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Mumbaikars skip protest venue; Anna's health concerns mount

With Anna Hazare ailing and Mumbaikars largely staying away, the anti-graft campaigner's 3-day fast appears to have fizzled out on the second day today.

As hardly a few hundred supporters, mostly north Indians, marked their presence at the sprawling MMRDA ground, the police too whittled down the security apparatus significantly.

When 74-year-old Hazare launched his fast yesterday, fourth this year, for a strong Lokpal, the estimate of people at the venue varied between 4,000 to 10,000.

The attendance dropped sharply today with hardly a 200-300 people sitting in front of the stage. The activist's fast at Ramlila Maidan in August had seen impressive turnout with upto 30,000-40,000 people pouring in every day.


Supporters of Anna Hazare at MMRDA grounds.PIC/AFP

"The crowd has been relatively low here compared to Delhi, much less than I had expected. We haven't seen many Mumbaikars here," Pavitra Singh, from Punjab, told PTI.

He attributed it to various reasons like news reports about threat to Hazare and his supporters.

"Also, since Mumbai is a commercial hub, the working class people come and go as per their convienence," Singh, who is fasting, said. K V Singh from Haryana, who was with Hazare during his army days, lamented Mumbaikar's obsession with work, saying "It seems people of Mumbai are busy with work. They don't have time for social causes...burning issue like corruption."

Hazare, who is suffering from viral infection, has not come on stage today so far and, since beginning his fast, has addressed the gathering just once.

Doctors attending on him said he was running fever and his blood pressure dropped while standing, making him difficult to walk.

They have advised him to end the fast, saying otherwise his kidney can get affected. Hazare was also showing signs of dehydration.

Kartar Singh, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh, said, "People are worried about corruption here also but the enthusiam and seriousness for rooting out corruption is missing among Mumbaikars." "When we were at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi people from neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab poured in...there was a massive support for the movement."

Even a top Hazare aide, who did not wish to be named, expressed disappointment over the poor turn out.

"The crowd is much less than what we had expected from Mumbai. Had Anna been fasting in Delhi the response would have been phenomenal. Delhi has adopted Anna," he said and attributed the thin attendance to winter vacation and the fast being held on working days.

"I have been fasting for the last 17 years for several causes, mainly corruption. We are disappointed as Mumbaikars have not come in large numbers but we must not forget that protests are similatenously going in several parts of the city," Rangnath Kavade, from Kalyan said.

According to an India Against Corruption official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the organisers had expected a groundswell of support for the fast as it was being organised in the Gandhian's home state, the laboratory of his non-voilent movements against various social ills, including corruption.

A top ranking police officer told PTI that nearly 40 per cent of security personnel deployed at the fast venue have been withdrawn.

" The deployment is made keeping in mind the crowds which are below our expectations. We will take a call on increasing police presence if required," he said on condition of anonymity.

There was heavy police bandobust for the event yesterday with 2000 police constables and 200 sub-inspectors, six platoons of state reserve police force, three teams of Quick Response Team and two Bomb Detection and Disposal Squads deployed.

Later, addressing the gathering, key Team Anna member Manish Sisodiya said civil society led by Hazare had rejected the Lokpal Bill passed by the Lok Sabha.

"We do not accept the Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament yesterday. We will decide on our strategy in due course of time," he said.

Sisodia said the bill was silent on several aspects including Team Anna's demand for putting the judges accused of corruption under arrest and seizing their properties. "Bill only says the judge will be suspended from his post," he said.

Sisodia claimed that it was due to the pressure exerted by Hazare and his team that the Lok Sabha sat till late and debated the Lokpal Bill. Another Hazare aide Mayank Gandhi alleged their supporters were being prevented from reaching the fast venue by the police.

"Several volunteers are being held up at Kurla and Bandra stations. They are being stopped by police who claim that Anna is not fasting anymore. This is a conspiracy by government," he alleged.

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