New Delhi: Gandhian Anna Hazare on Saturday called off his 98-hour hunger strike after government came out with a gazette notification constituting a Joint Committee of ministers and civil society activists to draft an effective Lokpal Bill, but he pledge a long struggle against corruption and reform of the electoral system.
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Curtains were drawn on the fifth-day of the fast-unto-death campaign that drew instant nationwide support with a little girl giving the 73-year-old activist a glass of water at 10.45 am at Jantar Mantar, the nerve-centre of the campaign for a strong law to combat political and administrative graft.
Earlier, Hazare offered water to some women, among the over 300 activists who had joined the fast saying it was a victory of people’s power. And celebrations broke out instantaneously in the capital and cities across the country.
Social activist Anna Hazare waves to his supporters after he called off his hunger strike during a campaign against corruption in New Delhi. Photo: Reuters
“This just the beginning of the fight against corruption. Our responsibility has now increased,” the 73-year-old social activist said, setting 15 August as the deadline for the passage of the Lokpal Bill.
In a brief speech he made speech after he broke his fast, he said it was just the beginning of a long struggle ahead and would lead the fight for the “second struggle for independence”.
He declared he would not rest content with the anti-graft legislation but fight for reforms of the electoral system, including the provision for ‘right to recall’ of elected representatives from the gram panchayat level.
In the morning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement saying the government intends to introduce the “historic legislation” in the monsoon session of Parliament.
Singh described the coming together of civil society and government on the Lokpal Bill issue as a step that augurs well for democracy, saying it signifies the mutual resolve to combat corruption.
“I am pleased that Anna Hazare has agreed to give up his fast,” he said after his ministers worked out a deal with Hazare’s emissaries last night to bring to end the protest at Jantar Mantar.
Shouts of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ rent the air as Hazare’s followers and admirers gathered in hundreds, just a stone’s throw from Parliament, celebrated the notification that was proudly displayed at the fast site.
The notification by the ministry of law and Justice said the joint drafting committee to prepare a draft of the Lokpal Bill will have five ministers from the government and five nominees of Hazare, including himself.
The five ministers are finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, chairperson, home minister P. Chidamabaram, law minister Veerappa Moily (convenor), HRD minister Kapil Sibal and water resources minister Salman Khurshid.
The civil society will be represented by Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde, former law minister Shanti Bhushan (co-Chairperson), lawyer Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.
The notification said the joint drafting committee will commence work forthwith evolving its own procedure to prepare the proposed legislation. The committee shall complete its work latest by 30 June, it said.
Kejriwal told reporters that by Monday it would be known as to when the committee would hold its first meeting.