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Anna Hazare's backroom warriors

August 30, 2011 09:07 IST

After twelve days of standing tall, the steady pandals at the Ramlila Maidan are now being dismantled with the same speed that they were erected. Toral Varia brings you a sneak peak into how the campaign was controlled backstage.

The nerve centre of the entire movement against corruption lay behind the barricades surrounding the Ramlila Maidan, from where it was controlled and strategised before being dished out the media and the large number of supporters across the country.

The backstage set up perhaps reflected a corporate-like strategy adopted by the campaign -- 'India Against Corruption.' From logistics, to online propaganda, to medicines to sanitisation, to donations, to meetingsĀ… everything was handled with precision by various team leaders.

In all there were 22 core-committee members, who controlled close to 40 coordinators who, in turn, ran an army of volunteers.

The open area behind the backstage area of the Ramlila Maidan was converted into a temporary office of sorts. On the left side was a makeshift tent like room made with a white cloth called the 'Conference Room.' On the right was a replica structure called the 'Meeting Room.'

Both rooms were mostly used by the 'core committee' members of India Against Corruption for various reasons like conducting meetings, monitoring news on a television, take reports from junior team leaders, charge batteries, even take a little breather from the hectic activities.

The 'Meeting Room' was also used by the team leaders to watch news, receive guests etc. Interestingly, there was a statue of Kisan Baburao 'Anna' Hazare and no one was allowed to enter the room with shoes on.

Between the two tents was an ambulance on a standby and mobile diagnostic lab swarmed by doctors and paramedics on duty. Each volunteer was busy finishing up the task or coordinating over the phone or on walkie-talkie sets.

All those on duty were expected to work according to their assigned duties and duty hours. "But there are so many of us who have worked non-stop. We almost stayed here, and went home once in two days or so," says Aswati, who was in charge of media coordination.

In between, making a number of calls and sending sms replies to queries from the reporters, Aswati was busy instructing people on what to do, even after Anna's fast was called off.

Saket Mani, a qualified doctor was in charge of 40 doctors and paramedics who were available round the clock to monitor Anna's team. The entire medical team would report for duty as per a roster.

"My main job was to coordinate with all the doctors and ensure all medical investigations and tests were done. In the last few days I would, however, ensure that Annaji gets as much rest as possible and keep people away from him," he says.

Apart from taking care of Anna's health, Saket would also take periodical reports from other medical staff that was stationed at the 'medical centre' counters in the maidan to administer first aid to any supporter who needed it.

"Figures are yet to be updated. However, at last count we had treated as many as 6,500 patients out of which 80

were critical emergencies and were referred to government hospitals, while we would try and treat simple cases as soon as possible so that they could continue with their participation in the movement," adds Mani.

>The other important department was that of logistics which was handled by Ram Kumar Jha. He controlled 15 main team members who would in turn control yet another small army of volunteers.

A number of these volunteers were also affiliated with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Jha's main area of operation was the security set-up, sanitation, food and water supply for the supporters.

"Every morning we would assemble at the control room and I would then assign duties to various volunteers. Invariably every morning I would also see at least 5 to 10 news faces who had enrolled as volunteers," informs Jha.

Jha would also deal with those companies that were interested in selling the brand Anna merchandise like T-shirts etc, during the protest and accordingly allot a stall and depute volunteers for the same.

He was also in-charge of coordination of Anna ki Rasoi (Anna's kitchen) and the Information Centre. While the immediate security for Anna and the Ramlila stage was outsourced to the Jai Hind group, the barricading of the stage and setting up of pandals around 200 meters around the stage was contracted with a local Delhi vendor.

Reportedly, Jindal Aluminium is said to have taken care of a large part of the tenting in the ground.

Amit Pandey, who joined the campaign recently, was assigned the job of coordinating with the other coordinators across Delhi and India involved in support mobilisation. After a decision was taken by the core committee members on what the next step should be Pandey would then send a bulk message to all the 500 main city coordinators, who would then send messages to others creating a chain sms campaign.

This was the strategy used also when instructions were passed on the volunteers to gherao the houses of ministers and MPs following which a large number of supporters responded to the call.

Amit Kumar Mishra, another key coordinator, was in-charge of communication and managing the donations received at the grounds.

"Earlier, we had decided that we would provide food, water etc to people here but we started getting so much help in both cash and kind that we had to stop accepting cash donations after the first five days. Despite announcements people used to approach the counter with money," he says.

He claims there is complete transparency in the process of accepting and accounting of the donation money. According to him, every time a donor approached with an amount, they would accept it but only after giving the donor a proper receipt.

For every donation above Rs 5,000 in cash, the donor's name, number, address and PAN card details would also be recorded. "We used to finish up 20 bill receipt books on an average per day. There have been anonymous donations also," says Mishra.

Interestingly those anonymous donors have merely identified themselves as 'Indian' or 'Anna.' Mishra adds that all the information will be up on the India Against Corruption Web site in a few days.

Toral Varia