Anna Hazare says ready to die for anti-graft cause

Thursday, 25 August 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

(Reuters) - Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Wednesday ruled out any compromise in his stand-off with the government over graft legislation, vowing to press on with a hunger strike now in its ninth day, even if it costs him his life.

With Hazare’s health failing and thousands of supporters packed into the muddy open ground in New Delhi where he is staging his public fast, time was running out for the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to end the crisis.

Singh pleaded with the 74-year-old to at least agree to go on an intravenous drip, which Hazare has so far refused, and he called a meeting of political parties in parliament to find an end to the impasse.

Hazare’s demand for more robust anti-graft laws has tapped into popular fury, particularly among the middle class, over the corruption that dogs Asia’s third-largest economy, bringing tens of thousands onto streets across the country in the biggest social protests since the 1970s.

“I’ve only lost six kilos and a bit of my kidney is affected, but it is nothing to worry about,” said the self-styled Gandhian activist, addressing his admirers in the Ramlila field just outside the walled city of old Delhi.

“Until the government agrees to all conditions, I will not back down. Even if I have to die.”

The government has begun to offer concessions over tougher anti-corruption laws, but a deal has remained elusive.