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Monday, August 22, 2011


Answering Gandhian's Call, Scores Of Citizens Stage Protests Outside Parliamentarians' Homes To Push For Jan Lokpal Bill

    Parliamentarians from Mumbai and Thane got a bitter taste of the anti-graft anger raging across India as scores of Anna supporters staged sit-ins and protests outside their homes. Several MPs were away when demonstrators came calling on Monday, but of those who were, two—Priya Dutt and Sanjay Nirupam—reacted "positively" to the protesters' demands. 
    Meeting protesters outside her Pali Hill residence, Dutt said that she found the present Lokpal bill "weak" and that a few of its provisions could be tweaked to make the bill stronger. "I feel 
the judiciary should be under the purview of the bill," she said. 
    Asked whether the PM too should also be brought under the bill's purview, Dutt replied, "I don't think the PM will have any problem." She did however clarify that she did not support the Jan Lokpal bill, "which too had its own flaws". There is a need for more debate and for seeking public opinion before clearing the present bill, Dutt maintained. 
    Nirupam, meanwhile, chose to meet protesters in Vile Parle—far away from his Andheri home. Sporting an Anna-like 
topi, the Congress MP said that he broadly supported the agitation. "I am in favour of citizens fighting against corruption. But I don't agree with all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal bill. I think it would not be practical to accept it in totality. The present bill is strong enough to crack a whip on corrupt elements," Nirupam said. 
    At most agitations, citizens shouted slogans like "Jan Lokpal bill pass karo, warna kursi chhod do (Pass Jan Lokpal bill or quit your parliament seat)". At some, they presented MPs with floral bouquets with a message wishing the Congress government to "get well soon". 
    About 150 protesters gathered outside MP Milind Deora's Pedder Road house and Churchgate office. The latter, however, was away in Delhi. 
    NCP MP Sanjay Patil was busy at a dahi-handi celebration when protesters came knocking at his Bhandup residence. His mother accepted the citizens' memorandum, though that did not reassure all. Pushpa Mhatra, a housewife, complained: "We cannot earn a decent living without greasing someone's palms." 
    In Chembur, more than a hundred angry protesters stayed put outside Gurudas Kamat's house, waving flags, singing patriotic songs and shouting slogans, when they did not get a chance to meet the Congress MP. "We are repeatedly trying to call up Kamat, but in vain. Nobody has come forward to accept out memorandum. It is disgusting," said activist Anil Parekh. 
    Thane MP Sanjeev Naik too was not present at his Koparkhairne residence when 200 protestors arrived at his home demanding a personal meeting. "Our MP has no time to meet the people," said Rohan Shastry, a protestor. 
    Again in Thane, activists laid siege outside the home of Anand Paranjape and insisted that the Shiv Sena MP personally accept their memorandum. But Paranjape could not meet them since he too was busy with the dahi handi celebrations in Dombivli. 
    "We are here to hand over a memorandum to the MP about the Jan Lokpal bill. Agreed, he is busy, but these are extraordinary times," said advocate Vijay Gookhale, a resident of Dombivli who led the protestors. 

Small beginnings 
Anna Hazare's crusade, or at least his supporters, are making a difference. Gaurav Kumar Kate (22), a student of Sardar Patel College of Engineering, was at Dadar station on Monday to collect his bike from a Vidarbha train when an octroi official stopped him and obliquely demanded a bribe. "He asked for Rs 1,800 as octroi, adding if I don't want a receipt he'll charge less," said Kate, who called a friend to check octroi rates. "I was told there are no charges on used vehicles like mine." As Kate threatened him with a complaint to the anticorruption bureau, he was let go. But the story didn't end there. 
    An RPF constable then asked Kate to pay for lacking the 'right' signature on the gate pass. Kate got hold of Anna supporters outside Dadar and with them, took him to the chief RPF officer's cabin. "It puts us to shame," said M K Srivastav, RPF officer at Dadar. 
    —Shreya Bhandary | TNN

These daily rallies and protests are an indicator that our society has woken up. It is time for corrupt officials and politicians to be taught a lesson 
—Alka Kerkar | 

MPs represent us. They need to be informed that whatever suits 
    the government cannot be passed as law. Public opinion should be given priority. The Lokpal bill is weak. But I am sure that with the kind of public support we are getting, the government will have to accept our demands or step down 
— Nitin Wadhwani | 

We won't let this crusade fizzle out. We will continue 
    marching on the roads, to the doorsteps of political leaders' homes to convince them that we need better laws in the country. I want to see a better India in the future. As a businesswoman, I find corruption at various levels 
— Sheetal Ratwani | 

We are here on the streets protesting on behalf of our hero Anna Hazare. We need an Anna in every corner of the nation to get rid of corruption. The menace is so deep-rooted in the country that it frustrates us. I appeal to our MPs to support what citizens want 
— Shatrughana Tiwary 

RAPID DECLINE Many of those on fast at Azad Maidan have agreed to discontinue their protest on the request of the protest organizer, India Against Corruption 
The protesters have been asked to instead help mobilize crowds for an upcoming rally 
The steadfast abstention had begun affecting the health of the protesters since the last few days

A group of activists decried the Jan Lokpal bill at a press meet in Mumbai and said that they supported Aruna Roy's 'factual' and 'realistic' version instead 
    Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt accused Team Anna of selling "happiness, not truth" by "weaving dreams, creating conflicts and 
producing a hero", who triumphs at the end 
Delhi-based Shabnam Hashmi expressed fears about the disturbing "level of threat" because of which "we cannot freely say that we do not represent Anna Hazare" 
She also asserted that people are afraid of asking "if Anna is fake". "Calling him Mahatma is a dishonour to Mahatma Gandhi", said Hashmi

Heeding calls from Team Anna in Delhi, hundreds of Hazare supporters marched to the homes of parliamentarians in Mumbai and Thane to press for acceptance of the Jan Lokpal bill 
    A few MPs came to address the 
protesters, though most MPs were not at home 
    Congress MP Priya Dutt supported some provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, such as the inclusion of the judiciary under the bill's purview

Several Muslim groups, Urdu writers and associations of ulema (religious leaders) slammed Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari's advice to Muslims to stay away from Hazare's crusade 
    They called Bukhari's statement 
"divisive" since corruption affects every Indian 
    They also said that slogans of Vande Matram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai are ways of expressing love for the country and Muslims "for it is second to none"

FURY RAINING: Hundreds demanded the passage of Jan Lokpal bill outside the Pedder Road residence of MP Milind Deora


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