Fasting Indian activist offered concession

Prime minister promises parliamentary discussion on anti-graft bill as Hazare's fast enters 10th-day.

    Hazare's anti-corruption campaign has drawn thousands of supporters across the country [REUTERS]

    Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, has agreed for a parliamentary discussion on a tougher version of an anti-corruption bill following intense pressure brought on the government by a veteran activist's indefinite fast.

    According to the privately-owned NDTV television channel, the Indian parliament would debate all versions of the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill, including one being pushed for by Anna Hazare, currently on the tenth day of a much-publicised hunger strike.

    The government had earlier refused to deliberate on Hazare's bill, which was much tougher than the government's own version. Hazare wants the prime minister to be brought under the ambit of the ombudsman amongst other measures.

    The fast by the 74-year-old anti-graft activist has united millions of Indians, including its growing middle class, against a Congress party-led government that has been beset by corruption scandals in its second term, paralysing policy making.

    "He has become the embodiment of our people's disgust and concern about tackling corruption," Singh told parliament on Thursday. "I appluad him, I salute him. His life is much too precious, and therefore, I would like to urge Anna Hazare to end this fast."

    Anna responded to the prime minister's appeal with a demand for a debate. "If you are serious, let's start a debate tomorrow in parliament on the Jan Lokpal Bill. There are three points of the dispute...we will test you on these," NDTV quoted him as saying.

    The TV station also quoted Hazare as saying that if there was consensus on these issues, he would consider ending his fast.

    Hazare has lost nearly 7 kg since he began his fast.

    "I am sure I will not die until we get the Jan Lokpal bill... I will keep fighting," he said.

    Hazare's deteriorating health could force the government to decide on force-feeding him, a move that would risk sparking further protests against a fumbling government of elderly ministers widely seen as out of touch.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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