New Delhi: As veteran
social activist Anna Hazare's fast for a stronger anti-graft Lokpal
Bill entered the second day Wednesday, a senior minister who is a
member of a sub-committee on the legislation said the government was
committed to the measure but had not been given enough time by civil
society members to respond.
"I am really surprised that an extreme position has been taken and I
still appeal to the civil society, they are enlightened people, they
should not stall the dialogue but allow the dialogue to continue for
a constructive approach. Government and civil society are on same
platform to deal strongly with the problem of corruption," Human
Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told NDTV.
"We are committed to set up an institutional mechanism to deal with
corruption, the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) is committed, our
chairperson Sonia Gandhi is committed, so the party is committed,
the government is committed," he asserted.
Reacting to demands from civil society for a say in the formulation
of the Lokpal bill, Sibal said the government was committed to
fighting corruption and was not opposed to any suggestions on this.
"I think the opinion of the civil society is exceptionally relevant
and all this must be taken into account," he said.
"Government is certainly not opposed to any of the suggestions that
have been raised except that when the suggestions were being raised,
the sub-group was asked to commit that in principle we must agree to
a joint committee, and this must be done before the 5th of April,"
He said the sub-committee was not empowered to make any commitments.
"We need some more time and we will put up the points that have been
presented to us to the group of ministers who in turn will then take
the decision and this will happen as soon as possible," Sibal said.
The sub-committee on the Lokpal bill is headed by Defence Minister
A.K. Antony. Apart from Sibal, its members are Agriculture Minister
Sharad Pawar and Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily.
Sibal said though the government is not opposed to any of the
suggestions, the civil society members wanted an instant response
and assurance, which the sub-committee was not entitled to give.
"They told us take a decision here and now, if not now before the
5th of April, you take a decision that you will agree. I said we are
not the one authorised to take the decision. Between then and 5th of
April there were a few days and it will not be possible (to take a
decision) in the context of the fact that the elections are on in
five states," Sibal clarified.
"But we said we would certainly present this to the group of
ministers," he said, adding that the government was not opposed to
any of the demands.
"We are not opposed to any of these issues. The civil society should
have confidence in the government," Sibal said.
Anna Hazare, and over 100 of his supporters are sitting on an
indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi demanding the involvement
of civil society in drafting the anti-graft Lokpal bill.
The fast was taken up by civil society members with the
sub-committee on Lokpal bill failed and the government did not
accept their demand of having a joint committee on the bill.
The activist had also questioned the credibility of the members,
including Sibal, Pawar and Moily, for drafting the bill blaming them
for not being sincere.
"The government says it's committee will draft the bill, who are
there in the committee, Sharad Pawar who has been involved in land
scams in Maharashtra, Moily who drafted this weak legislation or
Kapil Sibal who does not see any corruption in the 2G scam,"
activist Arvind Kejriwal had said Tuesday.