CAG’s censure on corruption evokes derision from govt

In China, president Jintao warns his party it will collapse if corruption not curbed

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | November 8, 2012


CAG Vinod Rai addressing the World Economic Forum on Wednesday
CAG Vinod Rai addressing the World Economic Forum on Wednesday

The brazenness with which A Raja went about allocating 2G spectrum or Suresh Kalmadi organizing the CWG or captive coal blocks were gifted (free of cost) to a few private players is now well documented and open. All thanks to an alert and pro-active watchdog, the CAG, and of course, the court of law. There may be quibbling about the extent of loss to the exchequer, presumptive or otherwise, there is little to doubt that laws and rules were flouted with impunity and that the government protected the suspects until the very end. If this government is said to be the most corrupt of all since we gained freedom, there is a ring of truth to it.

So, when CAG boss Vindo Rai said, “the brazenness (with which) decisions were being taken is actually appalling…” at the on-going World Economic Forum meet in Gurgaon he was stating the obvious. It should have shamed the government of the day. Instead, it provoked a response which is obvious too. Manish Tewari, minister for information and broadcasting and a spokesman for the ruling Congress, said Rai himself was part of the government between 2004 and 2008 and that, “And that I guess when he talks about brazenness, that paradigm equally applies across the board to everyone who was part of the government”.

Contrast this with what happened today at far away China, a country we like to measure up to. In Beijing, the Chinese Community Party which rules China, is holding its congress and it was addressed by country’s president Hu Jintao. Stating that combating corruption and promoting political integrity is a clear-cut and long-term political commitment of the party and then issued a warning (as reported by Indian Express): “If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the Party, and even cause the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state”.

One would wish our chief executive prime minister Manmohan Singh said something similar after being hit by a series of scams – 2G, CWG, IPL, Isro spectrum allocation, coal block allocation and so on. Recall how he had blamed “coalition compulsion” to explain 2G scam and since then has taken to blasting CAG and courts by accusing them of overstepping their domain. Even in our dream we can’t imagine our PM admitting to corruption, much less committing to eradicate it. The Lokpal Bill, conceived more than 40 years ago as the apex anti-corruption watch dog, is still in a limbo. Therefore, what Tewari said is not out of line.

Just as Tewari’s belligerence in attacking CAG is conspicuous, so is his silence on the other significant observation of Rai - that CBI, which investigates corruption issues, is not independent of the executive and hence the accusation that it has become a handmaiden of the government. It is routine for the courts to pull up CBI in every major corruption case. Even as CAG was stating, again, the obvious, the supreme court was asking the CBI to probe Aircel-Marxis deal involving another former minister Dayanidhi Maran in the same 2G scam case. The CBI should have done it by now but won’t or can’t.

Tewari’s silence is easy to read. He can’t find a scapegoat. Or comment on Rai’s suggestion to make CBI independent, give constitutional status to CVC or make the proposed Lokpal a constitutional body. After all, these are meant to fight corruption and Singh, Tewari and others in this government can’t be seen to speak or do the obvious.

Going by Jintao’s warning and reiteration of his party’s commitment, the Chinese can hope for a change. Not us. At least, not yet.

 

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