Indian Decade

Govt Softening Over Hazare?

As Anna Hazare’s latest fast continues, the government agrees to discuss all formats of the Lokpal Bill.

A breakthrough looked possible on the 10th day of Anna Hazare’s fast as the government decided to discuss all formats of the Lokpal Bill in parliament on Friday, including the one proposed by Hazare. But this major concession on the part of the government still hasn’t placated Hazare, and chances are that the Gandhian activist will wait for the debate in parliament on Friday before making a call on whether or not to end his fast.

The government move came hours after Hazare called on his supporters to gather outside the prime minister’s residence to ‘appeal to him to listen to the common man.’ Supporters responded to the call immediately, arriving in droves and forcing the authorities to clamp down using Section 144 CRPC (prohibition of assembly of five or more people at a venue at the same time) in the area.

Aside from the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Hazare-led civil society, versions prepared by Aruna Roy (recently) and Lok Satta President Jayaprakash Narayan (decades ago) will also be discussed by parliament tomorrow. The government move came less than an hour after Hazare set three conditions for ending his fast: Parliament should debate inclusion of the lower bureaucracy, the setting up of state Lokayuktas and the introduction of a citizens’ charter in every government office. The government has already rejected the demand for including the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal’s ambit and doesn’t seem to be in the mood to compromise on this. As for the setting up of state Lokayuktas, this is a state matter and the centre can’t push its decision on the states. Only 18 states presently have a Loayukta (the chief ombudsman in a state).

Earlier in the day, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government reached out directly to Hazare by sending Union Science and Technology Minister and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to Ramlila Ground with a message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. ‘A lot of people from Maharashtra have met me and asked me to request Annaji to end his fast. I went to meet Anna to inquire about his health and requested him to end fast following the appeal by parliament and the prime minister,’ Deshmukh told reporters after his meeting with Hazare.

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Singh also mounted a personal peace offensive and extended an olive branch to Hazare by praising him to the skies in the Lok Sabha today, saying: ‘I applaud Anna, I salute Anna. I would urge Anna to end this fast. I request all to request Anna that his point has been registered and we will take note of it.’