India’s PM Urges Debate on All Reforms Against Corruption

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is appealing to a prominent anti-corruption activist to end his 10-day hunger strike, while urging lawmakers to consider all options to make India corruption free.

Speaking in Parliament Thursday, Mr. Singh said he wants his government to debate all reform proposals, including the one championed by activist Anna Hazare. The prime minister praised Hazare, saying that he respected the 74-year-old man's idealism.

Earlier this month, the Indian parliament proposed creation of a civil institution, known as a lokpal, to reduce the country's endemic corruption. Hazare opposed the bill, saying it would not hold a prime minister or the judiciary accountable for corrupt practices.

Hazare has been encamped in an open-air venue in New Delhi with thousands of supporters, vowing to continue his fast indefinitely unless parliament passes his strict version of the anti-corruption bill by August 30.

Senior government ministers have held talks with Hazare's aides, but little progress has been made so far.

In the meantime, Mr. Singh's government and members of the opposition have expressed concern about Hazare's health and urged him to let doctors feed him intravenously, which the activist has refused.

On Wednesday, Hazare told supporters he has lost six kilograms and that his kidney is affected but that they should not worry. His hunger strike has triggered huge anti-corruption protests throughout India.

However, members of India's lowest caste, the dalits, staged a counter-protest Wednesday, saying Hazare's anti-corruption plan would not protect them.

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