New Delhi(PTI): Gandhian Anna Hazare today called off his hunger strike bringing to an end his 98-hour protest after government issued a gazette notification constituting a 10-member Joint Committee of ministers and civil society activists, including him, to draft an effective Lok Pal Bill.
Curtains were drawn on the anti-corruption campaign that drew instant nationwide support with a little girl giving the 73-year-old activist a glass of water at 10.45 am at Jantar Mantar, the nerve-centre of the agitation for a strong legislation to combat political and administrative graft.
Earlier, Hazare offered water to some women, among the over 300 activists who had joined the fast.
Social activists Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar and Kiran Bedi hailed Hazare’s campaign as the Gandhian said he would to continue the fight for the “second struggle for independence”.
In the morning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement saying the government intends to introduce the “historic legislation” in the Monsoon session of Parliament.
He described the coming together of civil society and government on the Lok Pal Bill issue as a step that augurs well for democracy, saying it signifies the mutual resolve to combat corruption.
“I am pleased that Anna Hazare has agreed to give up his fast,” he said after his ministers worked out a deal with Hazare’s emissaries last night to bring to end the protest at Jantar Mantar.
Shouts of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ rent the air as Hazare’s followers and admirers gathered in hundreds, just a stone’s throw from Parliament, celebrated the notification that was proudly displayed at the fast site.
Making a brief speech after he broke his fast, the veteran Gandhian said it was just the beginning of a long struggle ahead and he would not rest content with the Lok Pal Bill but also fight for reforms of the electoral system, including the ‘right to recall’ from gram panchayat level.
The notification by the Ministry of Law and Justice said the Joint Drafting Committee to prepare a draft of the Lok Pal Bill will have five ministers from the government and five nominees of Hazare, including himself.
The five ministers are Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Chairperson, Home Minister P Chidamabaram, Law Minister Veerappa Moily (Convenor), HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid.
The civil society will be represented by Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N Santosh Hegde, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan (Co-Chairperson), lawyer Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.
The notification said the Joint Drafting Committee will commence work forthwith evolving its own procedure to prepare the proposed legislation. The committee shall complete its work latest by June 30, it said.
Kejriwal told reporters that by Monday it would be known as to when the committee would hold its first meeting.