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Deadlock between Team Hazare, government continues

Wednesday June 15, 2011 09:00:19 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The deadlock between the government and Team Hazare continued Wednesday with union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal saying the two sides would give their versions of the Lokpal bill to the cabinet, which would take a final call on drafting a strong anti-corruption legislation.

The seventh meeting between the 10-member panel of government and civil society representatives drafting an anti-corruption Lokpal bill ended on a bitter note. Civil rights activist Arvind Kejriwal criticised the government for killing the "Lokpal bill before it even got birth".

After a marathon meeting lasting over two hours, Sibal agreed that "it was quite clear that there were areas of strong divergence of opinion" between the civil rights activists and the government.

"We will try for a consensus. But we are not able to arrive at a consensus then we will give two versions. We will give our version and the civil society will give their version to the cabinet," Sibal, a member of the 10-member panel, told reporters.

By June 30, a draft Lokpal bill will be sent to the union cabinet, he added.

When asked whether there will be two drafts, Sibal said: "There will be no two drafts but both the versions of the draft will be sent."

The next meeting is slated for June 20 and 21, he added.

The Lokpal drafting talks have also been hit over the insistence of anti-graft activists, led by Gandhian Anna Hazare, that the prime minister's office should be brought under the ambit of Lokpal and that the panel proceedings should be telecast live, which the government is opposing.

Kejriwal, one of the key members of Team Hazare, said there were many points of differences and the two sides had agreed on submitting two versions to the cabinet.

"One draft will be prepared by us and the other draft will be prepared by the government ministers. Both will be presented before the cabinet and the cabinet will decide which version with correction would be presented to the parliament. But we don't have much hope as it is their cabinet," he added.

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

"It is clear that the government wants to kill the Lokpal. It seems that government was pretending for the past one and a half month. They were predecided on the matter of Lokpal," he alleged.

Prashant Bhushan, another civil society member of the panel, said there were "too many fundamental differences between" them and the government. "The cabinet will decide which version to take, with what modifications, to be presented to parliament."

The two sides have been engaged in a bitter war of words for the past few weeks.

Anna Hazare, who has threatened to go on indefinite fast again if the Lokpal bill is not passed by parliament by Aug 15, said the meeting was "very good."

It was also Hazare's birthday Wednesday. He turned 74.




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