Admitting that there is little public tolerance now for the prevailing state of affairs on the issue of corruption, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said that his government is committed to face this challenge boldly as people expect swift and exemplary action.
Dr. Singh also said that government hopes to introduce during the monsoon session of Parliament the Lokpal Bill on which a committee of Ministers and representatives of civil society are working.
Addressing IAS, IFS, IPS and other senior bureaucrats, the Prime Minister did some plain speaking.
“There is a growing feeling in the people that our laws, systems and procedures are not effective in dealing with corruption,” he said asking them to contribute in the fight against corruption.“We must recognize that there is little public tolerance now for the prevailing state of affairs. People expect swift and exemplary action and rightly so,” Dr. Singh said inaugurating the Civil Services Day.
Recalling his earlier statement that corruption was an impediment to faster growth and hurts the poor the most, the Prime Minister said, “it is a challenge that we must tackle boldly and we stand committed to doing so”.
He noted that the issue of ethics and transparency in governance was a subject which has attracted a great deal of attention in recent days.
The Prime Minister said he expected the civil servants to be honest and fearless in advising the political leadership.
Hoping to see renewed energy from each one of them in the fight against corruption, he said, “I expect you to be honest and fearless in advising your superior authorities, especially the political leadership.
“Those of you who serve in senior positions would do well to also encourage your subordinate officers in this direction,” he said.
Dr. Singh said that the government’s aim was to strengthen the legislative framework, revamp administrative practices and procedures and fast track a systemic response to fight corruption.
A Group of Ministers is looking into the legal and administrative measures and he expected its recommendations to be available soon, he said.
“A committee of Ministers and representatives of civil society is at work to finalize the draft of a Lokpal Bill, which we hope to be able to introduce during the monsoon session of Parliament,” he said.
Observing that two bills relating to judicial accountability and protection of whistle blowers have already been introduced in Parliament, Dr. Singh said that the government would soon ratify the United Nations Convention on Corruption.
“We are committed to bringing more transparency in public procurement and to ensuring that disinvestment of public utilities and allocation of public resources are done in a manner that best safeguards the interests of the asset-owning public,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said that people value the work done by honest and dedicated civil servants and look up to them.
He asked the civil servants to work to strengthen the trust and faith which people still have in civil servants.
The spontaneous support of the people of Malkangiri, when the Collector of the district was kidnapped by left-wing extremists, “is a pointer to the extent of goodwill that well meaning civil servants can achieve”, he said.
Noting that the core of the Civil Services was sound and rooted in values of integrity and fair play, Dr. Singh said, “it is a pity that instances of individual waywardness, of lack of moral courage and of surrender to pressures and temptations tarnish the image of Civil Services and lead to immense criticism and dissatisfaction”.
He said that Civil Services as a whole should set the highest standards of probity and integrity in public and personal life and create an atmosphere and a work ethic which encourage honesty and integrity.
“Disapproval and even ostracization by peers and colleagues can be a powerful deterrent for those who tend to stray from the path of rectitude”, the Prime Minister said.
Turning to the security scenario, Dr. Singh said though the overall security situation has been reasonably satisfactory in the past few months, there was no room for any relaxation of vigil.
Combating Left Wing extremism, meeting terrorist challenges, countering insurgency in parts of the North-East and maintaining communal harmony would be government’s priorities, he said.
Singh said that there was now evidence of better cooperation and coordination between the Centre and States in fighting terrorism and the government has drawn up an Integrated Development Programme for 60 districts affected by left-wing extremism.
The Centre was working in partnership with the states to provide employment to the tribal youth and to revamp infrastructure in remote areas and develop far flung areas in an ecologically sustainable manner, he said adding these efforts would go a long way in strengthening internal security.
Emphasising the need to re-fashion the Civil Services as effective instruments for delivery of services and as agents of improved governance, he said that the aim should be to evolve new and imaginative solutions for the problems facing the people.
“Excessive caution, reliance on precedents and following the beaten path have to give way to innovation and inventiveness and to trying out new methods. Merit, capability and quality should matter more than mere seniority”, he stressed.