New Delhi, June 3: A desperate government's efforts failed today to achieve any breakthrough with Baba Ramdev deciding to go ahead with his indefinite fast here from tomorrow amidst indications that a compromise was likely in a day or two.
For nearly five hours, two senior union ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay negotiated with the yoga guru over his demands on eradication of corruption at a posh hotel, a venue totally different from Delhi airport where two days ago these two ministers with two others had attempted to placate him.
After the talks, Sibal said “we had constructive dialogue on several issues and the government has addressed all the issues Baba has raised in writing. Most of these issues are of national concern and the government is already seized of many of them”.
However, immediately thereafter, Baba Ramdev went to the Ramlila Maidan, venue of his indefinite fast, where he told a congregation that government has agreed to most of his demands.
He said, however, that he will go ahead with the fast till all his demands are met completely.
In a late night release, the cabinet secretariat disclosed its issue-wise response to Ramdev's demands including its willingness to substantially increase the maximum punishment for corruption without defining what that would be.
The government also said confiscation of ill-gotten wealth could be considered and that it was open to the idea of more special courts to speed up the trial of corruption cases.
Observing that they “have not yet reached a compromise”, Ramdev said “I will sit on fast (from tomorrow).”
Assuring that his agitation will be “peaceful, legal and constitutional”, the yoga guru said it will not turn violent but nobody should try to malign the campaign.
The Ministers also discussed with Ramdev the action taken by government so far to get back the black money which included commissioning of a study which will indicate the sectors and mode of generation of ill-gotten money and recommend measures for its prevention and control.
The study, to be completed in 18 months, will also assess extent of black money within the country and stashed overseas and its impact on national security, said the official paper carrying structured response of the government to Ramdev's demands.
About proposed actions on the black money issue, it said a committee, constituted by the government, will consult all stakeholders and submit its report within six months.
“The committee will examine the measures to strengthen the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with the menace of generation of black money through illegal means, including declaring wealth generated illegally as national asset and enacting/amending laws to confiscate and recover assets and providing exemplary punishment against its perpetrators,” it said.
As a consensus eluded at the meeting between the government and Ramdev, the former said any further suggestions will be duly considered.
Among other demands of Ramdev, the government agreed to introduce the Public Services Delivery Bill in Parliament at the earliest and prepare a model bill for adoption by states to improve the quality of delivery system. On Ramdev's demand to conduct entrance test of professional courses in all regional languages, the government said the nodel ministry has asked the technical education body to constitute a panel of experts to draw a complete plan in this regard.
After the talks with Ramdev, Sibal briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then he, along with Sahay, went to brief Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who led the government negotiators.
Singh also briefed President Pratibha Patil on the deliberations.
Hectic back-channel efforts were on for the last two days to placate Ramdev, who has raised issues of black money and corruption, as the government is keen to avert a repeat of an Anna Hazare-like protest on the streets.
Claiming that his agitation was neither “politically motivated or communal” nor he has any “underground agenda” as was being portrayed by some sections, Ramdev said his movement is being undertaken in “national interest”.
“Our agitation is not against any political party or individual. We are neutral, not being sponsored by any party or organisation and people from all castes and religion are joining us. We appeal to all parties to join us,” he said. Various organizations, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and ABVP, have also decided to join the agitation and sit on fast with Baba Ramdev.
While Congress said it was against the politics of blackmail, it refrained from any comment on yoga guru Baba Ramdev's plans to start his fast. “I am not saying about Jantar Mantar (fast by Anna Hazare in April) nor about Ramdev but by definition itself politics of blackmail is not proper”, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
Meanwhile, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh alleged RSS was “completely behind Ramdev's agitation” and said if Baba was so keen to do politics, he should join the fray. PTI