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PM condemns attack on Team Anna

By Shishir Bhate
October 19, 2011 22:54 IST
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Condemning the recent assaults on civil society activists and stating that Anna Hazare's movement had served its purpose, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday assured that a bill for a strong Lokpal would soon be cleared.

"I think Anna Hazare-ji's movement has served its purpose. We are all working to ensure that we have in place before long an effective Lokpal Bill in Parliament that will be assurance to the people at large that corruption cannot flourish as a way of life in our country," the prime minister said.

The prime minister was addressing the media onboard his special aircraft on his way back from Pretoria to New Delhi after attending a "satisfactory" IBSA Summit hosted by South Africa.

"There is no place for violence in our democracy. Therefore any act of violence is to be condemned. On that point I am absolutely clear. There are more civilised ways of expressing one's anger," the prime minister said criticising the physical assaults on Team Anna members, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal.

Contented and relaxed, the prime minister offered glimpses of various shades of his personality: the politician, the economist, the statesman, the leader… and even a bit of a socialist.

"I don't think corruption is the inevitable fallout of development. We cannot take that view; it would be a very complacent viewpoint. I think, corruption hurts the development process, corruption hurts the poor and affects the quality of governance...for all these reasons, we cannot say that corruption is something which is inevitable in our society."

"I think the recent debate over corruption has served its purpose. It has awakened our country to the harmful consequences of corruption which is eating into the political, economic and social fabric of our society and our government is committed to do all that is necessary to clean up the system."

The prime minister was unequivocal, making it clear that the Congress had gauged the people's pulse and the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government is reaching out to them with him leading the effort.

The politician in him was on full display as he blunted the edge of sharp questions with consummate ease. In a clear hint that there would be zero-tolerance to corruption, he indicated that no corrupt person would be spared, no matter if it was a politician or a businessman. 

He also denied having said that there should be any dilution in the Right to Information Act. "I think there are certain ways in which things can be done. All I had said was that we should reflect 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."

Answering a query on what his views on judicial interventions in policy making were, Dr Singh said since India is "a functioning democracy, ministers sometimes take advantage of that to express opinions. But as a government we have high respect for judiciary."

"The Constitution has laid down the path which the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary should follow. And if all of us follow the Constitutional dharma, I think things would turn out to be all right," he added.

The statesman in him peeped out when, answering a question over BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leader L K Advani's recent attacks on him, he emphasised that he wouldn't criticise anyone on foreign soil and went on to wish Advani a successful yatra.

"It is for the people of India to decide (if Advani can supervise the nation). On foreign soil I am not going to criticise any national leader. I wish him a successful yatra and I would hope that he would not use language, at times, which appears to be intemperate. I think in politics, it is better to avoid harsh words."

The economist in him wants Indian growth to remain unharmed by the debilitating effects of the global financial storm brewing over the horizon. He suggested that India must propel investment into the infrastructure and agriculture sectors, and in energy-saving technologies. 

He said that the country needs to be rid of destitution that millions of Indians are in the grip of, but was confident that India could be able to brave its way through this crisis and still maintain a healthy growth rate that could help extract many from the quagmire of poverty.

The prime minister said that the recent protests at the Wall Street in New York and in some European nations were a consequence of the common people's frustration over the severe economic crisis that could irrevocably hurt their future and that while bankers drew fat salaries, ordinary people are asked to tighten their belts. That smidgen of socialism was certainly subtle, but unmistakable.

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