If Anna Hazare’s protest at Jantar Mantar gave the government sleepless nights, one wonders what Baba Ramdev’s protest will do. For, compared to the preparations underway for Baba Ramdev’s fast at Ramlila Maidan, Hazare’s fast at Jantar Mantar looks positively low-key.
For one, at Ramlila Maidan, the scale is far larger. On the first day, several hundred people are expected to fast along with Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan. They will be joined, says Swami Sampoornananda, one of his aides, by about 1,000 people fasting at each of India’s 624 districts.
The Bhrastachaar Mitao (End Corruption) Satyagraha’s demands are proprtionately larger as well. Hazare wanted the Government to junk its draft of the Lokpal Bill. And to start afresh with civil society representation. At Ramlila maidan, Apart from insisting on a stronger Lokpal Bill , Ramdev is asking that all the Indian money lying overseas be declared as national property — an amount that his Bharat Swabhiman Andolan estimates at Rs 400 lakh crore — and brought back home to be used for developmental work.
Further, says Sampoornananda, a tall saffron-clad sadhu, “Corruption should be treated as treason against the country and punished accordingly”. Three, he adds, fast track courts be set up to hear corruption cases.
That said, the Andolan’s demands go beyond corruption. Addressing newspersons in the Capital earlier in the day, Ramdev demanded that Union and state Governments frame a public service delivery accountability law that guarantees time-bound service to the citizens. Apart from that, a manifesto at the maidan blasts multinationals, recommends a return to organic farming.
Then, the setup itself is immense. The main tent itself is about 2.5 lakh square metres. People walking in will see registration tables to their right — one for every state. Here sit volunteers with registration forms that, apart from asking for basic information like name, address and mobile number, also ask if the incomer intends to participate in the past.
And if so, for how many days. Beyond the registration hall stands the main tent. Almost spanning the length of the maidan, this has cutouts of Baba Ramdev attached to the pillars. At the far end stands the dias, with a forest of TV cameras fast materialising in front of it.
Climb down the makeshift steps behind the dias and you will see a two-tent setup with lots of sofas and a couple of flat screen TVs. This is where Baba Ramdev will rest. Exit the hall to the left, just before the dias, and you will see a media centre with computers and internet connections.
There is more. The fast will be broadcast across the world — especially through the religious TV channels. Apart from that, organisers told ET that there are 650-odd toilets, 550 taps dispensing water purified through reverse osmosis. People fasting in the districts will be able to view the Ramlila maidan proceedings through large-screen TVs.
Where is the money for all this coming from? “From God,” says Swami Sampoornananda. Economic Times