India PM promises strict action against corruption

AP News
Posted: Aug 15, 2011 7:18 AM
India PM promises strict action against corruption

India's government will take the strictest possible action against wrongdoers in a series of corruption scandals facing the ruling Congress party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday.

But Singh said "no government has a magic wand" in battling the country's endemic corruption.

A prominent activist, meanwhile, said he would resume a hunger strike to pressure the government into toughening anti-corruption legislation it introduced in Parliament.

Singh made his comments from the ramparts of a 17th century fort in a speech marking the 64th anniversary of India's independence from British rule.

The government has been beset by scandals over the murky sale of cellphone licenses and the hosting of last year's Commonwealth Games, which together lost the country as much as $40 billion, according to government auditors.

For two weeks, Parliament has been paralyzed by anti-corruption protests, stalling crucial legislation.

Rights activist Anna Hazare announced he will resume his hunger strike on Tuesday to pressure the government into enacting stronger legislation for an anti-corruption watchdog.

On Monday, police in Delhi denied Hazare permission for his hunger strike, but supporters said they will fast anyway and risk arrest.

Hazare ended a four-day hunger strike in April after the government set up a committee to draft the anti-corruption legislation. The committee includes Hazare and other nonelected activists.

Last month Hazare said that after a series of meetings with government representatives he has concluded they are not serious about acting on the issue.

Hazare and his supporters have been demanding that Singh, lawmakers and top judges should be included in the purview of the watchdog. The government's current draft of the law does not include the prime minister and the judiciary.

Hazare's movement has tapped into deep public anger against corruption and his last hunger strike drew tens of thousands of supporters.

Singh said in his speech that only Parliament could decide on the anti-corruption legislation.

He said those who don't agree with the bill should debate it but "not resort to hunger strikes and fasts unto death."