New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday affirmed his commitment to root out corruption but said there is no magic wand to do so and decried hunger strikes as a means to achieve the objective, in an apparent reference to Anna Hazare who is scheduled to begin fast on Tuesday.
Addressing the nation from historic Red Fort for the eighth consecutive year on the occasion of 65th Independence Day, Singh acknowledged that corruption is a big obstacle in national transformation but said it should be discussed in a manner that should not create an atmosphere in which country’s progress comes into question.
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Devoting a major portion of his 40-minute speech to corruption over which his government is under all-round attack, he said the problem manifests itself in many forms and admitted that many times funds meant for people lands up in the “pockets of government officials”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort during the 65th Independence Day function in New Delhi on Monday. PTI photo
He maintained that the government wants a strong Lokpal to prevent corruption in high places and said a bill in this regard has been introduced in Parliament.
Without naming Hazare and his agitation beginning here on Tuesday, Singh said he was aware that some people had different opinion on some aspects of the 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 they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death,” Singh said.
He asserted that only Parliament can decide what type of Lokpal legislation can be enacted.
Insisting that no government has a “magic wand” to deal with corruption, he said, “We are taking the strictest possible action in cases of corruption that have surfaced.”
Speaking from a bullet-proof enclosure amid rains, he touched on a variety of subjects including the sensitive land acquisition issue, naxalism, terrorism, economy and inflation.
Singh insisted that there is “no single big step” to eradicate corruption which needs to be fought simultaneously on many fronts and asked all political parties to “stand shoulder to shoulder” in this fight.
Apparently referring to 2G, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh scams, he said “many instances of corruption” have come to light in the last few months with “functionaries” of central and various state governments facing allegations.
He refrained from going into specifics as these cases are sub-judice but said “any debate” on corruption should “reflect the confidence that we can overcome these challenges”.
There are instances where government discretion is used to favour a select few and government contracts “wrongfully awarded to the wrong people”, Singh said and asserted that the government cannot let such activities continue unchecked.
Sending out a strong message to those indulging in scams, he said, “everyone should know that quick action will be taken against the corrupt and punishment meted out to them.”
At the same time, he said, “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.”
On Team Anna’s demand for bringing higher judiciary in the purview of Lokpal, he said it was “not appropriate” as “we believe that any such provision would go against the independence of the judiciary”.
He, however, said there was a need for a “framework in which the judiciary becomes more accountable. It is with this aim that we have introduced the Judicial Accountability Bill in Parliament.” He expressed confidence that this Bill will be passed soon.
But he did not touch upon the question of whether the Prime Minister should come under Lokpal, a consistent demand by Team Anna and some political parties.