Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre

Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre
Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that its records show a bungalow on Jantar Mantar Road in the heart of the national capital was allotted to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Trust and was not allocated to either activist Swami Agnivesh or his NGO.

The response of the Ministry of Urban Development to a query under the Right to Information Act said the records suggested that as on April 30, 1977, bungalow number 7 at the Jantar Mantar Road was in the name of the trust.

“As per records the property is not allocated to Bandhua Mukti Morcha at any point of time. As per the records, the property was not allocated to Swami Agnivesh in the past,” the ministry said.

The RTI response said that there was no complaint with regard to the property during the 2010-2015 period.

“No such complaint indicating illegal possession and misuse is found in the records of property no. 7, Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi,” it said.

The RTI reply was referred to before a bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru which was hearing a plea filed by activist Ajay Gautam against an October 2016 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The CIC had denied him the information sought on the ground he was not a lessee of the property.

Agnivesh, however, said that his NGO Bandhua Mukti Morcha is operating from the bungalow.

The court considered the response of the Centre and disposed of the plea of Gautam.

Gautam, in an RTI application, had sought information whether the bungalow was ever alloted to Bandhua Mukti Morcha or its national president Agnivesh.

The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Land and Development of Delhi had failed to provide the information, according to him.

( Source – PTI )

Lokpal bill will cut graft by 70 percent:Anna Hazare

Social activist Anna Hazare said Friday that the proposed Lokpal bill will bring down corruption by 60 to 70 percent.

 “When it becomes a law, it will curb graft by 60 to 70 percent and become the foundation for completely removing corruption,” Hazare told a group of farmers near Nelamangala, about 40 km from Bangalore. 

He also said he would again go on hunger strike if any attempt is made to derail or obstruct the bill, and urged people to be ready for agitation to ensure that the anti-graft law becomes a reality.The social activist arrived in the city Friday on a two-day visit to hold dialogue with civil society representatives on strengthening the campaign.

This is Hazare’s first visit to Bangalore after his five-day fast in New Delhi in early April led to the setting up of a 10-member panel to draft the Lokpal bill to tackle corruption at the national level.

 He along with other activists Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi will address a public meeting here Saturday.

Indians continue to support Hazare through SMSes

Despite the recent controversies surrounding civil society members of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, support for Anna Hazare’s anti-graft campaign continues unabated, as evident from the thousands of SMSes pouring in from across the country, the organisers said Tuesday.

An SMS that read – ‘Do you want to volunteer for Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption (in support of strong anti-corruption law)? If yes, please SMS back on this number’ – was sent to 3,50,000 Delhiites Saturday and 55,000 of them replied, said an official from India Against Corruption (IAC), the organisation spearheading the campaign.

A similar SMS was sent in Mumbai to over 1,00,000 people, and 10,000 responded.

‘Excitement is building up in Bangalore, Mysore and other cities as Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, among others, are all set to visit them for public consultations on the Jan Lokpal Bill,’ the IAC official said.

We are getting an indication that crowds of between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be present in Mysore and Bangalore respectively, the official added.

Numerous organisations, professionals, and others are contacting IAC centres across the country to pledge their support and offer assistance to the movement.

‘A public march will be held from Jantar Mantar to India Gate on May 1 at 5 p.m. to express support for the joint drafting committee,’ added the official.

Anna Hazare calls off fast

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare on Saturday broke his fast after over 90 hours of spearheading the campaign against corruption after government issued a gazette notification constituting a 10-member joint committee of ministers and civil society activists, including him, to draft an effective Lokpal Bill.

After a last-minute twist almost derailed a peace deal between Anna Hazare and the government, the Gandhian on Friday announced that he would call off his fast on Saturday morning with official negotiators accepting all his conditions.

Hazare first helped supporters break their fast before ending it himself. Thousands were waiting for Anna Hazare to break his fast. The 72-year-old took a few sips of juice offered to him by a little girl. Loud cheers erupted and the strains of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn “Raghupati Raghava Raja” filled the air.

Social activists Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar and Kiran Bedi hailed Hazare’s campaign as the Gandhian said he would to continue the fight for the “second struggle for independence”.

Hazare, who began his fast Tuesday morning, congratulated the people for the success of the movement that saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issue a statement promising that the Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, with more teeth to effectively counter corruption in public life, would be introduced this July in the Monsoon session of Parliament.

Terming the movement a second freedom struggle, he said the system had to be changed. “We have got a lot of strength from the people,” the former soldier said, adding that there would be further revolutions on other issues confronting India.

“We have to keep our unity intact,” he said. He said what was significant was that this movement had no religion. The youth were at the forefront of this campaign, he said.

The notification by the Ministry of Law and Justice said the Joint Drafting Committee to prepare a draft of the Lokpal Bill will have five ministers from the government and five nominees of Hazare, including himself.

The five ministers are finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, chairperson, home minister P Chidambaram, law minister Veerappa Moily (convenor), HRD minister Kapil Sibal and water resources minister Salman Khurshid.

The civil society will be represented by Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N Santosh Hegde, former law minister Shanti Bhushan (co-Ccairperson), lawyer Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.

The notification said the Joint Drafting Committee will commence work forthwith evolving its own procedure to prepare the proposed legislation. The committee shall complete its work latest by June 30, it said.

For civil society protesters who had laid siege to Jantar Mantar, where Hazare had been on fast for the last four days, it was a decisive victory. After holding out over a formal notification of a joint committee of activists and ministers, the Centre on Friday agreed to issue a government order that was accepted by activists. Besides a joint panel with a 50:50 ministerial-activist composition, the Centre accepted Hazare’s offer of the committee being co-chaired. This is the only compromise the activists agreed to after the Centre said it would concede the chair to Hazare’s group but no minister would be on it. Hazare said the co-chair formula was a middle path as he was keen that ministers be on the panel. “Ministers will give the panel more weight, it will make the government more receptive to agreeing to the draft the committee draws up,” Hazare explained.

But it was not all smooth sailing. Before Hazare told his supporters, “You will be happy with what the government has agreed to…ye janata ki badi jeet hui (this is a big victory for the people),” there were a few missteps. The deal that looked so tantalizingly close seemed to slip away. After the 6 pm meeting on Friday with HRD minister Kapil Sibal, minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed and law minister Veerappa Moily, Swami Agnivesh said an announcement would be made at Jantar Mantar by the Gandhian.

“You will be happy,” he said. But at ground zero, backstage discussions seemed to stretch on forever before Hazare surprised the crowd by saying that he was still on fast and awaiting a draft.

Official sources said the draft agreement had been cleared by Hazare. But there were divisions in his camp, preventing him from calling off his fast. “The government has accepted all the conditions. It agreed that an official notification would be issued once he said his fast was over,” a source said.

A Hazare group leader saw things the other way around. The Gandhian’s breaking his fast, he said, was contingent on a satisfactory government order being issued. He said once the activists were satisfied that the terms agreed to had been honoured, the agitation would be over. Some activists in the Hazare camp have been insistent on a notification.

But after the thrills and some near spills, the surging crowd at Jantar Mantar and India Gate left no doubt about how the match had gone. Civil society had won hands down. It looked like an innings defeat for the government which had only on Monday frostily expressed its “disappointment” at Hazare’s decision to fast and dismissed the stir as saffron inspired.

Hazare’s handsome victory seems a significant political milestone, marking the impact of popular opinion in a media-influenced age. It is the culmination of a string of corruption scams that placed graft at the political centrestage. It saw the ruling party worrying about a “JP-type” stir that turned tables on Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

As has been the case in the past, the turning point came with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s intervention on Thursday and her backing the demand for a strong anti-corruption law. On Friday, the peace moves gathered momentum after a meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence attended by Sonia. Soon, it was evident that the government was preparing to cut its losses and “stoop to conquer”, as an official source put it. This saw Sibal telling the media that the government and civil society were on the same page and “this is a happy day for us. I express my gratitude to Annaji”.

Thousands join anti-graft crusade as Hazare begins fast

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare Tuesday began his “fast unto death” in New Delhi for a stronger Lokpal Bill that provides for stringent punishment for corruption, and thousands of people in many cities lent support by launching hunger strikes and taking out rallies.

“This is the second ‘satyagraha’,” said Hazare, who started his fast at Jantar Mantar in the national capital after first paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat memorial.

Hundreds of supporters holding flags and placards calling for a more effective anti-graft Lokpal Bill, thronged the Rajghat and Jantar Mantar as Hazare sat for his fast.

The 72-year-old activist was joined by supporters, including Right To Information (RTI) activist Arind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh, Magsaysay Award winners Kiran Bedi and Sandeep Pandey and many others.

According to India Against Corruption, the banner under which the activists have united to fight corruption, over 5,000 people assembled to support the veteran activist at Jantar Mantar, while supporters from over 400 cities and towns joined the campaign from their respective places.

Hazare Monday said he is starting a “fast unto death” to press for the demand to involve civil society in formulation of the anti-graft Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill.

I am going on fast because we want representation from civil society in drafting the Lokpal bill, 50 percent from civil society and 50 percent from government. If the government frames the bill without people’s participation, it will not be democratic, it will be autocratic, Hazare told media Tuesday before starting his fast.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had Monday expressed “deep disappointment” over Hazare’s decision to go ahead with the planned hunger strike, but said he had enormous respect for the social worker and his mission.

Prime Minister says I have faith and respect for you. Why didn’t he sit for discussion even for one day with us after the meeting last month? he asked.

Many cities saw activists coming out in support of Hazare.

In Lucknow, a signature campaign was launched to express support to the anti-corruption crusade. People from all walks of life, including students, teachers, doctors, lawyers and professionals, turned up for the signature campaign, supporting Hazare’s demand for more stringent punishment for corruption than the government draft bill provides for.

In Bangalore, Mahendra Kumar Gandhi, a 51-year-old yoga trainer, started indefinite fast following Hazare. Over 50 others joined him at the Freedom Park in heart of the city.

Protest fast was also observed in Mysore, Mangalore, Udupi, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Bellary, Tumkur and other places in Karnataka, Anand Yadwad, a coordinator of the protests, told  in Bangalore.

In Mumbai, people took out a rally and joined in cars, on motorbikes and on foot as it moved from Shivaji Park in south-central Mumbai to Azad Maidan in south Mumbai where over 5,000 people gathered in support of Hazare’s campaign, many observing a day-long hunger-strike.

The activists are demanding the government adopt the alternative Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by leading legal experts and personalities including Arvind Kejriwal, former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

The Jan Lokpal Bill calls for setting up Lokpal and Lokayuktas (in states) independent of government control. In the activists’ version, investigation in any case will have to be completed in one year, and punishment would be a jail term of minimum five years and maximum of life imprisonment.

The government’s version recommends a prison term of minimum six months and maximum seven years as punishment for corruption.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) extended support to Hazare and urged him to end his fast. The party asked the government to incorporate necessary changes in the proposed anti-corruption legislation so that it is more effective, and “not make it a prestige issue.”

“The entire country is today waiting for effective action against the cancer of corruption. The wish of the people should be respected,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Delhi.

Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, who was present to show solidarity with Hazare, said he was convinced that the Jan Lokpal Bill was the need of the hour to tackle corruption in the country.

“Just as the Election Commission and the Supreme Court are effective bodies, similarly an institution which is to fight corruption has to be equally powerful,” Yadav said.

“I approve of the draft prepared by Hazareji and others. I am willing to back it in parliament,” he added.

NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh over attack on Swami Agnivesh

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Chhattisgarh’s chief secretary and police chief over the alleged attack last week on social activist Swami Agnivesh by members of the Salwa Judum civil militia.

“The commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report alleging that a large group comprising special police officers of Chhattisgarh police and members of the Salwa Judum attacked Swami Agnivesh on March 26, 2011 as he attempted to deliver relief to a village reportedly torched by the security forces in Dantewada district,” a statement said Wednesday.

“Considering the issues raised in the report, the commission today observed that the entire incident is a matter of great concern, and issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh calling for their factual reports within four weeks in the matter,” it added.

The report referred to the aftermath of an incident in which three men were killed, three women were sexually assaulted and about 300 homes, granaries and woodsheds were torched by the security forces during a five day anti-Maoist operation in the villages of Tarmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli in Dantewada, an NHRC official said.

Swami Agnivesh had gone to the affected villages to deliver clothes, blankets and other relief material, when he was attacked twice in six hours by a mob at a Salwa Judum camp at Dornapal, the official added.

Salwa Judum is an anti-Maoist movement supported by the Chhattisgarh government.