The scams that Govt denies come home to roost

The scams that Govt denies come home to roost

Shakespeare is long gone. Obviously there is nobody around to give verve to his fictional prince of Denmark. And, there is, in any case, no Indian...

Shakespeare is long gone. Obviously there is nobody around to give verve to his fictional prince of Denmark. And, there is, in any case, no Indian version of Hamlet who could emerge from the Indian ruling establishment to state with his candour- that this is a 'rotten State'. But regardless, facts are speaking for themselves. And they stink. Every passing day brings out new skeletons out of the establishment's cupboard. The latest controversy is over the Railway Minister's nephew caught red-handed by the CBI accepting a bribe from a Railway Board member allegedly for ensuring some plum placement. The minister has pleaded innocence and denied any knowledge of this misdemeanor or any transaction with this scum of a nephew. Both the nephew and the official have been taken in custody by CBI. Regardless of whether the minister was actually complicit or not, propriety demands that he quits office; with him claiming to have maintained the highest level of probity in public life so far in his political career- it will be consistent with his contention to demit office � so that no finger may be pointed at the fairness of the investigative process. But compared to the predicament of the Railway Minister � the other issue which is hogging the limelight- is undoubtedly far more serious. The magnitude of the scam over the distribution of captive coal mines � both on the question of policy and the modus operandi � has brought out in 'full glory' all the dimensions of crony capitalism. The presumptions which have led to the authoring of the scam have gone so awry that, legitimately, the question is being asked whether this is plain ineptitude or there is any malafide. Facts about this massive scam came to light when the CAG submitted a stinging report on the huge loss the exchequer suffered as a result of the manner in which captive mines were allocated to end-users; the infrastructure industries in the sphere of power and cement and fertiliser industries. But the CAG report was a damning indictment of the claims elicited by the policy objectives. Not only did the handing over of mining rights to private sector market players not lead to any significant enhancement of coal production, but the handing over of this rich natural resource, which is otherwise a community asset, without bidding or any other transparent procedure ensured huge loss to our public exchequer. To add to the sinister outcome of these opaque methods, instances of secondary sale of such mining rights were uncovered by the CAG. Predictably, all hell broke loose with this report coming into the public domain. The UPA government's managers went hysterical and attacked the CAG, and even alleged that the CAG, particularly the present incumbent, was hatching a conspiracy against the government.
The sense of 'outrage' of these spin doctors was understandable because, apart from the adverse commentary on the policy consideration, the audit report had implication in terms of realpolitik. The Cabinet Minister for coal for a period which the report covered was the Prime Minister himself. Dr. Manmohan Singh has been portrayed over the last two decades as a 'paragon of virtue', and the halo of uncompromising honesty, integrity and probity had armed the process of neo-liberal reforms with a sense of moral invincibility which his leadership provided. The report, therefore, posed a big question mark. But this strident attacked overlooked two major questions which we faced collectively as a nation. The new generation corruption that appears to have affected every sinew of the body-politic is embedded in the policy prescription of handing over control of our natural resources to private commercial interests for a song. Undermining of public interest and encouragement to cronyism is direct fallout of such a course. In fact, this is the highlight of the historic judgment of the Supreme Court in the 2-G spectrum allocation scam. The other one was equally important. Our Constitution- makers had given the CAG an independent status as a major critical watchdog to safeguard the nation from possible financial irregularities that the executive may commit. The CAG, therefore, together with Parliament and its Public Accounts Committee, was designed as the crucial antidote to wrongdoing and misdemeanor. These two institutions together were deemed to be the alarm bell which would signal the need for course correction. Therefore, the vilification campaign actually undermined this very vision of rectification within the system which otherwise is the life-support system for any meaningful democracy. The course chosen by the Government, of refusing to correct itself, has now made it commit a series of acts which finds itself placed in adversarial confrontation with other constitutional entities. The CBI investigation and attempts at prosecution of those guilty of engineering the scam have reached the Supreme Court. The imperative of a fair investigation and prosecution warrants that the CBI is subjected to independent monitoring of the court. And the several cases concerning the booking of the guilty under court's supervision have proved to be rewarding. The processes which were found to be stuck got a new lease of life with the court intervening. But now, the Law Minister has been prima facie found to be tampering with this process and trying to modify the CBI's report. Can he continue in office? People expected that he would demit office on his own; or else he would be asked by the Prime Minister to do so. But the Prime Minister has come out strongly and claimed that there is no need for his Law Minister to exit. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Coal has come out with a scathing commentary on the obnoxious portents of distributing coal mines. The report observes: "Though advertisements calling for application of coal blocks were issued in 2005 and 2006 after putting the guidelines on the website of the Ministry of Coal, no bidding process or auction was held. It is unfortunate that for allocating coal blocks neither any auction was held nor the Central Government earned any revenue. Natural resources were distributed without following any transparent system and without generating any revenue for the Government". Further, "the most non-transparent procedure was adopted from 1993 to 2010 for allocation and supply of coal blocks. Several coal blocks were allocated to a few fortunate ones without disclosing the same to the public at large". What is significant is that even Congress members of the Committee did not object. But such a critique was of no avail. By refusing to be answerable to the judiciary and legislature, the Executive is striking at the very roots of the principle of checks and balances, the saving clause for democracy. Gandhiji's refrain in 1917 to lay down these foundational premise, "the freedom to err and the power to correct errors is one definition of Swaraj", is now falling on deaf ears.
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