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Anna supporters disappointed but not disheartened

MUMBAI: “Anna has asked us to call of the fast, not the agitation, we will disperse but only so that he gets healthy, Team members can decide a stronger course of action. We will join him whenever we are informed,” Harchand Chera, taxi driver from Worli who was one of the 100 volunteers fasting with Mr Anna Hazare at the MMRDA ground. As he packed his bag Mr Chera said he could fast for as many days as Anna ji said.

From blaming the venue to Anna’s health issues, volunteers and supporters preferred citing any reason as an excuse in a bid to hold on to their faith in Anna Hazare. “Had he been healthy he would have fasted for as long as it took for the government to buckle… the venue if far from the city center but we will go wherever Anna goes. We are not fans cheering a movie or cricket celebrity. Anna ji is our role model and leader and we have been fasting with him since the first agitation against corruption,” 22 year old writer from Navi Mumbai said. Amidst concerns over their leader’s health, volunteers waited for their leader to break their fast before them, “We have heard the announcement but how can a 22 year old accept food when that 74 year old unwell man has not?” he asked.

Most Dedicated supporters lacked know how of the details of the bills or any specific differences in the governments and team Anna’s bill drafts but insisted that supporting Anna was the only solution to fighting corruption. “We have no hope in the politicians, they all claim that they come from humble backgrounds but within few years they become rich. How will they frame a bill that has the power to put them in jail? That why we support Anna ji, he has no possessions and no desire to make money or grab power,” 82- year old Jamna Prashad Sharma said. “I may look frail and old but I would rather die while on protest against corruption,” he added.

Youngest fasting volunteer, 13 year old Pratik Vankedhe said he was motivated to act when he saw that poor students of his school were punished because they could not pay fee. “I wanted the world to know how unfair the education system is, the poor are harassed for being poor,” he said. “He insisted on fasting, we tried on convince him not to but he idolises Anna ji,” Pratik’s father Ramesh Vankedhe said.

Standing out in the gathering were over a dozen supporters dressed in formals who took time from their offices to mark their presence at the venue, “My office is nearby and I was following the movement. I could not fast but I decided to come and witness the agitation.” Despite disappointed by the sudden U-turn the crowd roared each time Anna spoke frailly from the dais. Meanwhile villagers from Anna Hazare’s native village Ralegan Siddhi came to the venue to join their leader in his protest against the weak Lokpal bill said they were disappointed with the government for not listening to Anna. “Specifics don’t matter, when lakhs of people are asking the government to change the bill then it should be changed! Otherwise we will be sure that the government is corrupt and unwilling to change,” 35 year old Anna supporter said. (Eom)



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Arrangements apace for Anna’s andolan

Two days ahead of social activist Anna Hazare’s arrival here, volunteers of India Against Corruption (IAC) are gearing up for the fast, protest and the Jail Bharon Andolan. “We are designing the layout of the stage, tent, and parking space. We will soon finalise the design and then order the most reasonable contractors to erect the pandal,” a member of the team said. Meanwhile, the team is working to gather support via public demonstrations.

Khusvi Gandhi, 25, led a team of young volunteers who dressed as Santa Claus and wore Anna masks at Andheri on Saturday. “We will be carrying goodie bags full of Anna masks, Gandhi caps and jail bharo registration forms,” she added. Online petitions for the protest have doubled in the last day with the number of ‘jail bharo’ registrations reaching over 60,000 on Saturday evening; over 5,600 are from the Mumbai region only.

Asked whether the number of people willing to go to jail might become a nuisance for the police, a volunteer said: “That is the police’s problem. I feel a sense of pride that freedom fighters felt at the time of Independence. We had certain hopes from the Bill, now we feel cheated and we have decided to do something about it.” “Parliament has been hijacked by corruption and the substance of democracy is that people have a say and they need to be heard, inconvenience is just a civil disobedience,” another volunteer added. The venue of the fast is the G block of Bandra-Kurla complex.

The 48,000 sq. m. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) ground has a capacity to accommodate over 60,000 people. However, the authority will be renting out 20,000 sq. m. for the rally and 10,000 sq. m. for parking. The MMRDA has specified December 26 for pandal installation and December 30 for its removal. Team Anna has paid Rs. 7.78 lakh as rent and Rs. 5.29 lakh as refundable security deposit for the rally.

Preparations for the event are in full swing. IAC sources said that at the venue, a room attached with toilet will be provided for Mr. Hazare, along with a cot and a continuous supply of hot water. The anti-corruption crusader has caught a cold and is convalescing at his village. IAC volunteer N. Srinivas, an architect, will design the stage. “There will be an invitee room for the Core Committee members and a visitors’ room. There will be separate rooms for security, medical and police personnel. Ambulance services will be present 24 hours a day. “A team of doctors, comprising volunteers, will be present. We will have an information centre, a media room and registration counters,” IAC coordinator Mayank Gandhi said.

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Bandra-Kurla complex will be Hazare’s protest venue

After a day of uncertainties over the venue of protest, volunteers of India Against Corruption (IAC) finally started preparations for the agitation at Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) suburban Bandra-Kurla complex. “We are expecting 40,000- 100,000 people to join Anna ji in and we are coordinating with the volunteers to ensure that everything happens smoothly,” IAC member Mayank Gandhi said after filing a fresh application with the MMRDA on Friday.

The protest will start on December 27, when activist Anna Hazare will launch a three-day hunger strike, demanding that the Parliament passes his version of the Lokpal Bill. “Now we have the venue finalised so we have moved to the next stage of coordinating with volunteers and arranging for the entire event. Volunteers across the nation are registering themselves and willing to overcome every hurdle to come to Mumbai and support Anna ji,” Preeti Menon, another member said. Even before the venue was ascertained Team Anna was making announcements in public places including Railway Stations, Malls, city squares, outside colleges, beaches, and gardens about the fast and encourage citizens to join by signature campaigns, she added.

Meanwhile Team Anna has simultaneously launched an online campaign for their ‘jail bharo’ agitation from December 30 against government’s Lokpal Bill wherein people can register themselves for the protest. Besides online registration, people can also approach Team Anna through text messages and a missed call service. The website says, “To express your willingness to go to jail for the Jan Lokpal bill, please fill the form below on the right.” Since its launch on Thursday the website has had close to 30,000 registrations out of which close to 2,500 are from Mumbai region.

Demand for Gandhi cap

Amongst other preparation there has been a steep rise in demand for the Gandhi cap, Dnyanesh Raja Ram, who has been associated with the IAC movement since August has the task of providing Gandhi caps to the supporters, “The sale is slow right now- just 100-150 caps a day. I am expecting the sale to reach 30-32,000 caps when Anna ji is in the city.” Priced at Rs.10 each the caps have become a symbol of support for the agitation.

The policeexpects a large crowd to assemble at the complex. However no officer commented on the arrangements or their anticipation of the ‘jail bharo’ call.

Team Anna has used the online media to its maximum by offering free sms alerts, email updates, Nokia/Android applications and downloads of all drafts of the Jan lokpal bill.

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