Sunday, 28 August 2011

Indian activist to end fast after parliament agrees to his demands

New Delhi  -- India's Parliament resolved Saturday to accept demands raised by 74-year-old activist Anna Hazare to tackle chronic corruption in the country.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to Hazare relaying Parliament's resolution on the 12th day of his hunger strike.
In an address, the elderly campaigner told tens of thousands of cheering supporters that he would end his fast at 10 a.m. Sunday
He described the Parliament's resolution to accept his three demands for creation of an anti-corruption watchdog as a "people's victory."
Political tension had been building as the hunger strike lengthened.
Talks stalled between the Indian government and supporters of Hazare as the strike entered its 10th day Thursday. Hazare urged supporters to shun violence in their quest to get an anti-corruption bill aimed at setting up a citizen ombudsman called the Lokpal.
Even the prime minister had urged Hazare to end his hunger strike and pledged that a compromise could be found.
In a letter this past week, Singh said that fighting corruption is a common objective.
"I have maintained that your and our object is identical ... to reduce significantly, if not eliminate, the scourge of corruption from this country," Singh wrote. "At worst, our paths and methodologies may differ, though I do believe that even those differences have been exaggerated."
"The government is committed to passing a constitutionally valid and the best possible Lokpal legislation with inputs from civil society with the broadest possible consensus," Singh said in the letter posted on the government's website.
The hunger strike had its critics.
On Friday, India's Rahul Gandhi warned lawmakers not to allow the nation's democracy to be undermined, an apparent criticism of Hazare's high-profile hunger strike. Gandhi, 40, is the general secretary of India's governing Congress party, and his Italian-born mother, Sonia, heads that party. Three of Gandhi's ancestors -- Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and his father, Rajiv Gandhi, have served as the country's prime minister in the past.
His remarks came after Hazare's public fast entered the 11th day.
"Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development. However, we must not weaken the democratic process," Gandhi, who is regarded by some Indian media outlets as a future prime minister candidate, told Parliament in a speech.
He thanked Hazare for articulating what he called larger public disillusionment with a system plagued by massive corruption.
But in his address to the People's Assembly, he expressed caution about elected institutions being pressured.
"This (democratic) process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws," Gandhi said.
"A process divorced from the machinery of an elected government, or this house, that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy," he told the lower chamber of elected lawmakers.
Echoing the prime minister's views that any institution alone cannot eradicate deeply entrenched corruption, Gandhi described the proposed Lokpal as just one tool in the fight against graft.
"Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the enactment of a single bill will usher in a corruption-free society. I have serious doubts about this belief," Gandhi said.
"An effective Lokpal law is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption," he added. "The Lokpal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. A set of effective laws is required."


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