Protesters Burn Copies of Indian Anti-Graft Bill

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 8:55 am (UTC-5)
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India's effort to crack down on corruption is coming under fire from activists, who say a new bill before parliament does not go far enough.

Activists in western India burned copies of the draft legislation Thursday, slamming the legislation for exempting the prime minister, the judiciary and lawmakers. They say without the power to investigate such high-ranking officials, the new anti-corruption agency and its ombudsman cannot be effective.

Already, one of the leading activists is calling for a new hunger strike, starting August 16, to force lawmakers to strengthen the bill.

Anna Hazare used a hunger strike in April to help give the anti-corruption movement momentum. He warns of a new showdown with the government if the movement's demands are not met.

The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has defended the bill's limitations, saying parliament must be the final authority.

Government officials also note that activists were invited to help draft the bill. Activists complain their demands for stronger provisions were ignored.

Mr. Singh's government has been repeatedly rocked by scandals, most recently involving oversight of the telecommunications industry and the preparations for last year's Commonwealth Games.

Critics say graft in both instances has cost India tens of billions of dollars.

Corruption charges have been leveled against officials from both the ruling Congress led alliance and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP leader in parliament, Sushma Swaraj, criticized the anti-corruption bill as it was introduced Thursday, saying no one should be shielded from India's laws.