By Nilima Pathak April 2000 By Anna Hazare, Indian social activist, as told to Nilima Pathak We all complain, but do nothing about it. Here is one man who has given a clarion call to root out corruption For me there is no black-and-white. It’s either black. Or white. My tirade against corruption has taken me places-into the hearts of thousands of Maharashtrians (people from the Indian state if Maharashtra) and others all over the country! I feel that when even Alexander the Great could not carry anything with him on his journey to heaven, then why this craving for the materialistic? What’s life after all? To be good to others. In fact, seva mein hi anand hai (to serve is to be happy). This message took root in me in the mid-60s. And continues to inspire me. I’m not going to give up. And I am ready to sacrifice all for the sake of my commitment. My life is for my countrymen. The fight for corruption is my agenda. I have clear goals. And a well chalked-out plan for fighting corruption. The subject of corruption has often seen me lock horns with political bigwigs. But irrespective of that, I want more changes to take place. Change in the education system will automatically help a child to grow in a healthy atmosphere. With schools and colleges accepting bribes in the form of donations, what do you expect of a child? What path will they follow? The Official Secrets Act is a weapon overused in India. Anything the government wishes to hide is pushed under the carpet. I want this Act to be abolished. The right to information is a fundamental right of every citizen. But it remains only on paper. Why? We need a certain time-frame for access to information. I am all for more powers at the village level. Clearly, the corridors of power breed corruption. And Delhi, India’s capital, comes high on the list. It will take time to mobilize people to fight corruption, but yes, we are working towards it. T.N. Seshan, former Indian Chief Election Commissioner, took it up in a big way, but then lost control midway. His brush with politics has sullied his earlier grand image. Time and again, I have also been approached by Indian political parties including the BJP, Shiv Sena and Congress to join them. But I am adamant. My mind was made up against joining politics long ago. It’s a trying situation though. People with a clean image should enter politics. I am, at times, accused of being publicity-hungry. Believe me, if I were like that, I would only get pain in life. I follow the Gita’s teachings. And fully understand that short-term gains don’t get you anywhere. I am also accused of being caste-conscious. This is unfair. I know I feel for certain issues from the bottom of my heart. People often ask me why corruption is talked about so much these days. I feel there’s a limit to everything. People have tolerated enough and have run out of patience. Survival for the common man is difficult. I wonder why people do not understand that in a republic, power is meant to be vested in them. But power has gone to politicians or bureaucrats although they are considered public servants. How ironic! So, what do we do with the enemy within? I think we need another round of the freedom struggle. And people involved in it should be ready to go to jail and give up their lives, as they did in the effort to throw out the British. For me this is rebirth. During the 1965 war against Pakistan I was in the Army. All my colleagues died in Khemkaran. I survived. Later, at New Delhi railway station I picked up a book by Swami Vivekananda. It changed my outlook towards life. A decade later I took voluntary retirement. And ever since it has been a struggle.
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