Open for debate on Lokpal bill: PM (Second Lead)

August 22nd, 2011 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Kolkata, Aug 22 (IANS) The government was open for debate on the Lokpal bill but corruption could be tackled only by action on multiple fronts and not by enacting a single piece of law, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Monday as Anna Hazare’s fast for a strong anti-corruption law entered day seven.

While all right thinking people were agreed on the need to tackle all forms of corruption, the complexity of the task “was not adequately appreciated”, the prime minister said at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta.

Reiterating what he said in his Independence Day address from the Red Fort, Manmohan Singh told the gathering that there was no “magic wand that can solve the problem in one stroke”.

“There is no single solution. We need to act on multiple fronts,” he said here as crowds continued to gather at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to support Hazare, who is pressing for a more powerful Lokpal bill.

Referring to the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill, which is now before a parliamentary standing committee, he said there were different viewpoints.

“We have made it clear that all concerned individuals should convey their concern on different aspects of the bill to their representatives in parliament and to the standing committee. The standing committee has the power to propose any amendment. We are open to a reasoned debate on all these issues.”

The prime minister, who dwelt at length on the burning issue of corruption, said while the creation of a Lokpal as an institution will help, it will not solve the problem that needs to be supported by improvements in the pace and quality of judicial processes.

According to Manmohan Singh, several judicial reforms were needed to ensure speedy trials and timely judgements that would “do a great deal to discourage corruption and dispel the notion that those who break the law can get away scot free”.

He said the government proposed to introduce a legislation modelled on laws in several countries governing government procurement.

“The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law has recently modified its earlier model procurement law. We can benefit from this latest model law and internalise international best practices,” the prime minister said, urging state governments to do the same.

He called for a comprehensive restructuring of the government system and procedures to clean up the system by making the basis of decision making “as transparent as possible”, and exuded confidence that a group of ministers looking into the issue would come up with “systemic solution”.

The prime minister also referred to the inadequacies of India’s regulatory institutions and said: “We need to strengthen this regulatory framework, including strengthening their technical capacity.”

He also suggested reforms on funding of polls and political parties “to reduce the scope for generation of black money”.

“Clean it up we must. .. Along with the techno-economic issues which we deal with in our planning process, we also need to change our system of governance to eliminate corruption. It will take time and effort but it can be done.”

However, the prime minister strongly denounced the argument that corruption is the consequence of economic liberalisation and reforms.

“This is of course completely mistaken. Many of the areas which have actually seen systemic reforms have also seen the disappearance of corruption. Industrial licensing, import licensing and rationing of foreign exchange are good examples.

“These areas were earlier associated with widespread corruption. The abolition of licensing has eliminated corruption in these areas.”

According to prime minister, corruption not only weakens the moral fibre of the country, it also promotes inefficiency and cronyism which undermine the social legitimacy of market economics.

“It also creates a trust deficit which ultimately weakens our ability to act unitedly. I believe all right thinking persons are agreed on the need to act to tackle all these forms of corruption. But I feel the complexity of the task is not adequately appreciated,” he added.

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