Talks stuck on three issues, Hazare to continue fast

August 24th, 2011 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Talks between the government and Team Anna continued to be hindered by three “sticking issues” Wednesday, when Anna Hazare’s fast for a strong Lokpal bill entered the ninth day amid concerns that his health was deteriorating and time was running out.

“Another round of talks are on between Salman Khurshid (law minister) and Team Anna,” former police officer and Team Anna member Bedi tweeted ahead of an all-party meeting on the issue later in the day.

The meeting at Khurshid’s residence lasted for an hour, but did not make much headway.

“Meeting over three sticking issues of Lokayukta and others held. Discussions continue. But we are running out of time. Today is vital,” tweeted Bedi.

Prashant Bhushan, a key member of Team Anna, said the three main points of contention were the inclusion of the lower bureaucracy in the ambit of the Lokpal, having a Lokayukta in every state and a citizen’s charter for each government department.

“The meeting was good… but there has been no headway made,” was all Khurshid would say.

A new Lokpal bill draft - prepared in the light of the two rounds of talks between the government and the Team Anna - will be circulated at the all-party meeting to be held later in the day, sources said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the government’s chief mediator, will introduce the new draft at the meeting, they added.

Several points in the new draft were discussed at the second round of talks held between Khurshid and the three-member civil society team - Bhushan, Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal.

Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit and Pawan Khera, political secretary to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, were also there to assist Khurshid.

Khurshid renewed the prime minister’s appeal to end the fast. “A good bill can come 10-15 days later but a fast cannot be broken 20 days later. So if we look at the priorities of urgency, then the urgency that the fast must come to an end is far greater, more serious than the urgency to pass the bill.”

Bedi, Bhushan and Kejriwal had met Mukherjee and other ministers Tuesday night to discuss the points of disagreement between them and the government on the Lokpal bill, but the talks deadlocked over the three issues.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram also submitted a report on the situation arising out of 74-year-old Hazare’s fast to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Amid mounting worries over his health, a smiling but frail-looking Hazare went on an offensive, accusing the government of lacking sincerity in eliminating corruption and insisting on the three demands failing which he will continue the fast till his last breath.

Hazare told the crowds at Ramlila Maidan, ground zero of the anti-corruption protest, and said the government was corrupt and did not want to pass a strong Lokpal bill.

“Yesterday, three people from our side went to talk to the government, but even today they don’t have the intention of ending corruption,” Hazare said.

“Yesterday, the government agreed to our demands but kept a decision pending on three issues.”

“If the demands are not met, I have decided that I will fight till my last breath. Even if I die, I don’t care, but I’ll fight till my life,” he said.

“From village to Mantralaya, everyone should be brought under Lokpal… It has become very difficult for the poor to avail any service since the chain of corruption went from bottom to top.”

The activist said the problem could be eradicated with a strong Lokpal bill being passed.

A team of doctors has advised Anna to take drips and not speak much but the social activist was full of energy.

“On the ninth day of fast, my health is totally fine. Only my weight has reduced by six kg. There is nothing to worry about…I am getting energy from you,” the activist told the people.

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