India’s government declared that the nation’s democracy was at a “crossroads” as lawmakers debated anti-graft proposals in a bid to end a 74-year-old activist’s fast against corruption.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee appealed to Anna Hazare to call off his 12-day hunger strike, which has galvanised nationwide support, as parliament met to discuss the reformer’s demands for a tough anti-corruption agency.
Critics fear Hazare’s demands for a new anti-corruption bill that would create the post of national ombudsman (a government official) to monitor politicians and bureaucrats could undermine parliamentary democracy.
The debate came as doctors voiced worry over Hazare’s weakening condition, saying they would soon decide whether the self-styled Gandhian protester should continue his fast in which he has lost over seven kilos (15 pounds).
But in a speech to thousands of flag-waving supporters in a large open-air venue, Hazare insisted he was ready to continue the water-only fast he is staging in front of a huge photograph of the independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.
The corruption issue has snowballed into a full-blown crisis for the Congress-led government, with massive protests across India in support of Hazare’s campaign.
Other Indian civil activists, while saying they are disgusted at the government’s failure to combat a rampant culture of corruption, have echoed Gandhi’s concerns about the Hazare campaign’s attempts to bypass parliamentary processes.
UPDATE: Indian hunger-striker Anna Hazare, who has led a huge public campaign against corruption, has agreed to end his fast on Sunday morning after forcing concessions from lawmakers.