Kisan Baburao Hazare (June 15, 1937) also known as Anna Hazare is an Indian army veteran and social activist. He gets the moniker ‘Anna’, meaning elder brother in Marathi, from being the eldest of seven children. Anna Hazare is best known for his development work in rural India and Gandhian methods of non-violent protest against corruption in the Indian government. He is a recipient of the Padma Bhusham award for his work to uplift the quality of life for the people of his ancestral village, Ralegan Siddhi.
Anna Hazare was born in Bhingar, a small village near Ahmednagar in Maharashtra and is the eldest of 7 children. He joined the Indian army in the early 1960’s where he served as a jawan for 12 years before taking early retirement.
After his army service, Anna dedicated his life to develop his ancestral village Ralegan Siddhi. The village had been devastated by multiple droughts and was a center for the production of illegal liquor, which was causing a high level of alcoholism in the community and leading to other social problems. Anna began by getting most of the alcohol dens to voluntarily shut down by offering them alternative employment. One of the primary projects at Ralegan Siddhi was the watershed development program where the villages were taught to build trenches to catch rain water and increase irrigation in the region. By doing so the water level rose and it became possible to cultivate crops on land that was previously arid due to the scarcity of water.
Anna educated the village about the evils of the caste system. He also recognised that villagers were incurring huge debts in order to get married and began a tradition of mass weddings where multiple couples were wed in a mass ceremony thereby saving money for all the families involved.
Although Anna Hazare only became a household name in early 2011, he has been dedicated to social activism since the early 1990’s. Because India’s economic policies were based in a socialist system, businesses required licenses and permits that were only issued by the government. This system made it easy for civil administrators and government officials to abuse their powers. He realised during his work in Ralegan Siddhi that social development in rural India was being hindered due to corruption on all levels of the Indian bureaucratic system and fought to bring them to justice.
In April of 2011, Anna Hazare began an indefinite fast to protest corruption in the Indian governmental system. His demand was that the government should pass the Jan Lokpal Bill that would create a committee that would review corruption charges against government officials. He began a second fast, a fast until death on August 16, 2011 which lasted for 12 days before the Indian government passed the Jan Lokpal Bill.
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