Govt struggles to diffuse situation as Hazare`s fast enters third day

Last Updated: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 09:19

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare`s fast-unto-death entered the third day here Thursday even as a large number of people from various walks of life continued to extend support to the crusader for a stronger anti-corruption law.

72-year-old Hazare`s protest has led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar from the
Group of Ministers on corruption after the Gandhian took potshots at him.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had yesterday discussed with some Cabinet colleagues the issue after which indications emerged that one or two ministers could be nominated to talk to the activist.

The general sense at the informal confabulations was that there was a need to defuse the situation that had arisen due to the fast-unto-death campaign launched on Tuesday which is getting support from the increasing number of people.

Asked if Hazare has been contacted by any one from the government, an aide of the activist said, "As of now we have not received any intimation from the government, we have read reports in this regard in the media only".

The aide said, "The fast was still on. Hazare is in perfect health".

Doctors are checking Hazare twice a day to keep a tab on his health.

Hazare had yesterday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, slamming the reaction of his government and Congress to his indefinite fast on Lokpal Bill issue, and urged him to show courage to take unprecedented steps to fight the menace.

Responding to Congress` criticism that his protest was "premature", he said authorities resort to "malicious slandering" whenever cornered and asserted that he was not a kind of person who could be "instigated" into going on an indefinite fast.

Since the fast started on Tuesday, people from all walks of life including students, senior citizens, actors, executives and activists are converging at the Jantar Mantar, the hotspot of protests in the capital, to lend support to the movement.

However, some politicians like Ajit Singh, Uma Bharti and OP Chautala who wanted to make common cause with the social activist and share the dais with him were shouted out by his supporters and had to make a hasty retreat. Hazare said the indefinite hunger strike does not have a political tone.

The activist is demanding enactment of Jan Lokpal Bill as the legislation proposed by the government was not adequate and lacked teeth. He has maintained that a joint committee, comprising representatives of the government and civil society, should be set up to firm up the bill.

Government has already set up a sub-group of four ministers within the Group of Ministers on anti-corruption to take on board the suggestions of civil society.

Hazare said he was not averse to dialogue but such discussions should take place with those who have power to take decisions.

"When did we say no to dialogue. Dialogue should take place with those who have power to take decisions, whether (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh)," he said.

Hazare was of the view that there was no point in talking to any committee which has no power to take major decisions.

"They cannot take major decisions," he said in an apparent reference to the Group of Ministers on corruption.

"What we demand is a joint committee with 50 percent representation from our side. Set up a joint committee and start drafting the Lokpal Bill," he said.

Meanwhile, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said Hazare`s blood pressure was a little high today and doctors have advised him not to speak too much.

"He has been asked to take rest. Otherwise he is fine," he said, adding some of the activists on hunger strike along with Hazare have been taken to hospital for check-up.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 09:19

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