It’s time Manmohan Singh must understand that silence and inaction can be equally harmful as dishonesty
The expression “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion,” is used by Dr Manmohan Singh while addressing the AICC session in New Delhi. Forget Caesar’s wife; should the Prime Minister, like Caesar, remain silent when people like A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi run away with aam aadmi’s money?
His honesty and integrity have never been on the debating table or questioned. On these grounds he has been well above the watermarks of doubt; but his silence has not been so. Dr Singh place in Indian history is assured with a sure credit must go to late P V Narsimha Rao who gave him a chance to become the Finance Minister, the image as the ‘Deng (Xiaoping) of India’ the reformer who liberated India from the shackles of the command economy and unleashed the entrepreneurial forces that transformed this ancient land.
We, the people of India, know that your integrity is beyond question. In a world and time when ethics and honesty are at a premium, we rest assured that we are led by a person who, in his moral convictions, is pure as the driven snow. This is a given. Nobody needs to tell us how. Here are some occasions when Manmohan Singh could have acted in time, but never did:
2G SPECTRUM SCAM
It took over a year for the Prime Minister to act; it took over a year for the CBI to wake up. Had it not been for the PIL in the Supreme Court, the scam would have dragged on and on. Why did Singh not act when the then Telecom minister A Raja refused to listen? Why did the PM not act when Raja ignored Cabinet colleagues and asked them to keep off the Spectrum turf? Why did the government not bring out the facts when the issue was debated in the Rajya Sabha over a year ago? Why did the PM act only after the Supreme Court comments on the tardy progress and questioned the CBI on its monumental silence? Another point: If the PM had nothing to hide, why not agree for a JPC probe? On the point of the demand for a JPC in the 2G scam by the Opposition, PM have castigated the Opposition for disrupting a whole session of Parliament.
“One wonders what kind of politics the Opposition believes in when they do not have faith even in Parliament,” he thundered. While wasting a whole session of Parliament is ‘despicable’, surely the Joint Parliamentary Committee or the JPC is also a tool in the hands of Parliament. Demanding a JPC is surely not unparliamentary.It has been conceded before, notably in the Before and the Securities scams. Why the reticence now? It’s not only the Opposition, but even your own allies. Mamata Banerjee for instance, has let it be known that she would not be unhappy if the UPA accepts a JPC probe.
NIIRA RADIA TAPES
How come the Prime Minister was not aware of the fact that private conversations were being secretly taped? Such acts are allowed only for national security. Even if they were taped,who leaked it to the media and why? The conversations were taped by a government agency and the tapes were in the possession of this agency. How come the tapes were leaked and what was the motive?
The PM was visibly upset while addressing the captains of the industry this month. But that shows that he was not under control of things. Even now, he is not able to pin-point who leaked the tapes to the media and why. Now that the content of the tapes are in public domain, what action plan is prepared by you to hunt down culprits incidentally all of them are high and mighty. Sir, this is a historic opportunity for you to act tough to ensure people have faith in democratic values practiced by us.
For four long months, all the dirt on Commonwealth Games was out in the open.The stink too was there for everyone to ‘smell’ and squirm. But for the best part, the PM adopted the three wise monkey strategy with a twist in the tale: see-no-scam, hear-no-scam, tell-no- scam. Why did the PM not step in early and stem the rot? He appointed an overseeing committee only after the mess had spun out of control. Even now, Suresh Kalmadi is talking stupid; the CBI raided his establishments after full three months of uproar in the country. Sir, we are sure that 90 days are enough to put any house in order that we expect Kalmadi must have done to destroy evidences. Surely, he plans to bid for the Olympics.
THE CVC ROW
The Central Vigilance Commissioner is appointed by taking into confidence the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Three persons were shortlisted for the CVC post but the government ignored the dissenting note of Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj and appointed P J Thomas as the CVC. This despite the fact that he is an accused in the palm oil import scam in Kerala.
Sushma Swaraj had openly said that the Government was free to choose any one among the two other officers on the list of three, not Thomas. But the PM paid a deaf ear and went ahead. The government knew all along that Thomas, as the CVC, will not be in a position to investigate the 2G spectrum allotment scandal in which his own ministry was involved. An official with such a shadow of doubt should not have been made the CVC.
Now, the matter is before the Supreme Court which has questioned the manner in which Thomas got the job. Why was the PM so keen on Thomas who was under a cloud of controversy? He could have picked up the next good officer on the list.W ell, like Caesar’s wife, the PM should be above suspicion. But fact of the matter is that in all the serious corruption cases, it is Supreme Court rather than the government that is controlling the events hence leading to an impression that government has lost credibility and strength to stop the corruption and punish the guilty. The country has lost over Rs 2.5 lakh crore ( over $50b ) just because PM choose not to act in time.
ON FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Dr Singh has argued that there multiple agencies investigating the various aspects of the 2G scam and therefore a JPC is unwarranted. “We have always strives to eradicate corruption and we will continue to do so. Our approach to corruption also gets clearly reflected in our actions,” “These inquiries will be pursued vigorously And it is my promise to you that no guilty person will be spared – whether he is a political leader or a government official, whichever party he may belong to and howsoever powerful he may be.”
Really, Prime Minister? “No guilty person will be spared”? Sorry to say, Prime Minister, we the citizens are not so sanguine. How many public servants have been prosecuted in Independent India for corruption? We can’t think of any And,.it’s nothing to do with our collective memory. We are waiting for your action plan to track down the culprits that are mentioned in Radia tapes.
Therefore, if as you really say, that your “approach to cor should actually be renamed the “Prevention of Prosecution of Public Servants”. Allow me the audacity to suggest four simple amendments to give teeth and substance to the Act and make it a real deterrent for public servants from going to the devil, now that your government has not thought of it.
One: Shift onus of proof on to the public servant. If Sukh Ram or Raja or any public servant is caught with assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, make it incumbent on him or her to show that the monies or assets were earned through legitimate means. If he can’t, that should be a ground for guilt and prosecution.
Two: Ensure that there will be no stays granted or adjournments in cases involving public servants. They should be ones fast-tracked with continuous hearing. Otherwise, like the case against Sukh Ram, even after a decade and a half, the culprits will have the last laugh to the bank, or wherever they have stashed the cache.
Three: Prime Minister, mere fines aren’t enough for public servants who indulge in illegal gratification. Physical incarceration should be the minimum penalty for what amounts to looting the nation. Just these three amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act should go a long way in instilling the fear of consequences in the public servants who are tempted to reach into the national exchequer. If you claim to be acting against corruption, I wonder why your government has not even taken the first baby steps. Unfortunately, Prime Minister, the impression we get is that you are hemmed in by the allies on the one side and the moods and whims of your party and its President on the other. To her credit, Sonia Gandhi has made it known publicly that you have her full support. We wonder why the Congress party and the allies don’t get the message!
We urge you to stand up and be counted. And believe me, Prime Minister, we get this sense that the people of India will be with you, whatever your party and your allies may say. It’s said that the only time you acted out of conviction was on the nuclear deal with the US. The grapevine has it that you even threatened to resign; if the Congress and your UPA allies don’t throw weight behind the deal in Parliament. And, Prime Minister, you know what happened. Did the heavens fall or did you get your way? Should not that be a pointer to the way you should go? And, when and if you do go that route, of playing by your convictions, and hounding out the corrupt and those who bring us shame, we have no doubt in our mind that the citizens of India, to the man, will be behind you.
Sir, this is a historic opportunity for you to act tough to ensure people have faith in democratic values practiced by us in India, you are representing aspirations of over a billion people that is one sixth of human population hence the responsibility is enormous. God has been kind to you for providing you with a platform to deliver extraordinary service to our nation please act!!
-BY PRASHANT TIWARI