Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Indian PM appeals to hunger striker

India's anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare addresses his supporters in front of a giant portrait of Mahatma Gandhi(AP)

India's prime minister has appealed to an anti-corruption activist to end his week-long hunger strike, offering to ask parliament to debate a tougher new laws.

It was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first attempt at reaching a compromise with Anna Hazare, whose fast has galvanised tens of thousands of corruption-weary Indians and left the government flailing to respond.

There was no immediate reaction from Mr Hazare or his aides, who were demanding Parliament pass their more stringent version of a bill creating a government watchdog before he would end his fast.

Mr Singh's apparent concession came as the government initiated talks with Mr Hazare's aides for the first time since he began his fast on August 16. The meeting with law minister Salman Khurshid yielded no immediate results.

With Mr Hazare growing weaker after losing more than 12lbs, Mr Singh wrote to express concern over his health and ask him to end his hunger strike.

"I have no hesitation in saying that we need your views and actions in the service of the nation, from a robust physical condition and not in the context of frail or failing health," he wrote.

Mr Singh said he shared the activist's concern over corruption and offered to ask parliament, already debating the government's version of an anti-corruption bill, to consider Mr Hazare's version as well.

Mr Hazare has demanded the proposed watchdog have greater powers as well as the authority to investigate the judiciary and the prime minister.

The 74-year-old activist - styling himself after Indian freedom fighter Mohandas Gandhi - has called his campaign a "second revolution" and drawn comparisons to India's fight for independence in 1947 from its former British colonial rulers.

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