New Delhi, Aug 25: On the tenth day of Anna Hazare's fast, Lok Sabha today unanimously appealed to him to end his hunger strike as his life was “much too precious”, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying he has “registered his point” and that Jan Lokpal would be considered by Parliament.
Singh hailed the Gandhian, saying he had become “an embodiment of the disgust and concern of the people over corruption” and that he respected him.
“I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual... I applaud him. I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore I would urge Hazare to end his fast,” he said replying to a debate on corruption which was pressed for by the opposition in the wake of Hazare's fast.
Singh invited the House to issue a joint appeal to Hazare to end his fast. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj supported this following which Speaker Meira Kumar spoke about the sentiments of the House with an appeal that he should end his fast.
With regard to Hazare's demand for passing his version of the Lokpal Bill by Parliament, Singh said, “We will find effective ways and means to discuss the Jan Lokpal Bill, along with the government version of the Bill, Aruna Roy's Bill and the paper presented by Jaiprakash Narayan.”
Contending that “all ideas will be discussed, debated so that we have the best possible Bill which will help us to deal with corruption, he said Parliament should discuss the “strong and weak points” of all the Bills which are in public domain and send the entire record for consideration of the Standing Committee.
Singh said he was of the view that “this will meet the point that Anna Hazare and his team have been making that Parliament must have a chance to debate the Bill drafted by them. This is one via media which will respect Parliament's supremacy and enable Parliament to take on board the Jan Lokpal Bill,” Singh said.
He said he had given thought on the issues raised by Team Hazare in “great depth”.
Lauding Hazare, Singh said he had “made his point and that has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. He is the embodiment of people's disgust with corruption.”
Amid thumping of desks, he said Hazare should live a long and happy life in the service of the people.
“I respectfully request him to end his fast. This will be a befitting finale of the debate on corruption,” Singh said.
Swaraj supported the Prime Minister's appeal and said the nation was committed to bringing a strong and effective anti-graft legislation.
Reflecting the sentiments of the House, the Speaker hoped that Hazare would get the unanimous message of the Lok Sabha and end his fast.
Contending that the government would “work with single minded devotion to leave behind for posterity” a bill to meet the challenge posed by corruption, Singh said “we are open to all suggestions and we will work with all sections for a strong and effective Bill on which there is a national consensus.”
He said the government has a bill that reflects its thinking. But “we are open to persuasion and have an open mind.”
Singh took strong exception to personal attack by the Opposition that he was “conniving with corruption” and asked Leader of the Opposition to check his assets to see whether he had made any money.
Outlining details of the recent developments including differences at the Joint Committee to draft anti-corruption legislation, the Prime Minister said Hazare had gone on fast with his demand that Jan Lokpal Bill should be adopted by Parliament.
Noting that the government's bill has been referred to the Standing Committee, he said the panel “can consider all options and we can find ways and means of ensuring that the bill that has been prepared by Shri Anna Hazare is given due consideration by the Committee.”
He said the government was open to all suggestions and “we will work with all sections of this House to have a Lokpal, who is strong, who is effective and about which there is a national consensus.”
Describing corruption as a “multi-faceted” problem, Singh said his government was committed to fighting it and stressed need for collectively finding “credible olutions”.
In this regard, he emphasised the obligation of states along with that of the Centre to “clean up the system” as there is “anger in the country” about misuse of public offices.
Giving details of the steps taken to check corruption, he said a Group of Ministers had made important suggestions to curb discretionary powers of Ministers.
“These will be considered by the Cabinet and we will put in place a mechanism to reduce the scope for misuse of discretionary powers or to eliminate discretionary powers wherever it can be done without detriment to public interest or achievement of public good,” he said.
Describing corruption as a “multi-faceted” problem, Singh said the nation would have to find “practical”, “pragmatic” and “effective means” to tackle it.
Observing that in early 1990s the single biggest source of corruption was the system of licensing and controls and the high taxation, Singh said liberalisation “ended that story”.
The time has now come to tackle this problem form various angles, he said, adding new methodologies have to be developed to plug leakages in the public distribution system or corruption in government contracts.
While the Centre needed to work with the states to tackle problems in the PDS, the contracting mechanism would have to be streamlined to have lesser scope of corruption, he said and added that the proposal to introduce General Sales Tax all over the country would be one of the ways to deal with tax evasion.
“I recognise that a residual element is still there and we have to work together through various mechanisms, including Goods and Services Tax which is now in public domain and, which, I believe, an obligation which our country must fulfil if it wants to move forward,” Singh said.
“There are many other areas where corruption still persists. We have to tackle this problem from various angles,” he said.
He talked about “leakages” in administering of central government programmes by state government and said “we must find ways and means of reforming the system of public administration so that these leakages can be plugged.
Singh said a Public Procurement Act was also needed to streamline the contracting mechanisms in a manner in which there will be “less scope for corruption” in future. PTI