Anna Hazare agrees to end hunger strike

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NEW DELHI, Aug 27 (AP): Indian reform activist Anna Hazare agreed Saturday to end an 11-day hunger strike after Parliament expressed nonbinding support for parts of his anti-graft plan, ending a drama that had deeply embarrassed a government plagued by corruption scandals.

The 74-year-old Anna Hazare had demanded sweeping legislation to create a government watchdog, but said Parliament`s move was enough to persuade him to begin eating.

“It`s only a half victory. Total victory is yet to come,” he told thousands of cheering supporters at a protest ground in New Delhi. Hazare said he planned to break his fast Sunday morning.

Following a nine-hour debate Saturday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that the “sense of the House” was in favor of Hazare`s demands for a stronger watchdog bill than the one proposed by the government. Lawmakers thumped their desks in support. The watchdog bill was to be sent to a committee to be debated and revised.

“The Parliament has spoken … and the will of the Parliament is the will of the people,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said to the NDTV news channel.

Hazare had wanted a formal vote on a nonbinding resolution backing a bill that would ensure greater transparency in governance and include millions of low-level bureaucrats and state officials under the watchdog`s oversight.

Hazare`s aides said Parliament`s actions, though less than they had demanded, were a victory for a protest that has attracted tens of thousands of supporters to his demonstration in the capital and more to rallies around the country.

“Now at least the Parliament has had to take cognizance of the people`s wish, and that is to wipe out corruption from this country,” said Medha Patkar, a protest organizer.

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