Posts tagged ‘fast against corruption’

June 8, 2011

Ramdev threatens govt, will raise armed force

Baba RamdevBaba Ramdev whose protest against corruption was crushed by police at the weekend warned on Wendesday of violence and threatened to train an army of 11,000 followers. Baba Ramdev issued the call-to-arms from his ashram near the holy town of Haridwar 130 miles (200 kilometres) north of New Delhi after he was ejected from the capital. He and 50,000 supporters had gathered in Delhi to hold a hunger strike as part of a growing wave of dissent against the government’s failure to tackle corruption.

But early on Sunday, police wielding sticks and firing tear gas broke up the protest in a surprise move that infuriated Ramdev’s millions of followers and triggered sharp criticism of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Ramdev, whose popularity stems from his daily yoga shows on television, called for men and women to join his “army”.

“They must be dedicated, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice,” he said in remarks reported by television news channels. “They will be given arms training. We will build an army of 11,000 men and women.”

His spokesman said that the force would have weapons but would act only in self-defence. He said that Ramdev was determined to stand up to police if they again attacked him or his supporters.

Corruption has become a major focus of public discontent in the country, and Ramdev’s hunger strike – which he resumed on Monday – has piled further pressure on the government.

The main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sought to tap into the anger, with leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday travelling to met Ramdev in Haridwar.

Another hunger striker, veteran activist Anna Hazare, on Wednesday attracted thousands of people to a one-day demonstration in Delhi to protest against the police crackdown on Ramdev.


June 8, 2011

No need for more committees, studies on black money: Experts

New Delhi: Delays in action against black money by way of committees and studies will give time to corrupt politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats to divert their ill-gotten funds into shell companies, an eminent JNU professor has said.

“More studies or committees or new special investigating wing and treaties with foreign governments are only to stall action,” said Arun Kumar, the head of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Kumar, who has authored ‘The Black Economy in India’, said the government’s move to institute studies and form committees on black money “will only give time to triad — politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats — to invest their funds in shell companies abroad.”

He gave the example of a politician from Jharkhand who is alleged to have invested unaccounted funds in African mines.

Similar views were expressed by National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) professor Ila Patnaik, who said that agencies like the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) were not needed to check tax-related offences.

“I don’t think we require any new special investigation agency like the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to deal with tax-related crimes…,” she said.

Under pressure from various quarters, the government had recently set up the DCI to deal with tax-related crimes and initiate prosecution proceedings against tax defaulters.

According to Kumar, the government can act on the leads provided by investigating agencies that tape telephone conversations of suspected persons.

“Investigating agencies provide the leadership with information through tapping lakhs of phones every year,” he said, adding that the government can use the information to book culprits.

The share of the black economy has increased from the Wanchoo Committee’s estimate of 7 per cent in the early 1970s to 21 per cent according to the Shankar Archarya Committee to almost 50 per cent according to the latest Global Integrity Report, said Kumar, who conducted an independent study in 1999 detailing the various aspects of the ‘black economy’.

“In the last 60 years, dozens of committee have studied various aspect of black money and given thousands of suggestions. Hundreds of these suggestions have been implemented, but the size of the black economy has grown substantially,” he said.

Besides setting up the DCI, the government has also commissioned a study to estimate the extent of black money within and outside the country. The study will be jointly conducted by the NIPFP, National Institute of Financial Management and National Council for Applied Economic Research.


June 7, 2011

Anna Hazare and team shift fast venue to Rajghat

Anna HazareNEW DELHI: Civil society members led by Anna Hazare have decided to shift the venue of their day-long protest on Wednesday from Jantar Mantar to Rajghat to avoid “confrontation” with police, activist Arvind Kejriwal said on Tuesday.

“We are shifting to Rajghat. We have spoken to the commissioner of police and will fast in the vicinity of Rajghat tomorrow from 10am till about 6pm We will fast and pray the whole day,” Kejriwal told reporters.

“There will also be a debate on the Lokpal bill at 5pm,” he added. Both Kejriwal and Hazare are part of the anti-graft Lokpal bill panel.

While Baba Ramdev had held his protest at Ramlila ground, Hazare and other activists had announced a fast at the Jantar Mantar soon after the yoga guru’s eviction from Delhi.

Police on Sunday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in areas that include the Jantar Mantar and Ramlila ground.

Earlier, Kejriwal said police had denied permission to the Gandhian to fast against corruption at Jantar Mantar,

Calling the police action “arbitrary”, Arvind Kejriwal told reporters that Hazare and his supporters would hold a peaceful protest in the heart of the capital nevertheless.

“Anna Hazare has given a call for prayers and fasting. How can prayers and fasting pose law and order problems?” he asked, adding that police had cited law and order as the reason for denying permission for the Wednesday hunger strike near the Jantar Mantar monument.

Kejriwal said that Team Hazare, who he described as civil society representatives, would assemble on Wednesday against the police decision and court arrest if necessary.

“Anna Hazare is 73 years old. He is a man of peace,” he said, calling upon people to lend their support to Wedneday’s protest. “The government ought to explain what threat does Anna Hazare pose.”

Kejriwal said the government was behaving “as if they have the right to be corrupt and if anyone protests, they would either be crushed” or made to face legal orders banning the assembly of five or more people.

Delhi Police imposed the orders on Sunday in the New Delhi district — the heart of the capital — as they cleared the Ramlila ground of yoga guru Ramdev, who too was fasting against corruption, and his supporters.


June 7, 2011

Ramdev says history will not forgive Manmohan for “political sin”

Baba Ramdev Fast against corruption

With the government toughening its stand against Baba Ramdev, the yoga guru on Tuesday said he forgave the Prime Minister for the crackdown on his agitation but history will not forgive him for the “political sin” he committed.

“The Prime Minister termed it (the police action) unfortunate. In a way he has accepted his sin. Since he has accepted his sin, I have forgiven him,” Baba Ramdev told reporters here.

“I have personally forgiven him but the history of not only India but the whole world will never forgive him for the political sin he committed. He has tainted democracy,” Baba Ramdev, who is continuing his satyagraha here, said.

The yoga guru was reacting to Dr. Singh’s remarks on Monday that “it was unfortunate that the operation had to be conducted but quite honestly, there was no alternative.”

Baba Ramdev also attacked the Congress for ridiculing his escape in a women’s dress from the ground, saying even Maratha warrior Shivaji had escaped in disguise to secure the nation.

“If anybody saves his life for securing the nation, they won’t like it. Even Shivaji had saved his life. But these people do not accept Shivaji as their ideal. Their target is to protect terrorists and kill Baba.”

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi had on MOnday said, “A satyagrahi does not run away stealthily wearing women’s dress. Satyagrahi is always ready to sacrifice his life“.

Baba Ramdev also alleged there could be “five kinds of conspiracies” to eliminate him at the Ramlila ground from where he was evicted after his talks with the Government to end the fast failed.

The yoga guru said that he suspects that the police would now edit the recordings made by the CCTV cameras installed at the ground in a bid to wipe out the evidence so that they escape action.

“We had put CCTV cameras in the camp, which recorded the events. If the police had not done anything wrong, why did they took away the footages forcibly. This is clear cut goondaism of the police.

“Our workers who had gone there have been embroiled in false cases under a conspiracy. The police will now edit the footage and then release after deleting portions so that no action follows against them,” Baba Ramdev said.

Baba Ramdev said there could be conspiracies to kill him by strangulating, burning the stage on which he was sitting and shooting him.

He said the government’s argument that there was a threat of terrorist attack on him could be the fifth conspiracy to eliminate him and alleged that an e-mail has been “manufactured” by the government to make it convincing.


June 6, 2011

BJP to meet President on Ramdev, demand special Parliament session

Bharatiya Janta PartyNew Delhi: BJP on Monday said it will hold peaceful protests across the country against the crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s agitation and meet President Pratibha Patil to demand convening of a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue.

The party, whose top leaders including BJP president Nitin Gadkari are holding a satyagraha at Rajghat, accused the government of “shielding and protecting” the corrupt.

“We would seek the intervention of the President. We would meet her this evening. LK Advani had yesterday said that the BJP will demand a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue,” BJP chief spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said.

Advani, Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley were among a host of leaders who were at the satyagraha site.

Prasad said the Congress should remember that the BJP had fought against the “godmother of India” Indira Gandhi and succeeded.

“One thing that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister should remember is that the BJP fought against Indira Gandhi and emerged victorious.

“People of this country had taught a lesson. They will also teach these people a lesson. The whole country is angry and in an agitating mode. The government has lost all its moral authority and is cracking down on peaceful protests like the one led by Baba Ramdev while giving permission for anti-India rallies and speeches like the one by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The BJP had yesterday launched an agitation against the crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s supporters and asked the government to bring back black money parked abroad.


June 5, 2011

Defiant Baba Ramdev vows to return to Delhi, continue campaign


New Delhi/Dehradun:  Baba Ramdev was back in his saffron attire, hours after he was evicted from the Ramlila Ground in Delhi during a late night crackdown by the government. But unlike during the day when he turned emotional while addressing the media, a determined Ramdev this time minced no words, declaring that his fast against corruption will continue.

“We will return to Delhi with the same agenda, with the same zeal and vigour. First thing is that today evening, we will tell you the location, either in Delhi or near Delhi. We will assemble…We will rally all over the nation, hold fast and dharnas; we will go to each house and tell people about government’s action,” he said while addressing a press conference at his ashram in Haridwar.

Launching a scathing attack on the government for the police action at his camp, Ramdev said, “The government has been ruthless towards women, children, we still don’t know who has been thrown where? The government tried to suppress peaceful protests. One of our workers, Rajbala, is very serious; she will probably not make it. We have got a list of over a 100 people who are injured, like Ajay Arya whose both legs are broken; he can’t even be operated upon. There are thousands like them who did nothing wrong. This is a huge blemish on the government.”

“When did we say that we want a change in system? We spoke about Lokpal and corruption. You don’t accept our demands it’s fine, but this is not the way to act – by beating women and children”, Ramdev added.

Earlier in the day, dressed in white, a woman’s salwar-kameez, he recounted events leading up to his eviction from Delhi. The yoga icon broke down several times as he told his story, but was clear that his hunger strike against black money and corruption is still on.

There were scenes of violence at the Ramlila Ground during the police crackdown last night, and the Baba spent the night in the protection of the Delhi Police and was flown out from the Palam airport this morning. He has been served an externment order and cannot enter Delhi, though he is free to travel anywhere else in the country.

Baba Ramdev described last night’s police action at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan as the “darkest night of my life.” He said the police had used a lathicharge, tear gas shells and dragged and beaten up his supporters, adding that he had not seen such atrocities before. “The police force 5000-10,000 in number, did not even spare the smallest children. Women and children were dragged and beaten up.” The Ramlila Maidan had served all Saturday as a sort of capital city for the yoga icon and his mass movement against the government. Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed there after the police action to prevent people from gathering.

Baba Ramdev described, voice cracking, how he wept and told “cops to stop misbehaving with women supporters”, but to no avail. Baba Ramdev, who initially escaped the police dressed as a woman, said he was not dressed in a white salwar-kurta because he wanted to and described how he spent hours hidden among women, face covered with a dupatta.

The government, he said, had betrayed him. “They said they would declare black money as national assets, find out where it was stashed and would bring it back.” Top ministers negotiating with him on behalf of the government he said, had asked him to abandon his fast first saying he would get a written assurance that his demands would be met. But when that letter came, he said, it made no mention of his primary demand.

He singled out senior minister Kapil Sibal as “the most scheming man ever” and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, when he said, “Last night’s brutality means Mrs Gandhi doesn’t love this nation or its people. How can she be so cruel?”

The government has justified the late night eviction of the Baba saying he had violated permission granted for a yoga gathering. Kapil Sibal said Baba Ramdev had been given permission for a yoga camp for 5000 people but when over 50,000 people descended on the capital’s Ramlila ground, the government “couldn’t allow law and order to be disrupted.”

Baba Ramdev’s stage, Mr Sibal said, had become one for “political asanas” and “not yoga asanas.”

The Delhi Police said on Sunday that no one was lathicharged at the Ramlila Maidan. Dharmendra Kumar, Special CP (Law and Order) said 39 policemen were injured when people threw stones at them. The police also said Baba Ramdev was removed as much for his own security as to prevent a law and order situation. “We got specific inputs that Ramdev could be targeted”, Mr Kumar said.

But the Opposition and civil society is out in full force to attack the government over the midnight action, saying peaceful protest is a democratic right. Many have likened it to the Emergency imposed by the Congress government of 1975. Leader after top BJP leader has slammed the UPA and demanded an apology from the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi.

BJP patriarch LK Advani exhorted President Pratibha Patil to not be “a passive observer” and convene a special session of Parliament to discuss the Ramdev crisis. He said the crackdown reminded him of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Talking to NDTV, Mr Advani attacked Prime Minister Mammohan Singh saying the government’s mishandling of the Ramdev crisis proved his earlier allegation that Dr Singh was India’s “weakest Prime Minister.”

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari announced a “satyagraha” at Delhi’s Rajghat from 7 pm on Sunday. And Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was responsible for the crackdown and dubbed the police action as “Ravanlila in Ramlila Ground”.

The police action was compared to the Emergency by eminent lawyer Shanti Bushan and others like Swami Agnivesh said that because the Baba’s supporters had been largely peaceful, the police has violated basic democratic rights. “The government should resign,” said Mr Bhushan.

Around 65 people were injured in last night’s clashes at the Ramdev camp. Most were discharged fairly soon from hospitals suggesting they were not seriously injured. However, four people are currently in the Intensive Care Unit at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital.

Activists like Anna Hazare disagree with those reports. “Bahut pittai hua (many were beaten up)” said Mr Hazare, whose own hunger strike in April received mammoth public support and led to the government agreeing to work straight away on a new law to check corruption among politicians and bureaucrats.

On the other side of the political argument, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh used strong words calling Baba Ramdev “a thug who is misleading the nation…We can’t allow someone like Ramdev to run riot in Delhi. He had permission only to run a yoga camp. He was trying to incite people.” Mr Singh has spoken frequently this week against the Baba and his attempts to force the government to launch a mission to recover crores of black money from foreign bank accounts.

Late-night drama at Ramlila Grounds

At 1 am, close to 600 policemen arrived at Ramlila Maidan to demand that the crowd of 60,000 supporters disperse. Their argument was that the gathering had been granted permission only for a yoga camp and not as a mass demonstration. (Watch: Thousands gather at Ramlila Maidan)

A group of policemen trooped onto the stage, reportedly after some people threw stones at them. The Baba asked them to go away. He then leapt from his stage, his saffron robes fanning out behind him, into the crowd of supporters. Seated on a follower’s shoulders, the Baba then delivered a lengthy speech, waving his fist in the air. Finally, the police managed to get to him. (Watch: Eyewitness account) | (Read: Ramdev wants peaceful agitation against police action)

At 2 am, teargas shells were launched upon the thousands of people who were present, allegedly in an attempt to force the crowds to leave the grounds. A small fire broke out on the stage that had been used by the Baba but fortunately, it did not spread.

At 5.30 am, the Baba was evicted from Delhi and moved to his ashram in Haridwar.

Government sources say that the Baba was detained for just a few minutes.

The Baba and the government had hit the collision course at around 9 pm with both sides accusing each other of betrayal. Baba Ramdev said the government had falsely assured him that it would meet his charter of demands that include recovering black money held abroad by Indians and declaring it a national asset. The government in turn said that the Baba had in writing promised even before he began his fast that it would end early last evening. The implication was that unknown to his supporters, the government and the yoga icon had struck a secret deal. Stung, the Baba accused the government of lying and said the gloves were coming off.

Another letter from the government was then sent to him assuring him that the government was serious about following up on his demands. The letter appealed again for the Baba to end his hunger strike.

Baba Ramdev has been the government’s top priority this week – top ministers spent hours meeting with him to persuade him that his “satyagraha against corruption” should not be launched because the government was willing to work with him to address his concerns.

Several rounds of talks-including those on Friday- were followed by reports that a compromise had been reached. But late on Friday evening, after meeting with senior ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay at the Claridges Hotel in Delhi, the Baba returned to Ramlila Maidan and told a crowd of thousands that his fast would begin as planned on Saturday. He said his movement would be non- violent and that he would fast “till the end.” (Watch: Ramdev’s ‘5-star satyagraha’ has RSS support, says Digvijaya Singh)

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.


June 1, 2011

Baba Ramdev meets Pranab, Sibal; refuses to call off fast Against Corruption


New Delhi:  Baba Ramdev has refused to call off his fast against corruption. He says the fast would begin on June 4 if the government does not meet his demands and bring back Indian money stashed in safe havens abroad.

“Till there is 100 per cent agreement on all issues and a decisive stage is reached, the fast will go on”, the yoga guru said.

Baba Ramdev’s plans to go ahead with his hunger strike comes just hours after meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay. Mr Mukherjee has been deputed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to persuade the yoga guru to call off his fast. The four ministers held a meeting with Baba Ramdev at the Delhi airport’s Terminal 1.
After the meeting which lasted over two hours, Mr Sibal said, “Baba Ramdev raised significant national issues. We listened and responded to him.We agreed to have dialogue in next couple of days. I am sure we will take all those issues into account.”

Baba Ramdev later said that he had written three letters to the Prime Minister in connection with his demands to tackle corruption. He also called for the need for fast-track courts at the Central and state level to try cases of corruption. The yoga guru also added that social activist and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare would join his hunger strike.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also appealed to Baba Ramdev to call off his proposed fast. He had written a letter to him saying, “Corruption is a big problem and we are making serious efforts to tackle it. It’s not a divisive issue.”

Baba Ramdev had earlier said he will start a satyagraha against corruption and black money and go on an indefinite fast from June 4. “My hunger strike will go ahead. There is no question of calling off the protest plan till my demands are met and till talks reach a satisfactory conclusion,” Baba Ramdev told NDTV yesterday.