HOW long is the UPA government going to stall parliamentary proceedings causing irreparable loss to the administration? The Hindu (November 24) had some sharp remarks to make about the UPA’s dilatory tactics. “Given the public’s sense of disgust with the scale of corruption, the Congress ought to realise that its objection to a JPC is being seen as a tacit admission of guilt, or, at best, a certain unwillingness to allow the guilty to be exposed,” said the paper. It pointed out that “the longer the stalemate continues, the more this perception will gain ground” adding that “that is why it is essential that the Opposition demand be conceded forthwith, so that the probe can begin and Parliament can start functioning again”.
May be, by the time this appears in print, the UPA has conceded the Opposition demand, but its behaviour leaves much to be desired. The Hindu stressed that there is no reason to fear JPC, but, “so enormous is the scale of the 2G spectrum scandal and so widely dispersed and influential are the dramatis personae that ordinary instruments of investigation may not be enough to get to the bottom of the affair”. And what is the amount involved in the scandal? The Hindu said “the presumptive loss is anywhere between Rs 60,000 crore to Rs 179,000 crore”.
Bitterly criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a columnist, A Surya Prakash, writing in The New Indian Express (November 15) pointed out that calling the PM a ‘clean’ politician whose personal conduct in financial matters is above reproach means nothing “so long as he allows members of his Cabinet to merrily swindle the Exchequer”. Proceeding, Surya Prakash said: “Apologists for the Congress say that the compulsions of coalition politics prevent the PM from proceeding against Raja, if that be so, we are left with no option but to conclude that Singh’s desire to survive in office far outweighs his concern for probity in public life. He seems to have just three priorities-survival in office, protecting the Congress’ interests and ensuring that the UPA remains intact.
Singh has already given us sufficient indication that national interest is not a priority for him when he took that untenable decision to appoint PJ Thomas as the CVC…” The cost to the exchequer some hold is Rs 1.76 lakh crore. What does that mean? Freedom First, the liberal magazine (December 2010) says that it is equivalent to (a) the entire defence budget for the year 2010-11 (b) almost one sixth the size of the Union budget (c) over two thirds of the Centre’s interest burden of Rs. 2.49 lakh crore (d) more than thrice the Rs 51,309 crore the Centre will get from profits and dividends of Public Sector Units this year (e) roughly seven times the Union health budget of Rs 25,154 crore and finally (f) more than thrice the Union education budget of Rs 49,904 crore.
Writing in the same issue of Freedom First, a former Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Ashok Karnik wanted to know why Indians are so corrupt. He should know. He makes the point that delivering justice takes a long, long time. How? This is how, according to Karnik: “When a Minister comes under a cloud, his first response is to deny the charge. If irrefutable proof is presented, a preliminary inquiry by the CBI is ordered. If the CBI gets further proof, it is allowed to register a case. The CBI takes a couple of years to come up with a criminal charge; it may then be allowed or disallowed to file charges in the court. If the case ultimately starts, it can take a few years to complete during which the CBI may even withdraw the chargesheet, depending on new political alignments. If, after all this, a leader is convicted, he goes in appeal which may remain undecided during his and our life time. Do we see anybody punished? If a leader is not actually caught committing a crime, there is an elaborate system whereby he is not held even accountable for wrong-doing…” And so it goes. So, why should any politician be afraid of committing a crime?
The Hindu (December 4) all but corroborated this in a report. According to the paper, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court that sanction for prosecution is awaited in 126 cases registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act against various public servants. These cases were registered from 2000 to 2010, with Customs and Central Excise accounting for the maximum number of 69 persons. Is this what delivering justice is all about? The case of PJ Thomas is intriguing, to say the least. He was chargesheeted in the Rs 2.8 crore Palmolive import case in Kerala a long time ago. The case is pending. Shouldn’t his appointment have been deferred till the case was settled? As INA ( December 3) noted, “the apex court has also questioned the propriety of Thomas conducting an inquiry as CVC when a probe is pending against him. Said INA: “Thomas may well be innocent, but that needs to be proved first. Till then, Thomas puts himself, the post of the CVC and the government “in a very tenuous moral area”.
According to the paper, “the government has no one but itself to blame for foisting Thomas upon the country and at a time when it was on the verge of dealing with multiple crises regarding the spectrum scandal… Why it chose to add to its woes by insisting on Thomas is a question only it can answer. It bears repeating that the CVC has to be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion… The appointment of Thomas as CVC was a disaster. To set the situation right, he must go now”. The Hindu (December 8) said that “CVC’s post is much too sensitive and important to be undermined by an appointment that should never have been made”. “No doubting, Thomas should go” the paper concluded.