India’s crusader against corruption, Anna Hazare, was honoured with the inaugural Allard Prize for International Integrity in Vancouver Wednesday evening. The $100,000 was announced at UBC’s Faculty of Law and Anna Hazare, dressed in his customary white attire and his Gandhian cap, was there to receive it.
Two runners-up for the award are Global Witness, which campaigns against environmental abuses, and Sima Samar, who fights for human rights and women in Afghanistan. Both received $25,000.
The Allard Prize was established last October, with funding from UBC law school alumnus Peter Allard, to recognize those who work to fight abuses of power and suppression of human rights.
A day before the Allard Prize was announced, I met Anna Hazare on Tuesday at the UBC campus where he had come to deliver a public lecture at the Frederic Wood Theatre at the behest of Canada India Foundation.
“My dream is a corruption-free India and I will keep fighting for the Lok Pal Bill, if that bill is passed it can put an end to corruption in India,” he had said.
The 75-year-old Anna Hazare is a former army soldier who fought in Indias1965 war against Pakistan. Later he took it upon himself to root out corruption, something that is next to impossible in India, with it having affected every sphere of life in the country.
Frustrated that corruption was standing in the way of development, in 1991 Hazare launched the People’s Movement Against Corruption, which eventually led him to start a hunger strike in 2003 that launched a countrywide movement for change.
Then in 2011, he launched India Against Corruption, which grew into a popular movement for legislative reform and government accountability. Tens of thousands took to the streets and Hazare again undertook a hunger strike to press for change.
Eventually, the Indian Parliament was forced to pass a resolution with key reforms, and Hazare’s movement was named one of the top 10 news stories of the year by Time magazine.
Hazare said “the problem of corruption is not limited to India, but is a global issue.”
Hazare, who has never married and has no money in his bank account, practices yoga to keep fit both physically and spiritually. His longest fast, with only water, was for 16 days.