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Indian Prime Minister Promises New Anti-Corruption Bill

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks at a joint news conference during the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] summit in Sanya, on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, April 14, 2011 (file photo)

The Indian prime minister, under pressure for not doing enough to rein in graft, has pledged to introduce an anti-corruption bill in parliament in July. His commitment comes in the wake of a public campaign for tough new laws to crack down on corruption.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about widespread public discontent over the issue of graft as he addressed senior bureaucrats Thursday at a function in New Delhi.

"There is a growing feeling in the people that our laws, systems and procedures are not effective in dealing with 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," said Singh.

Corruption has become the top issue of public concern following allegations that senior officials and politicians have been involved in multi-billion-dollar scams.

Other measures considered

Singh is promising to address the problem. He said a new anti-corruption bill will be introduced in the next session of parliament, which begins in July. He said the government also is considering other measures to root out corruption.

"Our aim is to strengthen the legislative framework, revamp administrative practices and procedures and fast track systemic response to fighting corruption. A group of ministers is looking into this," said Singh.

The prime minister’s commitment to do more to stamp out graft came two weeks after an anti-corruption campaign led by a civil activist attracted huge public support, and caught the government by surprise. The campaign saw Indians from all walks of life - students, professionals and social activists - pressing the government to bring in legislation that would make it easier to prosecute corrupt officials and politicians.

Activist involvement

The government has agreed to involve civil society activists in drawing up the bill, after public complaints that a draft proposed by the government was too weak.

But there continues to be public skepticism over the fate of the proposed anti-corruption legislation amid fears that politicians will resist passing a law that will make them more accountable.

However, the government is trying to show that it is serious in cracking down on corruption. In a country where few high-profile people have gone to prison on corruption charges, five senior corporate executives were jailed on Wednesday for their alleged role in a scandal involving the sale of telecom licenses that may have cost $39 billion in lost revenues.