Hazare flags off anti-graft rally in Mumbai (Lead)

August 9th, 2011 - 9:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 9 (IANS) Social activist Anna Hazare flagged off a car and bike rally here Tuesday, drawing participation of hundreds of people as part of his nationwide anti-graft movement. The veteran Gandhian said the campaign was not targeted at any individual or party, but was for a corruption-free India.

“The agitation to demand a strong Lokpal is not aimed against any individual or party. The common man is finding it difficult to live amidst the corruption, which has led to inflation and price rise,” he said while addressing reporters here.

“With a strong Lokpal bill, we can curb corruption by at least 80 to 90 percent,” he added.

Stating that 75 percent of people’s money collected by the government is spent on establishment costs, Hazare said that 15 of the remaining 25 percent goes to the corrupt.

Advocating stringent punishment for graft, Hazare said the corrupt should be hanged.

He also said that there should be a provision to recover the money involved from the corrupt. “Sending the guilty to jail is not enough. The amount should be recovered from the corrupt person,” he said.

Hazare also alleged that some government officials were sent to his residence to verify his financial status. “Some officials were sent by the government to find out how much property is on my name, whether I was involved in any kind of corrupt activity when I served in the army.”

“I live in a temple and have a plate and a bowl to eat food from. I do not have a single blot on my character, nor do I have a huge bank balance,” he added.

Taking a dig at the government, Hazare said those in the government lack the will to create a corruption-free India.

“We think this fight against corruption is the second battle for independence. Lakhs of people sacrificed their lives to force British out of the country. But in last 65 years, there has been no change,” he said.

Speaking about the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Hazare said that huge scams in 2G spectrum allocation and Commonwealth Games came to fore because of the act. “But the act does not have the power to jail corrupt officials,” he added.

“The Jan Lokpal bill will have that power. That is why we have been asking the government to enact this legislation,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Hazare along with Arvind Kejriwal flagged off a rally involving 500 cars and bikes and around 2,000 participants.

Both rode in an open jeep from Dadar in central Mumbai to Azad Maidan, where they were joined by the city’s famous dabbawalas (lunch-box carriers) and hundreds of college students.

Hazare, who rejected the government version of the Lokpal bill, calling it inadequate, also reiterated his decision to sit on an indefinite fast from Aug 16.

“If we do not get permission to fast at any of the locations in New Delhi, we shall fast unto death in jail,” he said.

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