India’s anti-corruption icon begins fast

Anna Hazare goes on indefinite fast, insisting that the government enact the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill to probe graft.

The latest fast by Anna Hazare is his third in as many years. [AP]

Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has started an indefinite hunger strike, his third in as many years, to press for a law to combat dirty deals and sleaze in government.

The 76-year-old activist, who has inspired the person on the street with his diehard commitment against corruption, on Tuesday began what he called a “do or die agitation” in his native Ralegaon Sidhi village in western Maharashtra state.

Hazare demanded that the Indian parliament pass the Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill that will institutionalise anti-corruption mechanism in the country. Once the bill is enacted into law, the Lokpal, an independent authority, will oversee investigations into allegations of corruption in government.

The Lokpal bill was passed in the lower house of parliament two years ago, but it got stuck in the upper house (Rajya Sabha).

One contentious point, whether the prime minister is liable to be investigated, has been included but with restrictive conditions.

Hazare’s fast coincides with the winter session of the Indian parliament. He has demanded that it be passed during the current session. Media reports quoting him said Hazare blamed the Congress’s defeat in the recent assembly elections to its inability to carry forward its promise of enacting the Lokpal bill.

Terming the government’s promise as “eyewash”, Hazare said he had been given repeated assurances by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office that the anti-corruption bill would be passed but without any real action.

Hazare has declared the formation of a new front, the Jantantra Morcha, which will carry forward the anti-corruption movement. Reports said Hazare made it clear he would not form any political party and neither would he support any.

His protégé Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, based on the same anti-corruption platform, performed spectacularly in the recent elections to the Delhi assembly. But Hazare has kept himself away from the party on the grounds that he is not interested in politics.

Source: Al Jazeera