National / World

`PM Should have Spelt out Concrete Steps against Corruption'


New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS): Opinion varied among social activists and political observers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's press conference Wednesday, with a section feeling that he should have utilised the ocassion to spell out concrete steps to tackle corruption.

Former Lok Sabha secretary general Subash Kashyap said the prime minister's replies were "hardly satisfactory".

"Coalition compulsions cannot be the justification for compromising with your principles and policies and giving up ethical standards," Kashyap told IANS.

He said there was a public perception that people at top were involved in corruption. "I do not think, the PM was really able to remove the perception," Kashyap said.

He said steps by the government to fight corruption had been taken under pressure of the public, the media and the Supreme Court.

"The ideal thing was to accept responsibilty and to promise corrective measures for the future. Unless he (the prime minister) is prepared to sacrifice (his post), he cannot do anything," Kashyap said.

Ranjana Kumari, president of Women Power Connect, which lobbies on gender issues, said the prime minister accepted that there was a governance deficit. "I hope the cabinet reshuffle will bring in more transparency in the system," she said. The reference was to Manmohan Singh indicating he could rejig his cabinet after the budget session of parliament concludes in April.

She said the prime minister did accept the fact of corruption but absolved his own office of any responsibilty.

"The cabinet is a joint responsibility. The responsibility falls directly or indirectly on the person heading the nation or the government," she said.

She said the prime minister, in a way, condoned inflation to achieve the objective of economic growth. "Inflation leads to deep holes in the pockets of the common man," she said.

Ranjana Kumari said the prime minister's image of being honest and incorruptible came through but he looked troubled at some of the questions. "He is losing control," she said.

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar said he felt the prime minister should have been much more forthcoming.

"I think he was very colourless...certain things he explained did not make sense," he said.

Asked about the prime minister's response to questions on corruption, Nayar said Manmohan Singh should have come out with something tangible such as the Lokpal bill.

"People expected more. On quite a few things, he was defensive, not forthcoming at all," Nayar said.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh said the prime minister evaded a reply to a question on the Lokpal bill.

"There was no firm commitment to fight corruption and to punish the guilty. The whole interaction was wishy-washy," he said.

Agnivesh said the prime minister should have gone beyond what was already there in the public domain. "The purpose is not to state the obvious," he said, adding that there was hype around the press conference.

Supreme Court lawywer and Congress leader Ranji Thomas said the prime minister's replies were convincing.

"He effectively and calmly replied to the charges being made by the opposition and put the facts befor people," Thomas said.

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