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Prime Minister talks about corruption, opposition not impressed

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech talked about corruption as a deep concern and the need for simultaneous action on many fronts but failed to impress the opposition.Want strong lokpal, don't fast: PM | Full text of speech | Pics

delhi Updated: Aug 15, 2011 21:58 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence speech talked about corruption as a deep concern and the need for simultaneous action on many fronts but failed to impress the opposition.

Opposition parties slammed Prime Minister's speech as unimpressive while some political observers said the address laid adequate emphasis on the role of Parliament in legislation-making when civil society activists were going on a fast for a strong lokpal bill.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the Prime Minister's speech did not address the issue of corruption properly while the Communist Party of India (CPI) believed it reflected the helplessness of the government.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party was expecting the Prime Minister to come forward with a very clear references on what action he proposes to take on account of the "massive scams and monumental corruption" faced by the government.

"There was no assurance on that account," Prasad said.

CPI leader D Raja added that the speech left no impression.

"I do not think the Prime Minister's speech made any impression or gave any motivation to the masses of our country... In fact, the Prime Minister's speech reflects the helplessness of this government and pleads for some kind of a 'take it as it is' attitude," Raja said.

Prof Sushila Ramaswamy, associate professor in political science, Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi, said the Prime Minister was absolutely right when he pointed out that it is for Parliament to decide what kind of Lokpal legislation should be enacted.

She said civil society can provide inputs and cannot play role of legislator.

Referring to the Prime Minister's remarks that those who do not agree with the Lokpal bill can put their views to political parties but should not resort to fast, she said that even Mahatma Gandhi was careful about going on fast as a means of protest.

"We have a system. Courts are there... we are not a plebiscitarian democracy. The role of civil society should be more restrained," Sushila Ramaswamy told IANS.

Prof Anand Kumar of the Centre for Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the Prime Minister spoke about the challenge of corruption in a contradictory manner.

"He admitted to presence of corruption in the state (apparatus) including allotment of government contracts and said there is no magic wand to check it. On the other hand, he said mobilisation through fast was not a way to solve problems because Parliament is supreme," Kumar said, adding that talking and petitioning to lawmakers has not helped tackle corruption effectively in the past.

Subrata Mukherjee, a former professor Delhi University, said the Prime Minister addressed the issue of corruption adequately in his address.

"I think he addressed the issue adequately. Corruption is a complex issue. Only forming Lokpal will not end it," Mukherjee said.

"In the last few months many instances of corruption have come to light. In some cases, functionaries of the central government face allegations of corruption. In other cases, it is the functionaries of various state governments," Manmohan Singh said from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

In his address on India's 65th Independence Day, he said the government was taking "strictest possible action in cases of corruption that have surfaced".

But he declined to say much on it as the cases were sub-judice.

"It is essential that when we consider these issues, we do not create an atmosphere in which the country's progress comes into question. Any debate on these matters should reflect the confidence that we can overcome these challenges.

"However, 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 added.

Elaborting, Singh said corruption manifested itself in many forms and there were instances where funds meant for schemes for the people end up in the pocket of government officials.

"There are also cases where government contracts are wrongfully awarded to the wrong people. We cannot let such activities continue unchecked."

He said that "there is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption".

Singh said all political parties should "stand shoulder to shoulder" with the government in the fight against corruption.

"To eradicate corruption, we have introduced, and will introduce, many bills in Parliament.

"I hope that all political parties will cooperate in the process of converting these bills into statutes.

"On the issue of corruption, I would like to say in the end that we can win the fight against corruption only when each and every citizen of India cooperates in it."

Fair, transparent land acquisition law soon
The Prime Minister promised a new law on land acquisition soon that will be fair and transparent to protect the interests of farmers and also address the need for industrialization.

"I am fully aware of the tensions caused in some parts of the country because of acquisition of land for industry, infrastructure and urbanization. Our farmers have been especially affected by such acquisition," the Prime Minister said in his Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

"Land acquisition is no doubt necessary for projects of public interest. But it should take place in a transparent and fair manner. The interests of those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired should be fully protected.

"We will ensure that no injustice is done to anyone in the process of land acquisition. Our government wants to replace the 117-year-old land acquisition law by a new law, which is forward looking and balanced."

The draft of the new legislation was circulated by the rural development ministry for consultations with and comments from all stake-holders. These can be sent to the ministry by the end of this month.

"We have initiated steps to build a consensus on it. We will soon introduce a bill in Parliament to this end," he said.

Another farm revolution
Saluting farmers for achieving a high output this year, the Prime Minister called for another Green Revolution to address the twin issues of checking prices and food security.

"I congratulate the country's farmers for their achievements this year. The production of foodgrain has been at a record level. Wheat, maize, pulses and oilseeds have all seen record levels of production," the Prime Minister said in his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort here.

"It is because of the hard work of our farmers that today there are proposals for export of foodgrain, sugar and cotton," he said.

The Prime Minister said India can tackle rising food prices only by higher production and productivity. This, he said, was also necessary to implement the food security law, promising heavily subsidized grain to the poor.

"We need a second Green Revolution in agriculture," he said. "We will accelerate our efforts in this direction in the 12th Plan."

The Prime Minister also assured farmers, particularly those who are small and marginal, that they would continue to get easy access to fertilisers, seeds and credit. "We also want to provide the best possible irrigation facilities to the farmers."

Want slum free India
The government is working towards a slum free India, Manmohan Singh declared. "We have taken a major step for our poor brothers and sisters living in cities. We have approved the Rajiv Awas Yojana. We want to make India slum free through this scheme," he said in his address to the nation.

"We want the slum dwellers to get ownership of clean houses and have access to basic amenities like water and electricity. We will implement the Rajiv Awas Yojana as a national mission together with the states."

Want strong lokpal, don't fast: PM | Full text of speech | Pics | Highlights of PM's speech