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Anna Hazare plans fast unto death for strong Lokpal bil

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare Monday said he is starting a 'fast unto death' to press for the demand to involve civil society in formulation of the anti-graft Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill.

'I will fast unto death, as announced earlier, as the prime minister has refused to form a joint committee with civil society members in it for the formulation of the Lokpal Bill. Even if I lose my life, I will have no regret, my life is dedicated to the nation,' Hazare said at a press meet here.

The Magsaysay Award winner activist, along with others, will go to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial at Rajghat at 9.00 a.m. Tuesday morning, after which the activists will stage a march from India Gate to the Jantar Mantar, a stone's throw from Parliament House, where Hazare will begin his fast.

Activists also called upon the nation to join the fast.

'I appeal to the nation to join the hunger strike, and support this anti-corruption movement,' said activist Arvind Kejriwal, who with former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan has drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill, the civil society's alternate to the government drafted bill.

The Jan Lokpal Bill calls for setting up Lokpal and Lokayuktas (in states) independent from government's control. In the activists' version, investigation in any case will have to be completed in one year, and punishment would be a jail term of minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment.

The government's version recommends a prison term of minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years as punishment for corruption.

The activists strongly rejected the Lokpal bill drafted by government.

'Government says its committee will draft the bill. Who are there in the committee... (Agriculture Minister) Sharad Pawar who has been involved in land scams in Maharashtra, or (Communications Minister) Kapil Sibal who does not see any corruption in the 2G scam,' Kejriwal said.

'The government is supposed to make legislation for the people. If they make their laws without keeping in mind what people mind, it's as bad as the British ruling India,' said Hazare.

'Government's Lokpal bill is useless,' said former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi.

Talking about a meeting with some members of the National Advisory Council, which is an advisory body to government, Kejriwal said that even the NAC members agreed that the Jan Lokpal Bill was good.

'They agreed that the government's version of Lokpal Bill is toothless and agreed with almost all clauses of the Jan Lokpal bill,' he said.

He, however, added that this did not raise their hopes as the government mostly rejects the reccomendations of the NAC.

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