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India anticorruption bill is soft, activists say

New York Times / August 5, 2011

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NEW DELHI - After a four-decade battle, Indian lawmakers took the first formal step toward creating an independent anticorruption agency yesterday, introducing a bill that would appoint a powerful ombudsman, or Lokpal, to investigate wrongdoing by government officials.

But the draft of the law, which exempts the serving prime minister, members of Parliament, and many other officials from the Lokpal’s jurisdiction, was roundly rejected by many of the activists who had fought for the creation of an independent agency to battle corruption.

“This is the second war of independence,’’ Anna Hazare, an activist whose hunger strike this summer resuscitated India’s anticorruption fight, said as his supporters burned copies of the government’s version of the bill. “This is the only opportunity to remove the corruption from this country. We should not miss this opportunity. I appeal to the youth of the nation to come forward to oppose this bill.’’

India has been beset by a series of embarrassing corruption scandals, including the inept and graft-addled preparations for the Commonwealth Games last year and revelations last week that billions of dollars of iron ore was being smuggled, leading to the removal of the chief minister of Karnataka.

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