New Delhi: The stage appears set for a showdown between Anna Hazare and the government over the Lokpal Bill. Team Anna announced, Thursday, that the veteran Gandhian is firm on his stand that the government version of the anti-corruption bill is unacceptable and that he will go on fast over the issue from August 16.
Addressing the media after a over four-hour long meeting of the twenty- two member core group committee spearheading the Lokpal movement, Anna Hazare’s close confidant, Arvind Kejriwal, said that Anna Hazare will go on fast as planned and will not accept any attempts by the government to force feed him.
Kejriwal said, “Annaji has announced that if the police attempts to force feed him then he will even give up the intake of water and he will give a call to the people of the country for a jail baro andolan.”
A day ahead of the proposed indefinite fast, Anna Hazare would be addressing the nation on August 15 to garner support for his movement for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Today’s meeting, which was held at Team Anna member Shanti Bhushan’s residence in Noida was also aimed at finalising the strategy for the agitation beginning August 16.
Kejriwal also dismissed suggestions that there are differences within the civil society over the inclusion of the Prime Minister and higher judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal.
Team Anna member Swami Agnivesh had told a TV channel. “These (inclusion of Prime Minister or higher judiciary) are not very sticking points for us. For us the sticking point is, let me make it clear, the corruption at the lower level of bureaucracy, that is first and foremost which concerns the common people in this country."
Yesterday, Team Anna had held a meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lokpal, where they were assured that they would go through their version of the draft as well.
Hazare said the decision of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to study the Jan Lokpal Bill along with the government legislation was a "good thing", but made it clear that he would continue with his fast from Aug 16 if the panel did not take a decision by that date.
"My fast is against the government and not Parliament," he said.
The Jan Lokpal Bill draft has been prepared by Anna Hazare, eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and social activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police offered Jai Prakash Narain National Park near Firoz Shah Kotla Ground as venue for Anna Hazare`s protest subject to permission from land-owning agency. Responding to the Delhi police offer, team Anna said they will take a call after doing a recce of the venue. Hazare had declared to hold his fast at Jantar Mantar but was denied permission by Delhi police.
The Lokpal Bill, introduced in Lok Sabha on August 4, has been referred to the Standing Committee on August 8 by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari who has given it three months to give recommendations.
The civil society led by Anna Hazare have been demanding inclusion of the Prime Minister, the higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament under the ambit of Lokpal.
The Hazare team is also demanding a strong public grievance redressal mechanism, Lokayuktas at state-level and independent selection, funding and removal mechanism to ensure autonomy of function.
The Lokpal, consisting of chairperson and eight members, half of them judicial, will have its own prosecution and investigation wing with officers and staff necessary to carry out its functions.
The Lokpal Bill cleared by the cabinet seeks to keep the office of the Prime Minister outside the purview of the Ombudsman during his term in office and also exclude the higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside the Parliament.