Prime minister: Corruption is eating India 'like termites'   15-8-1997

NEW DELHI (CNN) -- India's 50th anniversary of independence was celebrated with fireworks, laser beams and parades. But the pageantry was overshadowed Friday as Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral soberly described the nation's rampant bribery and corruption and called for a crusade to fight it.

India is considered one of the most corrupt countries, and investors say the demand for bribes at every step of the development has held up its free-market program.

India's last government lost elections after it was buried by scandals involving Cabinet ministers. Among those charged with corruption was the former leader of Gujral's party.

"We have to build a mass movement in which all can join so that corruption in politics, politicians and public life must end," Gujral said in a solemn speech to the nation from the Red Fort, a 17th-century monument. "It is eating into the country's vitals like termites."

Gujral promised to break the link between politicians and criminals and "make government functioning more transparent."