India holds all-party meeting on anti-graft law

India’s government is holding a meeting of all political parties to find a consensus to deal with the demands of anti-corruption activists led by campaigner Anna Hazare.

The authorities have held a second round of talks with Mr Hazare’s aides about a proposed tough anti-graft bill.

PM Manmohan Singh has appealed to Mr Hazare to end his hunger strike, which has entered its ninth day in Delhi.

The activist has lost more than 5kg (11lbs) and and is weak, his aides say.

Mr Hazare, 74, has also refused doctors’ advice to be put on an intravenous drip to help him rehydrate.

“Until now, the government’s intentions are not good. So I have decided until my last breath, until the government gives in to this issue, I will not turn back. I don’t care even if I die,” he told his followers who have gathered at Ramlila grounds in Delhi to support his fast.

In a letter addressed to Mr Hazare on Tuesday, the prime minister said he was committed to drawing up the best possible law, and to do it as quickly as possible.

Mr Singh also asked his Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to negotiate with the activists.

After the first round of talks with Mr Mukherjee, aides of Mr Hazare told reporters that it would be difficult to persuade the activist to give up his fast unless the government “tabled, discussed and passed in this session of parliament” a strong anti-corruption bill.

“If required the parliament session should be extended [to facilitate the passage of the bill],” Mr Hazare’s aides said.

In April, Mr Hazare called off a hunger strike after four days when the government said he could help draft legislation to create a special ombudsman, or lokpal – an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

Continue reading the main story
Dispute over Citizens’ Ombudsman bill

Following a hunger strike by Anna Hazare in April, the government agreed to draft the Jan Lokpal (Citizens’ Ombudsman) bill. The final bill incorporates 34 of the 40 principles set out by Mr Hazare, but he and other activists have rejected it
Mr Hazare says the ombudsman should have the power to investigate the prime minister and senior judges. The government refuses to include them, saying their authority will be eroded
Mr Hazare wants the ombudsman to be able to investigate MPs accused of taking bribes to vote or ask questions in parliament. The government says such probes should be carried out by MPs
Prison vigil for corruption crusader
Biswas: Arrest complicates debate
The final version of the bill was presented in early August, but Mr Hazare and other activists rejected it because it said the prime minister and senior judges would be exempt from scrutiny.

Mr Hazare’s arrest last Tuesday, hours before he was to start his public fast, sparked mass protests across India.

He initially refused the government’s offer to release him unless he was permitted to protest without restrictions.

Mr Hazare was finally released from Tihar jail on Friday after he agreed to a police offer permitting him to go on hunger strike for 15 days.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals which critics say is evidence of a pervasive culture of corruption in Mr Singh’s administration.

A recent survey said corruption in Asia’s third largest economy had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.

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