BANGALORE, India (GPI)-- Freedom Park in Bangalore buzzed with enthusiasm during the recent 10-day fast against corruption nationwide. As Anna Hazare, the face of the anti-corruption campaign, led the fast in Delhi in northern India, college students, parents, farmers and retired citizens from various socio-economic backgrounds gathered in the park to fast in solidarity in Bangalore, the capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Chandrakanth Kodapi Narayanappa, a retired senior official from the State Bank of India, addressed the crowds at the park throughout the day. Taking a break from the microphone, he says that the fast is necessary because corruption has caused inequalities between the “haves” and “have nots” to soar. “The rich are becoming richer more by illegal and illegitimate earnings than by legitimate means,” he says. Voicing disappointment, he says that corruption is now happening on a grander scale. “The corruption scams have no longer remained at two- or three-[digit] level, but they have moved to 10-digit level,” he says. The anti-corruption movement began last year. Led by Hazare, advocates fasted for 13 days in 2011 to pressure the government to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, which aims to fight corruption through an independent investigative body. The government agreed to consider the bill, and it passed in the Lok Sabha, Parliament’s lower house. But is still pending in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. “We are sure that the bill will not be implemented,” Narayanappa says. “There are 162 member[s] of Parliament against whom there are serious charges of corruption. If the bill is implemented, then all of them will go to prison. So they will not give us the bill.” So the citizens decided to fast again this year. “We are igniting people with happenings of the country so that we get our solution from people’s movement,” Narayanappa says with great hope. He says that the citizens’ power to effect change is growing. “For the first time in the country, even an ordinary citizen has come to this position of challenging the prime minister and president, which has never happened before,” he says. He explains that for the first time last year, the state chief minister and a member of the state legislative assembly in Karnataka were sent to jail on corruption charges. The cases are still ongoing in court. “It is definitely a great achievement,” Narayanappa says. He encourages the people to continue to hold government officials accountable. “Awakening on corruption should be such a extent that the corrupt people get sleepless nights and have fear of going to jail,” he says. He then turned back to address the crowd. He gave those gathered in the park the number to send text messages to in order to show their support for the anti-corruption movement. Citizens across India fasted for the second year in a row to pressure the government to pass an anti-corruption bill. But the government refused to respond to such pressure, imploring the advocates to instead pursue their agenda through the political system. The leaders have ended the fast and have scheduled a meeting this month to plan the formation of an anti-corruption political party. But the move has drawn mixed responses from supporters, some who fear that joining the institution that the campaign criticizes will taint its noble morals.