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Surat residents stage candlelight rally in support of Anna Hazare


August 12, 2011 - Surat

Residents of Surat in Gujarat participated in a candle light rally here on Thursday as a mark of support for popular social activist Anna Hazare.

The event took place five days before Hazare's proposed indefinite fast to end corruption in government and other public institutions.

Supporters said they favoured Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill rather than the Lokpal Bill draft present to parliament by the government. They said that they were for the inclusion of the Prime Minister, top echelons of judiciary and lawmakers in the proposed Bill.

Meetu Rai, a resident, said: "We are holding this candlelight march to protest against the government's version of the Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, we do not want to say anything against it. We only want people to be aware of what is happening in the country. The candle is symbolic presentation of showing people a direction into the future that they should not sit at home and they should come out in favour of the Jan Lokpal Bill (draft proposed by civil society members in the review panel), which is very important for the country."

Ramesh Sharma, another resident, compared the anti-graft fight to India's freedom struggle.

"I want to spread awareness amongst the people of the country in favour of the schedule of Anna Hazare and his team in which they have asked people to come on roads and parks or wherever it is convenient to support this second freedom struggle (fight against corruption). The government can stop one Anna (Hazare), but it cannot stop the entire population of 1.20 billion. So I want to tell the people that they should together come forward in support of Anna," he said.

Earlier, social activists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi urged the public to espouse non-violent ideology while they participate in the upcoming hunger strike.

The Delhi Police has suggested the venue of Jayaprakash Narayan National Park near the Ferozshah Kotla Ground in New Delhi for Hazare's protest after he was denied permission to hold the hunger strike at Jantar Mantar.

The much-debated Lokpal Bill, which aims to set up an anti-corruption watchdog in the country, was tabled in parliament on August 4.

Hazare and his supporters, however, burnt copies of the bill in various cities, claiming that the Bill tabled in its present form in the parliament lacked teeth to counter corruption.

The opposition parties too have termed the government's draft Bill as toothless.

While the civil society activists including Anna Hazare and his team are garnering public support against the government's draft Bill, the government is in a rush to get it passed in the Parliament.

Corruption and a series of graft cases have proven to be the key issue plaguing the ruling government.

The final meeting between the government and the civil society representatives on the drafting of the bill had ended on June 22, with differences on six key issues which included the Prime Minister, the higher judiciary, and lawmakers, being brought under the purview of the Lokpal.

The civil society members also differed with the government over the mode of selection of the Lokpal panel and removal of its members.

Graft has long been a part of daily life in India, but a series of recent scandals - which include violations in granting telecom licences that cost the country 39 billion dollars in lost revenue - are unprecedented.

ANI

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