India campaigner Anna Hazare ends 'vow of silence'

Anna Hazare on hunger strike
Image caption Mr Hazare wants tougher anti-corruption laws

Indian anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare says he has ended a 19-day vow of silence, which he says was undertaken for health reasons.

Mr Hazare said he had stopping speaking because he was weakened by a 12-day hunger strike in August to demand the government set up an independent ombudsman to crack down on corruption.

He said he was now "fit enough" to resume his campaign against graft.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals.

Mr Hazare's key demand is the setting up of a citizens' ombudsman, also known as the Jan Lokpal.

It will be an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

Mr Hazare told reporters in Delhi that he would resume his fast and then proceed on a countrywide campaign if the government failed to pass a law curbing graft in the upcoming session of parliament.

The month-long winter session of parliament is scheduled to begin on 22 November.

Mr Hazare said the government was trying to "weaken" the ombudsman law by planning separate laws for citizens' rights and for the protection of whistle blowers.

"This government is dividing the Jan Lokpal by breaking it into pieces and making it weaker," he said.

Mr Hazare's campaign to strengthen an anti-corruption bill has received widespread support, with tens of thousands of people attending protests across the country.

The Indian government has been rocked by recent corruption scandals including an alleged telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the country $39bn (£23bn), suspected financial malpractice linked to the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and accusations that homes for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Critics of the government say the scandals point to a pervasive culture of corruption in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's administration.

A recent survey said corruption in Asia's third largest economy had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth.

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