Monday, January 16, 2012 AT 09:08 PM (IST)
This happened less than two decades back. A jeep from the tehsildar's office arrived at Ralegan Siddhi to take social activist Anna Hazare to Parner town. The tehsildar's office had received a message from the Prime Minister's Office, seeking telephonic contact with the social activist. At that time, the electronic revolution was still some years away in future. The entire Ralegan Siddhi village did not have a single landline telephone connection. The only way to make Hazare's telephonic conversation with the PMO possible was to transport him to the tehsildar's office, which did have a landline telephone connection.
Hazare was given a lift to the tehsildar's office. The telephonic contact was established. And Anna spoke to the then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao. The prime minister spoke with Hazare in chaste Marathi. He said his government was planning to confer Padma Bhushan on the social activist. Rao wanted an assurance from Anna that he would not threaten to return the title in the course of any of his subsequent agitations. Anna had earlier threatened to surrender his Padma Shri in protest against the government's failure to meet his demand in an anti-corruption agitation. The prime minister did not want Hazare to use the Padma Bhushan in his campaign. Hazare had then assured the prime minister that he would not use the civilian honour to embarrass the government.
In the absence of a telephone at Ralegan Siddhi, mediapersons from Pune too experienced difficulty in communicating with Anna. Those days, I used to post my newspaper reports and articles related to Hazare to him to Ralegan Siddhi. Some days later, I would get back a letter by Hazare, acknowledging the receipt of the clippings. The typed letters would carry Hazare's signature, Ki (Kisan) Ba (Baburao) Hazare alias Anna. Those days, courtesy environmentalist Mohan Dharia, Hindi Rashtra Bhasha House was Hazare’s camp site in Pune. He used to meet journalists there.
These incidents flash before my eyes now when I witness the live television coverage of Hazare addressing the gram sabha in his village or speaking to mediapersons there on his next plan of action on the Lokpal Bill. With the mobile and email facilities, one can contact any person in any part of the world almost instantaneously. A tehsildar’s jeep carrying Anna from Ralegan Siddhi to Parner only for a few words with the prime minister on telephone now seems an occurrence of the past century. I am simply left marvelling at the tremendous pace of development of technology.
A scanned image of the letter written by Anna Hazare to me, dated January 30, 1991: