Anna Hazare puts off proposed hunger strike

Ralegan Siddhi: Social activist Anna Hazare Tuesday put off his proposed hunger strike over various demands including appointment of Lokpal, saying the government had taken certain steps that had shown a “ray of hope.”

The 81-year-old anti-corruption crusader, however, warned that he would launch the protest on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, if the government failed to fulfil his demands.

Hazare had earlier said he would launch his agitation here in Maharashtra from Tuesday, marking the 149th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, alleging that the government had not kept its word of taking “positive steps” as regards his demands after his protest at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi in March.

Maharashtra Minister Girish Mahajan, who reached out to Hazare on behalf of the Centre and the state government, said the government had discussed in detail the demands raised by the activist and fulfilled the key points, as he urged the latter to call off the protest.

“Some things seem to be on the plus side. The government has taken some steps towards (appointment of) Lokpal, Lokayukta and (declared) one-and-a-half times rates for farmers’ produce…we see a ray of hope. Hence, I have decided to put off the protest (for now),” Hazare told reporters here. He said though there was a “ray of hope,” certain issues he had flagged remained unresolved.

“Today is Gandhiji’s birth anniversary and January 30 is his death anniversary. In case the issues remain unresolved, I would launch the protest on Gandhiji’s death anniversary…and it would be a nationwide protest,” Hazare said. Besides the appointments of Lokpal and Lokayukta, Hazare has been demanding constitutional status for the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).

He has also pitched for turning the CACP into an autonomous body. Hazare has been demanding a fair price for the dairy farmers and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. After his protest at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan in March, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had acted as an emissary of the Centre and said the NDA government had taken “positive decisions” in response to the activist’s demands.

The Swaminathan Commission was formed in 2004 to identify the problems of the farmers across the country and suggest solutions to those. It submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006, suggesting various steps to improve the agrarian situation.

Hazare, the face of the Lokpal movement, went on a 12-day hunger strike earlier in 2011. He had later launched a fast, which had garnered a huge support across the country. The then UPA government had later passed the Lokpal bill.