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
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
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
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.