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PM calls for multipronged action on corruption, asks Anna not to fast

Monday August 15, 2011 11:09:42 AM, IANS

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday "no single big step" could eradicate graft as he called for a multipronged crackdown on corrupt practices that hamper India's economic growth.

"I believe there is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption. We will have to act simultaneously on many fronts," Manmohan Singh said in his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort.

The prime minister dedicated a major portion of his 35-minute to corruption. Corruption scandals related to the spectrum allocation and the Commonwealth Games have rocked his government.

Manmohan Singh faces critcism for failing to intervene to stop the 2G scam, which is said to have caused huge financial losses to the nation and which has seen former communications minister A. Raja getting jailed.

Another cabinet minister, Dayanidhi Maran, was forced to step down after coming under the scanner for his suspected involvement in the scandal.

Manmohan Singh called corruption a problem deeply concerning all.

"This is a difficulty for which no government has a magic wand. We are taking simultaneous action on many fronts in our fight against corruption."

He appealed to "all political parties to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this fight" and said the government would introduce more bills in parliament to fight corruption.

"I hope that all political parties will cooperate in the process of converting these bills into statutes. We can win the fight against corruption only when each and every citizen of India cooperates in it."

He said corruption had many faces.

"In some instances, funds meant for schemes for the welfare of the common man end up in the pocket of government officials. In some other instances, government discretion is used to favour a selected few."

He said the country needed to improve its justice delivery system.

"Everyone should know that quick action will be taken against the corrupt and punishment meted out to them. If our system delivers justice in an effective manner, government officials would think twice before committing a wrong act out of greed or under political pressure."

He said the government wanted a bill that creates and gives statutory powers to an anti-graft watchdog - Lokpal - to prevent corruption in high places.

"We have recently introduced a bill in parliament to achieve this," he said, referring to the Lokpal Bill.

Without taking names, Manmohan Singh referred to social activist Anna Hazare and his indefinite hunger strike from Tuesday to press the government for a stronger Lokpal bill.

"Those who don't agree with this bill can put forward their views to parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe that they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts unto death."

He said bringing the judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal would undermine its independence but hoped that a bill which makes the judiciary "more accountable" would be passed soon. The Judicial Accountability Bill is already in parliament

Manmohan Singh said his government had received "frequent complaints of corruption" in awarding government contracts worth thousands of crores of rupees every year.

A government-appointed committee, he said, has recommended that a public procurement legislation that lays down the principles and practice with regard to official purchases.

"We will introduce a bill in parliament by the end of this year to enact such a law."

'Anna, don't fast'

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh while speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on India's 65th Independence Day Monday obliquely appealed to Gandhian Anna Hazare, who will fast from Tuesday in support of a strong Lokpal, not to go on hunger strike.

He said that those who don't agree with some aspects of a proposed Lokpal legislation "should not resort to hunger strikes".

But he did not mention Hazare by name.

"We want a strong Lokpal to prevent corruption in high places. We have recently introduced a bill in parliament to achieve this," said Singh. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha Aug 4.

"Now only parliament can decide what type of Lokpal legislation should be enacted," he said.

He said he was "aware of the differences of opinion on some aspects of the bill."

"Those who don't agree with this bill can put forward their views to parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe that they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts unto death."

Hazare has vowed to go on hunger strike here from Tuesday against the government's version of the Lokpal that keeps prime minister and judiciary out of its ambit.

The prime minister also said it was not right to bring the judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal as this would go against the independence of the judiciary.

"It is with this aim that we have introduced the Judicial Accountability Bill in parliament. I am confident this bill will be passed soon."

Team Anna and the central government has been sporadically involved in a war of words since April when Hazare fasted for a strong Lokpal.

The cabinet has cleared the government version of the Lokpal bill, which has angered civil society members.





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