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Weekend brings in more supporters

As social activist Anna Hazare's indefinite fast entered its fifth day on Saturday, the number of his supporters swelled to more than double a day after he reached the historic Ramlila Maidan.

delhi Updated: Aug 20, 2011 23:58 IST
HT Correspondents

As social activist Anna Hazare's indefinite fast entered its fifth day on Saturday, the number of his supporters swelled to more than double a day after he reached the historic Ramlila Maidan.

Right from 9am, when the 73-year-old anti-graft crusader came on stage, thousands of people from all walks of life — students, housewives, elders, MNC executives, farmers, doctors and even activists fighting for different causes — thronged the venue in central Delhi to support the demand for a strong Lokpal Bill.

Barely able to walk, 87-year-old Sube Singh from Haryana was allowed on the podium to meet Hazare. "(In Delhi), I travelled in a DTC bus from Najafgarh to meet Annaji," Singh managed to utter.

Activist Dinesh Waghela (60) from Goa talked about illegal mining and exploitation of land in the name of PPP model and said, "We are also demanding a Lokayukt for Goa."

Waghela and Singh were among the many supporters, whose number was put at 15,000 by Delhi police with several hundred floating visitors.

Apart from India Against Corruption (IAC) members Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan, others who addressed the gathering included Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and former chief justice Rajinder Sachar. Besides, Bhojpuri film star Manoj Tiwari sang to a swaying audience even as actors Raja Bundela and Gajendra Chauhan remained seated in front of the podium to express solidarity.

To accommodate more number of supporters, the organisers had increased facilities like extension of the pandal. There were stalls distributing water, apart from a medical aid unit and increased number of information centres, not to mention counters for accepting donations.

Geetika Madan, a student of Miranda House, said, "There are proper queues. If someone bumps into you, they say sorry. And for the first time in my life I have not been groped despite being in such a huge gathering. I just wonder why we can't be like this in all settings."

However, shortage of water, especially drinking water, posed problems for many. But despite the large number of people, MCD safai karamcharis and volunteers made sure that the mobile toilets were clean.

"We can't do anything about the stench but we are making sure that no one leaves the toilet dirty. Even the people are behaving well," said Mahesh, an MCD worker.

MCD staff level Ramlila Ground
A part of Ramlila Maidan that was occupied by Anna Hazare and his supporters looked drier on Saturday compared to Friday, all thanks to a day that was bright and sunny for most part coupled with additional work by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

Two days back, the MCD had put in sand to level the ground but proved useless due to a heavy downpour that followed. "Today we used about 50 trucks of concrete debris to level the ground, which will not sink due to rain," said Yogender Chandolia, MCD's standing committee chairperson.

About 200-odd safai karmacharis have been put on duty to continuously clear garbage from the protest site. "We have also fogged the maidan to prevent breeding of mosquitoes," Chandolia said.