Hazare writes to PM on fast from Aug 16 (Lead)

July 19th, 2011 - 12:39 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) Social activist Anna Hazare said Monday he has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informing him about his decision to go on an indefinite fast from Aug 16 if a strong anti-graft Lokpal bill is not brought in parliament.

“I have written to the prime minister about our fast at Jantar Mantar from Aug 16. It is our constitutional right to protest, so when the government says that it will crush our andolan (agitation) like (yoga guru) Baba Ramdev’s, it is not right,” Hazare said at a press conference here.

Calling upon the government to present the Jan Lokpal bill, drafted by civil society activists in parliament, Hazare said that if a strong bill is not introduced, he would not have any other option but to start his indefinite fast.

“I hope the government will bring strong a bill in accordance with feelings of people,” he said.

He said the activists were willing to get arrested if prevented from going on the fast.

“We are ready to get arrested and be beaten up but we have had enough of corruption. We are ready to sacrifice our lives…that is what I have written to the prime minister,” he added.

The Congress, however, took potshots at Hazare and said that he should reply to comments of Justice P.B. Sawant panel about an organisation associated with him.

In his three-page letter to the prime minister, Hazare said that meetings of joint drafting panel had not yielded much and the civil society and government still continued to have two different drafts.

“The draft presented by five ministers of the joint drafting committee is a joke on people. Its mandate is so limited that it does not include corruption faced by the common man,” Hazare said.

He also referred to scams and scandals, including the 2G controversy.

Hazare said there was no need for the government to consult chief ministers on the bill. “You are throwing the ball at chief ministers and they are throwing it at you,” he said.

Rejecting the argument of the government that including all central government employees under the Lokpal bill’s purview would make it unwieldy.

He said that corruption was as serious a crime in the eyes of law as was rape or murder. “No government can say that we are incapable of ridding society of crime… your government will have to take strong steps to fight corruption and we are not ready for anything less,” he said.

Hazare said that some ministers and Congress party office bearers threatened that if he sat on fast from Aug 16, it would be crushed the way the agitation by Ramdev was.

“Such statements by senior office-bearers are unfortunate…peaceful demonstration is our right…but if your government crushes the agitation we are ready to face the situation. We are ready to court arrest, face batons. Our agitation will be peaceful,” he said.

Swami Agnivesh, a member of the Hazare team, sought to question Manmohan Singh’s honesty, saying that he was elected to the Rajya Sabha after becoming a resident of Assam and renting accommodation in the house belonging to a former chief minister.

He said the prime minister’s native state was Punjab. He said that people of Assam wanted bringing the prime minister under the Lokpal.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari took pot shots at Hazare and said he should reply to comments by Justice Sawant panel about an organisation associated with him.

Tewari said Justice Sawant committee raised some questions about Hazare’s organisation. However, he did not name the organisation.

“People who preach morality to the country need to see their face in the mirror…When morality is preached and when a probe panel raises questions then a reply must be given,” Tewari said.

Sources said Justice Sawant committee had listed improprieties in the running of Hind Swaraj Trust founded by Hazare.

The Sawant committee was set up by the Maharashtra government to probe Hazare’s allegations of corruption against four state ministers, but one of the ministers had made counter allegations against the social activist.

Hazare has said that the government should institute an inquiry against his trusts if it found these were corrupt.

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