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Arab Spring, Indian Summer?

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Hunger strikes and protests

A hunger strike in April by a neo-Gandhian anti-corruption campaigner, Mr. Anna Hazare, forced the government to include representatives from civil society on the bill's drafting committee. This is all taking place amid public outrage over a multi-billion-dollar telecom-licensing scandal. Details have been captured on audio recordings that reveal extensive collusion among lobbyists, politicians, and name-brand journalists.

The activists and politicians drafting the ombudsman bill disagree on several issues, notably whether the prime minister and senior judges should be under the new institution's jurisdiction.

Many voices have emerged to complain about involving "extraconstitutional" actors in the law-drafting process. But involving civic leaders is hardly antidemocratic. It can be a useful counterweight to the influence of corporate lobbyists, who participate intensively in the drafting of much legislation. Others fear creating an institution that can subvert democracy by allowing the electorate's verdict to be overturned by an overzealous people's tribune. Yet, countries such as New Zealand have managed to create powerful, independent oversight institutions without disenfranchising citizens.

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