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India PM rails against 'negativity' over corruption

NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that a “mindless atmosphere of negativity” over corruption was damaging the country and he feared for the morale of civil servants.

Corruption has become a hot issue since Singh was re-elected in 2009, and his government has been rocked by scandals over mobile phone licenses, coalfields and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

“The mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism that is sought to be created over the issue of corruption can do us no good,” Singh told a conference in the capital.

“It can only damage our nation's image and hit at the morale of the executive,” he said.

With graft allegations erupting in many government departments, officials have been increasingly reluctant to sign documents that might mean they are named in investigations and accused of links to malpractice.

“We need to ensure that even while the corrupt are relentlessly pursued and brought to book, the innocent are not harassed,” Singh said, adding that honest mistakes had to be separated from criminal activity.

Singh, addressing an anti-graft conference, said economic reforms had wiped out some corruption as the country modernized over the last 20 years but the boom had also led to new opportunities for malpractice.

“As our economy grows and becomes more integrated with the evolving global economy, the big challenge before our anti-corruption agencies is to keep pace with these rapid developments,” he said.

Singh also took a hit at corporate India, saying it was the scene of worse corruption than the government.

“Experience has ... shown that big-ticket corruption is mostly related to operations by large commercial entities,” he said.

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