Ralegan Siddhi (Maha): Social activist Anna Hazare began a hunger strike on Wednesday over "non-fulfilment" of assurances by the Centre and the Maharashtra government on the appointment of Lokpal and passage of the Lokayukta Act in the state.
Hazare offered prayers at the Padmavati Temple in his village Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra in the morning. He then went in a procession, accompanied by students, youths and farmers, to the Yadavbaba Temple and sat near it to begin his hunger strike.
The anti-corruption crusader told PTI that he welcomed the Maharashtra Cabinet's decision to bring the office of state chief minister under the jurisdiction of Lokayukta.
"However, the strike will continue till the government fulfils promises they made before coming to power about passage of Lokayukta Act, appointment of Lokpal and to tackle farmers' issues," he said.
As a routine procedure, doctors conducted a basic health check-up of Hazare, a close aide of the activist said.
"Hazare has now begun his fast as he is disappointed with the state government for not appointing the Lokayukta," the aide said Hazare had written a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday, saying he would launch the agitation in his village from Wednesday.
Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan, who has been acting as an emissary between the government and Hazare, on Tuesday urged the activist to cancel the agitation, claiming that almost all the demands made by him were fulfilled. "His first demand was implementing Swaminathan Commission recommendations, that farmers should get 1.5 times MSP. I think that demand has been fulfilled," Mahajan had told reporters in Mumbai.
Hazare, however, said he would not call off the agitation till the Lokayukta Act becomes a reality.
Apart from the appointment of Lokpal at the national level and Lokayukta in states, Hazare has been demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and some electoral reforms.
"It has been five years since the Lokpal Act was passed. Yet the Narendra Modi government has not appointed Lokpal...Lokayukta Act has not been passed in Maharashtra for four years," Hazare observed in his letter dated January 28.
The activist said the chief minister had mediated when he had launched the agitation at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi in March last year. Hazare said he had withdrawn that agitation after the central government had assured in writing that it would fulfil the demands.
"Nine months have passed, yet the demands have not been fulfilled. Hence, I will be on hunger strike in my village Ralegan Siddhi on January 30," he had said in the letter.
The Fadnavis Cabinet had on Tuesday decided to bring the office of chief minister under the jurisdiction of Lokayukta.
Hazare had welcomed the government's decision to set rolling the process to appoint Lokayukta.
"I thank them on behalf of the people for taking the decision towards appointment of Lokayukta through a constitutional process. But, that does not mean I will not stage hunger strike. The agitation will go on until the Act is in place," he had said.