Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare called off his five-day-old hunger strike on Saturday morning after receiving a gazette notification from the Centre regarding constitution of a 10-member joint committee, comprising members from the government and civil society, to draft an effective Lok Pal Bill.
The 73-year-old anti-corruption campaigner called off his fast-unto-death campaign on the fifth day with a little girl giving him a glass of lime juice 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.
Celebrations broke out instantaneously in the capital and cities across the country with Mr. Hazare’s supporters rejoicing the social activist’s “victory” for a stronger anti-corruption law. Jubilant supporters of the veteran social activist burst crackers and distributed sweets at different parts of the country to express their joy.
After ending his fast-unto-death, Mr. Hazare addressed a huge gathering of his supporters said, “This just the beginning of the fight against corruption. Our responsibility has now increased… we will ensure that the Lokpal Bill is passed before August 15, 2011,”. The social activist also urged the people to take up other crucial issues such as decentralisation of power and electoral reforms.
The 10-member Joint Drafting Committee will have five Cabinet members — Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (chairman), Home Minister P. Chidamabaram, Law Minister Veerappa Moily (convenor), Telecom and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid. Apart from Mr. Hazare, civil society will be represented by the former Law Minister, Shanti Bhushan (co-chairperson), the former Supreme Court Judge, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Corruption is a complex malaise in India. It is rooted in opaque and badly-run institutions that have been fostered and tolerated over the years. Then there is the stifling, post-colonial bureaucracy. Everyone knows the warped government policies, like misplaced food and energy subsidies, are open to abuse. Add to that the failure to reform India’s election system with its shadowy private funding of candidates, many of whom have criminal records. And many people – some now protesting against corruption – have become habitual bribe givers to navigate the system they have lost faith in. More cynicism has bred more corruption. It’s not clear how far Mr Hazare’s campaign will go – but setting up an citizen’s ombudsman will not be the end of corruption. There’s much more to do.