South Asia

India campaigner Anna Hazare threatens to resume fast

Anna Hazare on hunger strike
Image caption Mr Hazare wants tougher anti-corruption laws

Indian anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare says he will resume a hunger strike if the government fails to pass a law curbing graft in the next session of parliament.

Mr Hazare went on a 12-day hunger strike in August to demand the government set up an independent ombudsman to crack down on corruption.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hopes parliament will pass the ombudsman law.

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

Mr Hazare's key demand is the setting up of a citizens' ombudsman, also known as the Jan Lokpal.

It will be an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

He has also demanded sweeping electoral reforms.

In a letter to Mr Singh, Mr Hazare said that he would resume his hunger strike at the end of the upcoming winter session of parliament - scheduled to begin on 22 November - if it did not pass the law.

"If an effective Jan Lokpal is in place, it would help the country to get rid of corruption and also help utilise more funds towards development work," Mr Hazare said in the letter.

The 74-year-old campaigner has been observing a vow of silence in his native village in Maharashtra state since 16 October.

Last month Mr Singh, in a letter to Mr Hazare, said the government was working on an "exhaustive agenda to fight corruption and improve government".

The prime minister also wrote that Mr Hazare's demand for electoral reforms - which includes the right to recall a candidate - would require a political consensus.

Mr Hazare's campaign to strengthen an anti-corruption bill has received widespread support, with tens of thousands of people attending protests across the country.

The Indian government has been rocked by recent corruption scandals including an alleged telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the country $39bn (£23bn), suspected financial malpractice linked to the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and accusations 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 Prime Minister Manmohan 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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