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Indian Government Vows To Tackle Corruption

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (in blue turban) and President Pratibha Patil arrive at the parliament on the first day of the budget session in New Delhi. The government will battle both inflation and corruption, February 21, 2011

The Indian government is promising to increase efforts against corruption, which has emerged as a major challenge for the country. India's president made the commitment during an address to parliament, which was stalled last year by opposition concerns over the corruption issue.

President Pratibha Patil told lawmakers Monday that the measures being considered by the government to fight corruption include expediting corruption cases against civil servants and clipping the powers of ministers. She says the government is determined to improve transparency.

Parliament is meeting for a new session, during which the annual budget will be presented.

President Patil says the government is taking steps to bring back illegal money stashed in overseas tax havens by Indian nationals, and is aware of the negative impact of this on the country.

President Patil’s remarks come amid a concerted effort by the Congress-led government to demonstrate its commitment to fight graft.

In recent months, a series of corruption scandals has tarnished the government's image. Last December, opposition parties held up work in parliament to protest the scandals.

In a bid to break the legislative deadlock, the government has agreed to let opposition and ruling party lawmakers investigate the 2008 sale of mobile phone spectrum at lower-than-market prices. The loss of billions of dollars in government revenue was a major political scandal.

So far, there has been no formal announcement of the probe. It is expected to be made in parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister has expressed hopes that parliament will function smoothly.

"The budget has to be debated and passed," Singh said. "We also hope to bring some important pieces of legislation for consideration of parliament, and it is our sincere hope, as I said yesterday, that this session will be peaceful and productive of results."

President Patil also addressed the issue of high inflation, which is hurting India’s fast growing economy and angering voters.

She said the government’s foremost priority is to calm food prices, and protect poor people in the country.