New Delhi, Feb 4 : With his government under attack over various scams, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today spoke out against corruption, saying that it strikes at the roots of good governance, dents the country's international image and "demeans us before our own people".
"This is a challenge which has to be faced frontally, boldly and quickly," he said addressing the annual conference of chief secretaries of states here.
He said, "Corruption strikes at the roots of good governance. It is an impediment to faster growth. It dilutes, if not negates, our efforts at social inclusion.
"It dents our international image and it demeans us before our own people," Singh said.
Referring to the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee and set up recently to look into all measures, legal or administrative, to tackle the menace, he said two bills have already been introduced in Parliament relating to judicial accountability and the protection of whistle blowers.
"Along with legislation, the necessary revamp of administrative practises and procedures needs to be fast-tracked. A systemic response that reduces opportunities or corruption needs to be put in place," Singh said.
Serious concern has been expressed in many responsible circles about the lack of ethical conduct and probity in public life, he said.
The Prime Minister said that the introduction of competition, greater choice and modern technology could cut down the opportunities for corruption in a very meaningful manner.
Delays, another major cause, could be addressed to a large extent by effective decentralisation and delegation of power and responsibility, he said while seeking the support of top bureaucrats in bringing about vast improvements in governance.
Terming the internal security situation in some parts of the country as "tense", Singh said, "There has been unacceptably high level of violence in areas affected by Left-wing extremism and in the Kashmir Valley".
He said though the responsibility for maintenance of public order and peace rests with the states, in view of the complex and ever changing nature of problems, the states often needed central assistance in these areas.
"It is only through a process of continuous and meaningful interaction between the Centre and the states that problems of Left-wing extremism, cross-border terrorism and religious fundamentalism can be tackled and tackled effectively", Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the Centre stands committed to assisting states in all possible ways in these areas.
While the Centre could provide resources, guidance and information, the basic task of modernising state police forces, inducting better equipment, improving the quality of police personnel and strengthening the infrastructure available to them required the attention of the state governments, he said.
"Funds are not a constraint" as the thirteenth Finance Commission has recommended substantial grants and the central government continued to make its contribution to augment the resources of the states, Singh said.
"What is needed is a recognition of this problem, focused attention on these issues and a commitment to improving the professionalism and the quality of our police forces," the Prime Minister said, adding that the police man has to be equipped to have the morale and the capacity to deal with the problems of internal security.
Turning to the problems being faced by Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and other vulnerable groups, the Prime Minister told the bureaucrats to lead their administration in preventing such atrocities and ensuring punishment to the perpetrators when they do occur.
While addressing chief ministers three days ago, he had said that it was a "shame" that atrocities against SCs and STs still continue in the country.
"I expect a similar sensitive and responsible attitude towards the issue of violence against our women," Singh said.
Economic growth and rising national income were not enough by themselves, though they were essential, he said, adding these have to be tempered with equity and inclusiveness and with social and religious harmony. PTI