I will fight till joint panel is set up: Hazare

Garnering impressive support from the public, veteran anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare embarked on a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar here on Tuesday, demanding passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted through a civil society initiative.

He also rejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal to call off the fast and engage in a discussion with a Sub-Committee of the Group of Ministers over the framing of the Lokpal Bill.

Visits Rajghat

Mr. Hazare first visited Rajghat, where he paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, before proceeding to India Gate atop an open jeep accompanied by several social workers and members of the public.

From there, he proceeded to the public meeting at Jantar Mantar with tricolour-waving students cheering him all along the way. Mr. Hazare demanded setting up of a joint committee with 50 per cent representation for citizens and 50 per cent for the government for formulation of a strong Lokpal Bill.

“We want a joint committee. If you want to end corruption, then why don't you constitute it? It means you do not want to end the corruption. I will fast till the joint committee is constituted and till there is pran (life) in me,” Mr. Hazare said in response to the Prime Minister's offer.

At Rajghat, Mr. Hazare said: “I have come to request Gandhiji to give good sense to this Government. So many sacrifices were made for this country. But everything is being destroyed. You [Gandhiji] gave direction to this country but these people are destroying it.''

PMO ‘disappointed'

The Prime Minister's Office had on Monday night expressed “deep disappointment” over Mr. Hazare's decision to go on fast. The statement from the PMO added that the Prime Minister had “enormous respect for Mr. Hazare and his mission.”

Mr. Hazare said he had got the same assurances from the Prime Minister at an earlier meeting on March 7. “He said we have faith in you; we respect you; then why did he not sit with us on this issue again?...If the Government alone drafts this bill, it will be autocratic, not democratic; there will be discrepancies,” Mr. Hazare added.

‘Not acceptable'

RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal said the Prime Minister at that meeting had offered to pass on their suggestions to the Group of Ministers constituted to formulate the draft of the Lokpal Bill.

“This is not acceptable to us. We want to be part of the formulation. Who are the Ministers in this GoM? They include people like Veerappa Moily who drafted a weak Lokpal Bill, Kapil Sibal who could see no revenue loss in the 2G spectrum scam and Sharad Pawar,” Mr. Kejriwal remarked.

Former IPS officer and social activist Kiran Bedi echoed Mr. Hazare's demand for a joint committee with at least half the members chosen from civil society like senior advocates Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan and Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde. “The remaining members can be from the Government. This committee should treat the Jan Lokpal Bill as its working draft. It should submit its report by mid-May and the Government should then place the Bill drafted by the committee in Parliament,” Dr. Bedi said, adding that such a committee's work would plug all loopholes in the Bill.

A number of politicians from the Opposition parties and public figures visited Mr. Hazare during the course of the day to express solidarity with him. Marking a change from usual protest demonstrations where party flags dominate, both sides of Jantar Mantar Road were lined instead with rows of tricolour flags.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 4:54:58 PM |

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