"Those who oppose the Bill should not resort to fast-unto-death"

Amidst the tug of war between the government and Team Anna over the Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said those who disagreed with the proposed legislation should not resort to hunger strikes and fast-unto-death.

While acknowledging that corruption was a matter of ‘serious concern to all' and a big obstacle to emergence of India as a major global economic power, Dr. Singh emphasised that no government had the magic wand to eradicate the menace.

Dr. Singh made the scourge of corruption the dominant theme of his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 65th Independence Day. Asserting the government's commitment to establish a strong institution of Lokpal to deal with corruption at higher levels, Dr. Singh announced to the gathering, who braved incessant drizzle, that several legislative proposals were in the pipeline to root out bribery from various layers of society.

The Prime Minister talked about the ‘prevailing situation inside and outside', and said if every one did not act with understanding and restraint, the country's security and prosperity could get adversely affected.

Without elaborating, Dr. Singh went on to say: “There are some people who want to create disturbances in the country so that our progress gets stalled. All this can have a negative impact on us. But we will not let this happen.”

He appealed to every one to rise above personal or political interests and build consensus on issues of vital national importance.

Without naming Team Anna — which is locked in confrontation with the ruling establishment on some of the provisions of the Lokpal Bill such as bringing the Prime Minister and the judiciary within the ambit of the institution of Lokpal — Dr. Singh argued that now Parliament alone could decide the contours of the legislation.

He insisted that bringing the judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal would go against its independence. “However, we do need a framework in which the judiciary becomes more accountable. It is with this aim that we have introduced the Judicial Accountability Bill in Parliament. I am confident that this Bill will be passed soon.”

Dr. Singh touched on the need to improve the justice delivery system to send a signal, loud and clear, that quick action would be taken against the corrupt and punishment meted out to them. “If our system delivers justice in an effective manner, government officials would think twice before committing a wrong act out of greed or under political pressure.”

He talked about legislation to monitor the work of regulatory authorities to make them more accountable, without compromising their independence.

In a brief sketch of the global scene, Dr. Singh referred to the slowdown of the world economy and unrest in many Arab countries of the Middle East.

On the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, the Prime Minister was emphatic that there could not be any slip-up in vigilance in the fight against terror, and it was a long battle to be fought jointly by the Centre, the State governments and the common man.

Sharing the concern over inflation and listing the efforts taken by the government to rein in prices, Dr. Singh said some times the country was confronted with a situation in which the reasons for the rising prices lay outside.

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