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Hectic efforts to resolve crisis as anti-corruption crusade swells

Friday April 08, 2011 07:37:33 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday held a series of meetings to resolve the impasse over the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill as the anti-corruption juggernaut rolled on unstoppably with thousands of people across India joining reformer Anna Hazare, whose fast-unto-death for a stronger anti-graft law entered its fourth day.

Desperate to stem the tide of support for the anti-corruption crusade started by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare, who was fasting at the Jantar Mantar monument in the national capital, the prime minister held meetings with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal amongst others.

He also met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who had Wednesday urged Hazare to end his hunger strike saying his demands will get the government's "full attention", and briefed President Pratibha Patil on the government's efforts to resolve the differences with the civil society activists demanding participation in the framing of a stronger anti-corruption bill.

The government has rejected the demands of the activists to have a former Supreme Court judge as head of a committee that will draft the anti-graft law and to notify the constitution of the panel.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who met Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh, two high profile activists backing Anna Hazare, said after the first meeting in the morning that he had conveyed that it was "not possible for the government to issue an official notification" with respect to constitution of the committee.

The minister, who was huddled in a third meeting with his ministerial colleagues and the protesters Friday evening, also conveyed to the movement's members that it was "not possible for us to accept the chairmanship of a member of the civil society over this joint drafting committee".

The civil society leaders had proposed a notification of the committee that will draft the Jan Lokpal Bill and appointing former chief justice of India J.S. Verma or former Supreme Court judge Justice Santosh Hegde as chairman of the panel.

But Hazare, 72, who has called for a 'jail bharo' agitation on April 13, was adamant.

"The government proposed (Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee to head this committee. I request you to reconsider this as people are demanding a non-political person as the chairperson," he told the prime minister.

In a separate letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Hazare said: "I am also relieved to note that you fully support the cause and think there is an urgent necessity of combating graft and corruption in public life and that the law in these matters must be effective and deliver the desired results.

"We will not bow before the government… The massive support that we have got from people has made the government realize the importance of the bill and soon they will aceept the demand," Hazare told reporters later.

Though doctors declared him fit, the health of the frail Gandhian, who has led one of the largest people's movements since independence, continued to cause concern and led insiders to believe that an early compromise was inevitable.

From dawn till dusk, people gathered in all corners of the country for a cause that has united so many across sections.

There was a 95-year-old woman who reached Jantar Mantar, the young school student who made her way to India Gate for the candlelight march, the widows in Maharashtra's Vidarbha area who also fasted in support and many hundreds who gathered outside the Gateway of India in Mumbai.

Then there was also filmdom's Farah Khan and Anupam Kher as well as yoga guru Swami Ramdev and Delhi Metro's E. Sreedharan who arrived at the Jantar Mantar in solidarity with Hazare.

The movement was also fuelled by messages on SMS, Twitter and Facebook.

India Against Corruption, the group coordinating the protest, recorded 161,000 'likes' on its page and said it had received 600,000 mobile calls till Thursday.

Indians in Los Angeles are also organising a day-long fast Saturday in support of Hazare's fight against corruption.





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