Anna to tour India, thanks youth for support

Indian activist Anna Hazare, 73, displays to his supporters a government notification after breaking his hunger strike in New Delhi, April 9. (AP Photo)
NEW Delhi, April 9 (Agencies): Social acivist Anna Hazare has said he would tour the entire country to campaign against corruption and promised to continue his fight after breaking his 97-hour hunger fast. He also had a word of thanks for the youth. “I have broken the fast today (Saturday) because the government has fulfilled our demand by issuing this order,” he said, triumphantly flashing the gazette notifying the formation of a 10-member panel to draft a stringent Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill to combat corruption in high places. “I will go to various states and meet people everywhere,” he said in a 15-minute address in Hindi to thousands of men and women from the dias near Jantar Mantar where he sat on hunger strike since Tuesday.
The notification on the joint committee was issued by the government in the morning. “I thank everyone for spreading this movement all over, forgetting all divides of religion, caste and race,” he said. He, however, said this is not the end of struggle and it will continue as long as the bill is not finally passed. “The struggle has not finished, this is the first stage of protest,” Hazare told cheering supporters at Jantar Mantar, ground zero of the protest that mobilised thousands of people across the country. “I want to assure everyone that if the bill is not passed, on Aug 15 we will hoist the tricolour at Lal Qila for the second freedom struggle; and if it is passed, we will welcome the Prime Minister ( Manmohan Singh) on Aug 15,” he said.
“We have a long way to go,” he warned. “We will have to struggle whenever it is necessary. We will have to put pressure on the government to make governance transparent.” “This is the start of another independence struggle, there is a very long way ahead.” He thanked the youth for their overflowing participation and called it a “ray of hope”. “The youth support is a symbol of hope, they have to take the movement forward. The fact that youth of the whole nation stood with us is a ray of hope,” Hazare said. He said the struggle will continue till the bill is finally passed in the Lok Sabha.
He said struggle was also needed on a series of matters pertaining to empowerment of people. “We need reforms in education, in labour rights, in the election system,” he said, adding that “decentralisation of power is very important to ensure corruption is defeated. As long as the voters don’t get power in their hands, corruption will remain”. Hazare also raised concerns about the electronic voting machines being used at present and pitched for an added option of “reject” in the ballot allowing people to vote for none of the candidates. He said people should also have the right to recall corrupt representatives. Although most people in the crowd compared him to Mahatma Gandhi, Hazare himself did not take the Mahatma’s name. Instead he referred to revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, who were hanged by the British. He said the country was indebted to them.
‘Lokpal Bill will be passed unanimously’
New Delhi, April 9 (Agencies): Shanti Bhushan, former law minister and co-chairman of the joint committee to draft a stringent anti-graft law, on Saturday said that he expected the proposed Lokpal Bill to be passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament. The government on Saturday notified a 10-member team that would draft the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill, following a 97-hour hunger strike by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare, which catalysed a mass movement against corruption.
The panel will have five members each from the government and the civil society. It would include Hazare as well as former Supreme Court judge and present Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan. “After it (Lokpal Bill) is fine tuned, it will go to the two House of Parliament. I expect it to be unanimously passed,” Shanti Bhushan told television channels, after the government acceded to Hazare’s demands and issued a notification for the joint committee on Saturday morning.
Bhushan said there was “no doubt” that the government wants to implement a Lokpal Bill. “Because, after all, the government wants to enact a law which will excite the popular imagination of the people. Because it is only after enacting the law that it gets electoral dividend and the Congress party is headed by a person like Sonia Gandhi, who has the pulse of the people,” he said. The 85-year-old social activist said that he had no doubt that the 10 members of the draft committee will draft a “very strong law against corruption”.
However, he said the Lokpal had to be an independent body to be efficient. “We will welcome any direction. But certainly, its independent character and authority to investigate any complaint of corruption cannot be diluted, because it is the desire of the people of India,” he said. He added that all strata of society were worried about graft, “whether it is small corruption or big corruption like the 2G scam”. “So, therefore, we have to fulfil those aspirations of the people. That will be the hope of the entire committee which consist of very competent people,” said Bhushan.
Manmohan not ‘weak’, alert to corruption: Pranab

Chennai, April 9 (PTI):
Dismissing the opposition charge that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was “weak”, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday asserted he was “very much alert and proactive” to all issues including corruption.  “The Prime Minister is very much alert and proactive. He is taking appropriate action,” Mr. Mukherjee told reporters here after releasing the Congress manifesto for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls. Responding to queries on AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa’s charge that Singh was a “week-kneed” prime minister, which also is a constant refrain of the opposition, he said, “It is not correct.”
On the Lokpal issue and the four-day fast-unto-death by noted social activist Anna Hazare, Mr. Mukherjee said the bill had been in existence since 1970 but political parties had not agreed on its content.  “Even during the NDA regime, a Standing Committee under my chairmanship had made some recommendations which could not be implemented,” Mr. Mukherjee, who is heading the joint committee to draft a stronger Lokpal Bill announced by the government on Saturday, said. He said civil society members had made some recommendations on the Jan Lokpal seeking the PMO and judiciary to be brought under its purview.
Asked whether fast by Mr. Hazare and the outpouring national support was a reaction to the various alleged scams in the UPA regime, he said investigations were underway into them and “law will take its own course”, be it the 2G spectrum allocation scam or the CWG. On poll-bound Tamil Nadu, he said the state’s financial position was good and sought voters’ support for the DMK-led alliance to come back to power in order to bring in more investments and better economic development. Asked if the party would press for cabinet berths in case the combine won, he said, “We will cross the bridge when it comes, i.e., during government formation. The immediate priority was to ensure a majority.”
He said there was smooth cooperation between the DMK and Congress but “frictions“” were bound to exist in a multi-party democracy. The Congress and DMK had to recently undergo testing times following a roadblock in seat-sharing talks which was solved after much drama including the DMK offering to quit the Union cabinet. Quoting statistics, Mr. Mukherjee said central fund allocation to Tamil Nadu has been on the increase and there would be “no dearth” of cooperation in the coming years too.