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Fight for Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare to fast again from Aug 16

Agencies | Last Modified - Jun 16, 2011, 05:46 PM IST

We have agreed to meet again on June 20-21, Kapil Sibal, a member of Lokpal panel says.
  • Fight for Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare to fast again from Aug 16
    Fight for Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare to fast again from Aug 16

    anna_kejriwal_288_08New Delhi: Gandhian activist Anna Hazare on Thursday said he will fast again from August 16 because the government had failed to keep its word on drafting a strong Lokpal bill to fight corruption.

    "I stopped my fast at Jantar Mantar (here) because the government assured that our demands will be met. Now that the government is turning its back on the promise, I will fast again from August 16," Hazare told reporters.

    The government and Anna Hazare-led civil society members are divided over the Lokpal Bill as both sides failed to reach a consensus on most of the issues at Wednesday’s meeting of the joint drafting committee. The seventh meeting of the 10-member panel of government and civil society representatives, which is drafting anti-corruption legislation, ended on a bitter note.

    The joint drafting committee decided that both sides will prepare their own versions of the anti-graft legislation for consideration of the Cabinet.

    Civil rights activist Arvind Kejriwal accused the government of dishonest intentions, while Prashant Bhushan said there were "too many fundamental differences between" them and the government.

    Hazare to protest again

    Anna Hazare on Thursday attacked the government for not being serious about ridding the country of corruption and threatened to agitate again if a strong Lokpal bill was not passed to check corruption in the country.

    "A corruption-free India is not in the mind of the government. We will continue working for the society. So, no giving up," Hazare, 74, told reporters here.

    "If they bring a wrong bill, there will certainly be agitation," he said. "We will have to start a Jantar Mantar-kind of agitation again. The government is moving away from its commitments."

    Key points raised at Lokpal panel meet

    The key demands raised at Wednesday's joint drafting committee meeting and the response of the government, according to civil society members:

    Demands: Lokpal should have officers working at the district level so that a person who has made a complaint in a remote part of the country does not have to travel to Delhi.

    Response: Government refused to accept that model and maintained that Lokpal will be an 11-member organisation but will have powers to receive public grievances from ordinary people.

    Demands: Audio tapes of the proceedings so far should be given to civil society members.

    Response: The government refused and said the demand could be considered after meetings were over.

    Demand: According to an update sent by members of Anna Hazare's team, the government wanted to create "an emaciated and disempowered" institution and "it wants to kill Lokpal before it was born".

    Response: The update said the government was hesitating in making the discussions public as people would come to know that "it had vetoed practically all points without having any valid arguments".

    After a marathon meeting that lasted over two hours, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal admitted that "there were areas of strong divergence of opinion" between the civil activists and the government.

    "It is clear that there are strong areas of divergence. We have agreed to meet again June 20-21," Sibal, a member of the joint drafting panel, told reporters.

    He said the government intended to get the civil society members' version on the issues of divergence and discuss these at the next meeting.

    "If we think there is no consensus, we will forward the draft with both versions," he said.

    Both Sibal and Kejriwal said there were no talks on keeping the prime minister under the Lokpal’s purview.

    He, however, emphaisised that the draft Lokpal bill will be ready by June 30.

    Kejriwal, one of the key members of Team Hazare, said there were many points of differences and the two sides had agreed on preparing two drafts.

    "One draft will be prepared by us and the other draft will be prepared by the government ministers. The last meeting is June 20-21," he said.

    "It seems that the government has already made up its mind on the matter. There is no discussion in the meeting and the government is just giving its decisions," he alleged.

    "We said that how can 11 members take all the decisions? How will Lokpal be able to give decision if it is deluged with thousands of cases? It is certain that the government wants to kill the Lokpal before its birth."

    He said unlike the present system where an officer charged with corruption faces two inquiries - by the department and by the Central Bureau of Investigation - there should be only one probe by Lokpal.

    "The Lokpal should carry out the inquiry. The prosecution wing of the Lokpal should file the case in the court. But they did not agree to it," he said.

    The civil society members had boycotted the June 6 meeting as a mark of protest against the police action on Baba Ramdev at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. The previous meeting on May 30 was stormy with both sides opposing each other over including the prime minister, the judiciary, the conduct of MPs in Parliament and lower level bureaucrats in the Lokpal’s ambit.

    (With inputs from DNA, IANS)

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Web Title: Lokpal Bill: 7th meeting lasted for 2 hrs; consensus only on two versions of draft
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