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Team Anna holds classes on the bill

It was a class that needed to be taken for quite some time. Avishek G Dastidar reports.

delhi Updated: Aug 22, 2011 23:26 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

It was a class that needed to be taken for quite some time.

Too many critics of Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement had been taking potshots at the huge turnout saying the protesters were merely feeding hysteria and did not know the nitty-gritty of what they were supporting or opposing.

Taking a cue, television channels and some newspapers had finally started murmuring that, perhaps, it was time to look beyond the swelling crowds and see if Hazare’s men had managed to form informed opinion on their version of the Lokpal Bill.

Sensing the mood, activist Arvind Kejriwal on Monday took the mike and held the much-needed ‘class’ on the Jan Lokpal Bill.

In the detailed explanation of the provisions of the bill, Kejriwal showed that the difference between the government’s idea of a Lokpal and their Jan Lokpal was not just about including a serving Prime Minister.

“We are in favour of keeping more and more public servants under the purview of Lokpal, while the government wants to keep a large section of the bureaucracy out of the Lokpal’s reach. Should this be allowed?” Kejriwal asked in his signature style, while the morning gathering bellowed a “no”.

A dipstick survey of the crowd had earlier indicated that the inclusion of the prime minister was perceived as the only bone of contention people largely thought existed, whereas the difference ran deeper than that.

“I want to fight corruption and I know that Anna is right. My presence helps his fight so I’m here,” said Ratan Singh, a farmer, part of a contingent from Jind, Haryana, which arrived at the Ramlila Ground on Monday.

But the Anna camp had been sensing the need for turning mere protest into discerning support. Perhaps that’s why former IPS officer-turned activist Kiran Bedi had begun the layman’s guide to Jan Lokpal on Saturday, when she invented the now-famous “dial 101” example.

“Just the way ambulance comes to your rescue once you dial 101, the Lokpal officers will arrive to investigate every complaint of corruption. If anyone again asks you how the Lokpal will help fight corruption, you say this to them,” Bedi had told a cheering crowd.

“Government’s Lokpal provides greater protection to corrupt”, reads the official pamphlet from the India Against Corruption (IAC) information camp. The pamphlet tears into the government’s draft on 11 counts, which address the scope to punish the corrupt, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, corruption within the Lokpal and the like.

“We have asked volunteers to patiently explain the salient features and also distribute the pamphlets, which give clear distinction between the two drafts,” said a volunteer at the information camp.