"While informed discussion on such matters is certainly desirable, much too often we see a trivialisation of complex public policy issues"

Even as the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government ordered a probe into allegations of irregularities in pricing of natural gas obtained from the KG basin, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned law enforcement agencies against trivialising complex policy decisions, stating honest officers should not be harassed for bona fide mistakes.

“There is need for moderation in the public debate about corruption … In the past few years we have been witnessing a very vigorous public debate on matters relating to corruption, with accusations flying thick and fast. While an informed discussion on such matters is certainly desirable, much too often we see a trivialisation of complex public policy issues,” Dr. Singh said at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Central Vigilance Commission here on Tuesday.

“The ultimate aim of any anti-corruption mechanism is to contribute towards improvement of the processes of governance and delivery of services. This can happen only when we encourage bold and innovative decision-making.”

Reiterating that the CBI enjoyed autonomy, Dr. Singh said the government was willing to do more to insulate the agency from extraneous influences, though with a caveat that the political executive should exercise oversight over investigating agencies.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the event, recounted that the CVC was constituted by the government through a resolution in 1964 following a debate in Parliament in 1962. “[The] then Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri set up a committee to look into the matter [corruption in public administration] under the chairmanship of MP K. Santhanam.”

The Santhanam Committee identified four major causes: administrative delays; government taking upon itself more than what it could manage by way of regulatory functions; scope for personal discretion in exercise of powers vested in government servants; and cumbersome procedures in dealing with matters of importance to citizens in their daily affairs.

“The sad reality is that none of these problems have gone away…,” said the President, listing the anti-corruption measures taken over the years by the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. “We have all been witness to the huge public outcry over corruption in recent times. The air is thick with despair and cynicism … the fact that corruption has proved to be intractable should not make us lose confidence in our abilities to address this problem.” He said efforts should be redoubled on a war-footing to address the issue.

The President emphasised the role of civil society and the media, especially the ‘new’ media, as initiators of positive change as well as force multipliers in the fight against corruption.

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