04/09/2011, 00.00
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Archbishop of Delhi: Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Commission "Victory of the People”

by Nirmala Carvalho
The government accepts the Gandhian activist demands, after days on hunger strike. The Indian Church supported her battle to expose widespread corruption affecting the country. The joint body approved by the Executive – 1st members, including Hazara - proposes a bill providing for harsher penalties and protection for the poor.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "It's a victory for the people." This is the reaction of Mgr. Vincent Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, to the news that "the government has accepted the demands pf the Gandhian activist Anna Hazare" on the Jan Lokpal Bill. In recent days, the 72 year-old activist had begun a "hunger strike until death" to protest against the rampant corruption that affects India. Today he stopped the protest, but announced his intention to continue the battle to protect the poorest. From the outset the Indian Catholic Church supported the protest of the civil rights leader, because - Fr Cedric Prakash recalls- over the years "we have institutionalized corruption in the country and the situation" becomes more complicated when the big guys are involved. "

On 5 April, Anna Hazare launched a permanent sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the city's ancient astronomical observatory built in 1700, announcing an indefinite hunger strike. For years he has been campaigning against the rampant corruption in the country, urging the central government to tighten the dictates of the law now being studied, the Lokpal Bill.

The Gandhian activist has also developed a personal version of the norm, the Jan Lokpal Bill, which provides for the establishment of an independent authority with powers of investigation and punishment of offenders, even including members of the political-administrative class. The government has issued a note in which accepts Anna Hazare’s requests, specifying a joint commission will be established made up of 10 people, including ministers, members of civil society and the Gandhian activist. They will have the task of drafting a bill to fight corruption in India.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, the Archbishop of Delhi Mgr. Vincent Concessao called the news that the government accepted Hazare’s demands a "victory of the people". The prelate has supported the struggle of the activist from the outset and on April 5, was sitting with him on the dias of the observatory. "Corruption is immoral and wrong - said the archbishop - and is contrary to moral and social teachings of the Church." He stresses that accepting bribes, cheating, depriving the poor of their rights are all immoral behaviour and the Church, instituted by Christ to work for justice, peace, truth and development, has a duty to join the battle against corruption ".

The prelate said that the phenomenon mostly affects the poor and marginalized, but also members of the middle class, impoverishing and humiliating people. "The gap between the rich and the marginalized – he says - is widening and this phenomenon must be stopped." Archbishop Concessao welcomes the "mass movement" that has been created in recent days, "it has helped make people aware of their rights," also showing "the way of non-violent protest." "What is important - said the archbishop - is that the method of Mahatma Gandhi is still valid today." The current laws against corruption are "inadequate" and do not "protect" the victims of corruption. Finally, he also points at laws "that do not protect those who oppose the practice of corruption" and asked the legislature to implement rules so that "the courageous voices who denounce cases of corruption are not extinguished."

The Archbishop of Delhi was joined by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, Director of Prashant, the Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, was also shared Anna Hazara’s battle from the beginning. "Over the years - the Jesuit denounces - we have institutionalized corruption in our country [...]We have taken it for granted that we have to "cough up money" in order to get things done..be it a Railway ticket,the repair of our telephone line or an admission in School". The priest says that "you can get a good job in the government, only by paying a sum of money to 'those who count'." And it gets worse when the "big guys" as Fr. Prakash calls them are involved, such as the lobby of the mining industry, the mafia behind the real estate moguls.

The Jesuit points to the recent case that has seen the participation of thousands of poor farmers in Gujarat, who protested against the forced expropriation of land by a powerful industry, without success. And again, the case for human rights activist Amit Jethwa, who was killed in broad daylight for denouncing the interests of a group affiliated to the BJP, involved in a series of illegal excavations in the Gir Forest. "With all these episodes and others - concludes the Jesuit - we urgently need a real anti-corruption law in order to understand how widespread the rot is."

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