Anna threatens Jail Bharo from Jan 1

New Delhi: Stepping up pressure, Anna Hazare today announced a new agitation of filling up jails (jail bharo) from January 1 if Parliament does not pass a strong Lokpal law, amid indications that it is unlikely to be done before the scheduled conclusion of the current winter session. The agitation is in addition to the indefinite fast Hazare has already announced from December 27 unless a strong Lokpal bill is not not adopted by Parliament.

Racing against time the Department of Personnel has begun drafting the Lokpal legislation taking into account the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and those of various political parties as articulated at yesterday`s all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What appears to be certain now now is that the Lokpal Bill would be introduced before December 22 when both Houses of Parliament are scheduled to adjourn sine die.

However, the government has the option of extending the session into early January and taking a year-end break to enable members be with their families for Christmas and the New Year. Both Houses could reconvene in the first week of January to consider the Lokpal law. The draft legislation is expected to be considered by the Union Cabinet early next week, either on Sunday or Monday, after the Prime Minister returns from Moscow on Saturday. It could then be introduced in Parliament on December 20 or 21.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal today expressed confidence that the government would be able to introduce the bill before the scheduled conclusion of the session on December 22. He pointed out that 35 political parties had given their views at yesterday`s meeting without there being a consensus. This had increased the government`s workload, he said. Taking note of these differing views and making amendments in the proposed bill accordingly was the task at hand for the government, he said.

Meanwhile, after a meeting of his core committee, Hazare announced his new agitation to fill up jails and demanded that the Parliament session be extended to enable passage. He said he would himself lead the agitation in front of the residences of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi. Demonstrations would be held in front of MPs who oppose the bill.