THE UPA is obstinate that it will not constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe into the humongous Spectrum scam. The opposition is equally or more determined to get the government to agree to a JPC. This has led to an unprecedented impassé in Parliament, which is causing wastage of the tax payer’s money.
The government has not yet given one good reason for wanting to avoid a JPC. The Parliamentary Committee will have representatives from both the ruling and the opposition parties. Hence, the government need not fear that it would be one way. The Committee, drawing its strength from the powers vested on Parliament can summon all files and people relating to the scam. From day one, the government has been repeating itself like a stuck tape that the Spectrum scam does not warrant a JPC.
A thorough probe into the goings on in the Telecommunications Ministry vis-a-vis Spectrum has become imperative in the wake of the Radia tapes. The conversations, till now exposed, cast serious aspersions on the appointment of ministers, the functioning of the department and the nexus between politicians, corporate honchos, journalists and power brokers going under various names like PR agencies and lobbyists.
The impassé suits the government immensely. It has taken to approving and passing expenditures without debate and scrutiny. In one sitting, on December 1, the government cleared expenditures on various heads, to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore. If government can pass expenditures like this, then there is no sanctity in bringing such issues for Parliament scrutiny. As such with the appointment of ministry-related parliamentary committees, there is very little discussion in both the houses. Even that bare minimum debate is being given a go-by by the UPA.
The government is also escaping all the embarrassment regarding other scams, like the Adarsh housing and CWG loot and discussion on its pitiable performance in crucial areas such as price control, internal security and neglect of the social sector.
In what can only be construed as a dire paucity of manpower in the UPA, especially the Congress, the HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has been given charge of the Telecommunications Ministry. Sibal had already kicked more dust than he can settle in the Education sector. Now, he bears on his shoulders the weight of four ministries, all considerably significant. He is the Minister for HRD, Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and now IT and Telecommunications. One ought to remember that the original hat he was wearing is that of a lawyer. Man of some mettle he must be.
The fact that the government is only making nominal gestures at reaching out to the Opposition, asking it to come for discussions, gives away its game. The Opposition has been standing together as one man, stubborn that JPC is the most effective form of inquiry. The efficacy of the JPC is an entirely different and debatable issue, in view of the track record of the four earlier JPCs constituted till now.
On the appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) too, the government took an unyielding stand. Despite repeated rap on the knuckles by the Supreme Court, both the government and the person in question have stuck to their position. The Court has raised some basic questions on the integrity of the CVC, P J Thomas. Any person who valued his image and respected the position he was appointed to would have resigned long ago. But such ethical decency is not part of the UPA culture.
There is no denying the fact that under the present leadership, both in the Congress and the UPA, governance has been given a quiet burial. The ministers are all functioning as independent and autonomous suzerainties. Public accountability and transparency are words forgotten. A coterie rules the country. An elite club of people directly reporting and loyal to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi call the shots. The position and prerogative of the Prime Minster have been undermined. The real suckers are the people of India, who remain in the eternal hope that one day, our nation would be corruption free and it would be governed by the tenets of our dharma.