NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / Asia Pacific / August 28, 2011
By Jim Yardley
NEW DELHI — India’s Parliament capitulated on Saturday to the anticorruption campaigner Anna Hazare and the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to support his cause in a standoff that lasted nearly two weeks.
After a day of wrangling and speechifying, Parliament adopted a resolution endorsing Mr. Hazare’s central demands for shaping legislation to create an independent anticorruption agency empowered to scrutinize public officials and bureaucrats in India.
Mr. Hazare, 74, has been waging a hunger strike for 12 days, refusing to call it off unless Parliament adopted his proposed legislation to fight graft rather than a bill put forward by the government. Huge crowds of supporters have participated in peaceful protests and rallies across India in what became an outpouring of public disgust over corruption.
After Parliament accepted some of his demands in a nonbinding "sense of the house" vote, Mr. Hazare ended his fast on Sunday, accepting a glass of juice from a 5-year-old girl, according to The Associated Press.
On Saturday night at the public grounds in New Delhi where Mr. Hazare had been fasting, thousands of his supporters started rejoicing, even as lawmakers were finishing their speeches in Parliament.
“There is a need of a change in the system,” said Pranab Mukherjee, the powerful minister who introduced the resolution into the Lok Sabha, the lower house. “And we are doing so.”
Parliament must still take several steps before final passage of a law to create the anticorruption agency, known as the Lokpal, before the end of the session. Saturday’s resolution also was marked by a touch of legislative sleight-of-hand. Mr. Hazare’s team had wanted a public vote in order to identify lawmakers who opposed the measure. Instead, the measure was read aloud in both houses and given approval without a vote.
“It was unanimous,” said R. P. N. Singh, a lawmaker and government minister, when asked on NDTV, a news channel, about the lack of a vote. “Both the houses have stepped up their resolve to fight corruption.” Photo courtesy: The Guardian/Mustafa Quraishi/AP
In recent days, the impasse has been centered on three demands by Mr. Hazare: that Parliament pass a Lokpal law during its current session; that similar agencies to fight corruption be established at the state level; and that a transparent process be established for public grievances. Those demands were endorsed in Saturday’s resolution, though the final details will be codified when the legislation moves to a special parliamentary committee.
“Parliament has spoken,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian news media on Saturday. “The will of Parliament is the will of the people.”
If anything, though, the Hazare movement exposed the depth of disillusionment with India’s politics. Mr. Hazare’s hunger strike became a platform to articulate broader public frustrations.
He has lost more than 15 pounds, and refused medical advice to take glucose.
“You have done wonders,” Mr. Hazare told the crowd at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday morning, before Parliament approved the resolution. “Today the Parliament is discussing the issues you have raised. It is the people’s parliament that is supreme.”
P. J. Anthony and Hari Kumar contributed reporting.
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