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Indian PM Vows 'Serious' Action Against Corruption

In this, Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gestures during a conference on internal security, New Delhi, India.
In this, Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gestures during a conference on internal security, New Delhi, India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is making a public outreach to get his country’s parliament moving again after months of gridlock.

In a nationally televised news conference, he vowed action against corruption and urged media organizations to steer away from coverage that lowers the nation’s self-image.

The prime minister chastised senior television journalists, mainly from domestic organizations, Wednesday, suggesting sensationalized coverage of scandals has lowered the nation’s self-esteem.

"An impression has gone around that we are a scam-driven country," he said. "In the process, willy-nilly.. we are weakening the self-confidence of the people of India."

Mr. Singh’s Congress party has faced withering public criticism in recent months for allegedly being lax on widespread corruption, particularly in connection with the sale of 2G mobile phone frequency licenses more than two years ago.

The Indian parliament has been deadlocked for months, with opposition parties demanding a joint probe by lawmakers into the 2G issue and other alleged mishandling of public funds. The stalemate may impede a budget session scheduled for next week.

Mr. Singh told chief editors of India’s main TV networks, he would be willing to appear before any committee and vowed his government will not tolerate corruption at any level.

"Our government is dead serious about bringing to book all the wrong-doers, regardless of their position... if there is corruption, whether it is in the judiciary, or in the executive, or other walks of life, we must get rid of that," he said.

Mr. Singh promised a reshuffle of his cabinet within a few months. He said the government deserves credit for improving India’s security situation, and promised impressive economic numbers next month.

"We will have a growth rate of 8.5% this fiscal year... the inflation rate should come down to no more than seven percent."

Separately, the prime minister expressed his support for pro-democracy activists in Egypt.

"They have our good wishes," he said. "Though it is not our business to advise other countries, we welcome the dawn of democracy everywhere."

At the same time, the he ruled out the likelihood of a similar mass movement in his own country.

"India is a functioning democracy. People already have a right to change government. We have a free press... and therefore, there is no question that things that have happened in Egypt or in other Arab countries can be replicated in India."

Prime Minister Singh, now 78 years old, dismissed speculation he may step aside before his government expires in 2014, saying he has a job to do and plans to stay the course.