India's Anti-Graft Crusader Starts Indefinite Hunger Strike for Farmers' Cause

© AP Photo / Rajanish Kakade / Indian farmers shout slogans during a rally at the end of their six day long march on foot, in Mumbai, India
Indian farmers shout slogans during a rally at the end of their six day long march on foot, in Mumbai, India - Sputnik International
Anna Hazare grabbed global attention for leading a massive anti-corruption movement in 2011. He has now taken up the cause of distressed farmers. The latest available official data suggests more than 11,000 farmers committed suicide in the year 2016 alone. Anna spoke to Sputnik about his campaign.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Thousands of Indian farmers have gathered at the Ramlila Maidan — a popular protest square in the capital New Delhi — to lend their support to anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare who has started an indefinite hunger strike demanding the early redress of issues faced by distressed farmers.

"Anna" — as he is popularly known — is also protesting the government's failure to appoint a Jan Lokpal (public ombudsman) despite the Parliament's approving legislation on the matter. The legislation was the result of an intense nationwide anti-corruption campaign in 2011 led by Anna.

Sputnik spoke to Anna a few days ago on his strategy and commitment.

READ MORE: Indian Anti-Corruption Activist Starts Indefinite Hunger Strike

Sputnik: Anna, what made you decide to launch yet another nationwide protest campaign?

Anna Hazare: I have written a series of letters to Prime Minister Modi about the situation of farmers in India. I have written to him that farmers should be given an adequate price for their crops on the basis of expenses incurred in the farming. I have written 43 letters to Prime Minister Modi but I haven't received a response to any of my letters so far. I have already hinted to him through one of my letters that if the government does not pay attention to my demands then I will go on an indefinite fast.

Sputnik: What are your demands?

Farmers listen to a speaker at a rally organised by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Mumbai, India March 12, 2018 - Sputnik International
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Anna Hazare: Suicides among farmers have increased. Hundreds of farmers have ended their lives due to recurring crop failures and unjust pricing mechanism. Farmers are not getting the right price for their products compared to the expenses incurred by them. They are not getting right remuneration for their crops. The government at both the central and state level have commissions for agricultural costs and prices which recommend minimum support price for the crops. The fact is that central commission for agricultural costs and price cuts almost 40 percent of the minimum support price for crops which are recommended by the state agriculture price commission. This is not fair.

I feel that the agricultural price commission should be given constitutional status and autonomy. Further, some of the prominent farmers should also be its members. Only then will the commission be able to do justice to the farmers. India is a land of farmers and if the government doesn't pay attention to the problems of farmers then the country will witness an uprising.

READ MORE: Monsanto Accused of Causing Loss to Cotton Farmers in India

Sputnik: You had earlier agitated over the formation of Jan Lokpal (an anti-corruption authority) in 2011 and the then government agreed to form Jan Lokpal but why is the issue still unresolved?

Anna Hazare: The fact is that no one is interested in forming the Jan Lokpal or Lak Ayukta. Because the prime minister, his cabinet ministers, all the members of Parliament and all the senior officers would be scrutinized by the proposed Jan Lokpal. But they don't want an inquiry against themselves. Therefore the government is not interested in appointing the Lokpal.

Sputnik: Who will be your cadres this time as earlier many of them had political ambitions and joined politics which adversely affected your image and your movement also?

Anna Hazare: This time all the people who are associated with me have to file an affidavit that they will not join any political party or form any political party. They have to sign an affidavit that they will stay away from politics, they will maintain their pure character and that they will serve society and the nation.

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Sputnik — What will be nature and duration of your agitation?

Anna Hazare — I have decided that I will continue the movement until my death. I have taken a vow in my life that I will serve society and nation till I die. The power of people is strong in democracy and if the people of the country stand for their just cause then the government will have to bow down.

The views and opinions expressed by Anna Hazare in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.

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