Anna Hazare – The Modern Mahatma
“The dream of India as a strong Nation will not be realized without self-reliant, self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment and involvement of common man”, this is what Anna Hazare thinks and believes in. He is the man behind RTI (Right To Information) revolution. He is a well-acclaimed social activist who is now fighting against red tapism and corruption. People across the country and Indians abroad have shown a huge support.
Today, Anna Hazare is the face of India’s fight against corruption who is on indefinite ‘fast unto death’ since April 5. His supporters increased from few, to hundreds to thousands and to lakhs now.
Kishan Bapat Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, was born on 15th January 1940 in Bhingar Village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Baburao Hazare (father) and Laxmi Bai (mother) were unskilled laborers in Ahmednagar district. Because of some adverse conditions in 1952, they had to move to Ralegan Siddhi (family home, a small Village in drought prone area of Ahmednagar). In the early schooling days, he stayed with childless aunt in Mumbai, away from the family. However, he couldn’t study beyond Std. VII due to family problems.
He started his career in 1963 when Indian Government appealed young Indian to join Indian Army during Indo-China war in 1962. Hazare being a passionate patriot joined Indian Army as driver. He served for 15 years in Indian Army and was shifted to various places like Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Bhutan, Sikkim, Leh Ladakh and Mizoram. While driving a truck, he was the only survivor of Indo-Pak war in 1965. In his spare time, he read various books of Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Acharya Vinoba Bhave. These books inspired him to become a social activist later. He then returned to Ralegaon Siddi after taking the voluntary retirement from 9th Maratha Battalion in 1978.
He was 39 year old when he came home after retirement. At home, he saw people of the village suffering severely from alcoholism and struggling for survival. The first movement he led was to eradicate alcoholism from village and next was to motivate villagers to volunteer labor to build canals, small-scale dams and percolation tanks in nearby hills. Various projects that he undertook to overcome scarcity of water in the village helped him become a hero. Irrigation was easy now and people were motivated. He then with the help of villagers built a secondary school, farmers now have development schemes and Ralegaon emerged as a Model Village on international map.
The changes in the economics brought all the villagers under one roof of unity and people voluntarily contributed in terms of labour and money to build a school, a hostel, a temple and other buildings. Mass marriages, grains bank, dairy, cooperative society, self-help groups for women and youth mandals helped develop the village in all aspects and gave a new face to it.
Movement against corruption in Maharashtra state government in September 1998, Anna Hazare was imprisoned for three months during Shiv Sena-BJP rule in Maharashtra when Babanrao Golap (then Maharashtra Social Welfare minister) of Shiv Sena filed a defamation suit against him, for accusing of corruption. He was released following public uproar.
In 2011 he started a movement against the large scale corruption in India. The movement is for passing strong anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman) bill in the Parliament. As a part of this movement a new Lokpal bill is been drafted which is known as Jan Lokpal Bill (People’s Ombudsman Bill) with more stringent provisions and wider power to the Lokpal (Ombudsman). People who drafted this bill include N. Santosh Hegde ( a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court) along with the members of the India Against Corruption.
Awards – received by Anna Hazare
- 2008 – On April 15 2008, Anna Hazare received the World Bank’s 2008 Jit Gill Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service: “Hazare created a thriving model village in Ralegan Siddhi, in the impoverished Ahmednagar region of Maharashtra state, and championed the right to information and the fight against corruption.”
- 1992 – Padmabhushan award, by the Government of India
- 1990 – Padmashri award, by the Government of India
- 1986 – Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra award by the Government of India on November 19, 1986 from the hands of Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.
- 1989 – Krishi Bhushana award by the Government of Maharashtra.