India’s prime minister asked parliament yesterday to debate an anti-corruption activist’s reform proposals and appealed to the weakening 74-year-old to end his nine-day hunger strike.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to lawmakers was his most direct attempt at ending the stalemate between the government and Anna Hazare over competing plans to root out the corruption infesting the country.
However, it fell well short of protesters’ demands that parliament swiftly pass their sweeping proposal to create a powerful government ombudsman with little debate or amendment.
The government, which has tabled its own watchdog bill, has dismissed elements of Hazare’s more stringent and sweeping proposal as unworkable and unconstitutional.
Singh told parliament it should hold a full debate on all versions of the bill — including at least two others proposed by civic groups.
“All ideas should be discussed and debated so we will have the bill which is the best possible bill that will help us deal with government corruption,” he said to rare applause in a parliament that has broken down repeatedly in chaotic protest in recent weeks.
“He has made his point. It has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual. He has become the embodiment of our people’s disgust and concern about tackling corruption. I applaud you, I salute you, and his life is much too precious. And therefore I would urge Sri Anna Hazare to end his fast,” Singh said.