New Delhi, Aug 25: Ramlila Maidan may have become the symbol of protest against corruption, but some of those camping at the venue of Anna Hazare's fast for the past ten days claim they are fighting graft of a different kind.
Despite being committed to the main cause, some people at the ground supporting Hazare, have no respite from problems they are facing on a daily basis there.
“What corruption you are talking about. They say they are volunteering by distributing free food and water to everyone who is coming in. Yesterday, I was asked by them to give two Anna caps for free to get food. Isn't it corruption?” asked Harish, a street vendor dealing in Anna caps, who left his traditional business of book binding to make money in this “Anna” wave.
He is not the only vendor with a complaint. Sonu, another vendor who sells flags, complained that somebody fled with his 20 tricolours, while he was taking a nap last night.
“I found my whole lot of 20 flags stolen when I woke up today. We are hand-to-mouth persons. This comes as a huge blow for us,” says a dejected Sonu, who hails from Bihar. Ramdeyi, another vendor from Rajasthan, has her own problem.
“Even amid this, people don't refrain from bargaining. We have to give them discount even in a Rs 10 cap. They ask for rebate when they buy it in a bunch, and we are not left with any option,” says Ramdeyi, adding that it is not smooth going as there is a lot of competetion with so many vendors doing the same business around.
Vendors, however, accept that despite all odds, they are making good money because of the huge crowds turning up. “I have sold 500 caps, each for Rs 10, so far. This is when the day has just started. Sale is likely to double in the evening when more people will come,” says Sonam, who says she sells over 1000 caps every day.
Same is the story of Prithvi, a ‘nimbupani' (lime water) seller, whose sale has almost tripled in the past ten days. “Earlier the business could never cross Rs 500. It has almost tripled now. I never go back home with less than Rs 1500,” says a visibly-delighted Prithvi.
Police personnel, on the other hand, seem to be fed up and want all this to be over sooner than later. “For the past 10 days, I have been doing nothing but sitting idle inside this PCR van. It's enough. At least one side should pull back now,” says a police constable, requesting anonimity.
Visitors at Ramlila Maidan too don't seem to have been having an easy-going all the way.
“There are some problems and the biggest of them is toilet. There are just 3-4 public toilets that too, outside. With so much crowd, they are not enough. It is problematic, especially for the ladies,” says Ram Pal, who is camping with his family of five for the past six days.
However, for 73-year-old Neelima Sharma, who claims to have been a Gandhian herself, the odds don't matter at all.
“What even if we face some problems? It is our own fight and we surely can afford some hardships for that. We did not come here expecting five-star luxury,” she said. “I am with Anna. Government must accept his demand,” says Mukim, a pan vendor who distributes free mouth fresheners to those who come here braving the scorching son.
“Our corporator from Bawana has decided to distribute 200 dozens of bananas every day till the agitation goes on,” says Sukhdev Singh, a businessman hailing from Bawana area of Delhi.
Young school and college-goers too seem to be enjoying every bit of the carnival atmosphere at the protest site. “We are with Anna Hazare. Our whole school supports him,” says Anurag, a class 9 student of Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, INA Colony, candidly admitting that he bunked his school to come here.
“There is no problem. Even our teachers are coming here. They ask us to go in as many numbers as possible,” he says stopping short of saying that the teachers themselves were availing the chance to have a break from their routine work.
“I shall be a part of it. We were not born during the freedom struggle. We can't miss it this time,” said Rashmi, an undergraduate at the Sri Venkateswara College, admitting that although she did not know what the Jan Lokpal Bill was all about, she knew it was against corruption.
For five-year-old Anupriya, all this was no less than a festival. “I don't know Anna Hazare,” she said, before being interrupted by her father Kaushal, who took pride in the fact that at least her daughter has seen Anna in her lifetime. It is not just Indians camping at Ramlila Maidan as Anna's campaign has managed to attract foreign visitors too.
“My boyfriend told me that Anna is fighting for a corruption-free India. Although I don't understand what the law is all about, I know he (boyfriend) is right,” said a Danish lady Cynthia, accompanied by her Indian boyfriend. PTI