Latest News / NEW DELHI: Indian hunger-striker Anna Hazare, who has led a huge public campaign against corruption, agreed to end his 12-day fast on Saturday after forcing new concessions from lawmakers.
Addressing cheering crowds at his muddy camp in central New Delhi where he has fasted in front of a giant picture of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi for nearly two weeks, Hazare hailed a victory for the nation.
“For 12 days the country’s people have stood here — it is their victory,” declared the former army driver, who lost over 7.5 kilos (16.5 pounds) during his campaign, which he will end on Sunday morning.
The 74-year-old social activist, who said he was ready to die for his cause, had demanded that parliament agree to three principles in the drafting of a proposed new anti-graft law.
The increasingly frail veteran activist called for the country’s entire bureaucracy to be put under the authority of an independent anti-corruption agency and for the establishment of an ombudsman in all 29 states.
He had also demanded that a citizen’s charter, explaining the rights of individuals, be posted in government offices.
After a day-long debate in parliament on how to tackle the political crisis, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said lawmakers had agreed to the demands in principle. No vote was held on a resolution, however, as had been expected.
“What I understand from the observations of the various members who have participated in the debate, if I can convert it into the sense of the house… there is agreement in principle,” he said.
The hugely complex process of drafting the new law will now be taken up by a parliamentary committee.
Hazare has drawn together hundreds of thousands of Indians — especially from the urban middle class — and become a lightning rod for popular discontent over graft that pervades every level of Indian life.
The breakthrough ends nearly two weeks of political theatre that has captivated the country, but polarised public opinion.
But critics see Hazare as an autocrat who has used undemocratic methods to force his views on parliament and gave false hopes to his supporters that a law can end endemic corruption in Asia’s third-largest economy.
“The government has bent over backwards,” political analyst and columnist for DNA newspaper Parsa Venkateshwar Rao told AFP. “They haven’t made any concrete commitment to Hazare, but they still had to bend.”
He stressed that drafting the new anti-corruption law, including the amendments agreed during the parliamentary debate on Saturday, would be extremely difficult.
After initially attacking Hazare, the administration led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepted that his campaign has helped vocalise simmering anger over corruption.
Singh’s left-leaning government has itself been beset by graft scandals over the last 12 months, from the over-budget Commonwealth Games last October to the flawed sale of telecom licences that cost the treasury up to $39 billion.
Mukherjee asked lawmakers during the debate on Saturday to “seize the moment and demonstrate the commitment” in dealing with corruption which is “gnawing at the vitals of our polity”.
The world’s largest democracy “was at the crossroads”, he said.