Indian PM calls all-party meet on corruption

Government, under pressure over Anna Hazare's hunger strike, moves towards adopting tougher anti-corruption measures.

    Hazare's main demand is that a government anti-corruption bill currently before parliament be withdrawn [Reuters]

    Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has called an all-party meeting to discuss proposed anti-corruption measures as the government sought to bring an end to activist Anna Hazare's nine-day hunger strike.

    The government sent Salman Khurshid, a minister, and Sandeep Dikshit, a ruling Congress party MP, to hold talks with Hazare's supporters on Wednesday to outline a draft version of a new anti-corruption bill.

    Khurshid and Dikshit then met Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, to finalise the draft, which will be circulated at the all-party meeting, India's IBNLive.com reported.

    Hazare's main demand is that a government anti-corruption bill currently before parliament be withdrawn and replaced by a more stringent version, drafted by himself and other civil society leaders.

    Singh wrote to Hazare on Tuesday, urging him to end his hunger strike and offered to cede some of the demands of protesters.

    In his letter to the activist, the prime minister said he was willing to request that the speaker of parliament refer Hazare's version to the standing committee that was reviewing the government's draft.

    He also said the committee would be asked to fast-track its deliberations.

    The concessions marked a shift by the prime minister, who last week had condemned Hazare's demands as "totally misconceived" and a threat to India's parliamentary democracy.

    Senior government ministers also met for the first time with Hazare's top aides in order to break the stalemate.

    "Our representatives met with the government yesterday, but they are not showing the intention to remove corruption from the country," Hazare said in a speech from his stage set above the crowd.

    The 74-year-old has remained adamant that the government should meet his demands before he will break his fast despite doctors warning about his health.

    "We recommended last night that for safety reasons he should be admitted to hospital... but he refused to move," Naresh Trehan, the head of the medical team, said.

    "He initially agreed to us administering intravenous fluids, but then refused later," he said.

    Hazare is staging his protest in a large open-air venue in India’s capital, New Delhi, where tens of thousands of supporters have gathered every day to cheer on the man who has become a symbol of national dissent.

    "I have just lost six kilos (13 pounds). There are concerns over my kidney. But I am deriving strength from all of you," he said referring to the crowd of supporters.

    Hazare's campaign has galvanised people across the country of 1.2 billion people. People have come onto the streets across cities, calling for an end to the culture of corruption.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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