Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In mourning on Yeshwant Sonawane's gruesome killing

This 61st anniversary of the Indian republic I am ashamed to call myself an Indian because in today's India confirmed criminals and scamsters not only go scot-free, they can also continue to be ministers at the Centre or in the States, but honest officers like the Maharashtra Additional Collector Yeshwant Sonawane are burnt alive for daring to catch mafia red-handed. I refuse to believe that it was only that vermin Popat Shinde and his goons who murdered Sonawane in broad daylight, equally or perhaps more guilty of the egregious crime were their protectors among the state's most corrupt politicians and bureaucracy.

The minimum that the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan can do is to prosecute the ten criminilas responsible for the murder, who have been arrested, and have them tried in a fast-track court; before the people could forget this case all the murderers should be handed adequate sentences. Chavan should also get to the root of the problem and expose and punish all whose patronage had given the confidence to Popat Shinde and others that they could cause the ultimate harm to a senior officer of the government and be none the worse for it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What shall we not do for a real alternative!

The Congress party's Kapil Sibal trashed and ridiculed the report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the telecom 2G spectrum scam, in the process giving almost a clean chit to his infamous predecessor A. Raja. Another Congressman H.R. Bharadwaj took next to no time in giving permission as the Karnataka governor to prosecute the chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa for corruption; his alacrity standing in sharp contrast to Manmohan Singh having sat for two years on Subramaniam Swamy's request for permission to prosecute A. Raja. Then we have the principal opposition Bharatiya Jananta Party deciding on unfurling the tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on the next Republic Day after a gap of nineteen years. It obviously thinks that it must put up its ultra-nationalistic foot forward to counter charges of terrorist activities against some Hindu fanatists, particularly after the confession of Aseemanand. That its ill-advised move would again destabilise the Kashmir Valley which had four months of peace and tranquility after having been on the boil for three months from June last year, is of no concern to the BJP leadership.

How we wish we had a real alternative to the Congress and BJP! What we need is a political party committed to combating corruption and establishing the rule of law in our country.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lesson from Tunisia

Last week Tunisia’s dictator for twenty three years Zine el Abidine ben Ali was forced to flee the country and seek shelter in the Saudi Arabia. This was after a month of public protest and demonstrations against his misrule and some worst forms of corruption by him and his close relatives. The shock waves of his ignominious dethronement and escapade have been felt in the other Arab capitals including Cairo. Presidents of several Arab countries officially elected for life are feeling discomfited at the fate of ben Ali and quite naturally so.

In India too the central government would be experiencing some discomfort due to the Tunisian development. If a tightly controlled society can show that kind of determined opposition to the extremely corrupt ways of their government, Indian society with its freedom of speech can do a little better – that is the fear which should now be haunting the leaders of our government. If only fifty thousand people, which is only one third of one per cent of Delhi’s population, surround the Parliament complex for days and weeks demanding that the Central government demonstrably moved effectively against the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats or resigned forthwith, the things can change for the better.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Walk your talk, BJP!

The Bharatiya Janata Party has not been missing any opportunity to condemn the United Progressive Alliance 1.0 and 2.0 governments, headed by its arch adversary the Indian National Congress, for being the most corrupt central governments from the time of the independence on the 15th August 1947. In the Guwahati rally the BJP has declared that it would fight the next general election on an anti-corruption plank. If it perseveres in its attack on the top leadership of the Congress party for being a silent spectator, if not a willing accomplice, when the public exchequer was being raided and robbed of Rs.2.25 lac crore or US$50 billion in just two scams, 2G spectrum and Commonwealth games, the Congress will have to ensure that the central government remained on its best and most honest behaviour for the remaining three years and four months of the five year term. In that the BJP will definitely be doing a service to the people of India.

But the BJP's call for probity in public life has a tone of hollowness around it. Mahatma Gandhi's life, as he had said, was his message. The BJP's life, on the contrary, is very different from its message. To be able to climb to the moral high ground and remain there, the BJP will have to come clean at least on its government in Karnataka which is headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa, whose actions in denotifying state land and allotting it to his own kin have been called immoral, yet not illegal, by the party chief Nitin Gadkari himself, and which includes the infamous Reddy brothers as ministers whose illegal mining activity has earned opprobrium from the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee.

If the BJP decides to jettison Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers, as it must, its government in the state will fall and its national coffers will also suffer because the largesse from the Reddys will be lost for ever. But that will be a small price to pay for establishing its credibility in the eyes of the Indian masses, which act, in the ultimate analysis, is going to be the difference between the winner and the also ran.

Kalmadi's tribe will be thanking Sepp Blatter

The FIFA president Sepp Blatter has recently said that India should be in a position to hold the 2026 football world cup. Coming from him it is a surprisingly big endorsement for the Indian football which occupies a shameful 145th rank on the basis of the national team's performance in whatever low quality international tournament it gets to play in.

Organising the football world cup, in which in all 64 matches are played over a month by 32 teams, is only a tad less involved an exercise than the summer Olympics. It will require at least a dozen world class stadia seating 40,000 to 150,000 in seven-eight cities for matches and 40 to 50 grounds for teams' practice. About 800 players and 5,000 officials, 10,000 press and television people and a couple of hundreds of thousands of spectators from different countries will be trouping down to India for the huge spectacle. Roads, metro rails and other urban infrastructure on modern lines will have to be provided in all seven-eight cities unlike the 2010 Commonwealth Games which were hosted by just one, Delhi. Another major difference from the CWG would be in the number of spectators from abroad; while it was zilch for CWG, for the world cup it would be at least 200,000. Over all, on organising the 2026 football world cup the country would be spending at least US$50 billion or Rs.2.25 lac crore, i.e. about Rs.50,000 crore more than the revenue loss in the telecom 2G spectrum scam, at 2010 prices.

So, rest assured that the government of India would jump with utmost alacrity at Sepp Blatter's suggestion and prepare itself to make the bid for the 2026 world cup when the time comes for that. After all, the successors of Kalmadi, Sheila Dikshit, M.S. Gill and Jaipal Reddy should also get a chance to get their names written in golden letters in history books.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kapil Sibal can only confuse his own party

In trashing the CAG report on the telecom 2G spectrum scam particularly its estimate of the revenue loss to the exchequer of the order of Rs.1.76 lac crore or US$39 billion on account of iniquitous and arbitrary allotment of the telecom spectrum and issue of the UAS licences by the then Union telecom minister A. Raja, the present telecom minister Kapil Sibal has only complicated the matters. There is an inconvenient fact that he seems to have overlooked that here he is not dealing with the opposition for whom the usually combative lawyer minister has nothing but the utmost contempt but with the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, a Constitutional authority charged with auditing the accounts of various wings of the government and point out where proper accounting norms have not been followed and where money has been unwisely spent or unwisely not earned. By laying into the report and dismissing the presumptive figure as the figment of some fertile imagination, Sibal has only tried to bring into disrepute an institution which predates India’s independence by no less than 87 years and serves as a Constitutional safeguard against the government’s recklessness in money matters. Obviously, he is the spear head of his side which has now gone into an attacking mode after all its defences failed against the opposition’s single-minded onslaught demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into all aspects of the 2G spectrum scam. But in taking on the CAG he and, through him, his party are only belittling and damaging an institution so essential for the good health of our democracy. They are trying to do to CAG what Indira Gandhi did to so many other institutions on which a democratic India rested.

Further, by ridiculing the CAG report Sibal has sort of given a clean chit to his predecessor, the infamous A. Raja. The BJP is right then in asking for what reason Raja was turned out of the Union cabinet if he had not committed any serious irregularity. His own party had so far been claiming the moral high ground and intolerance for corruption by holding out the example of Raja whom they eased out because of his wrong doings; Sibal’s recent support to Raja has left the rank and file of the Congress party confused. Senior BJP leader and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Murli Manohar Joshi, whom the Congress had been placating in the hope that he would give an opportunity to the prime minister to appear before the PAC and explain his role in the allotment of 2G spectrum and thus avoid appointing a JPC, has turned the tables on Sibal by his statement that Sibal should first read the CAG report fully before passing judgment on it.

Finally, does Sibal not understand that the credibility of the UPA government has taken such a bad tumble that the people of India are not going to believe one word of the long explanations he might offer? And unless the government shows its resolve by getting those who have looted lacs of crores of rupees of public money behind the bars and recovering from them everything that they had stolen, it will have to live with this credibility gap howsoever humiliating or insulting it may be.

Friday, January 7, 2011

K.G. Balakrishnan is not the only one

In the three years K.G. Balakrishnan headed the Supreme Court, the assets of his sons-in-law and brother, all practising law in his and their native state Kerala, went up manifold. First he tried to explain their windfall gains by saying that just in one hearing lawyers can charge anything up to Rs.80 lac realising almost immediately thereafter that perhaps he exaggerated the things a little too much and that his relatives were not so hot shots as lawyers. Then he changed his tune and said that it was for his relatives to explain their assets disproportionate, if so, to their incomes and he had nothing to say on that. He also, as if, dared his critics, who include the most celebrated living retired Supreme Court judge, Justice V.K. Krishna Iyer, to point out even one act of his as the head of the Supreme Court or that of the National Human Rights Commission that was not fair.

Balakrishnan’s protestations notwithstanding, the source of his relatives’ sudden riches are obvious to all save him but he has a point; the trail has got to be shown as connected to his actions as the head of the Supreme Court before accusing him of malfeasance and asking for his resignation as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. In my opinion it is not going to be rocket science and should be quite straight forward provided this weak central government is able to muster the required political will. And if it delays action on this for whatever incompetence or lack of courage it may be suffering from, the others like karunanidhi and Mayawati will get a chance to jump into the fray calling it yet another case of Dalit-baiting after hounding the poor A. Raja out of the Union cabinet on trumped up charges of causing a loss of Rs.1.76 lac crore to the exchequer.

But to be fair to Balakrishnan, he is not the only one among the illustrious persons who got to head the Supreme Court at one time or the other and who did not add to the prestige of that august office. His immediate predecessor, Y.K. Sabbarwal, had his two sons practicing their business of constructing malls and other commercial buildings from his official residence and it was just a matter of chance that when the father was ordering sealing of shops and other commercial establishments located in non-conforming areas of Delhi, the sons were constructing, what could be termed as, costly alternatives for them. If not all found dishonest by the senior advocate and former Union law minister, Shanti Bhushan, at least sabbarwal should be made to give company to Balakrishnan in facing investigation and trial for giving undue and most unethical and immoral advantage to their progeny and other relatives.