four senior ministers received Mr Ramdev at the Delhi Airport earlier this week and spent two hours there with him urging him to cancel his fast.

The ministerial posse was criticized by a section of the Congress,  as also  Mr Hazare, who said the grand gesture was aimed at lulling Mr Ramdev into a false sense of security. “They will trap Ramdev also. They will cheat him. What is the need for so many people to go? It was OK for one or two to go,” the Gandhian said.

So after a series of meetings with the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi, the government decided to continue negotiations with Baba Ramdev but stressed that senior ministers like Pranab Mukherjee would no longer be involved.  Instead, Mr Sibal and Mr Sahay-  were assigned the roles of chief negotiators.

The Baba says he’s not misappropriating his considerable stature to stray into areas that he may not be familiar with. “I am not crossing the limits of  Yoga. Not lying and stealing is also part of yoga and I am trying to bring those who have crossed that limit back within the limit,” he declared.

(source: ndtv.com)