Public anger against graft expressed in marches across India


New Delhi: Public anger and frustration over mounting corruption expressed itself across the country Sunday as thousands of people from all walks of life marched in over 60 cities to demand an effective anti-graft law at national level.

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Leading social activists, legal experts, professionals, students and, in some cities, even women carrying their children, joined the call to end corruption in public offices on the day the country marked the Martyrs’ Day, the 63rd death anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

The march was part of the “India against Corruption” movement launched by some social organisations demanding passage of the Lokpal Bill in the budget session of parliament with necessary amendments to make it more effective.

In the national capital Delhi, the march began at the Ramlila Ground and proceeded to Jantar Mantar, the 18th century masonry observatory on the edge of posh Connaught Place shopping district.

Former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi, social activists Swami Agnivesh and Anna Hazare and lawyer Prashant Bhushan were among the key participants in the rally in Delhi.

Eminent people like Bedi, lawyer Shanti Bhushan, Justice Santosh Hegde, activist Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal and many others had come together to draft an anti-corruption law which seeks to create an independent, empowered, transparent and accountable anti-corruption agency.

“The Lokpal bill prepared by the public is so effective that it will eradicate corruption in the next two-three years. Political parties should support the passage of this bill as the Lokpal suggested by the government is only a showpiece,” Shanti Bhushan said while addressing the rally.

According to activists, the government is making its proposed Lokpal an advisory body, which will only recommend to the government to prosecute its corrupt ministers.

The marchers in Agra, the city of the Taj raised slogans against corruption. Hundreds of ordinary people from all walks of life turned up and joined the march.

The march began from the Agra Municipal Corporation office near Soor Sadan auditorium end ended at the Shahid Smarak, where the marchers burnt the official Lokpal bill of the central government and observed a two-minute silence for the martyrs.

Carrying placards calling for effective anti-corruption law, hundreds of people in Bangalore, some accompanied by their children, marched from Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on M.G. Road to Kanteerava Stadium, about a kilometre away.

The march in the city was organised by Art of Living Foundation set up by spiritual ‘guru’ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and not-for-profit organisations like Janagraha and several educational institutions.

In the Andhra Pradesh capital of Hyderabad, hundreds of citizens and youth, among them former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, joined the march against corruption.

The participants marched along Necklace Road on the banks of Hussain Sagar lake in the heart of Hyderabad. Led by Lyngdoh, activists of Youth for Better India carried banners and placards with anti-corruption slogans like “Bring the Lokpal Bill” written on them.

The NTR Memorial Trust, which is run by the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), also organised a march against corruption.

Led by former chief minister and TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, the party leaders and activists walked from Golconda Military Hospital to Bapu Ghat in Langar Houz and paid their homage to Mahatma Gandhi.

Thousands of people participated in a protest march against corruption in Pune and Aurangabad in Maharashtra, according to an official.

“In Pune, we have made it a ‘politics-free’ rally. All participants are volunteers from various fields and there is no celebrity participation,” said a volunteer.

The two-hour rally in Pune started from Fergusson College gate and went to Sancheti Chowk, Bal Gangadhar Chowk and terminated at Sambhaji Park.

Thousands also marched in the Mumbai, the country’s financial hub.

“Large number of college students, professionals from the corporate sector, teachers, government employees, lawyers, doctors and others participated in this march,” one of the organisers said.