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Mainstream, VOL XLVIII, No 50, December 4, 2010

PM’s Integrity Under Attack

Sunday 12 December 2010, by Surendra Mohan

The affidavit filed by Dr Manmohan Singh’s office has sought to divert attention from him to the Union Law Minister, Veerappa Moily. It has said that the latter took eight months to move forward the files relating to the telecom scam. This was in reply to the Supreme Court’s probe into the reasons for delay in taking appropriate action on the queries of Dr Subramanian Swamy. However, it comes out fully that the Prime Minister knew of the charges of corruption against the Telecom Minister, A. Raja, but failed to take any suo motto action for at least two years. Even in removing the Minister, Dr Singh took his time because he had to consult the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi. The chinks in his armour are obvious, and his famed integrity is under a cloud. This is a sad day, indeed. Moreover, Dr Swamy, two-time Lok Sabha and two-time Rajya Sabha MP and a former Union Minister, says that the PMO did not reply to any one of his letters during these two years. Does the PMO believes that it has no accountability?

Some perceptive observers have pointed out that in the nine years from 1980 to 1989, there were 16 scams but, under the UPA’s six-year regime, the number has multiplied three times, if not more. Under the pressure of public opinion, Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi was dropped from whatever position he had held in the party, owing to the huge outcry against rampant corruption in the Commonwealth Games. Then, the Adarsh Housing Society scandal made the Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to go. If the scam relating to export of rice when it was sorely needed by the starving poor, is thoroughly probed, some heads would roll. How was it that the Minister of Food did not check the export? The Supreme Court’s observation that the foodgrains that might otherwise rot in the godowns of the FCI be distributed free to the hungry did not have much effect on the concerned Minister. Interestingly, the Minister, Sharad Pawar, could not care less for Sonia Gandhi’s own observations. The Prime Minister also showed little interest in the starving millions....

A report of the Transparency International has found India far behind even Pakistan, the so- called failed state, in respect of clean governance. The distinguished economist, Arun Kumar, contends that the operation of black money is as widespread as money itself in India. There are several reports which have confirmed that the monster of corruption has become much more vicious after the ‘new economic reforms’ introduced by the P.V. Narasimha Rao Govern-ment in 1991, with Dr Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister. When Justice Wanchoo of the Supreme Court submitted his report on black money.in 1971, he said that the amount of black money was Rs 140 billion. Now, it has multiplied a million fold. The Global Financial Integrity, an international organisation, has pointed out that India loses Rs 240 crores daily in illegal outflows because of tax evasions, corruption, bribery and criminal activities of certain vested interests. According to its revelations, the country lost Rs 4.3 lakh crore in the regime of UPA-1, which is two and a half times the loss from 2-G spectrum.

The most recent challenge to the Prime Minister’s integrity arises from the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, P.J. Thomas. The Supreme Court has questioned the appointment on the basis that P.J. Thomas has been facing enquiry in the palmolin deal. Moreover, he was Secretary of the Telecom Ministry till recently and had defended the scam-tainted Minister, A. Raja. As the CVC, he will guide the CBI in the enquiries to be conducted by it. It needs to be recalled that his appointment was not unanimous, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, who was in the three-member body which selects the CVC, had refused to endorse his appointment. Here again, the question has arisen: why was the Prime Minister so strongly in favour of such an officer?

The economist Prime Minister has failed to check increasing corruption in the economy. Under his superintendence, black money has increased manifold, the outflow of financial resources has risen several times and price rise has come down marginally in about a year’s time, though inflation in food articles has continued to hit the poor sections of the society. He has proved to be a dismal failure as an administrator and shown himself to be extremely weak as a Prime Minister. This is, in fact, the first time during the last six years that serious- minded persons are asking for a change and desire a more competent and more matured person to replace him. Unfortunately, if and when he leaves, the dynastic principle will come into operation and his only successor will be an immature Rahul Gandhi, without any experience of governance...

DR SINGH’S social vision came into full view last year when he threatened to bomb the forests out of existence because the Maoists were using them as their sheltered operational area. More recently, he questioned the society’s increasing concern for environment safety over development which, he maintained, was removing poverty. For, while ‘development’ of Dr Manmohan Singh’s model has only sharpened economic disparities between the small affluent sections and the vast majority that the poor constitute, safeguarding the environment is itself necessary for helping the poor out of degraded life situations. Recent surveys have shown that the rate of growth of employment under the rule of Dr Singh-led UPA has declined to 0.8 per cent per annum, while the population growth is estimated to be 1.9 per cent. Thus, it is obvious that in his regime, unemployment has been growing. His warning that the forests could be bombed was related to the massive resistance against the displacement of the tribal population in the resource-rich areas in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa consequent upon the large scale mining operations pursued by the multinational corporations. What kind of poverty removal was Dr Singh talking about when his policy is enabling the foreigners to exploit our natural resources to their great profits, while the people are compelled to lose their homes, hearths and community living?

In fact, the two dimensions of personal integrity and social vision which shapes political decision-making cannot be divorced from one another. If a leader’s thinking is so strongly linked to serving the very rich and powerful in the society, his closeness to them would be obvious. This style of functioning has given rise to lobbyists whose influence in Cabinet making has been exposed by the tapes submitted by Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate, to the Supreme Court. These lobbyists are generally in the service of the big industrialists and scamsters. The tapes have shown how some of them were keen to help A. Raja to enter the Cabinet and get the portfolio which he desired. As the Opposition has said, his Ministry’s telecom scam is the single biggest scam in independent India. The government of UPA-2 is determined to refuse the constitution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on it, just as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was determined to obstruct the Opposition’s demand for the same in enquiring into the tehelka expose. Whom does the government desire to protect by being so obstinate in the matter?

It appears that it will be difficult for the government to justify Dr Singh’s delay in taking early action on the exposes of the Telecom Ministry in the Supreme Court or to assure it that the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the CVC was a transparent appointment. Both these issues relate to the integrity and administrative compe-tence of the Prime Minister. If the country is to be served in the interest of its vast population, it will be best to find someone else to take over the leadership of the government.

The author is one of the country’s leading Socialist idealogues.

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