Wed, Aug 24, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Indian parties to discuss new anti-graft watchdog

AP, NEW DELHI

The Indian government called yesterday for political parties to reach consensus on drafting anti-corruption legislation, as an activist leading anti-graft protests entered the second week of his hunger strike.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government scheduled an all-party meeting for today to discuss details of setting up an anti-corruption watchdog.

The move follows a week of protests, drawing tens of thousands chanting support for activist Anna Hazare, as he vows to fast indefinitely until lawmakers create an ombudsman with authority over the judiciary and prime minister’s office. Hazare has said the government’s bill tabled in parliament earlier this month is too weak.

Hazare, 73, has styled himself after Mahatma Gandhi and calls his campaign a “second revolution” — in comparison to India’s fight for independence in 1947 from its former British colonial rulers.

Since then, “several traitors have dragged our independence in the mud,” Hazare said yesterday to several thousand supporters about 6m below his concrete stage in a New Delhi park. “I’m sitting here to get this country its correct independence.’’

Hazare’s aides said he is weaker after losing more than 5.5kg since beginning the fast on Aug. 16.

Hazare reassured his supporters that he faced no threat.

“I trust my team of doctors. They will not let me die,” he said.

Representatives of India’s low caste dalits, or untouchables, planned their own protest against Hazare’s proposal today, saying it offered little to protect the poor.

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