New Delhi: Activist Anna-Hazare, who fronted a campaign for the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, has described the latest draft of the legislation as weak and "a betrayal of the country."
The 75-year-old Gandhian said he will fast again "if necessary" before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to demand a stronger Lokpal or national ombudsman, empowered to investigate complaints of graft against government servants.
The activist also said he will tour the country to raise protests against the government, which he has accused of lying and "cheating us."
"This Government lies a lot. What will happen to a country whose government lies so much?" he said, adding that he was tired of frequent changes. However, his close aide Kiran Bedi differed with him today, saying the bill is a much-needed accelerant in the battle against systemic corruption.
Yesterday, the government cleared a new version of the Lokpal Bill. Anna says that despite many discussions, the government has not relinquished its control over the CBI, the country's premier investigating agency, meant to handle probes requested by the Lokpal. He also claimed that only two weeks ago, he had been assured that all officers investigating Lokpal cases would work under the ombudsman, but "yesterday they announced that none of them will be under the Lokpal."
The activist also accused the Prime Minister of reneging on a three-point deal struck with him in August 2011. To persuade the activist to end a lengthy fast, the Lok Sabha had agreed in principle that the new law must mandate the creation of Lokayuktas or ombudsmen in different states. But because many opposition parties said this would undermine the autonomy of state governments, that feature has been removed from the Lokpal Bill cleared yesterday. Instead, the proposal leaves it to create Lokayuktas with a year of the law being introduced.
Unlike Anna, and former team-mate Arvind Kejriwal, who too has slammed the new version, former cop turned anti-corruption activist Kiran Bedi finds positives in the draft cleared by the cabinet. "From nothing to something to more, as we move on. This is how we can read the Lokpal Bill. Unless we want to stay at nothing!" she tweeted this morning.
The Lokpal Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha in December 2011. But after a lack of consensus in the Upper House or Rajya Sabha, the bill was was referred to a committee of parliamentarians. The panel suggested 16 amendments, of which the government rejected two yesterday.