New Delhi, Aug 27
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 in central Delhi ever since the 74-year-old activist came here from the Tihar Jail to continue his fast demanding a strong, anti-graft bill.
Like scores of 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.
“Annaji is on fast for people like me. We suffer every day because people are so corrupt. The traffic policemen take bribe 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 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 Hazare and his team are pushing for, Prasad and Sharma had different takes.
“I know that Annaji 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 madamji… I don’t know these jargons. All I know is that Annaji 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.
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 figure this weekend.
“I hope something good comes out of this,” said an elderly man sitting at the Ramlila ground, looking at a group