Indian PM urges Hazare to end fast - Pakistan Today

Indian PM urges Hazare to end fast

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday heaped praise on the anti-corruption activist whose hunger strike has rocked the government and appealed for him to end his 10-day fast. Singh said the government had heard Anna Hazare’s message and was determined to tackle the graft that many Indians complain is endemic among officials handling every issue from driving licences to construction deals.
Hazare’s hunger strike has triggered large rallies among supporters across the country as a civil movement that is backed by many middle-class urban voters has mushroomed around his cause. With his health a growing concern, Hazare has posed a thorny dilemma for Premier Singh, who on Thursday tried to persuade the activist to end his protest.
“He has become the embodiment of our people’s disgust and concern about tackling corruption,” Singh said of the 74-year-old Hazare, whose public fast in central New Delhi has drawn tens of thousands of cheering supporters. “He has made his point and it has been registered with us,” Singh said in a nationally televised address to parliament. “I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual… I applaud him.” Singh’s comments were in contrast with his stance last week, when he said the path the activist had chosen was “totally misconceived” and risked “grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy”.
Saying on Thursday that Hazare’s life was “too precious” to waste, Singh urged him to start eating again — a call supported in a rare show of parliamentary unity by the leader of the opposition. Singh’s direct and emotional appeal came as talks between Hazare’s aides and the govt appeared deadlocked. Hazare says he will refuse food until the government agrees to withdraw an anti-corruption bill currently before parliament and replace it with a more stringent version drafted by himself and other civil society leaders. The govt argues that such a move would undermine the parliament’s constitutional authority.
A meeting late Wednesday between Hazare’s campaign and senior ministers ended in recrimination, with a senior Hazare aide saying the government had reneged on previous assurances and that negotiations were “back to square one.”
“It appears that there are some strong elements in the government who want to nullify the entire dialogue process,” Arvind Kejriwal, a senior leader of Hazare’s campaign, said Thursday.
As Hazare’s fast entered its tenth day, doctors attending him voiced fresh fears about his condition. “It is definitely worrying that 10 days have passed … we have to keep a very close watch,” said Naresh Trehan, head of the medical team that constantly monitors Hazare’s vital signs.
Aides say he has lost around six kilos (13 pounds), but Hazare remains defiant, rejecting advice to go to hospital and refusing any medication.
Indian authorities at first took a tough stance against the activist, arresting him in an aborted attempt to stop him holding his fast in public.
But the groundswell of support for Hazare, who associates his campaign with India’s independence struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, left the government looking out of touch with public opinion.
Hazare told his supporters on Thursday that he remained strong despite surviving on sips of water.
“Even now there is nothing to worry about,” he said. “I am confident that until the bill is passed, I won’t die.”

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