Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare (About this sound pronunciation (help·info), About this sound pronunciation (help·info); born 15 June 1937) is an Indian social activist who led movements to promote rural development, increase government transparency, and investigate and punish corruption in public life. In addition to organising and encouraging grassroots movements, Hazare frequently conducted hunger strikes to further his causes—a tactic reminiscent, to many, of the work of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Hazare also contributed to the development and structuring of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan—the third-highest civilian award—by the Government of India in 1992 for his efforts in establishing this village as a model for others.
Hazare started a hunger strike on 5 April 2011 to exert pressure on the Indian government to enact a stringent anti-corruption law, The Lokpal Bill, 2011 as envisaged in the Jan Lokpal Bill, for the institution of an ombudsman with the power to deal with corruption in public places. The fast led to nationwide protests in support. The fast ended on 9 April 2011, a day after the government accepted Hazare’s demands. The government issued a gazette notification on the formation of a joint committee, consisting of government and civil society representatives, to draft the legislation.
Foreign Policy magazine named him among top 100 global thinkers in 2011. Also in 2011, Hazare was ranked as the most influential person in Mumbai by a national daily newspaper.He has faced criticism for his authoritarian views on justice, including death as punishment for corrupt public officials and his alleged support for forced vasectomies as a method of family planning.Kisan Baburao Hazare was born on 15 June 1937 (some sources say 15 January 1940) in Bhingar, near Ahmednagar. He was the eldest son of Baburao Hazare and Laxmi Bai. He has two sisters and four brothers. He later adopted the name Anna, which in Marathi means “elder person” or “father”.
His father worked as an unskilled labourer in Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy and struggled to support the family financially. In time, the family moved to their ancestral village of Ralegan Siddhi, where they owned a small amount of agricultural land.Hazare was drafted in the Indian Army in April 1960, where he initially worked as an army truck driver and was later attested as a soldier. He undertook army training at Aurangabad.
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Hazare was posted at the border in the Khem Karan sector. He was the sole survivor of an enemy attack—variously claimed to have been a bomb, an aerial assault and an exchange of fire at the border—while he was driving a truck. The experiences of wartime, coupled with the poverty from which he had come, affected him. He considered suicide at one point but turned instead to pondering the meaning of life and death. He said of the truck attack, “sent me thinking. I felt that God wanted me to stay alive for some reason. I was reborn in the battlefield of Khem Karan. And I decided to dedicate my new life to serving people.Hazare returned to Ralegan Siddhi, a village then described by Satpathy and Mehta as “one of the many villages of India plagued by acute poverty, deprivation, a fragile ecosystem, neglect and hopelessness.”
Although most of the villagers owned some land, cultivation was extremely difficult due to the rocky ground preventing retention of the monsoon rains, this situation was worsened by gradual environmental deterioration as trees were cut down, erosion spread and droughts were also experienced. The shortage of water also led to disease from unsanitary conditions and water reuse for multiple purposes. Hazare and the youth group decided to take up the issue of alcoholism to drive a process of reform. At a meeting conducted in the temple, the villagers resolved to close down liquor dens and ban alcohol in the village. Since these resolutions were made in the temple, they became, in a sense, religious commitments. Over thirty liquor brewing units voluntarily closed their establishments. Those who did not succumb to social pressure were forced to close their businesses when the youth group smashed their premises. The owners could not complain as their businesses were illegal.In 1991 Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan (BVJA, People’s Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption in Ralegaon Siddhi. In the same year he protested against the collusion between 40 forest officials and timber merchants. This protest resulted in the transfer and suspension of these officials.
In May 1997 Hazare protested alleged malpractice in the purchase of powerlooms by the Vasantrao Naik Bhathya Vimukt Jhtra Governor P. C. Alexander.On 4 November 1997 Gholap filed a defamation suit against Hazare for accusing him of corruption. He was arrested in April 1998 and was released on a personal bond of 5,000 (US$70). On 9 September 1998 Hazare was imprisoned in the Yerawada Jail to serve a three-month sentence mandated by the Mumbai Metropolitan Court. The sentencing caused leaders of all political parties except the BJP and the Shiv Sena to support him. Later, due to public protests, the Government of Maharashtra ordered his release. Hazare wrote a letter to then chief minister Manohar Joshi demanding Gholap’s removal for his role in alleged malpractices in the Awami Merchant Bank. Gholap resigned from the cabinet on 27 April 1999.
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