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Day 3: Talks fail with govt; fast will continue,says Anna Hazare

Two key differences remain even though govt accepts demand for joint panel to redraft Lokpal Bill.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
April 7, 2011 2:04:35 pm

The new Lokpal Bill panel will have equal representation from civil society,but it will remain an informal committee,the Union government told social activist Anna Hazare on Thursday,whose ‘satyagraha’ for a stringent anti-corruption legislation entered its third day.

The government has also refused to accept Hazare’s supporters’ demand that he be made the chief of this committee.

Hazare’s supporters are disappointed there will be no formal notification issued on this committee which would have made it binding on the government to go by it.

The deadlock,therefore,continues though the government opened a channel of communication with the fasting Gandhian last evening,appointing Union Minister Kapil Sibal to negotiate with the agitators.

Sibal met Hazare’s emissaries Swami Agnivesh and rights activist Arvind Kejriwal twice on Thursday but failed to pull off a truce.

Hazare’s supporters also want Hazare to head this panel that will redraft the present Lokpal Bill but the government wants Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to be its head.

The social activist has rejected the government’s offer of this informal committee of civil society activists and government representatives to draft an effective Lokpal Bill. The the 72-year-old Gandhian said: “We will continue the fast till our demands are met.”

Kejriwal told protesters at the fast site at Jantar Mantar that Sibal agreed with their demand for a 50:50 representation for civil society activists and government representatives on a joint committee for drafting the Bill.

But,he said,Sibal had told them that it would not be constituted through a notification but would be an informal committee.

The assembled gathering rejected this offer as also the formula that senior minister Pranab Mukherjee would be its chairman.

“Anna Hazare should be the Chairman” demanded the gathering.

The two activists also told Sibal they cannot wait till May 13 when the current Assembly elections would end to begin work on drafting the Bill.

“We want work to start just now,” he said as the crowd roared in approval.

He said Swami Agnivesh told the minister that the revised Bill should be ready when the monsoon session of Parliament starts.

After listening to Kejriwal and the crowd’s demand,Hazare got up to make a brief statement saying: “I will continue the fast till all our demands are met.”

Sibal,who met the activists at his residence,said the broad parametres of solving the issue has been agreed upon.

“We have started a channel of communication. We met last evening. We met today also. The talks have been constructive… The formalities are yet to be agreed upon. We are meeting again,” Sibal told reporters after the meeting.

But he did not elaborate on what the formula is saying the attempt is that all are together.

“We want to deal with corruption. We want to get rid of corruption. We want civil society to participate. We have no problem with that,” he said appealing to Hazare to call off the hunger strike.

“The objective of the government and civil society is to sit together and to deal with the issue of corruption effectively through an appropriate legislation,” he said.

Agnivesh said he will inform Hazare about the outcome of the talks which he described as “positive”.

“We will inform Hazare about the talks. The final decision will be his,” he said.

Before the second round of talks with Sibal,Kejriwal said they will convey their stand to him which included the immediate constitution or setting up of the committee.

“In the first round of talks,Sibal had told us that the government was ready to constitute a joint committee with five members each from the civil society and the government. This we accepted,” he said.

Kejriwal,who along with Swami Agnivesh is negotiating with the government,said they suggested to the minister that the formation of the committee be notified. But Sibal rejected that idea.

“Sibal told us it won’t be possible and that he will announce to the media about the formation of the committee but there will be no formal notification. Where is the guarantee when the minister only announces the formation of the committee and there is no formal notification? They are trying to make a fool of us,” he said.

Kejriwal also said that Hazare was of the view that a retired judge should be the chairman of the committee. However,Hazare’s supporters have suggested that the Gandhian head the committee.

In his address to the supporters in the evening,Hazare said politicians do not want a Lokpal Bill because that will stop the ‘loot’.

“Scams like 2G,Commonwealth Games and Adarsh housing have come to light but scamsters are not going to jail. We want a Lokpal Bill so that we can send the corrupt to jail and get them hanged,” Hazare said to thunderous applause from the gathering.

“People ask me you are a Gandhian and you talk about hanging. But I tell them that the situation is such that we should not only follow Gandhi but also Chhtarapati Shivaji Maharaj. This is the demand of the society and the country.”

He said people will make the government behave. “If they do not listen to people,people will send them out of power,” the veteran Gandhian said.

Dismissing reservations from the government about involving civil society activists in the drafting committee,he said,”They don’t know the meaning of democracy. People are sovereign and ministers are servants. People have every right to question when their treasury is being looted.”

To a question,he said,”All corrupt ministers should quit the Cabinet.”

When a question was popped about his preference for a retired judge to head the committee but there are also judges like former CJI K G Balakrishnan,Hazare shot back,”We will not allow corrupt people to come into the committee”.

Hazare rejected allegations that he was aligned with BJP and RSS and said he has nothing to do with them.

“I have been working for society for a long time. For the past 35 years,I have not gone home. I have three brothers and I don’t know the names of their children. I don’t have any bank balance. I ask people to put Rs five or Rs ten in our carry bag.

“Through this,I have kept myself fighting for the public. What have I to do with the Congress or the BJP? The country which is a gold chest has drowned in dismay because of those who ran the country,” Hazare said,adding some people are still criticising him.

“If they had done so much,why is it that the country is still in a mess?” he asked.

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