News / Asia

    Indian Government Concedes Some Demands of Anti-Corruption Protestors

    Indian social activist Anna Hazare, right, looks on during his hunger strike against corruption, in New Delhi, India, April 7, 2011
    Indian social activist Anna Hazare, right, looks on during his hunger strike against corruption, in New Delhi, India, April 7, 2011
    Anjana Pasricha

    As the Indian government comes under pressure from a massive nationwide movement against corruption, it conceded to some demands of a veteran social activist who is on a hunger strike to demand a tough new anti-corruption law.  But his campaign against graft continues as protestors say they will not settle for half-way measures by the
    government.

    On the third day of a hunger strike by 72-year-old activist Anna Hazare, the government sounded a conciliatory note as his anti-corruption crusade snowballed into a nationwide movement.

    Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that the government will agree to fifty per cent representation by citizens on a joint committee which will be established to draw up new anti-corruption legislation. This was one of the major demands put forth by Hazare.

    "Our attempt is all of us are together. We want to deal with corruption, we want to get rid of corruption, we want civil society to participate in this effort, we have no problems with that, and we want Anna Hazare to give up his fast," said Sibal.

    Despite the partial victory, the civil activist did not heed the government’s call to end his campaign, as his supporters pressed the government to name him to head the committee which will draft the new bill. The government has not agreed to this demand.

    The government has already drafted an anti-corruption law or Lokpal Bill. But Anna Hazare and his supporters say the proposed legislation is "toothless" and would be ineffective in tackling graft. They want the legislation redrafted to allow wider powers for prosecution and
    make it free from political influence.

    Arvind Kejriwal, a civil activist who is involved in negotiations with the government, says corruption has reached unprecedented levels. He says if it has to be rooted out, an individual with credibility such as Hazare is needed to lead the fight.

    Talks with the government will continue on Friday.

    The popular anti-graft movement is putting pressure on the government as it reflects the growing anger against a political and administrative system where corruption is seen to be pervasive. The spotlight on graft follows a spate of corruption scandals. The biggest
    involved the selling of telecom licenses at below-market rates, allegedly causing a loss of $35 billion to the government.

    On Thursday, hundreds of citizens, including school children, housewives and professionals continued to gather at the Central Delhi venue where Hazare is holding his protest fast. He is drinking water during the fast. Similar gatherings to express solidarity with the anti-corruption campaign were witnessed in other cities.

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