Govt`s efforts fail; Ramdev to go ahead with his fast

Baba Ramdev said talks with govt were positive but many more issues are to be sorted out.

Last Updated: Jun 03, 2011, 23:17 PM IST

New Delhi: A desperate government`s efforts
failed on Friday to achieve any breakthrough with Baba Ramdev
deciding to go ahead with his indefinite fast here from
tomorrow amidst indications that a compromise was likely in a
day or two.

For nearly five hours, two senior union ministers Kapil
Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay negotiated with the yoga guru over
his demands on eradication of corruption at a posh hotel, a
venue totally different from Delhi airport where two days ago
these two ministers with two others had attempted to placate
him.
After the talks, Sibal said "we had constructive dialogue
on several issues and the government has addressed all the
issues Baba has raised in writing. Most of these issues are of
national concern and the government is already seized of many
of them".

However, immediately thereafter, Baba Ramdev went to the
Ramlila Maidan, venue of his indefinite fast, where he told a
congregation that government has agreed to most of his
demands.

He said, however, that he will go ahead with the fast
till all his demands are met completely.

In a late night release, the cabinet secretariat
disclosed its issue-wise response to Ramdev`s demands
including its willingness to substantially increase the
maximum punishment for corruption without defining what that
would be.

The government also said confiscation of ill-gotten
wealth could be considered and that it was open to the idea of
more special courts to speed up the trial of corruption cases.

Observing that they "have not yet reached a compromise",
Ramdev said "I will sit on fast (from tomorrow)."

Assuring that his agitation will be "peaceful, legal and
constitutional", the yoga guru said it will not turn violent
but nobody should try to malign the campaign.

The Ministers also discussed with Ramdev the action taken
by government so far to get back the black money which
included commissioning of a study which will indicate the
sectors and mode of generation of ill-gotten money and
recommend measures for its prevention and control.

The study, to be completed in 18 months, will also assess
extent of black money within the country and stashed overseas
and its impact on national security, said the official paper
carrying structured response of the government to Ramdev`s
demands.

About proposed actions on the black money issue, it said
a committee, constituted by the government, will consult all
stakeholders and submit its report within six months.

"The committee will examine the measures to strengthen
the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with
the menace of generation of black money through illegal means,
including declaring wealth generated illegally as national
asset and enacting/amending laws to confiscate and recover
assets and providing exemplary punishment against its
perpetrators," it said.
As a consensus eluded at the meeting between the
government and Ramdev, the former said any further suggestions
will be duly considered.

Among other demands of Ramdev, the government agreed
to introduce the Public Services Delivery Bill in Parliament
at the earliest and prepare a model bill for adoption by
states to improve the quality of delivery system.

On Ramdev`s demand to conduct entrance test of
professional courses in all regional languages, the government
said the nodel ministry has asked the technical education body
to constitute a panel of experts to draw a complete plan in
this regard.

After the talks with Ramdev, Sibal briefed Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh and then he, along with Sahay, went to
brief Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who led the
government negotiators.

Singh also briefed President Pratibha Patil on the
deliberations.

Hectic back-channel efforts were on for the last two days
to placate Ramdev, who has raised issues of black money and
corruption, as the government is keen to avert a repeat of an
Anna Hazare-like protest on the streets.

Claiming that his agitation was neither "politically
motivated or communal" nor he has any "underground agenda" as
was being portrayed by some sections, Ramdev said his movement
is being undertaken in "national interest".

"Our agitation is not against any political party or
individual. We are neutral, not being sponsored by any party
or organisation and people from all castes and religion are
joining us. We appeal to all parties to join us," he said.

Various organizations, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad
and ABVP, have also decided to join the agitation and sit on
fast with Baba Ramdev.
While Congress said it was against the politics of
blackmail, it refrained from any comment on yoga guru Baba
Ramdev`s plans to start his fast. "I am not saying about
Jantar Mantar (fast by Anna Hazare in April) nor about Ramdev
but by definition itself politics of blackmail is not proper",
party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.

Meanwhile, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh
alleged RSS was "completely behind Ramdev`s agitation" and
said if Baba was so keen to do politics, he should join the
fray.

PTI