NEW DELHI — An Indian activist began a three-day hunger strike Tuesday calling for Parliament to pass a tougher version of an anti-corruption bill than the one federal lawmakers were debating.
Anna Hazare began his fast in India's business capital, Mumbai, to protest what he calls a lack of teeth for an anti-corruption watchdog that the proposed bill would create.
Hazare has called the government's anti-graft legislation an attempt to fool the country without actually taking tough action to end rampant corruption that angers almost everyone.
His main complaint is that the proposed corruption ombudsman would not have authority over the country's top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation. He says the ombudsman position would be too weak without that authority.
In New Delhi, India's Parliament began its debate as junior parliamentary affairs minister V. Narayanasamy moved the bill in the powerful lower house, saying the legislation maintained the "fine balance" between the powers of the legislature, the judiciary and the executive branch.
Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the main opposition, right wing Bharatiya Janata Party, however, said that as the country waited for a "strong and effective" anti-corruption watchdog, the government was offering a bill that was "so full of holes and flaws that it has disappointed all of us."
Swaraj's party has thrown its weight behind Hazare's protest.
Hazare, who claims inspiration from Mohandas K. Gandhi, has called his protest against corruption India's second freedom struggle and has fasted three times already to garner support for his demands.
His previous public protests have drawn tens of thousands of people in a country where corruption is rampant and top officials are regularly embroiled in scandals even as hundreds of millions of people remain bitterly poor.
But critics say his populist campaign attempts to vilify all politicians and hold elected officials hostage.
Dozens of those critics came out on the streets Tuesday, waving black flags and shouting anti-Hazare slogans as Hazare's motorcade made its way to the Mumbai fairground where he was fasting.
Eight hours were set aside for the debate in Parliament's lower house on Tuesday. The government has said it will try to pass the legislation by Thursday.