Indian Activists Disappointed with Draft of Anti-Graft Law

Posted June 21st, 2011 at 5:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Indian activists leading a nationwide anti-corruption campaign on Tuesday expressed deep disappointment with a draft law aimed at tackling widespread graft in the country.

After weeks of negotiations with the government, the activists hoped to lay the groundwork for a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman. But following their last meeting with top ministers in New Delhi Tuesday, the campaigners called government efforts to tackle corruption “symbolic.”

One of the negotiators said the government did not accept their proposal for an ombudsman that would have powers to prosecute the prime minister, senior judges and lawmakers.

The government has defended its version of the anti-corruption bill, saying it was strong and independent. But officials admitted there were wide differences between their version and what the activists were calling for.

The government later postponed the next session of parliament to give it more time to reach an agreement with the activists.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal said the new session would begin on August 1, instead of mid-July, and run through September 8.

Lawmakers have struggled to reach an agreement with civil society activists who are pushing for a tough new law to tackle graft.

The activists are part of a joint panel established by the government in the wake of a campaign by activist Anna Hazare. He and popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev have both taken part in hunger strikes against corruption.

India's government has been beleaguered by a series of recent corruption scandals. Authorities are currently investigating whether organizers of last year's Commonwealth Games in the Indian capital received kickbacks totaling billions of dollars. In addition, the government says it lost up to $40 billion from the sale of mobile phone licenses at below-market rates.