Cor­rup­tion eat­ing In­dia ‘like a ter­mite’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JALEES ANDRABI

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi warned Satur­day that cor­rup­tion was eat­ing away at In­dia “like a ter­mite” as he used an in­de­pen­dence day speech to pledge his com­mit­ment to erad­i­cat­ing cor­rup­tion and poverty.

In an ad­dress from Delhi’s Red Fort, Modi sought to si­lence grow­ing doubts about his lead­er­ship af­ter key re­forms stalled in a ran­corous par­lia­ment ses­sion dogged by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing some of his top lieu­tenants.

Modi, who has a rep­u­ta­tion as a hard-line Hindu na­tion­al­ist, also warned against the “poi­son” of com­mu­nal­ism in a wide-rang­ing speech that lasted for more than an hour.

But it was his com­ments on the dan­gers posed by cor­rup­tion that drew most at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing his ad­mis­sion that the prob­lem went right to the top.

“I want to reaf­firm that this na­tion will get rid of cor­rup­tion. We can rid the coun­try of cor­rup­tion, we have to start from the top,” said Modi.

“Cor­rup­tion is like a ter­mite, it spreads slowly, reaches ev­ery­where, but it can be beaten with timely in­jec­tions.”

Modi’s speech comes af­ter some of the most se­nior fig­ures in his Bharatiya Janata Party be­came em­broiled in cor­rup­tion scan­dals, in­clud­ing For­eign Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj and the chief min­is­ters of Ra­jasthan and Mad­hya Pradesh states.

The scan­dals have been par­tic­u­larly em­bar­rass­ing as Modi’s elec­tion win last year was built in part on a pledge to clean up gov­ern­ment af­ter a se­ries of scams un­der the pre­vi­ous Congress ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Modi said there had been no cases of money be­ing si­phoned off on his watch and that a new law on declar­ing in­come had led to the dis­clo­sure of around US$1 bil­lion in hitherto hid­den as­sets which will now be li­able to tax.

Other eco­nomic re­forms how­ever have snagged in par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing a na­tional sales tax that the gov­ern­ment sees as cru­cial to fir­ing up growth.

While the econ­omy is grow­ing at around 7.5 per­cent, it still needs to pick up pace to el­e­vate the hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple still mired in poverty in the world’s sec­ond most pop­u­lous na­tion.

Power for Vil­lages

The right-wing premier, who has been ac­cused of be­ing too close to big busi­ness, por­trayed him­self as a cham­pion of the poor by promis­ing to help farm­ers and lower-caste dal­its, for­merly known as un­touch­ables.

Modi set a 1,000-day dead­line for ev­ery vil­lage in In­dia to get elec­tric­ity, urg­ing state gov­ern­ments which are re­spon­si­ble for power to en­sure ev­ery com­mu­nity is fi­nally linked to the na­tional grid.

“Even af­ter so many decades of in­de­pen­dence there are 18,500 vil­lages in In­dia which do not have elec­tric­ity,” he said.

“I ap­peal to the states and all other stake­hold­ers to con­nect these vil­lages with elec­tric­ity sys­tem within 1,000 days.”

Fre­quently mop­ping his brow on a swel­ter­ingly hot day, Modi said he had striven to en­able 170 mil­lion peo­ple to open bank ac­counts for the first time un­der a gov­ern­ment-run pro­gram.

“The poor are at bot­tom of the pyra­mid of de­vel­op­ment and we have to strengthen the base of the pyra­mid. If they are em­pow­ered, no one can stop us,” said Modi who came to power in May last year.

Modi’s first Aug. 15 ad­dress from the fort’s ram­parts drew praise from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum as he tack­led is­sues such as sex­ual vi­o­lence and a lack of toi­lets.

But 12 months on, prob­lems are mount­ing up for the usu­ally bullish prime min­is­ter and his op­po­nents were in no mood to be gen­er­ous this time round.

Man­ish Te­wari, in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter in the Congress gov­ern­ment, said Modi failed to ad­dress the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions raised in par­lia­ment, ac­cus­ing him of lack­ing the “moral au­thor­ity” to tell his lieu­tenants to quit.

AP

An In­dian boy waves the na­tional flag in the back­drop of Jama Mosqueon dur­ing 69th In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions in New Delhi, Fri­day, Aug. 15.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.