The Prime Minister’s Office expressed disappointment over social activist Anna Hazare’s decision to go on fast unto death from Tuesday on the issue of the Lokpal Bill.
“The PMO has noted with deep disappointment that Hazare is still planning to go ahead with his planned hunger strike,” a PMO release said.
However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has enormous respect for Hazare and his mission, it said. Giving details of the steps taken on the Lokpal Bill, it said Hazare and his group had presented Singh a draft of their proposal on Lokpal.”The Prime Minister offered and the group accepted a suggestion that a sub-committee of the Group of Ministers (GoM) could interact and discuss the draft with the civil society activists,” the release said.
The sub-committee headed by Defence Minister A K Anthony met colleagues of Hazare “but the interactions proved fruitless as the activists were insisting on the government accepting their draft in full”, the PMO said.Meanwhile, Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare bagan the fast unto death until the government enacts a comprehensive law like the Jan Lokpal Bill to tackle the menace. “My fast unto death begins on Tuesday. I was saddened when the Prime Minister rejected the demand by leading civil society members to include them and senior ministers in the joint committee to draft the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill),” 72-year-old Hazare told a press conference.
He said that a Group of Ministers headed by Sharad Pawar is looking into the contents of the proposed anti-corruption bill and civil society members would be consulted later.
Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social reformist Swami Agnivesh were also present and pledged their support to Hazare.
Hazare lamented that the views of eminent persons like Justice (Retd) Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan and Agnivesh were not considered important by the government and “a minister like Sharad Pawar, who is known for possessing large amounts of land in Maharashtra, is heading a committee that will draft the bill.”
Swami Agnivesh said he attended the meeting this morning of the sub-group on transparency of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi.
He said a ‘Jan Lokpal’ should be set up at the Centre and a ‘Jan Lokayukta’ appointed in each state to handle corruption cases, probe them and ensure prosecution.
“If the NAC had also decided to look into our demands, Hazare would not have to sit on fast from Tuesday. At an earlier meeting of ours with the GoM, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily kept saying there was no precedent of having a joint committee to draft such a bill”, Agnivesh said.
Bedi said just like the nation united during the cricket world cup to boost India to victory, people, activists and media have to create a non-stop movement till the Jan Lokpal Bill is adopted by Parliament.
The activists also claimed support of 1983 cricket world cup winning captain Kapil Dev and said he had written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh support their demand.
The activists handed over a copy of the letter written by Kapil Dev to the Prime Minister on March 30 in which he said he was “pained” to see once scam after another come out during the Commonwealth Games (CWG).The letter said many committees have been set up to go into the scams but no concrete action has been taken so far. Why can’t we have an independent Lokpal to look into these scams. I consider you as the cleanest politician in the recent history and I urge you for a Jan Lokpal Bill,” Kapil Dev added.
Anna Hazare supporters in Maharashtra on hunger strike
In his home state Maharashtra, there is growing support for social activist Anna Hazare who began his indefinite fast in Delhi, demanding implementation of Jan Lokpal Bill.
During ‘Gudi Padwa’ celebrations in Hazare’s village Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district, villagers displayed their support by putting up black clothes in on their ‘gudis’ as a mark of protest against government.
Requests to Hazare by Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and MPCC president Manikrao Thakre to defer the fast were of no avail as the veteran Gandhian began his hunger strike at Jantar Mantar.
Activists of the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement began a fast at Azad Maidan here, to support Hazare.
A rally of around 100 cars and bikes was organised from Shivaji Park in central Mumbai to Azad Maidan on Tuesday morning, as a part of the protest.
“Several people have pledged their support via text messages and e-mails. Others are fasting at their homes or offices,” Mayank Gandhi of NGO Jagrut Nagrik Manch said.
In the evening, activists will distribute pamphlets near the CST station to make citizens aware of the issue of corruption menace and the imperative need of the Lokpal Bill with people’s participation,” he said.