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Anna Hazare - The Social Worker
 
 
 Anna Hazare- miracle for society        Anna Hazare was born in a poor family. His father Baburao Hazare was an unskilled labourer and his grandfather worked for the army. His grandfather was deployed in Bhingar which made Baburao and family to move to Bhingar, where Anna was born. Anna'a grandfather died in 1945 but the family continued to stay in Bhingar until 1952 when Anna's father resigned from his job and returned to Ralegan Siddhi. Anna had completed his education up to fourth standard and also had six younger siblings. The family's financial situation was tough. Baburao's sister, who was childless offered to take care of Anna and took him to Mumbai . Anna's father had trouble making ends meet and eventually had to sell off his farmland making life tough for the family. This forced Anna who was in Mumbai and just completed his seventh grade in school to take up a job. Anna worked for a florist at Dadar, Mumbai earning about forty rupees a month. He eventually started his own flower shop. Two of his brothers came to Mumbai to join him in his business, increasing the family earnings soon to about 700-800 rupees a month.
 
 
 
 
 Anna Hazare- miracle for society        In a couple of years Anna fell into bad company and started wasting his time and money on vices. He also started getting involved in brawls and fights, especially when he found some simple person being harassed by goons. He became irregular in sending money to his family. The word went around in Ralegan that he had become a bad character himself. In one such fight, Anna bashed up a person rather badly. Fearing arrest, he avoided coming to his regular work and residence for some time. During this period April 1960 he appeared in Army recruitment interviews and was selected to join the Indian Army . For his initial training, he was sent to Aurangabad. After training, he was posted in Punjab as a truck driver. Being far away from home and separated from all his friends, Anna felt lonely. He also had bouts of depression and a feeling of aimlessness in life. He had once resolved to end his life and even wrote a suicide note.
          However, on further reflection, he realised that his suicide may affect the marriage prospects of his younger sister. Therefore, he decided to postpone the implementation of his resolution until his sister got married. In the meantime, some events gave his life a new direction. During the Indo-Pak war of 1965 , he was driving a military vehicle somewhere on the western front when he saw a Pakistani plane flying low overhead. He and his colleagues jumped out of the vehicle and took shelter in the nearby bushes, lying flat on the ground. The truck was blown up and all his colleagues were killed, but Anna escaped unhurt. In yet another incident, Anna had a near escape when he was posted in Nagaland. One night, underground Nagas attacked the military post and killed all the inmates. Anna had gone out to answer nature's call at that time and, hence, he was the lone survivor. These two events had a deep impact on Anna's mind. He realised that his life was not to be wasted and he came to believe that God considered his life to be precious. Otherwise, he thought, he could have had died along with his colleagues in either of these incidents.
 
 
 
 
 Anna Hazare- miracle for society            He wanted his native village, Ralegan Siddhi , to improve, but did not know how and where to start. He used to come to his village on vacation and spend endless days sitting on the rocks at the outskirts of the village. Having spent most of his life in Mumbai and in the Army, he did not have many friends in the village. Moreover, the people of Ralegan who had known him as an angry young man from the days when he used to sell flowers outside Dadar station, were unaware of the transformation that had taken place in the personality of Anna Hazare. In 1971, Anna was transferred to Mumbai. From Mumbai he started visiting the village regularly. From 1971 to 1974 his interaction with the village people increased. He also spent about Rs. 3000 for giving a face lift to the Padmavati temple with a coat of oil paint. He also developed good relations with the village youth. In 1974, he was transferred to Jammu. In 1975, he completed fifteen years of service in Army, a statutory requirement for being entitled to a pension. He sought retirement and, finally, in August 1975 , he got relieved from the Army and came back to Ralegan Siddhi for good.
         Anna utilized individual centred Gandhian methods for bringing about moral pressure on the people. When the high school was started in Ralegan Siddhi, and the state government was not ready to sanction grant to the school, Anna quietly started his fast outside the Zilla Parishad's office. When the village people came to know of it they also joined him in hundreds. The state government had to yield to their demand. In another instance, when a couple of families continued to leave their cattle free for grazing in spite of explaining to them the importance of stopping open grazing and of taking up massive tree plantation programme, Anna and some youth members went on fast for two days to make the people understand the seriousness of the ban on open grazing.
 
 
 
 
 Anna Hazare- miracle for society            Ralegan Siddhi was one of the worst victims, hopeless social and economic situation and irresponsible village leadership before 1975 when Kisan Baburao Hazare , affectionately know as Anna Hazare served in Indian army, until he retired voluntarily in 1975. His close brush with death in the 1965 war changed the course of his life. He decided to dedicate himself to work for the welfare of others and returned to work for the betterment of his own village, starting with the re-building of the temple. Anna Hazare believes that religion has a strong influence on people. He says: God is everywhere but a child is first introduced to him in the temple. It is here that he receives education on the important values and morals of life. In a broader sense, the village itself is a temple where people serve and pray and learn the meaning of life.
         The dilapidate condition of the temple in Ralegan Siddhi, from where wood had been used to fuel the liquor dens, symbolized to Anna the condition of the village . Since the temple represents the cultural heart of a community, Anna felt that renovation of the temple would be the best way to demonstrate his unselfish motives and created an interest in his activities. With his provident fund of Rs.20, 000+/-, Anna began the Renovation. Inspired by his selfless devotion, first the youth, then the rest of villagers slowly began to rally around him. Villagers, especially the youth group began gathering here everyday to discuss their problems and matters related to the welfare of village.
 
 
 
 
 Anna Hazare- miracle for society            In year 1932 Ralegan Siddhi got its first formal school, a single class room primary school. In the year 1962 , the villagers via community volunteer effort added more classrooms. By the year 1971 out of estimated population of 1209 only 30.43% were literate.72 women and 290 men). Boys moved to nearby towns of Shirur and Parner to pursue higher education. But due to socio-economic conditions girls couldn't do the same and were limited to primary education. Anna Hazare along with the youth of Ralegan siddhi worked to increase literacy rates and education levels. In year 1976 they started pre school to the primary school and a high school in 1979. The villagers started taking active interest in the village school and formed Sant Yadav Baba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal(trust) which was registered in 1979. The trust decide to take over the function of the village school which was in bad state due to government neglect and also lack of interest on behalf of teachers who were moonlighting. The trust got a government grant to the amount of 4 lakhs was got for the school building using NREP. A new school building was built in next 2 months with volunteer efforts and the money got via grant. A new hostel was also constructed to house 200 students from weaker sections of the society. After opening of the school in the village, a girl student from Ralegan Siddhi completed her S.S.C in 1982 for the first time. Since then the school has been instrumental in bringing in lots of changes to the village.
 
 
 
 
             The Gram sabha is an important forum for collective decision making in the villages. If villagers are involved in planning and decision making process, they are more open to any changes taking place in the village. In Ralegan Siddhi, the Gram Sabha meetings are held periodically to discuss issues relating to the welfare of village. Projects like Watershed development activities are undertaken only after they are discussed in the Gram Sabha. All decision like Nasbandi, Nasabandi, Kurhadbandi, Charai bandi, Shramdan were taken in the Gram Sabha. Decisions are taken in a simple majority consensus. In case of difference of opinion the majority consensus becomes acceptable. The decision of the Gram Sabha is accepted as final. In addition to panchayat, there are several registered societies that take care of various projects and activities of the village. Each society presents its annual report and statement of accounts in the Gram Sabha every year. The Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandali monitors the educational activities. The Vivid karyakari society gives assistance and provides guidance to farmers regarding fertilizers, seeds, organic farming, financial assistance, etc. Sri Sant Yadavbaba Doodh Utpadhak Sahakari sansta gives guidance regarding the dairy business. Seven Co-operative irrigation society provides water to the farmers from cooperative wells. Mahila Sarvage Utkarsh Mandal attends welfare needs of the women.
 
 
 
 
    Today Anna has almost acquired the stature of a saint. He donated his land for the hostel building. He gives his pension money to the village fund. A confirmed bachelor, he lives in the village temple with a bare minimum of personal belongings. He eats simple food normally cooked for the hostel boys. Both his parents and brothers stay in the village but they are no different from him than any other family in the village. This moral authority growing out of his selfless life has made him an unquestioned leader of the village. Anna's moral code of conduct is also quite strict. Anna believes that punishment is an essential component of the process to bring about conformity to social morality. When a child stole a fruit from a tree on the common lands, he was tied to a pole and the fruits were kept before him to teach him a moral lesson. The fruit bearing trees are not protected by any watchman. Not a single fruit is stolen and ripe fruits are distributed to balwadi children and the school children. Public beating was used not to create terror but to bring public shame on the defaulter so that he/she exercises more self-control. People are proud of Ralegan's achievements and they have a share and a stake in its glory. Therefore they would not do anything which will hurt Anna or bring a bad name to the village.
 
 
 
 
             In order to foster a sense of unity in the village, the Ralegan Siddhi family celebrate a village annual birthday on 2 October of every year. On that day:

1.The eldest male villager is honoured as father of the village.
2.The eldest female villager is honoured as the mother of the village.
3.New clothes are stitched for every infant born in the village during the past year, irrespective of the child's caste or religion.
4.New brides who have come to the village during the past year are welcomed with the traditional offering of coconut, as they are the daughters-in-law of the village.
5.Students who have been successful in education are honoured.
6. Youth from the village who have achieved something special are honoured.
7.All villagers gather in the evening during this occasion and have dinner together to celebrate the event.
 
 
 
 
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