On Sunday evening, around one lakh Mumbaiites chose to march through the wet streets of the city protesting corruption rather than spending their holiday relaxing at home, watching a movie or doing anything else.
The nine-km rally, which started at Bandra railway station (west) and went up to Juhu beach, was organised in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill and its crusader Anna Hazare.
Students, professionals, businessmen, homemakers, social activists all took part in one of the biggest outcries against the UPA government and political leaders. While senior city police officials, requesting anonymity, said the turnout for the rally was between 80,000 and one lakh citizens, organisers, India Against Corruption (Mumbai), claimed there were more than one lakh people.
Protesters carried placards, shouted slogans, waved the national flag and marched through the western suburbs. Often holding umbrellas as it rained intermittently.
“To live a respectable life one needs to either have influence or money, else getting any work done is impossible. For everything, we need to bribe someone, be it for getting a licence or an identity or residential proof,” said Philomena Alphonso, 26, an MBA student at the rally.
“Corruption has reached the level of extortion. Getting one’s work done without paying a hefty bribe is impossible,” said businessman Suketu J.
“It’s a proud feeling to carry the tricolour. I am glad I got the opportunity through this movement. It makes me feel responsible towards my nation and by contributing in this movement against corruption I want to do my bit for the nation,” said Sameer Goyal, an engineering student from Bhayandar.
Angry protesters criticised the Congress and its leaders, targeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, among others. “Desh ka yuva yahaan hain, Rahul Gandhi kaha hain?” (The country’s youth is here, where is Rahul Gandhi?) asked the angry crowd.
The agitators blamed the ruling party for being blind and deaf to the voice of the people. One of the placards read: “Manmohan Singh is blind to the number of people on the roads to support the bill.”
Several physically challenged people took part in the rally. Polio-stricken Bhaskar Suvarna, 43, walked the entire stretch. “If 74-year-old Anna can fast, I can at least support the movement by participating in it,” said Suvarna, who is a senior clerk with a co-operative bank.