Anna Hazare Brings Anti-Corruption Crusade to America


August 29, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Anna Hazare is a man on a mission: he is taking his anti-corruption movement, so far confined and rooted in India, to a global level.  First stop is the US.

August 29, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Anna Hazare is a man on a mission: he is taking his anti-corruption movement, so far confined and rooted in India, to a global level.  First stop is the US.

Padma Bhushan Anna Hazare (seated at right) on Capitol Hill for a reception held in his honor by the National Federation of Indian-American Associations (NFIA).  At left is Jeremy Woodrum, Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York, Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans

The 76-year-old social activist began his international outreach on August 16 with a 12-day tour spanning a number of states – New York, Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, California, Georgia and South Carolina. On August 22, he delivered a talk in the nation’s capital and addressed students at acclaimed centers of learning – Wharton School of Business, Stanford University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Here in Washington, a reception was held in the halls of power, organized by the National Federation of Indian-American Associations (NFIA).  Billed as a ‘Congressional luncheon on Capitol Hill to meet and greet Anna Hazare, the Face of India’s Fight Against Corruption’, it coincided with the summer recess and not a single lawmaker attended the event.  The organizers were cognizant that Congress is in recess, but were hoping that local lawmakers would make their presence felt.  On hand, were staffers for Congressman Joseph Crowley (New York), Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, and Congressman Gerry Connolly (Democrat-Virginia), some two dozen of Hazare’s ardent supporters from the Indian-American community, and members of the Indian Press and Media here.

In his address to the audience, Hazare, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1992 for developing a rural village in Maharashtra, focused on two issues: an end to corruption; and rapid development with due consideration to nature and humanity.

Social activist Anna Hazare (left) mingling with guests at a reception on Capitol Hill

Speaking in Hindi, he highlighted the Jan Lokpal Bill which has been drawn up “to put a brake on corruption at the national level”.  Hazare told the gathering that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has assured him that the bill will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.  “If this is not done, I will have no other option except to go on a hunger strike beginning on day one of the winter session of Parliament”, he vowed.  “I am sure India needs a strong law against corruption.  I am sure India needs development”, he said.

The social activist repeatedly pointed out that six cabinet ministers and 400 officers were forced to resign in Maharashtra because wherever he saw corruption rear its ugly head, he protested.

Denouncing party politics, he underscored the importance of good governance, democratic governance.  “Voters must be given the right to reject candidates”, he said.  “Only people with good character should be allowed to contest elections.  Voters must pledge to vote for such candidates.  It will take time, but it will happen”.

When asked if he had any message for the Obama administration, Hazare replied, “I am not that tall to give a message to anyone, but still I would say, I am for world peace.  I believe the world can be more peaceful and all the national leaders of the world should try to create paths for world peace”.

Hazare comes across as mild-mannered, humble.  He shows the visible signs of age – has difficulty in hearing, cannot stand up for too long, his hands quiver.  Yet, he stands for ideals that are appealing to multitudes and, here in the US, he drew crowds at his public events.

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare (seated in the center) speaking with guests at a reception on Capitol Hill.  Standing at right is Mr. Om Sharma who organized the event under the ensign of the National Federation of Indian-American Associations ( NFIA)

Regarding the intent and purpose of the US visit, his spokesperson, Sachin Narode, told INDIA THIS WEEK, “Anna Hazare is taking his movement to an international platform.  We are reaching out to Indian-Americans and others around the world, uniting like-minded people, who would like to see a better future for everyone.  Anna Hazare believes that the message of anti-corruption and peace are not only important for India, but the whole world. He is starting his international tour from the US”.

The reception on Capitol Hill was organized by the soft-spoken Mr. Om Sharma, together with Dr. Parthasarathy Pillai, Dr. Satish Misra and Mr. Kirit Udeshi.  In other events here honoring Anna Hazare, private dinner receptions were held at the homes of Dr. Suresh K. Gupta and Mr. Sharma, and a public talk at the University of Maryland coordinated by DESI (Develop Empower Synergize India).

Narode explained that Hazare “came to the US as a private citizen.  The Team Anna USA group brought him here for his next-level international connection with people”.  The social activist began his US tour with the India Independence Day Parade in New York where he was the guest of honor, invited by the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA).

Social activist Anna Hazare with guests at a luncheon held in his honor on Capitol Hill.  At right is a staffer for Congressman Gerry Connolly (Democrat-Virginia)

Narode disclosed that Hazare’s team is “looking to make an international think tank against corruption.  We will also be making a documentary on Anna Hazare in all languages which will be released before the Lok Sabha elections”, he said.

At the reception on Capitol Hill, Hazare told the audience that his idols are Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda and he proceeded to give an account of the model village which he developed in Maharashtra.  This village had a population of 2,500; eighty percent of the inhabitants were hungry and had no work.  Hazare realized that there was no point in imparting knowledge to the hungry.  Through a program of soil conservation and water management, he made the village self-sufficient and it now yield two crops, he told the gathering, to much applause.

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