Indian anticorruption activist Anna Hazare has begun a three-day hunger strike, complaining that India is dragging its feet on cleaning up its graft-ridden government.
Indian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare began a three-day fast in Mumbai today to press for tougher action against graft in the country's sprawling state bureaucracy. India's Parliament is currently debating an anti-corruption bill that would set up an ombudsman's office to investigate embezzling, influence peddling and other forms of official theft.
But Mr. Hazare considers the so-called Lokpal Bill “weak and useless” in its present form. After a tumultuous year, wracked by corruption scandals and slow economic growth, the Congress Party-led government recalled parliament for three days this week, hoping to pass the bill before election campaigning starts in some parts of India early next year.
However, the self-styled Gandhian activist, whose anticorruption campaign has rattled the government, is not likely to back down. “The government is betraying the country,” Hazare told thousands of supporters in Mumbai. “I will campaign against the government in all five poll-bound states. I’m not afraid of death. I will die for the cause of the nation."
The state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and a frequent indicator of who will run the national government at the next general election, is up for grabs early next year. But it is not just Hazare’s threat to campaign against them in the upcoming elections that has the government worried. Millions of people across the country say they are unhappy with how the nation is being run and do not trust their government to craft legislation that will address popular demands.
“Our government has gotten too big,” says Vikram Sharma, a real-estate broker in Delhi, expressing a sentiment shared by many of India’s middle class. “The government does not want Hazare’s bill to pass because it means money out of their pockets.”