Have a job to do, wrongdoers will not escape: Manmohan Singh

Declaring that he “had a job to do and was not quitting”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday responded to questions on corruption and other issues confronting his 21-month-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II government, announced that “wrongdoers will not escape” and added that the country will witness the next round of economic reforms soon. “You have my assurance that the wrongdoers will not escape,” Manmohan Singh assured television editors and representatives of some international news channels at an interaction, viewed as a major media exercise before the crucial budget session of parliament beginning Feb 21.

During the 70-minute interaction at the Panchvati conference centre of his official residence, Manmohan Singh calmly answered even the most critical and pointed questions and said the government was trying its best to combat corruption.

Answering a question on whether he was disappointed over the delays in the CWG scam probe, he said the government was trying its “very best” but there was a due process of law. “Sometimes it is frustrating… it takes time.”

“I have never felt like quitting, I will stay the course,” Manmohan Singh, 78, said, answering another query.

“I never felt like resigning because I had a job to do..We have a lot of unfinished business to accomplish,” he said, adding that he had “never thought of giving up half way”.

The prime minister said that in an alliance government, “there is a coalition dharma”.

He said he was not afraid of appearing before any committee, including a joint parliamentary committee (JPC), as many people were saying.

The prime minister denied he was blocking the JPC probe into the 2G spectrum scandal demanded by the opposition. There is “entirely wrong impression that I was blocking the agreement on a JPC. I have always said my conduct should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion”.

Manmohan Singh clarified that former communications minister A. Raja decided on the allocation of 2G spectrum licences in 2008 on the basis of past telecom policies and the issue was “never brought to me or the cabinet”.

“In allocation of 2G spectrum, the issue of licences was never brought to me or the cabinet. That was the decision of the (then communication) minister,” he said, adding that Raja had assured him of “complete transparency” on the issue.

The prime minister was responding to a question on the first-come-first-served policy of granting 2G spectrum licences that Raja had adopted.

“I wrote a letter to Raja on Nov 2, 2007. I listed a number of issues that you must look into and (ensure) they are dealt (with) in (an) equitable, fair and transparent manner. One of the issues that I asked him to look into was the possibility from the legal and technical angle of having an auction of spectrum,” Manmohan Singh said.

The upcoming budget will see reforms, the prime minister said, stressing that the government has its economic agenda in place.

“The economic agenda is there. There is the food security bill, the Right to Education (RTE) Act is now a reality, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) reform is a reality, there have been reforms in the National Rural Health Mission.”

“The same way we are going to have a fresh wave in infrastructure investment with the help of the new Public Private Partnership model. These are not big reforms and I hope in the current budget you will see the reform agenda that our government has,” he added.

The budget will be presented Feb 28.

The prime minister said the government will not give up on the face of difficulties.

“We have not given up. We will persist. There are difficulties particularly when parliament is not allowed to function,” he said.

Manmohan Singh listed stabilisation of Indian economy during the global meltdown as the biggest achievement of his government but mentioned the series of corruption scams as the greatest regret of his tenure.

Asked whether he hoped parliament would function normally in the upcoming budget session as the opposition was adamant on a JPC, Manmohan Singh said: “We are making all efforts to deal with the issues. We hope for a solution.”

He said whatever the domestic weaknesses, “we should not create an atmosphere where the country loses confidence as the world really marvels at India’s growth and its functioning democracy”.

He also appealed to the media to report things factually and objectively and not create a perception that “nothing good is happening in the country” in a way that it erodes the “self-confidence of the people of India”.

PM Manmohan Singh calls for legal system supporting development

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday said that developing countries need a legal system conducive to both rapid economic development and promoting equitable distribution of the fruits of development.

“The developing countries need a legal system which is conducive both to rapid economic development and which also has built-in mechanism to promote the equitable distribution of the fruits and gains of development,” he said while inaugurating the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference here.

Manmohan Singh said that the government is committed to the pursuit of inclusive economic growth.

“The welfare of the poor and the common man is the centerpiece of our policies,” he told the gathering of over 800 judges, lawyers and other legal practitioners from 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

The prime minister claimed that India’s economic growth remains firmly anchored in the Nehruvian vision of an egalitarian society.

“We have remained steadfast in our commitment to implement constitutional directives to ensure that our policies and laws uphold human dignity. While opening up our economy and freeing it from the shackles of bureaucratic controls over the years we have endeavoured to pursue distributive justice as mandative in our magnificent constitution,” he said.

Citing various articles of the constitution, the prime minister said inclusive growth was an unfinished project and the nation had a long way to go in this direction.

Manmohan Singh underlined the need for the legal order in the fast changing world to constantly adapt itself to change.

“That is the only way it can retain its relevance. In this context, the role of courts and judges in making law an instrument of social stability and progressive change cannot be over emphasised.”

He said the rule of law can no longer be divorced from global policy challenges.

“The challenges the world community faces as a whole demand a purposeful alignment of domestic policies and laws with the evolving international laws and norms. This is necessary to address the common challenges facing humanity. These include international terrorism, persistence of poverty, malnutrition amidst rapid growth, protection of human rights, problems of climate change and energy security,” said the prime minister.

“Irrevocable commitment to democracy based on rule of law remains the proudest achievement of Indian state since independence. Our understanding of the rule of law as the anchor of democratic and a just society is inextricably linked to the preservation of individual liberty and freedom of all our citizens.”

“We believe that the powers of state to be applied to the advancement of the basic human rights of all our citizens but at the same time it should be so constrained by rule of law as to advance civil and political rights of an individual and thus prevent oppressive governance,” he added.

Manmohan Singh said he was of the firm belief that the solution to mass poverty can be found only in the framework of a rapidly growing economy.

“It is my firm belief that meaningful and effective solutions to the problems of mass poverty that prevails in many developing countries can be found only in the framework of a rapidly expanding economy. Rapid economic growth is a prime necessity. It is necessary to create a macro economic environment that is conducive to the promotion of savings, investment, entrepreneurship, innovation and management of rapid technological changes,” the prime minister pointed out.

The theme of the conference – “Emerging economies and the rule of law: Challenges and opportunities” – was especially relevant “when a new global architecture is taking place and there is restlessness in the air in many developing countries,” he added.

He suggested that the Indian experience of ensuring unity of its people amidst diversity could be of use to many other countries that face the challenge of establishing a national identity in spite of cultural and religious diversities in their societies.

“Constitutional democracy with an unwavering commitment to the rule of law seems to me the best choice for emerging economies which seek justice – political, economic and social – for all,” Singh said