‘All I said was that we should reflect on how to achieve in totality the purposes of RTI'
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement has served its purpose and that all political parties are working to put in place an effective Lokpal Bill in Parliament.
“It is our expectation that Parliament will move for an effective Bill, which will be assurance to the people at large that corruption cannot flourish as a way of life in our country,” he told the accompanying newspersons on the way back from South Africa after attending the Fifth IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) Summit. Though he felt Mr. Hazare's movement had run its course, he too felt the debate over corruption had served a purpose — it awakened the country to the harmful consequences of corruption which is eating into the political, economic and social fabric of the society. “Our government is committed to all that is necessary to clean up the system,” he said.
The Prime Minister did not subscribe to the view that corruption was an inevitable fallout of development. “I think, corruption hurts the development process, corruption hurts the poor and corruption affects the quality of governance and for all these reasons we cannot say that corruption is something which is inevitable in our society.”
Dr. Singh denied having suggested dilution of the Right to Information Act. “All I had said was that we should reflect on how to achieve in totality the purposes for which RTI has been set up. I have never said that we are going to change the RTI,” he clarified.
Asked whether the attacks on Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal were signs of growing intolerance, Dr. Singh condemned the violence and felt “howsoever angry one may feel there are more civilised ways of expressing one's anger and frustration.”
The Prime Minister refrained from reacting to Bharatiya Janata Party L.K. Advani's comments against him while wishing the veteran leader a successful yatra. He also had a word of advice for Mr. Advani hoping that he would not use language which, at times, appeared to be intemperate. “I think in politics it is better to avoid harsh words.”
On the government coming under attack from allies — Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar commenting that the government was in a disarray, Trinamool Congress spiking a river water sharing treaty with Bangladesh and a former DMK Minister in jail — Dr. Singh said that despite different perspectives among coalition members, managing the UPA Cabinet had not been a difficult task. “Our government functions with the coherence it needs to carry out its mandate given by the people.”
Terming Law Minister Salman Khursheed's comment that keeping businessmen in jail was hurting investment “stray thoughts,” Dr. Singh felt there were legal remedies available in the system whenever anybody was got on the wrong side of the law.