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Hazare's fast enters day 3; Sibal holds talks to break impasse

Thursday April 07, 2011 02:30:23 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Social reformer Anna Hazare's fast for a more stringent anti-corruption law entered the third day Thursday with a groundswell of support from all sections of society as the government reached out to break the impasse and held "constructive" talks with activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal.

Hoping to find ways to bridge differences on the anti-graft Lokpal Bill, union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said he held a "very constructive" dialogue with Swami Agnivesh and Kejriwal.

"We had a very constructive dialogue. We are trying to find out solutions," Sibal told reporters here after the meeting. "The broad parameters are generally agreed upon, the formalities not yet.

"We want Anna Hazare to give up the fast; we believe that the object must be that civil society and government should sit together and deal with the problem of corruption through an effective legislation."

Swami Agnivesh echoed the minister's words and said: "Dialogue is going on in a positive and constructive way."

As the government stepped up its efforts to end the unforeseen crisis and the massive response that Anna Hazare's crusade has generated across the country, the 72-year-old Gandhian said he was fine but feeling weak.

"Apart from a slight weakness, I am fine. I've lost a little weight but still I can carry on for at least seven more days. I'll never leave the path of truth," Hazare told reporters here amid thunderous applause from crowds at Jantar Mantar, a short distance away from Parliament House, where thousands of people, including schoolchildren, grassroots workers and retired bureaucrats, had gathered.

Anna Hazare is demanding that the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill be given more teeth so it can effectively tackle corruption in public life.

Anna Hazare also made it clear that politicians could come and sit among the crowds but not on the stage "as this is a people's movement and giving it a political shade would be wrong".

He also apologized to former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Uma Bharati, who had been asked to leave the protest site Wednesday along with her former colleague Madan Lal Khurana and Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chautala.

Away from ground zero Jantar Mantar, the movement against corruption gathered more momentum across India.

Scores of activists in various parts of Punjab, Haryana and the joint capital Chandigarh, for instance, came forward to register their protest.

"We are gathering support even on social networking sites and through sending e-mails and SMSs to people. We strongly demand the Jan Lokpal bill as it would ensure the seizing of looted money from the houses and bank accounts of fraudsters and unscrupulous politicians," said Amit Saini, a social activist based in Amritsar.

At various places, teachers, lawyers, students and doctors planned to observe fasts.

Two lawyers of Punjab and Haryana High Court -- V.S. Makkar and Gaurav Goyal -- are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike in Chandigarh.

And in Bihar, women and men joined hands in the campaign to end corruption in various towns and villages.

"Corruption is a big hurdle for development. If Anna Hazare's campaign forces the central government to bring a more comprehensive Lokbal bill to fight corruption in public life, it will be a turning point for India," said Patna student Vineet Rai.

Supports came in through many tweets as well.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj were amongst those who tweeted their backing for the campaign.

Drawing a parallel with the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's government in Egypt, Bharadwaj said that similar "broadly peaceful protests" can bring down corrupt politicians in India too.

Tharoor added that discussions on the Lokpal Bill were inevitable and not all points could be supported. "Consultations on Lokpal bill are indispensable."

In Mumbai, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said the central government was worried about the growing public support to Hazare's agitation since that could oust it from power, and not Hazare's hunger strike.



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