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Thursday, August 25, 2011

FINAL SPEECH?: Talks collapse; don't stop them from taking me away, says Anna!

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Rahul Shrivastava & Sandeep Phukan, NDTV / Updated: August 24, 2011 23:33 IST.

New Delhi:  Anna Hazare's hunger strike is approaching the early hours of its tenth day. Talks between the government and his associates ended a little before 10 pm without any progress. "We are trying to understand each other's perspectives," said Law Minister Salman Khurshid after the meeting. "There is nothing to report immediately...we will talk tomorrow as well...the priority is Anna's health." (Read: Who is Anna Hazare?) 

Anna's associate Prashant Bhushan's diagnosis was more severe. "We are back to square one," he said. The two other Anna representatives, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi said the language used by the ministers was less conciliatory than yesterday. "Today they scolded us," they reported. Ms Bedi also tweeted that the government said it was up to Team Anna to end his fast. Team Anna said after progress made at last night's negotiations, there has been a complete breakdown tonight. The crisis centres around the Lokpal Bill, which provides for a new agency to handle official corruption, and whose version should transform into law.

The government has refused to allow Anna's version of the Lokpal Bill to be introduced directly in Parliament for a debate, bypassing the procedure that refers bills first to a Standing Committee for review.  Instead, Mr Khurshid and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee allegedly told Anna's aides that they should discuss which features are not acceptable to them in the government's version of the Lokpal Bill, which has already been introduced in Parliament. 

The 74-year-old activist's doctors said his blood pressure and vital signs are stable, but his health is now the over-riding concern for the government, some of his associates, and the thousands of Indians who have reposed their faith in his movement against corruption. "If anything happens to Anna, the government will be responsible," warned Anna's close aide, Arvind Kejriwal, at the massive camp set up in Delhi by Team Anna. "I can last for another nine days," said Anna, who has not eaten for nine days, to an audience of nearly 15,000 people this evening at Ramlila Maidan.

Sources say the government is preparing an emergency plan to move Anna to hospital; the doctors attending to the activist have been consulted, they will indicate if and when Anna should be air-lifted to hospital. For now, they've deemed that unnecessary.  

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