CORRUPTION has always remained an important issue in history. If the rulers loot the subjects, they are doomed to fail. If corruption is riding on the back of inflation, it becomes a diabolic mixture. Inflation directly hurts the common man and corruption creates a feeling of being robbed. Both makes a perfect recepie for a regime change. In the JP movement these were the two issues, which culminated in a regime change. After VP Singh exposed Bofors, in 2 years Rajiv Gandhi lost the election. That time also it was corruption and inflation which were the two dominant issues.
This time also these very same issues are dominating the front pages. Inflation has adversely affected the lives of the the ‘Mango People’ as termed by Vadra. Corruption has become a major public concern once again in India following the exposure of successive scams under the Manmohan Singh-led United Progress Alliance (UPA) Government. It is no secret that corruption in high places has been the feature of the Congress regimes at the Centre and States. But the most worrying aspect is the brazen attempts by the Congress-led UPA government to shield the corrupt.
A nexus of big corporates, politicians and bureaucrats has matured under Manmohan Singh-led government, which has made our governance system more vulnerable to cronyism and criminality.
Due to distortion of the policy-making process at the highest levels in the UPA government, our governance mechanism has become vulnerable to cronyism. Wrong policies adopted by the Manmohan Singh-Government under the garb of economic liberalization has only allowed a few corporate entities and rich individuals to reach the top of the global wealth lists, even as the bulk of the population suffers from stagnant and insecure living standards.
The gigantic Coalgate scam is the latest in an infamous line of swindles such as the 2G spectrum allocation scandal in 2009, the Commonwealth Games corruption expose in 2010, several arms purchase deals in 2011 and the revelation of the huge amounts of black money stashed away by Indians in Switzerland and other countries that are tax havens. Top Congress leaders’ involvement in the Adarsh land and housing grab and credible reports about huge payouts in the purchase of Tetra trucks for the Army early this year has further sullied Congress image.
The loss to the Government itself in each of these cases runs to over Rs 1 lakh crore. Interestingly these losses estimated by independent authorities like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Whistleblowers in banks abroad and noted economists, together could more than compensate for the huge deficits the Central Government is running year after year. If recovered, this money could finance large-scale welfare schemes for the common man in the country.
While the country has been shaken by scam after scam tumbling out of the UPA regime’s cupboard, corrupt ministers have been allowed to remain in the government for months and the investigations manipulated, in order to obstruct the course of justice.
The BJP has been at the forefront in exposing corruption scandals and has been vocally demanding that steps be taken to bring back black money from abroad and cancellation of licenses granted improperly whether in the 2G spectrum allotment issue or Coal block allotment issue. This persistent demand has received countrywide backing from the masses.
Coal block allocation scam
When the 2G spectrum scam broke in 2010 after the CAG confirmed media reports of the massive swindle, it was described as the “Mother of all scams”. CAG estimated the loss to the exchequer caused by the underselling of scarce spectrum at Rs 1.76 lakh crore. Now, at the same CAG has tabulated the loss from the gifting of coal mines to private companies to be at least Rs 1.86 lakh crore. Surely, as my respected party colleague Shri Balbir Punj puts it “Coalgate deserves to be called the “Grandmother of all scams”. While the UPA Government remains in power, we don’t know how many great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers of scams will see the light of day!”
The Congress has no answers to the questions being asked by the country. They are defending the indefensible. In this strategy they first deny the existence of any scam. At a later stage, they try to destroy the credibility of any Constitutional agency which brings out their corruption and after failing in both these ruses, they resort to diversionary tactics.
The Congress game plan was very clear from the beginning. Moot the idea of auction but don’t move ahead with required speed. Delay the proposal and its enactment and implementation as far as possible. Keep the swords of auction hanging so that the black-gold rush will convert into net gain for the Congress’ coffers. This is mala fide, and crux of the scam.
The government introduced auction of coal blocks as an option in September 2010, but passing the MMDR (Amendment) Act 2010 – 6 years after the policy was originally conceived of. It took the government until February 2012 to notify rules under this Act. There has been no auction of coal blocks until now.
The BJP has been pointing out that the screening committee route is being abused. There is no comparative appraisal of the applicants for each coal blocks. No reason is mentioned anywhere as to why one applicant was selected and why others were rejected. Now the CBI has also confirmed that during NDA rule screening committee worked diligently and granted coal blocks on merit for captive use only. Congress did nothing of the kind. This is the genesis of the coal scam.
The CBI did not swing into action to launch a blitzkrieg of raids across cities at the behest of the Prime Minister who heads the apex investigation agency. The CBI probe into the Coal Scam was instituted only due to complaint lodged by me and my collegue Hansraj Ahir to the CVC on March 23, 2012, which, in turn, ordered the probe.
Now the CBI is going slow in its probe, apparently due to the pressure mounted on it by the UPA Government. It has been months now. Why has the CBI has not arrested even a single person in the Coal Scam? Is it because the accused are connected to the Congress Ministers and leaders? It is ironical to learn that the CBI has not yet submitted the status report to the CVC on the probe into the Coal Scam, which is mandatory.
It is a case of monumental corruption. 17 billion tonnes of coal reserves worth 50 lakh crores of rupees were handed over to 140 pvt companies during 2006 – 2009 for free. And each of the allotment is done by the PM by putting his signature. That is why we are demanding cancellation of coal blocks thus alloted and an impartial probe into the matter.
The 2G spectrum allocation scam is one of the biggest scams unearthed in recent times. The former Telecom Minister A. Raja disbursed 122 2G licenses and spectrum in January 2008. Rather than auctioning these licenses and spectrum, they were allocated on a totally arbitrary first-come-first-served basis, at prices that were fixed in 2001. In the meantime, the mobile subscriber base in India had increased from 40 lakh in 2001 to nearly 30 crore in 2008, thereby substantially enhancing the market price of spectrum, which is a scarce resource.
As per the CAG report, the beneficiaries of the under priced spectrum allocated in 2008 include all the major corporates in the telecom sector. The CAG has calculated the loss of government revenue on account of the allocation of under priced spectrum to be in the range of Rs. 57666 crore (on the basis of the value of equity sold by Swan to Etisalat) to Rs 176645 crore (on the basis of the spectrum price discovered through the 3G auction in 2010).
Despite the exposure, the UPA government refused to take action against A. Raja till the Supreme Court intervened to take over the investigation. Thanks to the Supreme Court and pressure mounted by the BJP inside and outside Parliament, action has been initiated against some of the corporates, bureaucrats and ministers involved in the 2G scam.
It has also been made clear in the CAG report that the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet were fully aware of the dubious acts of A. Raja as the Telecom Minister. The role of the other Cabinet ministers in the entire affair is being looked into by the JPC and the PAC. The Prime Minister is yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation on why nothing was done to stop the illegal allocation of licenses and spectrum despite prior warnings from several quarters.
Even the role of Finance Minister P Chidambaram is in question. The Congress is, therefore, not above board in the 2G scam. The theory of Zero Loss proved bogus as the SC-ordered auction will raise at east 10 fold the revenue for the exchequer.
Typical Congress pattern
The Congress follows a typical pattern while responding to the charges of corruption. First they deny existence of any corruption and in reaction to this they blame opposition and whistle blowers. They resign or take action only after the intervention of courts. What is still worse for the country is that the Congress party makes virtue out of corruption and presents a fallen guy as a Hero.
The same is the case of the former Law Minister Salman Khurshid who is nailed in an open-and-shut case of misappropriation of funds and forgery in a NGO headed by him. The law minister presiding over an unlawful activity is a painful picture. Even as the BJP and other opposition parties demanded his resignation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the recent cabinet reshuffle, instead of dropping him from the cabinet, has rewarded him with the high profile ministry of External Affairs.
Even in the case relating to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s land deals in Haryana, the Congress government at the Centre and the State refused to order an “independent probe” and fielded several Congress Ministers and senior leaders to defend him. Even an IAS officer who ordered a probe into Robert Vadra’s land deals was shunted out and the Hooda Government has threatened departmental action against the upright officer. Without an independent probe, the Haryana Government gave Vadra a ‘clean chit’. The Centre has also refused to order a probe into Corporation Bank’s official denial that it had extended Rs 7.85 crore overdraft to one of the companies owned by Robert Vadra, even as the latter has mentioned in the Balance Sheet that Rs 7.85 crores was received as an overdraft from the Bank. Explanation by the Corporation Bank is more revealing as it establishes that the Balance Sheet was forged. In this regard the law is absolutely clear that the signatories of the financial statements, i.e Board Members and the CA are responsible for it.
Strong leadership and transparent governance will only eradicate corruption
Amid the gloom of corruption, the high standards of governance and transparent administration provided by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stands out and gives a ray of hope for the country. With strong leadership qualities and use of technology, Shri Modi has been able to weave a web of transparent and people-friendly e-governance mechanism in the State. Surely, it is because of the transparent governance he has imparted in the past decade that Shri Narendra Modi openly states in public meetings that he does not indulge in corruption and neither does he allow others to resort to corrupt practices. Which non-BJP CM can say this in public?
The foolproof Public Distribution System (PDS) developed by Dr Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh is another example of how adoption of technology coupled with political will could eliminate corruption. The State Government has devised an e-monitoring mechanism to monitor the movement of food grains from the godowns to the ultimate PDS beneficiary. The trucks carrying food grains meant for distribution under PDS have been coloured yellow for easy identification and tracking of movement. The people are also given advance intimation through SMSes about when they will get the supplies of food grains from their nearest PDS shop.
Congress is synonymous with corruption. A weak leadership, coupled with brazen indulgence in corrupt practices by the Congress-led UPA Government has led to lobbyists having a field day in the corridors of power. There is crony capitalism, corruption and the increasing tolerance for the same within the UPA. The current economic situation in India is quite worrisome as we watch helplessly the growth momentum slipping rapidly on account of high inflation and loss of business confidence because of failure of governance and corruption in high places. The helpless economist Prime Minister should resign.
(The writer is a senior BJP spokesman and a Rajya Sabha MP).