Friday, May 27, 2011

Hazare says Gujarat is a ‘land of scams', more liquor than milk flows in the State

Manas Dasgupta

Volte-face:Senior leader of the India Against Corruption Movement Anna Hazare (centre) is briefed by activist and dancer Mallika Sarabhai as he arrives at the Gujarat Vidhyapith in Ahmedabad on Thursday for a public hearing or ‘Jan Sanvani.'

AHMEDABAD: In a volte-face, social activist Anna Hazare, whose praise for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had invited displeasure from his own supporters, on Thursday described the State as a “land of scams” where despite prohibition “more liquor flows than milk.”
                                        — Photo: AFP 

Mr. Hazare, who, along with fellow activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal, was on a day's visit to the State for an “interaction” with the people to take inputs for the draft Jan Lokpal Bill, said, after talking to people's representatives, that he found a “different Gujarat” from the image he had of the State in his mind.

“After coming here, I have realised there is so much corruption in Gujarat. There is nothing but scams in Gujarat and it is regrettable that in the land of Mahatma Gandhi so much liquor flows, more than even milk, [even] though prohibition is still supposed to be in force,” Mr. Hazare said at a “public hearing” attended by various civil society groups and voluntary organisations at the Gujarat Vidyapith, founded by Gandhiji, here.

The social activist, who, soon after having broken his indefinite fast over the Lokpal Bill last month, had described Mr. Modi as the model of development and advised other Chief Ministers to follow Gujarat's and Bihar's pattern for progress, on Thursday told Mr. Modi to appoint a Lokayukta at the earliest and take steps to stop land scams in the State. He said the State needed to follow the Maharashtra pattern, where any land to be allocated to industries was required to be approved by “gram sabhas” (the village panchayats). “The gram sabhas should be empowered in a way that no transaction pertaining to village land can take place without their permission,” he said, adding that it was the best way to stop land scams. With regard to allegations of forcible acquisition of cultivable lands for industrial purposes by the government, he said the “people's movement for land reforms, to stop forcible acquisition, would be started from Gujarat” once the current move for drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill was over.

Swami Agnivesh said that after having attended the public hearing, which had exposed the “false claims” made by the Modi government regarding development, his outlook had changed. “Gujarat is not vibrant, as shown by Mr. Modi. Gujarat is the land of scams,” he said. The activist said the Modi government was taking the help of American media agencies to project a false picture of the State's development. Mr. Kejriwal cautioned that if the government continued to take lands forcibly, it could lead to civil war.

Besides attending the public hearing, Mr. Hazare and his supporters joined an interactive session with some intellectuals and addressed a public meeting in the city during the day.
Mr. Hazare took the first opportunity to try to correct his public image, which his supporters felt had been damaged by his praise for Mr. Modi's “development policies.” While the convenor of the State unit of his “India Against Corruption” and danseuse Mallika Sarabhai and others, had threatened to dissociate themselves from the movement if Mr. Hazare did not change his opinion, Gujarat Vidyapith vice-chancellor Sudarshan Iyengar had described his comments as “hasty and unwarranted.”

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