PUNE: Gandhian and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare said that the people of this country must rise once again and fight against unjust decisions while celebrating the 73rd Independence Day. He said the incumbent government has made the Right To Information (RTI) Act toothless. "Earlier, when the Manmohan Singh government tried to amend it, I went on a hunger strike. Now, it is time to protest," said the social crusader. In a special interview with Manasi Saraf Joshi, Hazare said, "We are a republic and it was generation next's responsibility to take care of our country."
Q: With the recent amendment to the RTI Act, 2005, do you think it is the beginning of the end of the Indian republic?
A: The recent amendment to the RTI Act has made it handicapped and toothless. According to the amendment, the Chief Information Commissioner's (CIC) fixed five-year tenure and the salary will now be decided by the government. When the Act was made, the CIC was given special powers so that they can act independently and freely. It was intended that the CIC can take action against the officials found in dereliction of their duties. But now, with the government deciding the tenure and salary, the post becomes a mere puppet in the hands of the government. This is not good.
Q: Please, explain how the Act has become handicapped and toothless?
A: In 1950, India became a republic, which means it is ruled by the people, for the people and of the people. The people own this country. When we say the public is the owner, people should know that every single rupee gets deposited in the government treasury. The RTI had empowered the citizens of the country to know about how this money is spent. Now, it means this right has been snatched away from us. Whenever the government has to make any changes, it must take people into confidence.
Q: Is this the first incident wherein the amendment was suggested or brought in the RTI Act?
A: The Act was formulated in 2005 but it was formulated in Maharashtra in 2003. After the formulation of the Act, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested a few changes to the Act. I protested against it and went on a hunger strike at Alandi, near Pune. Singh had to send the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to assure us that there would not be any amendments to the Act. Back then, the attempt to take out the heart of the Act was foiled.
Q: With no young leaders to take up the cause, what do you think about the future of this country?
A: The fault lies in our school and college education, where we are not teaching the children the importance of how we got Independence. They don't know about the sacrifices made, how many people went to jail and the kind of injustice and hardships they faced. We need courageous people to come forward and take up the cause concerning the country.
Q: With such amendments to various Acts, do you think we are going from democracy to dictatorship?
A: Amendments to one Act does not mean we are moving towards dictatorship. But yes, while making any amendments, the government should take people into confidence. But to make that happen, we have to wake up and bring the right kind of leaders with a moral character, who will change the system, not the government.