Anna breaks fast!

Veteran reformer Anna Hazare, who spearheaded an unparalleled people’s movement against corruption, ended his 97-hour fast here on Saturday following assurances from the government that it would introduce a more stringent anti-graft law in the monsoon session of parliament.

As tumultuous crowds gathered at Jantar Mantar, ground zero of the pan-India crusade, and millions others watched on television, the 72-year-old took a few sips of juice offered to him by a little girl. Loud cheers erupted and the strains of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja’ filled the air.

Hazare, who began his fast Tuesday morning, congratulated the people for the success of the movement that saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issue a statement promising that the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill, with more teeth to effectively counter corruption in public life, would be introduced this July.

Terming the movement a second freedom struggle, he said the system had to be changed. "We have got a lot of strength from the people," the former soldier said, adding that there would be further revolutions on other issues confronting India.

"We have to keep our unity intact," he said.

The prime minister said in a statement: "The fact that civil society and government have joined hands to evolve a consensus to move this historic legislation augurs well for our democracy. I am pleased that Anna Hazareji has agreed to give up his fast."

"This is a scourge that confronts all of us. The government intends to introduce the Lokpal Bill in parliament during the monsoon session."

The prime minister said the interaction between the government and representatives of social reformer Anna Hazare was productive.

"I hope that the process of preparing this legislation will move forward in a constructive mode so that after consultation with a wide spectrum of stake holders, the legislation is placed before the cabinet for introduction during the monsoon session," he added.

Describing it as a victory of the people, activist Swami Agnivesh waved copies of the gazette notification and said: "I am thankful to the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government that they respected the sentiments of the common people. And they came out with a respectable solution.

The first signs of breakthrough came Friday evening when Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, the high profile anti-corruption activists who had backed Anna Hazare, emerged from Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal’s residence after another round of talks.

Hazare announced on Friday night that he would be calling off his fast Saturday.(IANS)

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