Activist ends fast as India pledges to fight graft

April 11, 2011 - 0:0

NEW DELHI (AP) -– India's government ordered up strong anti-corruption legislation on Saturday after a 73-year-old activist went on a four-day hunger strike and inspired a nationwide protest movement against graft.

Anna Hazare — whose hunger strike drew wide attention and support from politicians and Bollywood stars — ended his fast Saturday by accepting lime water from a child, but warned he'd resume it if anti-corruption laws are not improved by Aug. 15.
""Our fight against corruption does not end here,"" Hazare told thousands of followers. ""If the government does not get the legislation passed, I will hold the national flag and join you people here for another agitation.""
He agreed to end the strike after the government pledged Friday to form a joint committee with members of civil society to improve laws against bribery, fraud and other crimes of public office.
The moves follow months of scandal-plagued politics that have embarrassed the government with allegations of improper telecoms licensing and irregularities in staging last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he hoped the anti-corruption measures could be introduced in Parliament during its ""monsoon session"" starting June 30.
""The fact that civil society and government have joined hands to evolve a consensus to move this historic legislation augurs well for our democracy,"" Singh said in a statement.
The government issued a formal order setting up a 10-member committee under Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that includes Hazare, two lawyers and a retired Supreme Court judge. The idea is to resurrect an anti-corruption bill that has languished in Parliament since 1972 which would create an independent watchdog to investigate graft allegations.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the committee will meet next Saturday.
Corruption has long tainted Indian politics and drawn attention away from the country's economic gains and democratic credentials. Even as India aspires to be a world power, it was ranked 87 out of 178 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index last year — a slide downward from its position a year earlier as the 84th country out of 180.