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While Anna fasts, govt silently drafts new bill

Last updated on: August 22, 2011 19:00 IST

While Anna fasts, govt silently drafts new bill

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A Delhi Correspondent

In an apparent answer to crusader Anna Hazare's team mobilising the masses suffering corruption of the lower level bureaucracy, the government has quietly kicked of drafting of a Bill for creating a mechanism for the public services grievance redressal.

The task of drafting the Bill has been assigned to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh by the Union Cabinet and he promises to mount it on the Internet next week for public debate.

While the Lokpal Bill covers only the Group A officers and ministers, Ramesh said the new Bill he is readying will handle corruption and accountability at the cutting-edge level of the government employees with whom the people come into contact in their day-to-day works like clerks, tehsildars, Block Development Officers and Regional Transport Officer.

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Ramesh told media persons in New Delhi on Monday that he is drawing lessons from the social audit of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employement Guarantee Act where the redressal institution is already in existence. He said the mechanism will incorporate various other mechanisms available to the public, including the consumer courts.

Jairam pointed out that the Lokpal is not going to be a stand-alone institution.

He also disapproved of Team Anna resorting to agitation against the Lokpal Bill, particularly when RTI activists like Arvind Kejriwal have experience of the improvements made in the Right To Information Bill after it was brought before Parliament like the Lokpal Bill.

The parliamentary standing committee had then recommended not one or two but 150 amendments in the RTI Bill. After consulting the civil society, what emerged as the Act was altogether different from the draft, he said.



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Meanwhile, Indore-based spiritual leader Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, frequenting crusader Anna Hazare at his fasting site at Ramlila Maidan, claimed that the government was trying "real hard" to resolve the crisis.

Dismissing reports that he had been roped by the government, besides Maharashtra bureaucrat Umesh Sarangi, to negotiate with Anna, he said: "I can tell you the government is trying really hard. I am not supporting or favouring anybody but intentions of both sides are very clear."
 
The Maharaj made it clear that his first meeting with the crusader on Sunday was not to convey any government formula but for "family talks" in which Sarangi also participated.

He said he was still studying the two Lokpal Bill drafts prepared by the government and Team Anna and that there seemed to be some communication gap between the two sides that can be sorted out.

"The question is how many conditions are going to be acceptable. Dialogue can be started on those grounds of Hazare's objections and what the government can accept," he added.


Image: Bhaiyyuji Maharaj

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Swami Agnivesh, a member of the 22-strong core committee set up by Hazare prior to his fast, dismissed any kind of negotiations by Sarangi or the Maharaj, asserting that the news of negotiations is a "media creation".

"Television channels and newspapers have been reporting on the mediation process going on between the government and Anna Hazare from time to time. The fact is that there has been no mediation whatsoever," he asserted.

The social activist also denied allegations made by Hazare's detractors that leading industrial groups have been doling out money to fund the protests against the government.


Image: Swami Agnivesh

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