eGovernance in India

Improving eGovernance in INDIA

As India celebrates freedom, leaders vow to fight corruption:: Prime minister: Problem is eating India ‘like termites’

Posted by egovindia on July 6, 2006

As India celebrates freedom, leaders vow to fight corruption

Prime minister: Problem is eating India ‘like termites’

In this story:

August 15, 1997
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EDT (1615 GMT)

NEW DELHI (CNN) — India’s 50th anniversary of independence was celebrated with fireworks, laser beams and parades. But the pageantry was overshadowed Friday as Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral soberly described the nation’s rampant bribery and corruption and called for a crusade to fight it.

India is considered one of the most corrupt countries, and investors say the demand for bribes at every step of the development has held up its free-market program.

India’s last government lost elections after it was buried by scandals involving Cabinet ministers. Among those charged with corruption was the former leader of Gujral’s party.

“We have to build a mass movement in which all can join so that corruption in politics, politicians and public life must end,” Gujral said in a solemn speech to the nation from the Red Fort, a 17th-century monument. “It is eating into the country’s vitals like termites.”

Gujral promised to break the link between politicians and criminals and “make government functioning more transparent.”

Before his speech, fighter jets trailed streams of saffron, white and green — the colors of the Indian flag — across a sky lit by the early morning sun.

Helicopters dropped rose petals on the crowd of 10,000. At the end of the ceremony, 7,000 schoolchildren, waving paper flags, sang the national anthem.

National anti-corruption campaign urged

India’s leaders appealed to citizens to fight corruption by refusing to take bribes.

“A widespread national movement is needed to cleanse the system,” told a special session of parliament that started at the stroke of midnight — exactly 50 years after the dawn of Indian freedom.

The soul-searching reflected India’s mixed feelings on the anniversary of independence from colonial rule.

Leaders pointed proudly to India’s achievements: self-sufficiency in food production, a vibrant democracy and industrial and technological progress.

But the anniversary stirred a bout of self-recrimination as leaders lamented the nation’s ills: illiteracy, poverty, population growth, environmental degradation and, above all, corruption in public life.

Women to benefit from changes

Also in his 90-minute nationally televised address Gujral:

  • Promised to give poor families money to care for daughters, who are often denied educational opportunities in a culture where boys are cherished.
  • Announced that the government would bar doctors from revealing whether a fetus is a girl or a boy.More boys than girls are born in India, where social workers say women sometimes choose abortion to avoid having a girl who could later be a financial burden, because of the heavy cost of a dowry.
  • Declared that primary education would become mandatory for children up to age 14, but offered no details on how the government would pay for the program. Similar programs have failed in the past because of a shortage of funding.
  • Vowed to improve relations with Pakistan, the western neighbor also celebrating its 50th anniversary. But Gujral said he would not compromise India’s security. The two nations have fought three wars.
  • Repeated India’s opposition to a global treaty banning nuclear tests.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.  


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