Indian Activist Threatens Hunger Strike Over Corruption Bill

Posted December 21st, 2011 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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Veteran Indian activist Anna Hazare says he is opposed to a landmark anti-corruption bill that is set to be introduced to parliament later this week.

India's Cabinet on Tuesday approved the legislation, which would create a nine-member oversight agency tasked with investigating and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft. The bill is expected to be presented in parliament Thursday.

But Hazare, who held a public 12-day hunger strike in August to protest an initial draft of the legislation, on Wednesday threatened to start a new three-day fast unless parliament passes a stronger version of the bill by the end of its current session.

“It is not a strong anti-graft bill. It is deceiving the people. They are cheating the people and the public will someday teach a lesson to these people.”

Hazare says the legislation is watered down because it does not place India's top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, under ombudsman review.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has also insisted that the ombudsman have jurisdiction over the prime minister, judiciary and lower-level civil servants.

Under the proposed bill, the prime minister would be brought under the ombudsman's authority, except on issues pertaining to national security, international relations, atomic energy and space.

On Wednesday, Indian Law Minister Salman Khurshid criticized what he viewed as premature opposition to the bill by Hazare and others.

“I have one request – that whatever draft we are presenting in the Parliament, they should read it first. Just imagining the draft and raising questions on it is not correct.”

Hazare's August hunger strike in support of the new ombudsman, or lokpal, brought millions of Indians onto the streets across the country to protest widespread bribery in Indian society.

The public response was a shock for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government, which has been tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals.