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Lokpal draft: Govt betrayed us, will fast on Dec 11, says Anna

Lokpal draft: Govt betrayed us, will fast on Dec 11, says Anna
Ghaziabad The government is bracing for a winter of severe discontent. In Parliament, it's battling a united Opposition over its decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment in retail. Now, Anna Hazare has expressed his unhappiness over the Standing Committee report on Lokpal saying he may have to restart agitation.

"The Standing Committee report is out, we may have to restart agitation. We will fast on December 11 at Jantar Mantar," Anna said today.

Earlier today, Anna's team of activists suggested that it may launch a massive demonstration against the government for its failure to introduce a tough new law against corruption.

Anna, who is 74, had given the government a deadline - if the Lokpal Bill was not passed as law in this Winter Session of Parliament, he would begin a new mass movement. The Lokpal Bill is being drafted by a parliamentary committee that consists of MPs from different parties. The final draft, as accessed by NDTV, excludes many of the features that Team Anna holds essential for tackling corruption among government servants.

For example, the draft decides that the Lokpal - an ombudsman agency - will not have jurisdiction over junior bureaucrats - Group C and D employees. "This means people will have no relief from the nearly 30,000 cores that is looted from schemes aimed at providing subsidized food to the poor," said Anna's close aide, Arvind Kejriwal. He estimated that nearly 95 per cent government employees across the country would be out of the Lokpal's purview if the draft was accepted.

The draft report does not so far indicate whether the PM will be covered by the Lokpal. This has been one of the major sticking points. The government wants the PM to be investigated after completing his or her term; parties like the Left and the BJP, who are represented on the 31-member committee, have backed the need for the Lokpal to be able to investigate the PM, except on matters of national security.

The drafting committee has also said that judges will not be answerable to the Lokpal. A separate Judicial Accountability Bill will tackle the behaviour of judges. (Final Lokpal Bill draft to exclude PM?)

Mr Kejriwal is also worried that the draft does not ask for the CBI's anti-corruption wing to report to the Lokpal. It says the CBI will remain autonomous, but must keep the Lokpal updated on its cases. That, according to Team Anna, means that the investigating agency will remain vulnerable to political pressure.

"The Lokpal will be reduced to an empty tin box if this is not done," Mr Kejriwal said. He, however, said that he supports the move to make some NGOs accountable to the Lokpal.

The Bill is being prepared by a parliamentary committee which has 31 members from different parties and is headed by Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The committee is scheduled to have one final meeting on November 30. So far, its vision of the bill is at dramatic odds with what Anna asked for during his epic fast in August. He ended his hunger strike only when Parliament agreed to consider his must-have powers for the Lokpal - the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice was then assigned to review these features, and develop a draft that could be considered by Parliament.
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