Anna Hazare is a prominent leader of the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement. He was born Kisan Baburao Hazare on June 15, 1937 in Bhingar near Ahmednagar. He hailed from a very poor family and moved from his ancestral village of Ralegaon Siddhi to Mumbai. Poverty ended his education after grade 7 and he was selling flowers at Dadar railway station in Mumbai. Eventually he owned 2 flower shops in Mumbai. In these early years, he became involved in vigilante groups that prevented the poor from being bullied out of their shelters by thugs employed by landlords.
The emergency recruitment measures by the Indian Army during the Indo-China war of 1962, Anna was recruited into the Army and was posted at the border in the Khem Karan sector. He was the sole survivor of an enemy attack and this incident became a turning point in his life. He had considered suicide during one point in his life, but now focused on the meaning of life and death. The war experience convinced him that the reason he was alive was because God wanted him to serve people. He spent his spare time reading Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave.
Anna survived another road accident while driving the army truck and after that incident, he took honorable discharge after serving the Army for 12 years.
Anna returned to Ralegaon Siddhi to begin its transformation. The village was typical Indian village plagued by acute poverty, deprivation, and fragile ecosystem. He started by using his gratuity from the Army to rebuild the vandalized temple as a focal point for the community. Some responded with financial donations and others volunteered their labor (shramadaan). Using Vivekananda’s works, he organized the youths into Tarun Mandal.
Liquor and cigarettes were banned and a grain bank was instituted at the village temple. The grain bank provided food security to the needy farmers during times of drought or crop failure. Borrowed grain had to be returned in grain plus additional grain as interest. This ensured nobody in the village had to go hungry or borrow money to buy grain and also prevented distress sale at lower prices during harvest time.
Ralegaon is located at foothills, hence Anna persuaded the villagers to construct watershed embankments to increase ground water level and improve irrigation. Water intensive crops like sugar cane were traded for low water crops like pulses and oil seeds. When Anna Hazare first came to Ralegaon Siddhi only 70 acres of land was irrigated and he converted into about 2,500 acres. He also started dairy cattle breeding as a secondary occupation.
He started pre school, and high school in the village to increase the literacy rate. His moral leadership motivated the village community to shun untouchability and caste discrimination. Marriage expenses were the major cause of debt trap for the villagers. Collective marriages were instituted reducing the marriage expenses.
Hazare campaigned between 1998 and 2006 for amending the Gram Sabha Act, so that the villagers have a say in the development works in their village. The state government initially refused, but eventually gave in due to public pressure. As per the amendments, it is mandatory to seek the sanction of the Gram Sabha (an assembly of all village adults, and not just the few elected representatives in the gram panchayat) for expenditures on development works in the village.
In 1991 Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) (People's Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption and was responsible for exposing several government officials as well as cabinet ministers in the Maharashtra Govt. his skirmishes with the powerful led to his imprisonment in Yerawada Jail for 3 months. However, all the political parties came in support of Hazare.
In the early 2000s Hazare led a movement in Maharashtra state which forced the state Government to enact a revised Maharashtra Right to Information Act. This Act was later considered as the base document for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Union Government
His leadership during the Lokpal Bill captured the nations and world's attention. He was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by Govt of India.
The unbelievable story of his life is summed up well by the great man himself...."I am still bemused as to how this all came about. A pauper living in a temple, who has no money, no power, no wealth; for him the entire country united and spoke in one voice."
The Lokpal bill was first proposed in 1968 by Shanti Bhushan but was not passed in the last 40 years. The bill targets to reign in the corruption by the very people with powers to pass the bill and hence the stalemate for the last four decades. Social activist Anna Hazare .....read more about the Lokpal Bill