India’s Government Calls All-Party Meeting to Discuss Graft Bill

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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India's government has called for an all-party meeting on Wednesday to discuss ending the standoff with hunger-striking activist Anna Hazare, who is calling on India's parliament to pass tougher anti-corruption legislation.

Hazare's hunger fast entered its eighth day Tuesday. Doctors say the 74-year-old activist has lost five kilograms.

On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signaled he may be willing to negotiate with Hazare, saying that he is “open to a reasoned debate” on the proposed anti-graft legislation. But Prime Minister Singh also reiterated that any concern about the legislation should be taken up in parliament.

Earlier this month, India's parliament proposed the creation of a civil institution, known as a lokpal, aimed at lessening endemic corruption in the country. Hazare opposed the bill, saying it did not do enough to hold the prime minister or judiciary accountable.

Hazare has threatened to continue his fast indefinitely unless parliament passes his tougher version of an anti-corruption bill by August 30.

In the past week, thousands of people have gathered in central New Delhi to support Hazare, whose strike has galvanized millions of his countrymen.

But not everyone supports Hazare's methods. Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy wrote in the Hindu newspaper that legislation proposed by Hazare is “draconian,” saying it will administer a “giant bureaucracy.”

Popular outrage has grown steadily over the past year as a string of high-profile corruption scandals has made headlines in national media. They include the sale of telecommunications licenses at below market value and numerous financial irregularities in India's hosting of last year's Commonwealth Games.