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Hazare dash to pacify judge

Mumbai, Aug. 19: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who called off a nine-day fast-unto-death on Sunday, has rushed to clarify that he did not mean to undermine the integrity or efficiency of the judge appointed to probe his charges against four “corrupt” ministers.

Hazare had begun an indefinite fast on August 9, demanding total transparency in police transfers, absolute powers for gram sabhas, immediate implementation of the Maharashtra Right to Information Bill, 2002, besides action against the ministers.

The social activist called off his fast on Sunday after Sushil Kumar Shinde accepted all his demands except the resignation of ministers Sureshdada Jain, Vijay Kumar Gavit, Padmasinh Patil and Nawab Malik. The chief minister also agreed to set up a panel to probe Hazare’s charges against the ministers.

But in a sudden twist, former Supreme Court judge P.B. Sawant yesterday refused to head the one-man commission of inquiry set up to probe Hazare’s charges until the crusader explained “what he meant when he said he had no faith in the one-man commission”.

“Hazare says he doesn’t have faith in the one-member panel instituted to probe the charges and counter-charges (made by minister Jain against him). If I am the man heading that commission, what am I to make of his statement'’’ Sawant asked. “It means he doesn’t have faith in me and that I am not interested (in the inquiry). He will have to withdraw his remarks.”

Hazare, aware that his fast may come to nought, tried to placate Sawant by saying his demand for a three-member panel of retired judges to probe his charges was in no way meant to undermine his “integrity or efficiency”.

The activist said he had merely meant that a one-man commission would take longer to complete the probe than a bigger panel. “There has been a misunderstanding. Otherwise, why would there be such a situation when I was the one to suggest Sawant’s name to the state government in the first place'’’ Hazare asked. He added that he had full faith in Sawant and requested him to start his inquiry.

But Sawant has not yet relented.

One of the ministers — Jain — whom Hazare accused of “largescale corruption” has responded by alleging that the crusader was “running a racket in the name of social work”. The food and civil supplies minister proceeded on an indefinite fast himself, demanding an inquiry into Hazare’s activities.

Jain who fasted at a pandal at the Azad Maidan a few paces away from Hazare, ended his fast a day before the activist. He did so only after the government set up a probe panel, which “convinced’’ him that the investigation would be impartial and quick.

To ward off the negative publicity the fast was fetching his government, Shinde conceded most of Hazare’s demands. The chief minister agreed in principle to implement the Maharashtra Right to Information Bill and consider modifications suggested by the crusader.

The committee that will be set up to screen and monitor all transfers and postings, as demanded by Hazare, will be the first in the country to do so.

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