GM crops to N-plants, all protest roads lead to Ramlila | india | Hindustan Times
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GM crops to N-plants, all protest roads lead to Ramlila

india Updated: Aug 21, 2011 00:32 IST
Zia Haq

At ground zero of Anna Hazare's protest, hooters sell for Rs 5, headgears for R15 and tricolour festoons for Rs 10. The right to dissent comes free.

With a graft-busting Lokpal bill as their rallying point, scores of grassroots organisations are drumming up resistance to virtually everything that has followed from India's "emerging economy" status.

If you love to protest, there is plenty to choose from: the Unique Identity Card (UID) project, India's nuclear policy and even genetically modified crops.

Ramlila Ground is a good place to spread the dissenting word. It's swarming with the rich and the poor, doctors and management students, down to the poorest.

As the feisty 74-year-old Hazare listens to a patriotic song on the stage, rocking back and forth, 40-year-old activist Lalita Amre denounces the Aadhar project. It's an ambitious government programme ironically aimed at ensuring accountability and seeks to allot every Indian with a data-based smart card.

Amre, the leader of Maharashtra Jan Adhikar Raksha Samity (Maharashtra civil rights protection committee), wants Aadhar rolled back. Her gripe: it is being linked to social welfare schemes, a "ploy" to trim the number of beneficiaries.

Around noon, as a volunteering doctor puts his finger on Hazare's pulse, Jaipur-based activist Praveen Jaiswal's speech — some 100 yards away — provides the pulse of many Indians opposed to the nation's nuclear power policy.

Speaking to a motley crowd, among them Nina Müller, a Frankfurter visiting India, Jaiswal says: "(Look at) what happened in Japan. The government wants nuclear power at the cost of livelihood and public safety." Heads nod in agreement.

Nowhere does the government and its people look miles apart than here. Bharat Kheti Virasat Mission activist Suresh Mirdha is distributing leaflets on how GM crops will "ruin" the food economy. Another one talks about food inflation. Yet another activist wants a stronger anti-graft law than envisioned in a bill currently before Parliament.

As 30-year-old Amit Otwal, a production manager at Delhi-based ad agency, SG Planet says: “Netawon ko danda karne wala koi chahiye (Need someone who will wield the stick against politicians).” There are signs of a million more mutinies coming.