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Government proposes joint committee to draft Lokpal Bill; activists reject proposal

Anti-corruption protestors reject proposal as joint committee will not be notified officially; activists also want work on Bill to be completed before Parliament session

New Delhi: The government today opened a channel of communication with Anna Hazare, but the popular social reformer was quick to reject its offer of an informal committee of civil society activists and government representatives to draft an effective Lok Pal Bill.

After Union minister Kapil Sibal met with two activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal this morning to work out a way and then reported to him on the talks, the 72-year-old Gandhian said, "We will continue the fast as long as our demands are not met."

Mr Kejriwal told supporters assembled at the site of the hunger protest at Jantar Mantar that Mr Sibal agreed with their demand for equal representation for activists from civil society and government representatives on a joint committee to draft a bill. But, Mr Sibal told them that it would not be constituted through a notification and it would be an informal committee, PTI reports.

The protestors voiced their rejection of the proposal as also the suggestion that senior minister Pranab Mukherjee would head the committee as chairman. "Anna Hazare should be the chairman," they shouted.
The two activists also told Mr Sibal that they could not wait till 13th May when the current assembly elections would end to begin work on drafting the bill. "We want the work to start now," Mr Kejriwal said as the crowd roared in approval. He said Swami Agnivesh had told the minister that the revised bill should be ready by the time the monsoon session of Parliament commences.
After listening to Mr Kejriwal and the demand from the crowd, Anna Hazare got up and made a brief statement. "I will continue the fast as long as our demands are not met."

Mr Sibal, who met the activists at his residence, said the broad parameters to resolve the issue had been agreed upon. "We have started a channel of communication. We met last evening. We met today also. The talks have been constructive...The formalities are yet to be agreed upon. We are meeting again," Mr Sibal told journalists after the meeting. But he did not elaborate on what the formula was, saying the attempt is that all are together.

"We want to deal with corruption. We want to get rid of corruption. We want civil society to participate. We have no problem with that," he said, and appealed to Mr Hazare to call off the hunger protest. "The objective of the government and civil society is to sit together and to deal with the issue of corruption effectively through an appropriate legislation."

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