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As anti-corruption fast continues, some question effectiveness

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Activist Anna Hazare is holding a hunger strike as part of an anti-corruption protest
  • Campaigners say they want tougher legislation to deal with graft Indians face
  • The Jan Lokpal bill is a civil society-backed version of the government's Lokpal bill

New Delhi(CNN) -- An anti-corruption fast by activist Anna Hazare entered its sixth day Sunday, galvanizing thousands of supporters frustrated with rampant graft throughout India, though some observers said Hazare's methods amount to dictating terms to democratic institutions.

"The youth are our national power. ... And what I find significant in this 'revolution' is that the youth are standing behind it," Hazare told a crowd Sunday at the open-air venue of his hunger strike to demand a Lokpal, or citizen ombudsman with sweeping powers, to try to stem graft and corruption.

"I am now feeling confident that not only a Lokpal will be created but corruption too will be eradicated completely," Hazare said.

In a dramatic comment, Hazare, a former soldier, said public gatherings were superior to the elected parliament as he made a rare appeal for sit-ins outside the homes of lawmakers until they agree to his version of the Lokpal bill that the government has not accepted in full.

"I request the citizens of this country to hold sit-ins at the homes of parliamentarians from their areas to make them give a written commitment for the Lokpal," he said.

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"Why? Because the people's parliament is over and above New Delhi's parliament. It is this people's parliament that has created that (elected) parliament," Hazare added.

A constitutional expert and an activist, however, disapproved of the activist's tactics and foresaw little solution to the corruption issue by setting up one more watchdog in a country that already has several of them to tackle the endemic problem.

"Mr Hazare is well within his rights to hold protests. But to say, 'You accept my bill and nothing else,' might amount to coercing the government and parliament," constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said.

He, however, described Hazare's support base as a clear indication of public disaffection with chronic corruption.

"I think most of the people may (not know) what Lokpal or Jan Lokpal bills are and about their implications. They have hit the streets because they are frustrated with this corruption and also with the government's handling of the whole issue," Kashyap said.

Nonetheless, he warned that democratic bodies should be allowed to work in accordance with laid-down norms.

"In the name of corruption, you cannot demolish democratic institutions. You cannot throw the baby with the bath-water," Kashyap said.

Experts also believe the South Asian nation was required to carry out a range of reforms to overhaul its systems.

"Corruption is a systemic problem. A Lokpal may be curative, but it can't be preventive as far as corruption is concerned. We need systemic, administrative and, above all, political and electoral reforms," Kashyap added.

On Saturday, a leading civil-rights activist, Aruna Roy, echoed similar views on Hazare's campaign.

"I think (Hazare) is ill-advised. Anyone who says, 'My view should be the only view,' is wrong," said Roy of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information.

"We must assert our rights. But to get rid of these (democratic) institutions would be a great disaster for all the people in this country," she warned.