Anna Hazare: India campaigner ends hunger strike

Anna Hazare ends hunger strike 28 August 2011 Anna Hazare took a glass of juice to end his fast

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Indian anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare has ended a high-profile hunger strike in Delhi after 12 days.

He accepted a glass of fruit juice from a five-year-old girl.

His move came a day after MPs expressed support for proposed changes to anti-corruption legislation.

After nearly nine hours of debate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament the "sense of the House" was behind Anna Hazare's key demands.

However, an expected vote on the proposals did not take place.

Mr Hazare, 74, had vowed not to stop until a tougher bill was passed, but doctors have warned that his health is deteriorating rapidly.

He has so far lost 7kg (15lbs) in weight and has refused medical advice to be put on an intravenous drip to help him rehydrate.

'Crossroads'

Opening Saturday's debate in Delhi on the proposed amendments, Mr Mukherjee said India was "at a crossroads", with the focus squarely on the country's parliamentary democracy.

Mr Mukherjee said that while there was support for Mr Hazare's proposals, a solution would have to be found within the Indian constitution.

Meanwhile, governing Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said he had "serious doubts" that a single bill would end corruption.

Anti-corruption row

  • Following a hunger strike by Anna Hazare in April, the government agreed to draft the Jan Lokpal (Citizens' Ombudsman) bill
  • The final bill incorporated 34 of the 40 principles set out by Mr Hazare, but he and other activists rejected it
  • Mr Hazare said the ombudsman should have power to investigate prime minister and senior judges; the government refused
  • Mr Hazare wanted the ombudsman to be able to investigate MPs accused of taking bribes to vote or ask questions in parliament; the government said such probes should be carried out by MPs

Mr Gandhi told MPs that the problem could not "just be wished away" and thanked Mr Hazare for "helping people to articulate this sentiment".

"There are no simple solutions to eradicating corruption. But I have serious doubts that a single bill will end corruption. What we require is a set of effective laws," he said in a rare speech.

In April, Mr Hazare called off a hunger strike after four days when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he could help draft legislation to create a Citizens' Ombudsman, or Jan Lokpal, an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

The final version of the bill was presented in early August, but Mr Hazare and other activists rejected it because the prime minister and senior judges would be exempt from scrutiny.

This week, the government appeared to agree to the demand that the prime minister would be brought under the ombudsman's jurisdiction.

Mr Hazare has also said parliament should come to an agreement on three more of his proposals:

  • The lower bureaucracy should be brought within the ambit of the ombudsman
  • Putting together a "citizen's charter" for time-bound disposal of public grievances against government
  • Bringing the anti-graft ombudsmen in the states under the federal anti-corruption watchdog

His campaign for the strengthening of the anti-corruption legislation proposed by the government has received widespread support, with tens of thousands of people attending protests across the country.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals including a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the government $39bn (£23bn), alleged financial malpractice in connection with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and allegations that homes for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Critics of the government say the scandals point to a pervasive culture of corruption in Mr Singh's administration.

A recent survey said corruption in Asia's third largest economy had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.

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