Anna Hazare wins anti-graft bill demands, ends hunger strike

NEW DELHI Sat Apr 9, 2011 2:52pm IST

Social activist Anna Hazare waves to his supporters after he called off his hunger strike during a campaign against corruption in New Delhi April 9, 2011. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

Social activist Anna Hazare waves to his supporters after he called off his hunger strike during a campaign against corruption in New Delhi April 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Veteran activist Anna Hazare ended on Saturday a five-day hunger strike after the government gave in to his demands for tougher anti-graft legislation which had drawn the support of thousands.

Septuagenarian Hazare's demands for a bill that gives an independent ombudsman police-like powers to prosecute ministers, bureaucrats and judges had tapped into widespread anger over a spate of graft scandals that have tarnished the country's image and weakened the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Singh has come under intense opposition pressure, agreed to discuss the "Jan Lokpal" bill when parliament next convenes in July.

He also accepted another demand by Hazare for activists to join officials in drafting the bill.

"This (corruption) is a scourge that confronts all of us. The Government intends to introduce the Lokpal bill in Parliament during the monsoon session," Singh said in a statement. The monsoon session generally begins in July.

Hazare had been camping since Tuesday on a street-side platform near Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

His fast had triggered protests by thousands of people across the country, drawn by a campaign that has drawn comparisons to Mahatma Gandhi's protests and hunger strikes that helped end British colonial rule.

"There would be another campaign, if the law doesn't get enacted by August 15," the slight Hazare, clad in white tunic and trousers and a Gandhi cap, told a thousand-strong crowd of supporters, referring to India's independence day.

As he displayed a copy of Singh's statement, his supporters shouted : "Who is bigger the government or the public?" and "This is the result of the struggle of the Indian public!"

India ranked 78th on Transparency International's latest corruption index, a worse ranking than Asian rival China. Graft has long been a part of daily life, but the recent scandals -- which include violations in granting telecoms licences that cost the country $39 billion in lost revenue -- are unprecedented.

Some analysts said that by bowing to Hazare's demands, the already weakened government had opened the door for similar populist movements.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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