BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning appealed to social activist Anna Hazare to end his 10-day fast in support of a strong Lokpal Bill. The Standing committee will consider all options, including the Jan Lokpal Bill, he said.
He said: “I respect Anna Hazare’s idealism. I applaud and salute him. His life is much too precious, I urge him to end his fast.”
Speaking in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian Parliament), he said: “Corruption is a major national issue. We will do everything in our power to clean the system.” He said that there is less scope for corruption now as far as taxation is concerned.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj also requested Anna Hazare to end fast. She said: “I on behalf of the whole opposition appeal Shri Anna Hazareji to please call of fast.”
“We are assuring you that we will come up with a strong Lokpal to fight against corruption,” she added.
Dr Singh further said, “Murli Manohar Joshi turned his speech into a personal attack on me as if I am the fountainhead of corruption, said the prime minister. We are open to persuasion. We have an open-mind,” he said on the Lokpal issue.
Earlier, responding to a letter from former Chief Justice J S Verma, Singh asserted that it is only after “due deliberation” that a law can be passed that not only meets the aspirations of the people but is also “practical and effective”.
Virtually rejecting the August 30 deadline set by Hazare for passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill, he said, “It is the bounden duty of Parliament to pass a law only after its members have had reasonable time and opportunity to hear a wide range of public opinions and apply their minds to its various provisions.”
The prime minister asked Verma to use his good offices to urge Hazare and his supporters “to adopt a more rational approach in dealing with this complex problem”.
Singh’s letter came after talks between government and Team Anna ended in a deadlock last night with two sides failing to resolve sticky issues, prompting the civil society to declare that they were “back to square one”.
Hazare’s fast entered the tenth day today amid mounting concerns over his health and his team accusing “some strong elements” in the government of nullifying the entire dialogue process.
Noting that Verma’s letter mentions that the rule of law is the bedrock of democracy, the Prime Minister said “I cannot agree more except to say that our great Constitution has served this country very well through difficult times and we should do nothing that in any way undermines the parliamentary democracy of which the country is so proud.”
Agreeing that in an inclusive democracy every section of civil society has a participative role in governance, including that of policy making, Singh said he has no difference with Verma’s proposal that the views of the entire civil society must be presented along with the government draft of the Lokpal Bill to the Parliament for consideration.
“However, Anna Hazare ji and his supporters insist that the Jan Lokpal Bill, which perhaps reflects one section of views, must be passed in this session of Parliament itself and without referring it to the Standing Committee,” Singh added.
Maintaining that he was as “pained” as Verma at the corruption faced by the citizens in many of their dealings with the Government, he said the country is agreed on the necessity and urgency of remedial action to curb corruption.
“It is a complex problem and we have to act on a number of fronts. The Right to Information Act was one such landmark measure that we took and it has had a salutary effect. But much more needs to be done and the problem has to be tackled from different angles and at different levels,” Singh said in the letter on Wednesday, a day after he wrote to Hazare requesting him to end his fast.
The prime minister also agreed that Hazare has rendered a great public service by mobilizing public opinion against corruption.