Indian anti-corruption activist ends 96-hour fast

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Old 09-Apr-2011
Indian anti-corruption activist ends 96-hour fast

New Delhi: Anti-corruption crusaders, led by reformer Anna Hazare, Saturday called off their 96-hour fast after an unparalleled people's movement saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promising to introduce a more stringent Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill in the monsoon session of parliament.

"I will end my fast on Saturday," Anna Hazare had told reporters on Friday amid cheers by thousands of his supporters in the Indian capital. "It's a victory for the people of India."

The government is expected to issue a formal order setting up a committee with five members from each side to draft the new anti-corruption law, said Kapil Sibal, a federal minister who negotiated on behalf of the government.

"Whatever is required to be done will be done by June 30 so that the draft legislation is introduced in parliament," Sibal told reporters.

Public support for Hazare grew with thousands of people - including film stars, government bureaucrats and a famed yoga guru - pledging their support as his fast entered its fourth day Friday.

The roadside tent in the park where Hazare has been conducting his public fast since Tuesday became a pilgrimage site for Indians fed up with a string of seemingly unending scandals.

Yoga guru Ram Dev, Bollywood star Anupam Kher and the architect of New Delhi's new metro rail network, E. Sreedharan, joined thousands of people who have been camping in the tent or squatting on the road nearby to offer support to Hazare. Public protests and fasts were being held in state capitals across the country.

Public anger with corruption has been growing in the wake of recent scandals, including an investigation into the sale of cell phone spectrum in 2008 that reportedly cost India tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue. The telecoms minister had to resign and is currently in jail pending a probe into the losses.

The ruling Congress Party has also come under fire for mismanagement and corruption allegations tied to last year's Commonwealth Games and the takeover of valuable Mumbai apartments intended for poor war widows by powerful bureaucrats and politicians' relatives.

The country's top anti-corruption official was forced to resign last month after the Supreme Court ruled that graft charges he faced disqualified him from holding the office.

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