Thursday, October 11, 2012

India hit by Corruption Bombs

October 10, 2012, 9:45 a.m. ET
India Plans Changes in Anti-Corruption Law By ROMIT GUHA
NEW DELHI--India's government is planning to amend the country's anti-corruption law to plug its loopholes as well as to add provisions to book corporates that fail to prevent bribery and protect honest officials, the prime minister said Wednesday.
The reforms initiated in the early 1990s did reduce many corrupt practices, but the subsequent, faster economic growth led to newer opportunities for corruption, Dr. Manmohan Singh said in a speech to the federal agencies that investigate corruption cases.
While the corrupt should be "relentlessly pursued," the innocent shouldn't be harassed, he said.
Dr. Singh's speech comes in the backdrop of a slew of corruption allegations faced by the Congress party-led coalition government on issues ranging from allocation of radio bandwidth to the grant of coal blocks and the organization of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The most recent issue involves allegations of corruption against the relative of a top ruling-party leader.
The government has denied any wrongdoing in all these cases. These allegations have left the government scrambling to contain the damage to its image rather than work on its legislative agenda. Many say officials were wary of taking decisions fearing they may come under the scanner at a later date or get pulled up by courts.
The government has promised not to protect those involved in wrongdoing. Several senior government officials and lawmakers, including a former telecoms minister in Dr. Singh's Cabinet, are facing criminal charges of conspiracy. They have all denied the charges.
"Experience has also shown that big-ticket corruption is mostly related to operations by large commercial entities," Dr. Singh said. "It is therefore also proposed to include corporate failure to prevent bribery as a new offence."
He said the amendment will seek to tackle a loophole in the existing law which doesn't have any provisions to prosecute the bribe provider.
New Delhi is working on a system to transfer benefits under social-sector programs directly to the bank accounts of people, instead of distributing them through government agencies, he said. It also plans to pay cash to consumers instead of some subsidies it currently gives to companies for selling their products at state-set prices. While reiterating the importance of fighting corruption, Dr. Singh said the "mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism" that is created over corruption can only damage the country's image and hit at the morale of the government.
India Plans Changes in Anti-Corruption Law

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