Deal seems close to end Anna Hazare fast

NEW DELHI Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:54pm IST

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare waves to his supporters on the tenth day of his fasting at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi August 25, 2011. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare waves to his supporters on the tenth day of his fasting at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi August 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma

Related Topics

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Anna Hazare edged closer on Thursday to a deal to end his 10-day public fast after Prime Minister Manmohan's Singh government agreed to discuss his anti-graft proposals.

The campaign by 74-year-old Hazare has sparked the biggest protests in decades, uniting millions of Indians, including its growing middle class, against the Congress Party-led government beset by corruption scandals in its second term.

The self-styled Gandhian activist said he would break his hunger strike if parliament began discussing his tough anti-corruption proposals, including incorporating low level civil servants into graft probes.

"If there is unanimity among all parties on these conditions then I will think about ending my fast, but not my protest," Hazare told thousands of his supporters.

A top government source with direct knowledge of the matter said Singh's government had agreed to discuss the proposals.

"Both the houses of parliament will discuss all versions of the Lokpal bill, including Team Anna's," the source, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

With key state elections due next year in the run-up to a general election in 2014, Singh is under pressure to end a crisis that has paralysed policy making and parliament and added to his unpopularity amid high inflation and a run of corruption scandals.

Political parties have united to ask Hazare to end the 10-day public fast that has drawn tens of thousands of supporters to the Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi, with increasing concerns about his health.

"He has become the embodiment of our people's disgust and concern about tackling corruption," Singh told parliament. "I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore, I would like to urge Anna Hazare to end this fast."

Hazare had so far appeared steadfast in his hunger strike, despite growing criticism that he is holding an elected parliament hostage to his demands. There was some confusion to whether Hazare would end the fast at the start of the debate or by the passing of an anti-corruption bill.

Police blocked streets around the prime minister's residence and closed metro stations nearby, detaining protesters and sending them home in buses, amid fears protests could escalate as talks appeared to be on the wire.

Singh proposed on Thursday that parliament debate Hazare's bill as well as the government bill and a third piece of legislation on corruption to help forge a cross-party consensus.

Hazare was well enough to address crowds on Thursday. He has lost nearly 7 kg (15 lbs) since the start of his fast.

"I am sure I will not die until we get the Jan Lokpal (anti-corruption) bill ... I will keep fighting," he said.

Hazare's deteriorating health could force the government to decide to force-feed him, a move that would risk sparking further protests against a fumbling government of elderly ministers widely seen as out of touch.

Many of India's fast-growing urban middle class have joined forces with Hazare to protest against a system that requires bribes for everything from driver's licences to birth certificates and has allowed politicians and businessmen to cream off millions of dollars through shady deals.

Several scandals linked to the government, including a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the state up to $39 billion in lost revenues, led to Hazare's latest protest.

(Additional reporting by Annie Banerji and Nigam Prusty in New Delhi; Editing by Paul de Bendern, Sanjeev Miglani and Jackie Frank)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

Vodafone Ruling

Vodafone Ruling

Government will not appeal Vodafone tax ruling   Full Article 

Indian Railways

Indian Railways

Private refiners compete with state firm to sell diesel to railways   Full Article 

Ranbaxy Results

Ranbaxy Results

Dec-quarter net loss widens on forex loss  Full Article 

Market Eye

Market Eye

Sensex, Nifty retreat from record highs on profit-taking.  Full Article 

Tech Talk

Tech Talk

Apple takes high road in China smartphone standoff with Xiaomi.  Full Article 

Business Strategy

Business Strategy

Uber scraps commissions for its New Delhi taxis.  Full Article 

Job Cuts

Job Cuts

Sony to cut 1,000 jobs in smartphone business - sources.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage