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Govt. urges Hazare to hold talks over Lokpal Bill

August 20, 2011 - New Delhi

The central government has cleared its stand over the implementation of the Lokpal Bill and urged social activist Anna Hazare to come forward to discuss contents of his Jan Lokpal Bill to resolve the contentious issue.

The government first imprisoned Hazare in Delhi"s Tihar Jail on August 16, then ordered his release, and finally, when he refused to leave from jail, granted him permission to stage his fast for 15 days at Ramlila ground, a prominent protest site in the national capital.

Union Law Minister Salman Khursheed suggested that the Hazare team should discuss their version of the Lokpal Bill with the government panel and both together should thereafter make the changes in it.

"The private members bill is a system under which any member could bring his suggestion in front of the Parliament, then on which parliament present its votes. If it would get votes, then that suggestion would become law. But it happens very rarely because when a discussion takes place over the private member"s bill, then the ministers give assurance that they would include the suggestions in their law to address their fear," said Khursheed.

Earlier on Friday, a large number of people were seen cheering Hazare, singing patriotic songs and waving national flags at the protest venue with much enthusiasm.

Ardent followers of Hazare wore Mahatma Gandhi style caps reading "I am Anna" and other symbolic attires in support.

After months of debate, the Lokpal Bill, which intends to create a national anti-corruption watchdog, was tabled in the Lok Sabha on August 4, but civil society representatives rejected it by terming as toothless. This view was also endorsed by the opposition.

On August 18, Hazare agreed to the government"s promise to review and introduce an effective Lokpal Bill, but said he would continue his indefinite hunger strike till it is passed by the parliament.

Meanwhile, Union Coal Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal said that Hazare can continue with his fast but he must come on a similar ground with the government to resolve the matter peacefully.

"He (Anna Hazare) can continue his fast till the time he wants. But the issue on which he is observing fast is with standing committee. A bill was promised by the government to be presented in the first day of Parliament (monsoon) session and they placed it. The bill was gone in the hands of standing committee. Now, Anna Hazare should contact the members and chairman of standing committee to resolve the issue on which they are not agree with the government"s bill. When our motive is to combat corruption like they want, then there is no point fighting over it," said Jaiswal.

Later, social activist Swami Agnivesh said the public would start trusting the government again if it went ahead with changes in its version of the Lokpal Bill.We want the government to bring changes in their gibberish bill. The government should take back their bill, which they have submitted to the standing committee and make changes in it by containing every small issue by which corruption could be removed. If the government would do this, then we will consider that the government is listening to the pleas of the public," said Agnivesh.

Several scandals, including 2G-telecom scam that may have cost the government up to 39 billion dollars led to Hazare demanding anti-corruption measures. But the government bill creating an anti-graft ombudsman was criticized as too weak.

Hazare"s initial demands then mushroomed to catch the imagination of millions of Indians, especially a new middle class angry at constant bribes, from getting a driving license to winning a university place.

A blundering official response has led the Congress Party-led government to face one of the most serious protest movements in India since the 1970s, just the latest in a series of setbacks for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh"s second term that have paralyzed policy making and economic reforms.


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