PM, Sonia declare guilty in scams will be punished

Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi, May 23: Pledging to take corruption head on, the Congress-led UPA government promised to punish the guilty in scams and assured the people that it would demonstrate through actions and not words what it meant.

As the coalition stepped into its third year in its second term, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi released "Government of the UPA: Report to the People" against the backdrop of corruption denting its image over the past several months.

Singh asserted that the guilty in scams will be punished through due process of law and steps will be taken to prevent them in future.

In her brief remarks in the report, Gandhi said, "We will take the issue of corruption head on and demonstrate, through actions, and not words, that we mean what we say."

Significantly, the Prime Minister touched upon the issue of governance and corruption which, he said, has been the focus of a great deal of attention in 2010-11.

"The developments have caused many concerned citizens to worry about the state of governance and the pervasiveness of corruption," he added.

"These are legitimate concerns and the UPA government is determined to take corrective action. We will punish those that are guilty through the due process of law," the Prime Minister said in the report which was released at a function at his residence to mark the second anniversary of UPA-II.

He also gave an assurance that the government would take steps "to prevent such developments in future".

The Prime Minister recalled the "conjunction of several developments" related to the 2G spectrum, procurement and contracting issues related to the Commonwealth Games and similar issues in state governments.

He said many of these issues have surfaced because of "our system of institutional oversight and a free press" and to that extend reflect the strength of the system.

Singh said,"We have initiated a number of measures to bring about systemic changes that would help in improving governance and curbing corruption and we hope to see quick results of these efforts."

The report card talks at length about the constitution of GoM on corruption in January this year and the introduction of the whistleblower bill among the measures initiated by the government to "tackle corruption".

It said that the terms of reference of the GoM include considering all legislative and administrative measures necessary to tackle corruption and improve transparency including relinquishing discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers at the Centre. 

Gandhi said as the UPA-II cross yet another milestone, it was conscious of the people's expectations and was determined to fulfill these aspirations.

Referring to the recent assembly elections where UPA-II has been successful in three out of five States, she said, "The messages from the results, of course, are specific to each state, but there is a common thread: people want and reward good, effective, accountable governance. This will continue to be our focus."

She said the endeavour of the UPA-II has been to build upon the programmes introduced in UPA-I and "make our policies and programmes more effective, reaching more and more people."

Many new initiatives have also been launched over the past two years, she said, adding that the UPA's core principles inclusive growth, empowerment of weaker sections of society and women, cooperative federalism, accountable governance continue to underlie its work in the second term.

"Our priorities have always been clear. They are: First, to maintain the momentum of high economic growth, while keeping the prices of essential commodities at affordable levels. Second, to ensure that the proceeds of the growth process benefit all, but in particular, the weaker sections of society and backward regions of the country."

"Third, to balance the twin imperatives of sustainable high growth and rising livelihood aspirations; and fourth, to ensure transparency, accountability and probity in governance," the Congress chief said.

Gandhi insisted that UPA-I transformed the very nature of administration and governance by its "rights-based" approach for empowering citizens through the Right to Information Act, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Forest Rights Act.

"The Forest Rights Act is not only empowering our tribals and other communities, but it is also a means to meet the challenge of left wing extremism," she said, adding the government is consciously building upon this approach of providing legal entitlements to the people.

She also referred to the National Food Security Act, which is being finalized, saying it will be "a great step forward in fulfilling our pledge to end hunger and malnutrition once-and-for all."

The National Livelihoods Mission is being launched which aims at ensuring that half of the country's rural women population become members of self-help groups linked with banks that provide loans at low interest rates, she said.

The much-needed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, still remain to be introduced in Parliament because of the disruptions to its the functioning by the BJP, Gandhi said, adding "We are determined to introduce and pass these Bills in the Monsoon Session."


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