Among Anna Hazares many supporters is 90-year-old Venkat Kalyanam, a former personal secretary to Mohandas K. Gandhi. But the Chennai-based freedom fighter tells Abimanyu Nagarajan that Annas movement is just one step in the right direction
Q: People have been calling Anna Hazare a Second Gandhi...
A: He has done something much more than what Gandhi did. It was easier to fight foreign tyranny, but its not so easy to fight Indian tyranny. We were fighting the British, and they were men of character. Hazare is fighting people with no character at all. Of course, no one suffered or sacrificed as much as Gandhiji did, but this is crucial. Sixty-five years have gone by, and people have only talked about tackling corruption. Look at our politicians; look at the way they behave in Parliament. People dont have any idea who they are voting for. But Hazare has actually gone ahead and done something about corruption. And he is not doing this for himself — he is doing this for our children and grandchildren.
Q: How big is corruption as an issue?
A: Corruption was a problem as early as in September 1947. Gandhi used to receive over 80 letters a day from people complaining about corrupt politicians. There was corruption even during the British regime, but not to this extent. And the problem is that no Prime Minister has ever tackled corruption, not even Nehru. I remember once a member of Parliament asked Nehru what he was doing to curb corruption. Nehrus reply was, The honorable member should not complain. Do not worry about a little corruption here and there. To this, the member replied, Sir, a little corruption is like a little pregnancy; it keeps growing. And thats what has happened. We had corruption from the beginning, and it has only grown since then because no one has tried to check it. At this point, I would vote any day for the Britishers to come back.
Q: Can you realistically expect the Lok Pal Bill to pass in Parliament?
A: Whether the bill is passed or not doesnt matter. What matters is that he has taken a step no one else has taken before — hes directly challenged the government to tackle corruption. And we cant ask Anna Hazare to fix everything. This is just one step in the right direction. We still have many other issues to tackle. What matters is we keep this momentum going and use it to address other issues.