We have built a society in which on one side there is uncontrolled, reckless accumulation of wealth and on the other side there is hellish poverty. Even today India is a country of villages and its the villages which are falling behind. Those who are in the city or town and are rich, there is some happiness, but those who live in villages, they are mostly poor. They are lagging behind the times and are being left further behind. A very big chunk of the country has fallen behind economically, socially and culturally. Not just fallen behind, but have gone beyond the reach of the Government, writes Anna Hazare lucidly in this special feature.
It has been 64 years since India became a democracy. But where is democracy? I can’t see it. In all these years, we have not been able to provide even clean drinking water to the people of the country. We could not provide health services. We could not provide education. No homes, no ‘rozi-roti’ (employment and food). Our country is certainly the world’s most youthful in terms of young people, but what do we have to give to these youths? If they will remain unemployed, what will they do? Thinking of this causes concern and anxiety. We have built a society in which on one side there is uncontrolled, reckless accumulation of wealth and on the other side there is hellish poverty. Even today India is a country of villages and its the villages which are falling behind. Those who are in the city or town and are rich, there is some happiness, but those who live in villages, they are mostly poor. They are lagging behind the times and are being left further behind. A very big chunk of the country has fallen behind economically, socially and culturally. Not just fallen behind, but have gone beyond the reach of the Government. A parallel Government of Naxalites is functioning there.
Seeing the present state of the country, one gets worried. The country is standing on the verge of chaos, but those who should be worried by this – it makes no difference to them. The country’s Parliament and the political parties which are part of it are cut off from society and from the times. They just have to win elections. To indulge in politics. They have no concern and are not worried about the ‘aam janta’, the common people. Whether it is the Congress Party, the Bharatiya Janta Party or the Leftist parties. Does anyone ask in Parliament why Government policies are made for only five per cent of the people in the country. I have never heard that any political party has raised questions about the anti-people tilt of neo-liberal economics. The Government is privatising everything. It is running away from its responsibility. Where is the public welfare state in India? I have read P. Sainath’s report, in which it is calculated that every half-an-hour a farmer commits suicide. These things cause pain. There is pain in the heart. I think and wonder whether this is the meaning of ‘Azadi’, freedom, independence. Did the sacrifice of the martyrs for ‘Azadi’ go in vain?
Where is democracy? Democracy means a Government which is of the people, by the people and for the people. There is democracy in the country, but where are the people in this system? Where is their participation? It was the dream of revered personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Maulana Azad, that India’s democracy and a Government elected in a democratic manner should work to protect and improve the lives of the people of the country, especially the betterment of the deprived and destitute. It would make policies for them. But today’s Government has surrendered to the markets. All the Governments which have come after 1991 have done this.
The Opposition too has not raised any questions in Parliament. Many people may think that my thoughts are old fashioned, but I want to tell such people that even today in our Constitution, Part IV of the Constitution still exists, which we call Directive Principles of State Policy. My concern is that the political parties of the country have sidelined the spirit of the Constitution. It is being neglected totally. This is the reason policies are being made for the interests and benefits of private companies instead of the interests and welfare of poor and common people. Nobody is raising a voice against this in Parliament either.
Under the Constitution, the Government has been given the duty of making policies to improve the lives of all those who are poor and deprived. These people will have a part in the decisions of the country. For this, it is essential that they should have equal opportunities and participation in power. There is provision for this in the Constitution, but there has been no implementation of it so far. That is why I continuously demand that empowerment of villages is important and necessary. Unless and until the villages are strengthened, there will be no change in the villages, and until there is development in the villages, the country will not develop. Therefore I want the Gram Sabha system which Mahatma Gandhi wanted implemented in the country.
Today in the name of Panchayati Raj, Panchayats have been made ‘executives’, but if the village Gram Sabhas are given the powers of being ‘legislators’, empowerment of villages would be complete. True democracy will come in the country. People in the village will be free to spend according to their needs. People will not have to depend on officers and those in authority. The biggest benefit of this will be that corruption will end at the ground level. Schemes will not fail. No Prime Minister will then have to say that one rupee is sent from the Centre for schemes, but only 15 paise reaches the people, and the rest of the money disappears in-between.
There are several places in the country where good use has been made of ‘Gram-Swaraj’. In my village, Ralegan Siddhi, I made one such ‘use’. We have not set up any industry here. We have simply worked together with the people. We did not use petrol, diesel, coal, and used only natural resources. The needs of villagers are limited. For this, a lot of brainpower is not needed either. We saved and harvested every drop of rainwater, stored the water, recharged and increased the ground water level,
retained the village soil in the village, due to which there was development of agriculture. The places which were poor because of drought, there people have become self-reliant through farming itself. Once the people became self-reliant, they started animal husbandry.
Work for the hands and food for the stomach was found in the village itself. Because of this, migration of people towards the cities was prevented. Today, from this small village, 4000 litres of milk is supplied outside every day. There is education in this village, there is sanitation and cleanliness, everything is there. Can we not create such villages in the whole country? We can certainly create them. If the country is to be saved from chaos, the only way is development of villages. This is also what Gandhiji used to say, that to change the country, villages will have to be changed first, till the villages change the country will not change.
We deviated from the path prescribed by Gandhiji, due to which the country today is struggling with many problems simultaneously. The figures for development no longer hold much importance, because the faith of the citizens of the country is evaporating from the entire system. Now, a question is being raised on the credibility of democracy. Poor people in the country lave lost faith on the issues of water, forests, and land. This is because on the pretext of development the Government is privatising national resources. The Government is privatising rivers and water sources. In the name of mining and quarrying forests are being sold to private companies and tribals are being dispossessed. Not only that, the Government is acquisitioning the fertile land of farmers, and is distributing it in collusion with private companies.
Those resources over which the people of the country have a right are being distributed to private companies. Due to these policies of the Government, the path for several East India companies coming into the country can be seen. Therefore, it is necessary and important to take a decision on who has a right over the water, forests, and land in the country. The people of the country also have a right to decide on this. What should be the model of development, what kind of economic policies should there be, what should be the process of ‘harvesting’ resources? These are very important issues on which the people of the country will have to think and take a decision.
On the one hand there is poverty, starvation, unemployment, illiteracy in the country and on the other hand the Government takes loans/debts to provide basic services. Opening all doors for foreign capital to flow into the country is, the Government is saying, the only option before it while black money from India is deposited and stashed away in foreign banks. If this black money is brought back, the country’s economic condition can be improved. Countries all over the world are engaged in bringing back black money and improving their economic condition, but the Government of this country is silent on the issue of black money.
The people of the country do not even know who all have deposited how much money in foreign banks. Let political parties keep their opinion on these issues before the people so that the matter can be decided whether they want to frame policies in the country according to the Constitution or whether they are in favour of policies according to the market. The Congress Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and all the political parties should keep what they favour before the public. They should tell whether they want to run the Government according to marketplace prices or values or whether they want to implement them according to the spirit and feelings inherent in the Constitution. If all parties are agreed on the economic policies of the Government, there is no rationale or justification for changing the Government. I want that along with a change in the Government, leaders and parties, there should also be a change in policies. This today is the biggest concern and worry — that the party that is running Government and the party which wants to run the Government, there is not much difference in their policies, so how will change come.
The time has now come for the people of country to think; if the people do not think today our coming generations will be in peril. Whether these people in power will leave anything is in doubt. The British did not loot as much, these people are looting much more. The British did not loot as much in one hundred fifty years as these people have looted in 65 years. It has become clear that the people sitting in Parliament and the Government sitting in power will not provide a good future for the country . I want to disclose that the reason that I started the fast in Ralegan Siddhi recently, on 10 December, is because I and the people of the country have been cheated.
To bring in the Jan Lokpal Bill I had started a fast against corruption at the Ramlila Ground in New Delhi on 16 August, 2011. The Prime Minister had given an assurance to me by writing a letter that he would make the Jan Lokpal a law. He had also given an assurance at the same time that officers and those in authority at the lower level would also come within the ambit of the Lokpal. A Civil Code would be brought in and alongside a Jan Lokayukta would be appointed in every State.
Two years have elapsed since the Prime Minister’s assurance, and today I am perceiving that I have been betrayed, deceived, cheated. I always believed that Pradhan Mantriji was a good man. I have said this too many times. But that for the sake of power, people could tell a lie to the country, that I did not believe in. If I had known earlier that I would be cheated, I would not have ended my fast at the Ramlila Ground. I am saying this because in-between, I have written several letters to the Prime Minister. Reminded him of his promise. I received several letters too on behalf of the Prime Minister from Shri Narayanasamy. He too kept giving assurances. I am concerned and worried that if such people who tell lies run the Government, what will happen to the country? Because if people who tell lies run the Government, the country will never progress. ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (‘Truth Alone Prevails’) is the national motto of our country. The well being of the country can only emanate from and happen from the path of truth. But its makes me wonder how so many people who tell lies gathered in the Government. There are some people also in the Government who even level allegations against me. I know that no matter how ‘big’ a person may be, no matter how powerful a person may be, if there is dishonesty in his mind, then such people have to take a sleeping pill and sleep in an air conditioned bungalow. Everyone knows this, but they still make mistakes. In my life I took up plans of crores of rupees, but did not give up my beliefs. Did not keep a bank balance anywhere. Nor ever told a lie. I have no power, but I feel I have more contentment and peace than a lakhpati or a crorepati. I get this contentment and peace by serving the people of the country, because I have not allowed even a small stain or blot to besmirch my life.
The Jan Lokpal Bill was passed unanimously in the Lok Sabha, then it went to the Standing Committee, a select committee was formed in the Rajya Sabha for inquiry, its report also came. Now only discussion on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha remains, but for that too one year has elapsed. There has been no discussion so far, and it is clear from this that the Government’s intention is not clean and clear. Whereas, it was said from the Prime Minister’s side that the Jan Lokpal Bill would be brought in the Budget session of Parliament, but it was not done. Then it was said that it would be brought during the Monsoon session, but it did not happen. The Winter session has now started. Why has it not been brought so far? There is no particular reason for it. Only the intention is not clean and clear. In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress party has 71 Members and none of them are opposing it, even then they are not bringing in the Bill. In contrast, despite opposition from within and from other parties, the Government passed the Food Security Bill, the Pension Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill, and also despite the opposition gained success in the elections to the President’s post, but the Government is not bringing in the Jan Lokpal Bill. What is the reason for it? Day-by-day because of the increasing corruption people are angry. It has become very difficult to live because of inflation. The people are watching everything. Understanding everything.
I had made an announcement that I would start fasting at the Ram Lila Ground or Maidan in New Delhi from the first day of the Winter session of Parliament, but because of my operation and because I am not keeping well, I decided to start fasting from 10 December in my own village Ralegan Siddhi, at the Yadav Baba temple. This time I have appealed to the people of country that everyone should stay in their own cities, localities and villages and join the fast by holding dharnas and demonstrations. This time there will be demonstrations for the Jan Lokpal in every city of the country and in every village. I have full faith that this time too the Jan Lokpal andolan or movement will get support, and more than earlier.
People of the country are asking me who they should give their vote to in the 2014 elections. I am pondering over what to say to the people of the country. On the one side are communal powers, and on the other side, in the name of secularism, are forces that that take corruption to every house, and who have killed development. The economic policies of both the sides are the same. These market based policies promote open looting. These policies are against the villages, are anti-farmer, create unemployment for students and in the sphere of development give benefits to only 8-10 per cent of the people. That is why one third of the country has lost faith in the institution called the Government. Faith in democracy is also lessening.
I am in search of such forces, which will go to the Lok Sabha and bring the poor into the ambit of the process of development, give legislative power to villages, create administrative units, link education with employment and make health services available to all, make the justice system available to all and time-bound; forces who can end unemployment completely and make a village-based industrial policy. Forces who, along with making theJan Lokpal, the Right to Reject and the Right to Recall laws, should have faith in the people of the country and not in foreign companies. This is a question of faith about the future of the country and in democracy.