Dr R Balashankar
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has made corruption a way of life with government in the last eight years. UndPer him India has witnessed loot of public wealth, unprecedented in history. International agencies on financial integrity like Global Financial Integrity and Asymmetric Threat Contingency Alliance (ATCA) claim that India ranks first in the money stolen and parked in tax havens abroad. Manmohan government first denied the existence of such wealth, then reluctantly accepted it, then promised to try and get it back home, and through a series of meaningless prospective bilateral treaties sidelined and buried the issue for all practical purposes. At times he is helpless, at times he is unaware, on another occasion he feigns of being needlessly harassed as he has nothing to do about whatever is happening in the government. There cannot be a more perverse and brazen abdication of duty in a parliamentary democracy. The UPA has perfected the art of diarchy to the detriment of the country which surprisingly nobody is questioning. Even during Emergency in mid-seventies when Sanjay Gandhi usurped extra-constitutional powers this was not the case. Many questioned.
We all know the buck stops at Sonia Gandhi’s doors. We also know that Manmohan Singh is her nominee and by that logic answerable only to her. But is she coming upfront answering to the nation’s uneasy and legitimate angst? Sonia’s poodle, as some foreign journal characterised, mostly on foreign tour he might be. But can he continue pretending as if he is not part of the system and not bothered about public opinion? One would assume, even Caligula’s horse would display a sense of propriety, though Caligula was known for his fury.
His regime has been a litany in scandals, cover up, more scams and more boorish cover up. The entire loot going into some fathomless black hole, which nobody really identifies but everybody knows for sure.
See for instance, a report in the Indian Express (8 August 2012) which says, ‘PM rejects ministry’s charges against former SEBI member.’ This is a report about the Finance Ministry seeking action against IAS officer K M Abraham after he named then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his adviser Omita Paul alleging that they had “put pressure” on SEBI chairman UK Sinha to “manage” some high profile corporate cases which undermined the integrity of the regulator. (For which the ministry sought to punish the former). By rejecting the ministry charges against the officer, the PM has in a way upheld his charges against the former Finance Minister and his adviser. But the former minister is now the President of India and immune to such scrutiny. Was it to make the situation a fait accompli that the Prime Minister waited on the file all these months before exonerating the officer?
The point is the complicity of the entire establishment in such acts of major loss to the exchequer. The PMO received the Finance Ministry complaint — on three counts, sufficient for a dismissal and criminal proceedings against the officer — in March. The PM, it seems waited till the Presidential election to be over to act, so that both the complainant and the counter complainant (of the serious scam which hit headlines in the media last year) are safely ensconced in their respective perches. This cavalier attitude to statecraft has been the hallmark of the UPA regime. It lavishes on its patrons and cronies taxpayers’ money, national resources and privileges, as if India is under an occupation regime. The bane of India, Raghuram Rajan said a few years ago, is cronyism. (He has now been appointed the chief economic adviser to the Finance Ministry).
Under the UPA, the cushion has always been widening to accommodate more and more people into the circuit, so that there won’t be any voice left to dissent. Consider the state of the Opposition. People are sick and tired of the UPA. But the Opposition is full of apologists for the system. A Lokpal is a no-no. Anna Hazare is above board, so he is unwelcome. Jayaprakash Narayan, even VP Singh, did not face this isolation, because the opposition was vibrant, not on the same page as the ruling clique. (Anna also could have been more tactful. Like Sri Krishna or Chanakya should have accommodated lesser evil to finish the evil personified).
Anna Hazare and Swami Ramdev who raised genuine concerns of the masses on corruption and black money now look foolish and forlorn. This is the revenge of the system. Like Alzheimer’s disease this will degenerate our national polity. Take one instance. In February 2011, the BJP Task Force released a report demanding action to bring back an estimated Rs 25,00,000 crore, stashed away in tax havens. Not many days passed, before the report itself was dumped. Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani has written about black money abroad and has even provided the details of KGB files that give information on the Sonia Gandhi family’s stashed loot. All this information in public domain has not been refuted by her. If newspaper reports are to be believed (again not refuted by anyone) the mother, son, daughter and her family fly out of India every month and stay in the most expensive hotels and ‘shop till they drop.’ Back home, they are in handloom clothes and modesty incarnate.
The president election witnessed how parties pathologically anti-Congress sucked up to the UPA for minor pieces of crumbs and loaves of patronage.
The UPA gets away unscathed in the process. And the operation cover up succeeds. The Prime Minister has always been acting as in the instance cited above be it in the 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam, or Rs 100000 crore coal allotment scandal, Commonwealth games scandal, Adarsh scam or numerous other corruption issues that confronted his government in the recent past. In fact, it is always seen as prevaricating, procrastinating and proposing alibis to bury the unrelenting ghosts of its monstrous misdeeds.
According to a Times Now report, the CAG had submitted its report on the coal scam to the President on May 11, 2012, when the budget session of Parliament was still on. But the government pretended as if the report was not ready, when the Opposition raised the issue in the house repeatedly. It has been helping and stealthily covering up scandals even as it defended and provided all legal assistance and manipulated the CBI to help the culprits go scot-free. Its façade of investigation has not convinced anybody about its sincerity to fight corruption. Rather it thrives on corruption. This was openly on display during the presidential election. Manmohan government has shown that it is a government of the corrupt, by the corrupt, for the corrupt. The India Against Corruption has released documentary proof of corruption against 16 cabinet members including the Prime Minister in its crusade against corruption.
We conducted a random readership survey before we hit on the idea of our theme for the Independence Day Special. An overwhelming response was to articulate a case to throw out the UPA to save the nation. Its continuance in office each day has become an unmitigated disaster for the country. It cannot redeem the economy—whatever reform it undertakes or whoever presides over the ministry—simply because it has lost the public trust, credibility. Credibility after all is the most valuable asset for any political dispensation. So corruption by general consent, is the biggest malaise afflicting India on its 67th Independence Day.
A senior columnist the other day said, “the present condition is unprecedented. We don’t even know where all the loot money is being siphoned away. Earlier, the money looted by politicians used to be ploughed back into the system by way of fictitious holding in Indian companies and real estate, but now it is all going out of the country because of the foreign interests of the stakeholders of the present government.” A highly disquieting prospect this. Manmohan Singh government has shown an uncouth penchant for appointing people in high positions who are not rooted in India. There are many in high positions who hold dual citizenship. An alert media or opposition could easily expose them. The matter is relevant for the Independence Day when we celebrate a freedom won on Swadeshi plank under Mahatma Gandhi. Have not we forgotten all that we promised to ourselves when we attained independence?
The government has succeeded in tarnishing the image of every move against corruption. It has succeeded in creating an establishment where nobody will stand up against corruption because all are equally naked. Its claim of late has been, “yes, we are corrupt, but are you also not corrupt?” Perhaps Anna Hazare had to disband his team to prove himself above board. The Congress has ensured that corruption is only a matter of degrees. So when we share the chant “sab chor hai”, we have to be cautious, not to fall into the Congress trap. It after all is
the fountainhead of all that is corrupt and evil about our country. Let’s not allow it
to get away painting others with the same brush.