M A I N   N E W S

Hazare ends fast, wants law by Aug 15
After Lokpal Bill, electoral & labour reforms next on his agenda
Anita Katyal & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 9
Veteran activist Anna Hazare ended his 97-hour hunger strike on Saturday morning after the gazette notification constituting a joint committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill, printed at 2 am, was handed over to him.

But even as he took the first sip of lemon water, he set another deadline for the government, this time of August 15, for the passage of the Bill through Parliament. Otherwise, he threatened, he would be back, and this time at the Red Fort.

“I want to assure everyone that if the Bill is not passed, on August 15 we will hoist the tricolour at Lal Qila for the second freedom struggle; and if it is passed, we will welcome the Prime Minister on August 15,” Anna told his cheering supporters at Jantar Mantar.

Clearly relieved that the government and civil society groups had finally arrived at a compromise, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today held out an assurance that the Centre will introduce the Lokpal Bill during the Parliament’s monsoon session.

In a statement issued here today, the Prime Minister said the fact that civil society and the government have joined hands to evolve a consensus on such a historic legislation augurs well for democracy. “I am happy that the Government and representatives of civil society have reached an agreement in our mutual resolve to combat corruption,” he said.

The PM also appreciated that Anna Hazare had agreed to give up his fast, stating that the interaction between the government and his representatives had proved to be productive. “I hope that the process of preparing this legislation will move forward in a constructive mode so that after consultation with a wide spectrum of stake holders the legislation is placed before the Cabinet for introduction during the monsoon session,” he added.

Rattled by the unprecedented nation-wide support which poured in for Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption, the government had moved swiftly to initiate a dialogue with the Gandhian crusader’s representatives as it did not want his fast to drag on fearing it could lead to an explosive situation. Drawing from its experience of its handling of the Telangana agitation, there was wide consensus among the ministers that the stir should not be allowed to linger as widespread television coverage was creating an impression that the government was shying away from taking firm action in containing the menace of corruption.

Even as the euphoria of the newly-discovered people’s power settles in, concerns are being raised about the “blackmailing” by Anna and his followers to achieve their goal. By bowing to the activists’ demands, the already weakened government seem to have paved the ground for similar populist movements.

However, defending his form of protest against corruption, Anna said it was never his intention to blackmail the government. Hunger strike is one of the most democratic ways of protest, he said, adding that he was forced to go on fast as the government did not respond to any of his letters on the issue of Lokpal Bill.

The Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily , asked if the government had blinked, said the Congress was never averse to mass movements. After all, the grand old party too is a result of mass movement, he added.

Shanti Bhushan, a former Law Minister is also hopeful that the proposed legislation would be passed “unanimously” by Parliament as any party opposing it would be seen as “not interested in removing corruption.”

Meanwhile, till the Lokpal Bill becomes a reality Anna says he would tour the entire country to campaign against corruption and other issues.

“We need reforms in education, in labour rights, in the election system,” he said. Decentralisation of power is very important to ensure corruption is defeated. “As long as voters don’t get power in their hands, corruption will remain. The election system too has to change,” he said.

Notification printed by 2 am!

Hazare insisted on Friday night that he would break his fast only after he received the formal notification setting up the promised joint committee. The government was hesitant as it was nervous that Hazare might back out even after it issued the required notification. The two sides eventually struck a compromise. Hazare assured government’s emissaries that he would announce his decision to end his fast at night but would actually do so in the morning only after he is handed over a copy of the notification. Consequently, the government machinery was activated late Friday night and the notification was printed by 2 am. Hazare’s emissary Swami Agnivesh picked up a copy from Kapil Sibal’s residence this morning.

The Joint drafting committee

Ministers: Pranab Mukherjee (chairman), P Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khursheed

Activists: Shanti Bhushan (co-chairman), Anna Hazare, Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal

Notification issued : April 9

Draft deadline : June 30

Likely to be tabled: In the monsoon session 





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |