PM serious on corruption but questions remain

Manmohan Singh admitted to irregularities in governance but said that they are being made to look bigger than they actually were.

Updated: Feb 17, 2011, 00:43 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: With his government`s image dented over a rash of scams, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Wednesday, promised action against wrongdoers but also conceded that he had to make "some compromises" to run a coalition.

He declared that his government was "dead serious in
bringing to book all the wrongdoers regardless of the position
they occupy" with regard to 2G spectrum allocation, CWG, ISRO
spectrum allocation and Adarsh Housing scams.

In his 70-minute interaction with TV editors here, he
asserted that his government was not lame-duck nor was he a
lame-duck Prime Minister although he admitted that there were
"weaknesses of processes in governance" and the "quality of
governance" needed to be improved.

Zee News’ Editor Satish K Singh asked the Prime Minister, while referring to his ‘dead serious against corruption’ remark, what measures his government was planning to take, Dr Singh said all possible steps to tackle corruption would be initiated. He added that the black money, which is stashed in foreign banks abroad and which legally and rightfully belongs to India, would be brought back.
The PM also refuted charges that his office was trying to dilute the Space Commission`s decision to annul the S-band spectrum deal between ISRO and private company Devas and denied suggestions of backroom talks with Devas on the issue.

Lauding the media for drawing the country’s attention to the scams that came to the fore over the past few months, Dr Singh cautioned: “while projecting the evils, the impression that has gone around is that we are a scam-riddled country, where nothing is going right”. This is weakening the self-confidence of the country’s citizens, he added.

‘Raja assured me of complete transparency’

Responding to a question, the PM said he had expressed concern to former telecom minister A Raja on auctioning 2G spectrum and in response; the latter had assured him of complete transparency in the spectrum allocation process.
Raja had said the auction of 2G spectrum was neither recommended by the TRAI nor the Telecom Commission, the PM told the media conference, adding the former minister however had agreed to auctioning 3G Spectrum.

The PM also clarified that Raja had only continued with the prevailing policy on 2G spectrum.

The PM further made it clear that the controversial ‘first come first serve’ basis in giving out 2G licences was not discussed with him.
"In allocation of 2G spectrum, the issue of licences was never brought to me or the Cabinet. That was the decision of the (then communication) minister," he said.

“Wrong to say I am blocking JPC on 2G scam”

Giving clearest signals that the government is willing to
have a JPC probe into 2G scam, the Prime Minister said all
efforts were being made to ensure smooth functioning of the
upcoming Budget session of Parliament and talks were underway
in this regard with the Opposition.

He said he was "not afraid" of facing any committee,
including a Joint Parliamentary Committee, on 2G scam and
dismissed suggestions that he was blocking an agreement with
the Opposition on formation of JPC because he was reluctant to
appear before it.

“I have already declared that I am willing to appear before the PAC (Parliamentary Accounts Committee). I also have no problem in appearing before the JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee)”, he declared.
"And this is wrong impression that I was blocking the agreement about the JPC because I don`t want to appear before the JPC. I have said that as PM my conduct should be like Caesar`s wife, above suspicion and am prepared to appear before any committee," he stressed.

‘Inflation to drop’

Prime Minister Singh said the economy will grow by at least 8.5 percent this fiscal and inflation will drop to seven percent by year-end.

The Prime Minister said with India becoming an increasingly integrated and open economy, international developments have a bearing on matters like inflation and all possible steps were being taken to mitigate their impact.

"If we were concerned about only curbing inflation, we could have done it, I think, by pursuing tighter monetary policies...we could have brought about a situation where price rise could be moderated," he said.
"But in the process if growth gets hurt I think that would not do our country any good," he added.

‘Reforms in budget’

Away from the 2G issue, Dr Singh told the editors that the upcoming Budget will see reforms, while stressing that the government has its economic agenda in place.

"The economic agenda is there. There is the food security bill, the Right to Education (RTE) Act is now a reality, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) reform is a reality, there have been reforms in the National Rural Health Mission," Dr Singh said.

"The same way we are going to have a fresh wave in infrastructure investment with the help of the new Public Private Partnership model. These are not big reforms and I hope in the current budget you will see the reform agenda that our government has," he added.
The PM added that the government will not give up on the face of difficulties.

"We have not given up. We will persist. There are difficulties particularly when Parliament is not allowed to function," he said.

‘I’ll stay the course’

The Prime Minister also said he had never felt like resigning because he had a job to do and there was a lot of unfinished business.

"I have never felt like quitting, I will stay the course," he stated.
"The country voted our party to be the leader of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) coalition and we have a lot of unfinished business to accomplish," he added.

"I do not say that I have never made a mistake. But the kind of propaganda being done and shown, I am not a culprit to that extent," the PM opined.

‘India Should Win World Cup’

On a lighter note, Prime Minister Singh hoped Team India would win the cricket World Cup.

"My best wishes are with the countrymen and countrywomen of India. India should win the World Cup," Manmohan Singh said.

Asked about his favourite players in the Indian cricket team, the PM said: "I have some but won`t mention them".