Activists fast to demand India pass anti-graft law

Hundreds of people shouted slogans and waved Indian flags near Parliament on Wednesday in solidarity with three activists who began a hunger strike to pressure the government into passing a strong law against corruption.

The three followers of anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare said they would continue their fast indefinitely. Hazare, who has been leading a 16-month campaign for tough anti-corruption legislation, said he will join the fast on Sunday if the government fails to act by then.

The activists hope the hunger strike will force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government to take up the bill when Parliament resumes Aug. 8.

Hazare and his supporters are also demanding an investigation into corruption allegations against 14 Cabinet ministers.

An anti-corruption bill including provisions to appoint an ombudsman was approved last year by the lower house of Parliament but has yet to be voted on by the upper house. Lawmakers have called for more discussion of some of its more stringent provisions.

Information Minister Ambika Soni said government efforts to get the bill passed are continuing.

But Hazare said the government is not serious in its efforts.

"The government has repeatedly betrayed the people. It does not want the bill to be passed because so many ministers have been implicated," Hazare told reporters Wednesday.

Fed up with rampant corruption, tens of thousands of people, mostly from the middle class, came out into the streets last year to join Hazare's protest movement.

But in recent months, Hazare's image has taken a beating after allegations of corruption were raised against some key members of his group. The members have denied the charges.