Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gandhi 2.0: Non violent resisters take on corruption in India

Indian hunger striker Anna Hazare proved that Indians still value the Gandhian philosophy of non violent resistance, or Satyagraha, and that the public is fed up with the menace of corruption and willing to come out in large numbers to support the anti-corruption cause. The Anna Hazare campaign was just a precursor to a much larger and wide spread non violent movement that’s taking shape now.
Swami Ramdev, the famous yoga guru and activist, has been working on a nationwide movement against corruption and black money under a much larger movement named “Bharat Swabhiman” for over a year now.  He has travelled 70,000 kms across India covering various states and targets to finish 100,000 kms by June 2011 and will then launch the major part of his country wide collective movement from Delhi to put pressure on Indian government through nonviolent means (Satyagraha), as preached by Mahatama Gandhi, to agree to their demands.

I recently got an opportunity to travel with him as part of his convoy and team for the Road Trip (Yatra) across the state of Karnataka.  The Karnataka campaign was started with a press conference at the Bangalore Press Club on 13th April 2011 and will end at Belagum on 25th April, subsequent to that the trip, it will enter Goa, then Maharashtra and then the state of Madhya Pradesh.

About the Brand of “Swami/Baba Ramdev”
He is known by all Indians (over 1200 million) and has support of people across all religions, castes and creed.  He is not an overnight phenomenon but someone who worked hard and for over a decade to reach where he is today, and all this through his selfless deeds (karma) and by winning trust of a nation. 

Let me share a few facts and anecdotes from my recent experience from the Karnataka road trip.
During his road trips (for over a year now) his itinerary is such that his day starts at 3 AM in the morning, he starts his Yog Shivir (Yoga Camp) at 5 AM and then finally manages to sleep between 11 PM – 1 AM.
He hardly eats and survives on a diet mainly consisting of fruits and dry fruits that also very minimal quantity.
At all the places where they halt during the road trip, he never stays at a hotel, only stays at an Ashram(Hermitage) or at somebody’s residence (a common –man) who is his follower/devotee.

During our trip, some other spiritual guru (don’t wish to name him) met him at the place of our stay, as they were supposed to leave together to inaugurate a college, at the time of leaving the other guru invited Ramdev to travel in his luxurious Lexus SUV and to his surprise, Ramdev politely refused and said, “I only travel in my swadeshi scorpio (a very basic entry level Indian SUV)”.  He strictly practices what he preaches.  The other guru just quietly followed him in his car.

The “Bharat Swabhiman” (India Pride) Movement
“Bharat Swabhiman” is a much larger movement which aims at making India a super power and a truly developed nation.  It has been envisaged as the “Second Freedom Struggle” of India. There are mainly two goals of the movement:
·         One is spiritual, character and ethical development of Bharat (India) with Yoga, Spirituality and Health.
·         Secondly, economic development of Bharat and complete eradication of corruption and black money. 
The economic development is not possible without changing the corrupt system.  Corruption and black money are the root causes of India’s impoverishment, poverty of people, hunger, deprivation, naxalism and all other problems.  The day the common man will get to know the facts and truth about corruption, they themselves will stand up to protest and fight against it.
Through these road trips they aim to integrate over 1 crore (10 Million) volunteers to the movement across every village and city of India, a majority of that target is already achieved and the remaining will be completed by May 2011 end.

The Fight Against Corruption & Black Money
The key 5 demands for their fight against corruption are:
  1. Making strict laws and currency recall:   To close the 5 source of black money, we need to first recover the existing black money from these corrupt people and traitors. Then we need to amend our laws to provide life term and death penalty to the corrupt.   Withdraw bigger currency notes from the economy by way of currency recall and block the main source of black money immediately.
  2. Accepting the “United Nations Convention Against Corruption” that is pending since 2006: In 2006, 140 countries together passed a treaty under UN wherein they agreed to return any black money deposited in their country belonging to any other country.  126 countries out of 140 also got it approved from their respective cabinets.  If Indian government also gets it approved by the cabinet then we can easily get back black money from these 140 countries under this convention.
  3. Close the Mauritius route: Central government must block the Mauritius root immediately; they must attach the wealth and assets of people who have used fake projects/companies and have used foreign credit cards to convert black money to white money.  Moreover, they must disclose full details related to the sources of Hassan Ali’s 1 lakh crore rupees worth of wealth and must immediately recover 50 thousand crore rupees due in taxes from him.
  4. Banning the corrupt Swiss and Italian banks: Government must immediately ban the 4 Swiss and 8 Italian banks that are involved in laundering of black money and Banks of other countries also that are suspected of such deeds. Moreover, action must be taken against people who have illegal accounts and operations in such banks.
  5. To announce a transparent foreign account policy : A “Foreign Account Policy” must be formed and announced immediately that is applicable to all people who have deposited money in foreign banks.  If these people do not disclose full details related to their accounts in foreign banks within 3-6 months then the illegal money stashed by such people must be declared national wealth and attached.

The Karnataka Yatra (Road Trip) Itinerary
The road trip itinerary is very extensive and covers all major districts towns of a state and there are multiple stops on the way from one district to the other.  At each district there is a Yoga Camp and a meeting of volunteers who are spreading the movement to each and every village in their district by going door to door and conducting mass meetings.  The Karnataka trip will cover the following key places from 13th April to 25th April
Bangalore > Mandya > Mysore > Kushal Nagar > Madikeri > Mangalore > Udupi > Badravathi >ShimogaRanibennur > Haveri > Sirsi > Dharwad > Gadag > Bagalkot >Bijapur >Belgaum

What to expect next?
The idea behind these road trips is to connect with the masses to educate them about Yoga and to also create awareness and support for the anti-corruption campaign.
The aim is to:
- Create “Collective Awareness”
- Form “Collective Will”
- Turn this will into “Collective Action”.
On completion of 100,000 Kms of these trips across the key states of India (May 2011 end), Swami Ramdev will be launching a major nationwide Satyagraha (Mass Fasting) in June 2011 wherein approximately 100,000 people will be fasting in Delhi and approx. 10,000 people will do the same in each state capital, the same way there will be people fasting in every district capital and village of India.
The objective will be to compel the government to agree and take action on the 5 demands described above.

How Technology Can Keep this Movement Going
First, we're creating an online portal, to be launched soon, for building awareness and integrating volunteers under one platform, to drive collaboration. People will be able to share their stories, ideas and views on the various aspects of the movement and underlying causes. It will be supplemented with SMS based campaign to further spread the message and involve the masses (In India mobile penetration is much higher than the Internet penetration).
TV is already used extensively to spread the knowledge and will be further leveraged to spread it on mass scale in a very short duration. If you are a true Bhartiye (Indian), then join the movement and contribute in whichever way you can; spread the message, volunteer and motivate others to do so too, and above all get ready for mass fasting in June 2011.

If you are a true Indian, then join the movement and contribute in whichever way you can; spread the message, volunteer and motivate others to do so too,  and above all get ready for mass fasting in June 2011.

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