Friday, August 26, 2011

Anna Hazare: India parliament to debate anti-graft law

Anna Hazare on hunger strike Mr Hazare wants tougher anti-corruption laws

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India's government has agreed to hold a parliamentary debate on proposals for a strong anti-corruption law in an attempt to persuade the campaigner Anna Hazare to end his hunger strike.
The debate, to be held on Saturday, is one of the key demands of the activist.
Earlier, PM Manmohan Singh urged Mr Hazare to call off his fast in Delhi, saying his "life is much too precious".
Mr Hazare's hunger strike has entered its 11th day and his aides say he has lost more than 6kg (13lbs) and is weak.
He has refused doctors' advice to be put on an intravenous drip to help him rehydrate.
Mr Hazare's supporters are demanding the government pass their proposed anti-corruption bill.
Meanwhile, ruling Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said he had "serious doubts that a single bill will end corruption".
In a rare speech in parliament, Mr Gandhi said corruption "cannot just be wished away" and thanked Mr Hazare for "helping people to articulate this sentiment".
'No simple solutions' "There are no simple solutions to eradicating corruption. But I have serious doubts that a single bill will end corruption. What we require is a set of effective laws," he said.
Reports say the government has agreed that the parliament will debate the anti-corruption bill proposed by Mr Hazare, along with two similar bills proposed by the government and a citizen's group.
Mr Hazare's Jan Lokpal (Citizens' Ombudsman) bill proposes setting up a special ombudsman or lokpal - an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.
Earlier, the government appeared to have agreed to Mr Hazare's key demand of bringing the prime minister under the ombudsman.
Now Mr Hazare has said the parliament should come to an agreement on three more of his proposals:
  • The lower bureaucracy should be brought within the ambit of the ombudsman.
  • Putting together a "citizen's chart" for time-bound disposal of public grievances against government.
  • Bringing the anti-graft ombudsmen in the states under the federal anti-corruption watchdog.
"If there is unanimity among all parties on these conditions then I will think about ending my fast, but not my protest," Mr Hazare told his supporters on Thursday.

Anti-corruption row

  • Following a hunger strike by Anna Hazare in April, the government agreed to draft the Jan Lokpal (Citizens' Ombudsman) bill
  • The final bill incorporates 34 of the 40 principles set out by Mr Hazare, but he and other activists have rejected it
  • Mr Hazare says ombudsman should have power to investigate prime minister and senior judges; the government refuses
  • Mr Hazare wants the ombudsman to be able to investigate MPs accused of taking bribes to vote or ask questions in parliament; the government says such probes should be carried out by MPs
On Thursday, PM Manmohan Singh appealed to Mr Hazare to end his fast.
"He has become the embodiment of our people's disgust and concern about tackling corruption," Mr Singh told parliament.
"I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore, I would like to urge Anna Hazare to end this fast."
Also on Thursday Mr Hazare's supporters protested outside Mr Singh's house after talks broke down between the government and the activist's aides.
The government sent a minister to mediate with Mr Hazare, and several political parties and a number of public figures urged the activist to end his fast.
Mr Hazare's protest has drawn tens of thousands of supporters who say they are fed up with the lack of accountability of officials.
In April, Mr Hazare called off a hunger strike after four days when the government said he could help draft legislation to create a special anti-graft ombudsman.
The final version of the bill was presented in early August, but Mr Hazare and other activists rejected it because it said the prime minister and senior judges would be exempt from scrutiny.
India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals which critics say is evidence of a pervasive culture of corruption in Mr Singh's administration.
A recent survey said corruption in Asia's third largest economy had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.
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