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Asia

Indian PM fights back against corruption allegations

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose government has been hit by a series of graft scandals, has said that the corruption allegations against him are unfounded.

On Sunday, the Indian police used tear gas and water cannons to quell thousands of anti-corruption protesters who held a rally outside the residence of the ruling Indian Congress party's president Sonia Gandhi.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been hit by a series of corruption scandals in the past two years, but it is the first time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being directly held responsible for a coal mining scam, which involves the allocation of coal blocks to private companies.

The opposition parties demand that Prime Minister Singh resign over this scam - also known as the "Coalgate."

India's state auditor, the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG), said earlier this month that the lack of transparency in the distribution of coal blocks to private companies had cost billions of dollars to the exchequer since March last year. However, the CAG report did not directly blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but said that the allocations had been made between 2005 to 2009, when Manmohan Singh was in charge of the additional energy ministry.

'Disputable'

Indian anti-corruption demonstrators attend a rally in New Delhi

Recently, prominent Indian activists have staged a number of anti-corruption protests

On Monday, Manmohan Singh lashed back at the opposition and said the CAG report was baseless.

"Any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by the facts," Singh said in a statement. "The observations of the CAG are clearly disputable," he said, adding that he took "full responsibility" for the coal policy which he developed as energy minister.

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that a lot of Indians felt frustrated because of the graft scandals. He said his government was working hard to address these issues through legislative and administrative measures.

Growing frustration against corruption

Political expert Yogendra Yadav, who participated in the Sunday rally organized by the India Against Corruption (IAC), told DW that the Indians were fighting "a long political battle to change the system."

On his part, Praful Gulati, a protester, told DW that he did not care about getting beaten up by the police. "We want to convey this message to the government that we are going to organize more protests in the coming weeks."

"The CAG report exposes both the ruling UPA and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party," said Arvind Kejriwal of the IAC. "These parties have rendered the parliament dysfunctional. There is no real opposition in this country," said Kejriwal, who was detained for a couple of hours by the police on Sunday.

The Hazare campaign

Indian social activist Anna Hazare (R)

Campaigner Hazare plans to launch a political party

For many years, Indian anti-graft campaigner and social activist Anna Hazare has been campaigning to force the Indian parliament to approve the Jan Lokpal (Citizen's Ombudsman) bill, which proposes to establish the position of an independent ombudsman, who will have the powers to prosecute politicians and civil servants.

Both the ruling coalition and the opposition oppose the bill and say that no institution should be more powerful than parliament.

Hazare rose to prominence after he staged several hunger strikes in the Indian capital New Delhi against corruption. The activist announced last month that he was entering politics and his party would contest upcoming parliamentary elections.

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