Chennai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an honest man but is ”remote controlled”, activist Anna Hazare said Sunday, urging people to start filling the jails from Jan 1 in support of a strong Lokpal bill.
Addressing about 10,000 mainly middle-class crowd at a college ground here, Hazare drew repeated applause as he asked the youth to take the lead in the war on corruption. “From January 1, all jails in the country should be filled,” he said, and jocularly added: “You get breakfast and lunch there also!”
In later comments to the media in the same premises that drew a lot of applause, he said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a “good” and “honest” man but was “remote controlled”. He did not say by whom. Hazare spoke for the first five minutes in Hindi. But when the crowds became restive, organisers first translated what he had already spoken and then provided a line-by-line translation in Tamil.
“I know that there is no Lokayukta in Tamil Nadu,” he said.
But Hazare, visiting the state for the first time since starting an anti-corruption campaign in April, made no reference to Tamil Nadu politicians in the thick of corruption charges. He reiterated that he would begin his fast Dec 27 from New Delhi if parliament did not pass an effective Lokpal bill by then to include all levels of the bureaucracy.
“I will start the fast and you start the Jail Bharo from Jan 1,” he added, drawing more applause. He urged the youth to make the Jail Bharo movement a success. Declaring that he was energised by seeing the youth assembled at the rally, Hazare said a strong Lokpal will make India corruption free.
However, he urged the youth to get married and have a small family and not follow his example of being a bachelor. “It is not easy to lead a life like mine. One has to be ready to tolerate insults,” he said. Many in the crowds were teenagers and those in the 20s and 30s. There were a lot of young women and elderly too.
A former army driver, Hazare came down heavily against the greed for money. “We came here with empty hands, and we will go empty-handed,” he said. “Even Alexander (the Great) died empty handed. Our struggle is for the poor. The nation’s treasury is not to be looted.
“All government officials should be under Lokpal. Group C and D should be covered by Lokpal. They are the people the poor interact with.” “It is one year since we started our agitation. For three months, they (government) held meetings with five of our (Team Anna) members, but there has been no result.
“This is an insult to our country where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev laid down their lives. … this (passing Lokpal bill) is taking more time, and it is not good,” he said. Hazare also blamed the parliamentary standing committee that studied the anti-graft legislation for ruining it despite the “sense of the House” (parliament) on three of his key demands.
“When I fasted in Ramlila ground, the prime minister gave it in writing that Lokayukta, Citizen’s Charter and all officers from top to bottom will be brought under Lokpal, that it it will be presented in parliament, and parliament will pass it unanimously.
“But when it went to the standing committee, the committee ruined it,” he said. Speaking to the media later, he said a Lokpal institution without the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under its ambit would be a meaningless body.
He said that a year had passed since they started their campaign for an effective ombudsman and that there should be no further delay. He also reiterated that he would begin his fast Dec 27 from New Delhi if parliament did not pass an effective Lokpal bill by then to include all levels of the bureaucracy.
Hazare said the government can introduce the bill before that date and can extend the ongoing winter session to discuss and pass it. To a question on the parties that have not supported the Lokpal bill, Hazare said people should protest outside the MPs and legislators of those parties and court arrest.
Queried about the complaint that the Team Anna movement is elitist, he said: “We will be expanding our core committee. There will be representations form all the states. There will be women and Dalit members.”