Wrongdoers will not escape, says Manmohan Singh (Intro Roundup)

February 16th, 2011 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Hit hard by corruption scandals, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said he “had a job to do and was not quitting” and promised that “wrongdoers will not escape”.Addressing Indian and foreign journalists here, he also said that the country would witness the next round of economic reforms soon.

“You have my assurance that the wrongdoers will not escape,” Manmohan Singh said, ahead of the budget session of parliament starting Feb 21 that too is expected to be stormy.

In his 70-minute interaction at his official residence, Manmohan Singh calmly answered even the most critical and pointed questions and said the government was trying its best to combat corruption.

Asked if was disappointed over the delays in the Commonwealth Games scam probe, he said the government was trying its “very best” to speed up the process of justice. “Sometimes it is frustrating… it takes time.”

“I have never felt like quitting, I will stay the course,” Manmohan Singh, 78, said, answering another query. “I never felt like resigning because I had a job to do… We have a lot of unfinished business to accomplish.”

In his second term as prime minister, the Congress-led government has been beset with corruption scandals including those related to spectrum allocation and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Saying that in a coalition government “there is a coalition dharma”, Manmohan Singh said he was not afraid of appearing before any committee, including a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that the opposition is seeking into the spectrum allocation scandal.

There is an “entirely wrong impression I was blocking the agreement on a JPC. I have always said my conduct should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion”.

Manmohan Singh clarified that former communications minister A. Raja, who quit in November and is now in custody, decided on the allocation of second generation (2G) spectrum licences in 2008 on the basis of past telecom policies and the issue was “never brought to me or the cabinet”.

“That was the decision of the (then communication) minister,” he said, adding that Raja assured him “complete transparency” on the issue.

The prime minister was responding to a question on the controversial first-come-first-served policy of granting spectrum licences that Raja had adopted.

He said he wrote to Raja Nov 2, 2007 listing issues he should look into to ensure they were dealt with in an equitable, fair and transparent manner, including the possibility of an auction of spectrum.

The upcoming budget will see reforms, the prime minister said, stressing that the government had its economic agenda in place.

“The economic agenda is there. There is the food security bill, the Right to Education Act is now a reality, the Integrated Child Development Services reform is a reality, there have been reforms in the National Rural Health Mission.”

“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 budget will be presented Feb 28.

The prime minister chided the opposition too. “We have not given up. We will persist. There are difficulties particularly when parliament is not allowed to function.”

Manmohan Singh listed the stabilisation of the Indian economy during the global meltdown as the biggest achievement of his government but mentioned the series of corruption scams as the greatest regret of his tenure.

Asked if he hoped parliament would function normally in the budget session as the opposition was adamant on a JPC, Manmohan Singh said: “We are making all efforts to deal with the issues. We hope for a solution.”

He said whatever the domestic weaknesses, “we should not create an atmosphere where the country loses confidence as the world really marvels at India’s growth and its functioning democracy”.

He appealed to the media to report things factually and objectively and not create a perception that “nothing good is happening in the country” in a way that it erodes the “self-confidence of the people of India”.

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