India Observes Independence Day


NEW DELHI, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Indians Monday observed their 64th year of independence, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauding India’s progress but noting much remains to be done.

The anniversary marked India’s freedom from Britain’s colonial rule in 1947 when the subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan. Islamabad observed its Independence Day on Sunday.

Singh spoke to the nation from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi at a time when his Congress party-led coalition government has been hit by a number of corruption scandals and accusations, stubborn inflation and other tough economic problems that threaten growth, and tense relations with Pakistan, which, like India, is a nuclear weapons state.

The prime minister, who personally has not been touched by the corruption scandals, said during his seven years as prime minister “our country has achieved much” with rapid development and success in many areas.

“However, I am also well aware that a lot remains to be done,” in banishing poverty and illiteracy, providing all Indians with access to improved health services and employment opportunities to young people.

“The road ahead is long and arduous,” he said.

Singh said “the problem of corruption is a big obstacle,” adding “there is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption.”

He promised quick action would be taken against those found to be corrupt.

Facing intense pressure from social activist Anna Hazare and his powerful countrywide campaign, Singh’s government has offered an anti-corruption bill in Parliament but the Hazare team has already dismissed it as toothless. The social activist has vowed to begin a protest hunger strike.

Singh said he is aware of the differences of opinion on aspects of the bill but that those who disagree “should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts unto death.”

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