Hunger strikes will not solve corruption problems: PM

It is not right to bring the judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

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 tomorrow.

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.

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".

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
tomorrow, 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.

‘No magic wand’

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.

Admitting that government discretion was "misused in
allocation of scarce resources and in the grant of
clearances", Singh said such discretionary powers would be
done away with wherever possible and hoped to enact a public
procurement legislation by the end of this year.

"Any government awards contracts worth thousands of
crores every year. There are frequent complaints of corruption
in these decisions," the Prime Minister said.

He noted that a committee set up by the government
had recommended that there should be a public procurement
legislation which lays down the principles and practice with
regard to government purchases.

A Bill in this regard will be introduced in Parliament by
the end of this year, he said.

He said the government was also planning to enact a law
which enables the monitoring of the work of regulatory
authorities and make them more accountable without
compromising their independence.

Talking about his seven-year rule, Singh said during this
period the country has moved "rapidly on the path of
development" and seen success in many areas.

"However, I am also well aware that a lot remains to be
done. The road ahead is long and arduous," he said.

Singh observed that the "prevailing situation both inside
and outside the country is such that if we do not act with
understanding and restraint, our security and prosperity can
get adversely affected."

There are "some people who want to create disturbances in
the country so that our progress gets stalled", he said,
adding "All this can have a negative impact on us. But we will
not let this happen."

Long battle against terrorism

Delving on the issue of terrorism, Singh said recent
serial blasts in Mumbai have come as a warning that there
cannot be any "slip-up" in the vigil against the scourge.

"This is a long battle to be fought jointly by the
central government, state governments and the common man," he
said, adding intelligence and security agencies have been
steadily strengthened which will continue.

On Naxalism, the Prime Minister said all possible steps
are being taken to overcome the challenge, including through
eradication of the very reasons which give rise to this

Singh stated that a new scheme has been started for the
accelerated development of 60 backward and tribal-dominated
districts and an amount of Rs 3,300 crore will be spent on
the scheme in a period of two years.

The Prime Minister also spoke about sensitive issue of
land acquisition and promised enactment of a "forward looking
and balanced" law soon to prevent tensions over it.

Mentioning this issue in the backdrop of agitations in
various places, he said land acquisition is necessary for
projects of public interest but it should be done in a
"transparent and fair manner" and the government will ensure
that "no injustice is done to anyone".

Noting that farmers have been especially affected by such
acquisition, Singh said, the interests of those whose
livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired should be
fully protected.

Noting that vocational education and skill development
have acquired new importance, Singh also announced that the
government will appoint an Education Commission to make
recommendations for improvements at all levels of education in
the country.


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