"There is little public tolerance now to the prevailing state of affairs"
While acknowledging that the prevailing state of affairs will not be tolerated by the people, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday pledged swift and exemplary action to deal with corruption, and unveiled a number of steps.
Dr. Singh said the government hoped to introduce during the monsoon session of Parliament the Lokpal Bill, on which a committee of Ministers and representatives of civil society was working.
“There is a growing feeling among the people that our laws, systems and procedures are not effective in dealing with corruption. We must recognise that there is little public tolerance now for the prevailing state of affairs. People expect swift and exemplary action and rightly so,” he said inaugurating the Civil Services Day.
Recalling his earlier statement that corruption was an impediment to faster growth and hurt the poor the most, Dr. Singh said it was a challenge that must be tackled boldly and asserted that his government stood committed to doing so.
Unveiling a multi-pronged approach, the Prime Minister said the aim was to strengthen the legislative framework, revamp administrative practices and procedures and fast-track a systemic response to fight the scourge.
A Group of Ministers (GoM) was already looking into the legal and administrative measures, and its recommendations would be made available soon.
“A committee of Ministers and representatives of civil society is at work to finalise the draft of a Lokpal Bill, which we hope to introduce during the monsoon session,” he told the gathering of senior bureaucrats. Observing that two Bills on judicial accountability and protection of whistle-blowers had already been introduced in Parliament, Dr. Singh said the government would soon ratify the United Nations Convention on Corruption.
“We are committed to bringing more transparency in public procurement and ensuring that disinvestment of public utilities and allocation of public resources are done in a manner that best safeguard the interests of the asset-owning public.”
The Prime Minister said he expected the civil servants to be honest and fearless in advising the political leadership. The spontaneous support of the people of Malkangiri, when the Collector was kidnapped by left-wing extremists, “is a pointer to the extent of goodwill that well meaning civil servants can achieve.”
“Disapproval and even ostracism by peers and colleagues can be a powerful deterrent for those who tend to stray from the path of rectitude,” Dr. Singh said. “People value the work done by honest and dedicated civil servants and look up to them. I would like all of you to work to strengthen the trust and faith which people still have in civil servants.”
It was a pity that instances of individual waywardness, of lack of moral courage, and of surrender to pressures and temptations tarnish the image of the Civil Services and lead to immense criticism and dissatisfaction. “I believe it is only up to the Civil Services as a whole to set the highest standards of probity and integrity in public and personal life and to create an atmosphere and a work ethic which encourages honesty and integrity.”
Farm growth rate
He said the Civil Services had a major role to play in achieving a higher rate of growth in the agriculture sector and asked the senior officers to pay more focussed attention to this area, and more specially to the preparation and implementation of district-level agricultural plans.
Stressing the importance of strengthening local-level governance through panchayats and municipalities, the Prime Minister said: “Our country is too large to be governed effectively from the Centre or even from the State capitals. We have to decentralise power, decentralise decision-making and decentralise the implementation of various development schemes. This is the only way to involve and empower people in shaping their own future.”
Expressing satisfaction over the overall security situation in the country, Dr. Singh said combating Left-wing extremism, meeting terror challenges, countering insurgency in parts of the north east and maintaining communal harmony and effectively dealing with atrocities on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes continued to be the government's top priorities. “There is now evidence of better cooperation and coordination between the Centre and the States in fighting terrorism. As I have stated earlier, we have drawn up an Integrated Development Programme for 60 districts affected by Left-wing extremism. We are working in partnership with State governments to provide employment to the tribal youth and to revamp the social and economic infrastructure in these remote areas.”
Child sex ratio
Expressing concern over the falling child sex ratio, as indicated in the provisional results of Census 2011, Dr. Singh called for a national campaign to counter this bias.
"Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. They have broken existing barriers to prove their worth in almost every sphere. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continue in many parts of our country. The social bias against women has to be fought with all the physical and moral resources at our command. There has to be a national campaign to counter this bias and I expect civil servants to play a big role in launching a crusade against it," the Prime Minister said.