India Against Corruption to hold public meetings on Sunday, to mobilise for countrywide fast from 5th April
With the ruckus over Hasan Ali Khan's Swiss bank accounts and the Supreme Court quashing the appointment of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, one would have expected the government to implement some strict measures to root out corruption. But it seems that prime minister Manmohan Singh has refused to initiate any changes till the state assembly polls, scheduled next month, are over. Now, activists, seeking immediate action on this festering issue, are planning to go on a fast next month.
Members of India Against Corruption (IAC), among them Dr Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh, met the prime minister and Union law minister Veerappa Moily on Monday, urging the government to undertake some anti-corruption measures immediately. However, the prime minister expressed his inability to take any specific measures before the completion of the state polls. Dr Singh also refused to include activists in the committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, which is expected to create an independent vigilance authority at the centre. Mayank Gandhi, spokesperson of IAC, said the movement would be intensified with activists scheduled to go on a fast from 5th April.
"The prime minister said the government has no time to consider the issue of corruption till the 13th May due to the ongoing Parliament session and the impending elections in five states," Mr Gandhi said. In view of the government's attitude, Anna Hazare, an activist of IAC, will launch the indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
The forum has planned public meetings nationwide on Sunday to raise awareness on the issue and mobilise support for the hunger protest. "Some 20,000 people will participate, distribute pamphlets in the meetings," Mr Gandhi said. "On 5th April, more than 100,000 people across the country will go on a fast in solidarity that will be led by Annaji in New Delhi."
Last week, Mr Hazare had warned that he would go on a fast if the meeting with the government turned out to be fruitless, and if the government did not agree to enact a strong anti-corruption law along the lines of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which has been drafted by IAC.
"After much persuasion, he (the prime minister) agreed to bring a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament," Mr Gandhi said. "He was informed that the government Bill was poorly drafted. The prime minister suggested that a sub-committee of the group of ministers (GoM) would be constituted and it would have two meetings with representatives of IAC after 13th May. The GoM will draft the bill accordingly after the interaction."
But the IAC had decided not to wait that long, and it has demanded that instead of a GoM, a joint committee be set up which will have equal representation from the government and activists. But the government has rejected the proposal. Mr Gandhi said, "In effect, we stand where we were before the meeting. The meeting served no purpose except that it made the intention of the government clear."
The poorly drafted Lokpal Bill, which the government plans to introduce in Parliament, places several restraints on the Lokpal and hinders its independent functioning. Hence, the Jan Lokpal Bill which has been drafted by the activists that gives more power for effective vigilance.
(To read the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill log on to http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/.)
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