Anna an important leader, I respect him: Manmohan Singh

As a joint committee of ministers and civil society members met Saturday in New Delhi to draft a strong anti-graft Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called social reformer Anna Hazare an “important leader” whom he respected.

“As far as Anna Hazare-ji is concerned, I respect him as an important leader who has done lots of good work in rural development, and that is why the whole country respects him,” Manmohan Singh told reporters on board the Air India One, on his way home after a five-day, two-nation tour to China and Kazakhstan.

Hazare’s 97-hour hunger strike in New Delhi last week had forced the government to name a joint panel, comprising five ministers and five civil society activists, to frame a Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill. The first meeting of the committee was held Saturday.

On domestic politics, the prime minister said he was not disturbed by the opposition and civil society’s attacks in the wake of alleged corruption scams dogging his government.

“Well, I am not disturbed (by such criticism),” Manmohan Singh told reporters.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months.

The government was criticised for alleged large-scale bungling in hosting the Commonwealth Games in October 2010 in New Delhi and one of its former inisters is currently in jail for allegedlly selling 2G spectrum waves cheap to select companies causing huge loss to the exchequer.

“I have always believed that when winter comes, can spring be far behind,” the prime minister said, smilingly.

He also indicated that union cabinet reshuffle was unlikely to happen very soon.

“Well, there is still some time to go,” Manmohan Singh said.

The prime minister made some slight changes in his cabinet in January but promised that there would a major reshuffle after the budget session, which got over March 25.

Respect women, says Delhi government posters

In the wake of rising crime against women, the Delhi government has decided to launch a poster campaign in the city asking people to respect women, an official said Wednesday.

“Delhi’s information department has finalised a plan in this regard and it will be implemented in two or three days. This has been done at the insistence of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit,” the official added.

The posters, both in English and Hindi, will be pasted on Delhi Transport Corporation buses and published in newspapers.

The campaign will be launched under Stree Shakti project of the state government, a women empowerment initiative.

Delhi has seen a number of crimes against women in the past few days, triggering a huge outcry over the issue of safety of women in the city.

An 18-year-old girl was abducted and raped in a moving vehicle by two men after she protested their lewd remarks in Sultanpuri area late Saturday.

The incident came days after a 30-year-old BPO employee was abducted and raped by four men in south Delhi and a 22-year-old woman was abducted and raped by six men in northeast Delhi.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Monday held a meeting with top officials, including the city police chief, and assured the people of major measures to make the capital a safe place.

Delhi Police have also issued notices to all BPOs, and corporate and media houses to ensure that women employees in night shifts are picked up from and dropped at their doorstep.