There is hardly any similarity between 50-year-old Raghubir Prasad, a rickshaw puller from Bihar, and 20-year-old Meneka Sharma, a student in Delhi. Yet they have been bound together by a common link called Anna Hazare.
Prasad has been literally camping at the Ramlila Maidan here in central Delhi for the past 11 days – ever since the 74-year-old activist came here to continue his fast protest in demand for a strong, anti-graft bill.
Like scores of other supporters, Prasad eats and sleeps at the sprawling ground, going out around mid-day to ferry passengers. He is not able to earn much money but has no complaints.
“Anna ji is in fast because of people like me. We suffer everyday because people are so corrupt. The traffic policemen take bribe from us to allow us to ride on the roads – as it is we earn a pittance, then with the bribe and the money that we have to pay the owner of the rickshaw, we are hardly left with anything,” Prasad told IANS, bursting with angst.
Sharma, a well dressed college goer, is another victim of corruption.
“I wanted to study medical, but could not get admission to a particular college because they demanded a couple of lakhs as capitation fee and my father refused. My cousin faced a similar fate,” Sharma told IANS, wearing a tricoloured stole around her neck.
“I am studying in Delhi University now….but for the past 11 days I and some of my friends have hardly attended any class. This cause is greater than anything else because we have all been victims to corruption at some time or the other and it’s high time that comes to an end. We come here early in the day and stay on till evening, raising slogans and helping in some volunteering work,” she added.
Ask them about the Jan Lokpal bill which Anna Hazare and his team are pushing for, Prasad and Sharma had different takes.
“I know that Anna ji wants the Lokpal (bill)…but I don’t know what that is,” Prasad admitted, giving a sheepish smile as this correspondent’s eyes hovered around his t-shirt with the slogan ‘Pass the Jan Lokpal bill now!’.
“I am illiterate madam ji…I don’t know these jargons. All I know is that Anna ji is fighting against corruption and if what he is fighting for comes through, the monster will be killed,” he said.
The 20-year-old collegiate was however well aware of the facts.
“The Jan Lokpal bill seeks to make everyone accountable. Accountability is very important to end corruption. Why should the prime minister or the judiciary be left out of the Lokpal’s ambit? What is the fear? If you are clean you shouldn’t be scared,” Sharma said confidently as the rest of her friends nodded in approval.
On the 12th day of Hazare’s fast Saturday, the Ramlila ground is swelling with people. There are young children, college goers, professionals, housewives, rickshaw pullers, shop owners and the elderly.
“It’s difficult to assess the number of people – they are in thousands! Being a weekend and a possible decision coming from the parliament, the numbers are bound to increase by a couple of thousands more today,” a volunteer at the ground said.
At the New Delhi Metro station, officials said the ranks of commuters have swelled.
According to the Metro officials, the overall footfall of the New Delhi Metro station has gone up by a few thousands over the last 10-12 days. While the usual footfall in this station is 40,000, it went up to 65,000 last weekend and is expected to surpass that this weekend.
“I hope something good comes out of this,” an elderly gentleman sitting at the Ramlila ground, looking at a group of young supporters screaming ‘Anna Tum Sangharsh Karo, Hum Tumhare Saath Hai!’.