‘Have you ever seen industrialists committing suicide in India?’

Gandhian Anna Hazare, incensed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime, says that the power-high PM is pursuing anti-people policies. The Lok Pal issue and farmers’ suicides are among the central issues to have provoked the octogenarian Hazare to spearhead a nationwide satyagraha or peaceful protest from March 23. In a tete-a-tete with Manmohan Singh Naula and Jawed Khurshid, he spoke at length on farmers’ plight, corruption and declining political morality.

Edited Excerpts from an interview •

Think fest 2012What provoked you to go against PM Narendra Modi?
I am not against PM Narendra Modi but against corruption and price rise which has acquired titanic proportion nowadays. Modi rode to power on the crest of anti-corruption wave. In 2011, we spearheaded an agitation to eliminate corruption. The erstwhile government had made a law on Lok Pal which was weakened by the present dispensation. The bill which was tabled by the Manmohan Singh government and later crystallised into a robust law to spurn corruption at high places was tampered with by the current regime in order to keep babus outside its ambit.

The UPA government had initially made its commitment to establish an ombudsman in every state, but later changed the spirit of the document by adding that the state which already had a Lokayukta would no longer need the new law. Manmohan Singh also said that the state which had no Lokayukta should have one within the stipulated period of two years. After the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, on July 27, 2016, it brought a new bill and passed it in a single day in the Lok Sabha and a day after, on July 28, tabled the bill in Rajya Sabha which too was passed on the same day. On July 29, it was sent for Presidential ascent. Within three days the new law on Lok Pal was formed.

The BJP has diluted the Lokpal Bill by excluding government officers and staffers from displaying their source of income and wealth. The very spirit of the bill as an instrument to stifle corruption is defeated. We are definitely going to make people aware of this. We will highlight this in our agitation. I have written 30 letters to PM Modi in the last three years, but I’m still waiting for his reply.

Besides corruption, what are the other issues which you are going to raise during the agitation?
The next is farmers’ issue. In India, which is still a predominantly agrarian economy, over 12 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the past seventy years since independence. From March 23, we are spearheading nationwide peaceful protests to enlighten the people vis a vis the twin problems of corruption and government apathy.

We have constituted core committees in eighteen odd states and demanded fifty percent increment on agricultural produce to farmers. Farmers are committing suicides in the absence of any formidable policy meant for agrarian community. Farmers should get ‘agri-production security’ and the government should provide pension of 5,000 each to those farmers who have been involved in agrarian production for the past sixty years and there is no one holding any job of profit in the household.

The Farmers’ Pension Bill tabled in Parliament long back is still hanging fire. The bill stipulates the provision of pension to those farmers who have attained sixty years of age. We will raise this issue vociferously during our protests march.

I have already demanded implementation of the Commission for Agriculture Cost and Price (CACP) recommendation in verbatim for fixing agricultural price. Due to its non-implementation farmers are committing suicide. Currently, farmers are not getting the adequate price for their produce which pushes them into financial hardship. Modi government is pro-industrialists and turning Nelson’s Eye to farmers’ plight. Here only farmers commit suicide. Have you ever heard about any industrialist committing suicide?

If you want to reform political parties, you have to become part of the system?
Many who joined us during our previous agitation have left us and joined political parties, some even became ministers and party office bearers. Politics these days has become hideouts of anti-social and criminals and one should not fall prey to it.