India

India anti-corruption activist Hazare holds short fast

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare sit in front of India's national flags during his day-long fast in Delhi
Image caption Mr Hazare says the new bill does not go far enough

One of India's most prominent anti-corruption activists, Anna Hazare, has been staging a one-day symbolic fast in Delhi.

His 12-day anti-corruption fast four months ago became the focus of a national campaign and put pressure on the government to act on the issue.

The government has now drafted a new anti-corruption bill, which it plans to present to parliament later this month.

But Mr Hazare says the new bill is inadequate.

"We will take our protest to the streets if a strong bill is not brought in," he told a crowd of several thousand supporters at his fast in Delhi.

"If the government brings in a weak bill, the other political parties must join hands with the people of this country who are ready to come out and support us."

Critics accuse Mr Hazare of undermining the democratic process.

Laws cannot be made at a protest site, Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi said, adding Mr Hazare had made his views known and was now "insulting parliament".

Ombusdman

The bill was tabled in parliament in August, but was sent to a panel of MPs after protests from anti-corruption activists who said it was too weak.

Mr Hazare says the new bill does not go far enough as it does not include lower-level bureaucracy.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals.

Politicians, civil servants and business leaders are accused of robbing the state of billions of dollars, badly damaging the government's reputation.

The Lokpal bill envisages setting up an independent ombudsman, who would have the power to investigate and prosecute politicians and civil servants.

The judiciary and conduct of MPs in parliament have been kept out of the Lokpal's ambit.

Among India's recent corruption scandals are an alleged multi-billion dollar telecoms scam, claims of financial malpractice in connection with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and allegations that houses intended for war widows ended up in the hands of civil servants.

A recent survey said corruption in India had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.

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