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No End To The Spectre Of Scams

Updated: February 26, 2011 10:48 am

The UPA government, which is already immersed neck deep in the sea of scams and corruption, is hit by another scam salvo, even bigger than the earlier ones, i.e. Rs 2-lakh-crore S-band spectrum scam. Hence, the government is sinking deeper into corruption day-after-day. A 2005 deal between Antrix Corporation, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO’s) commercial arm, with Devas Multimedia Private Ltd that allegedly confers unbridled use of 70 MHz of scarce S-band spectrum over a 20-year period. According to preliminary CAG estimates, this spectrum largesse to a private customer could have caused the exchequer a loss in excess of Rs 2 lakh crore. By comparison, the presumptive loss incurred in the allocation of 2G spectrum by the DoT, as estimated by the CAG, is Rs 1.76 lakh crore. It is noteworthy that ISRO is under the direct control of the Prime Minister. The revelation, therefore, assumes significance, as it substantiates the unpleasant fact that infiltration and subversion of the public system by private interests has acquired the status of a deep-rooted phenomenon under the UPA regime. What the people expect from a government in a democracy is not alibis and denials but an honest admission of mistakes, and some soul-searching as to what, how and why the system’s in-built checks and balances have failed to stop a cheap appropriation of scarce public assets by corporate interests. There should be a public policy to lay down transparent parameters for selling scarce public assets like land, water, spectrum, etc. As of now, the CAG comes into the picture only after serious irregularities have been committed. Its role should be expanded from that of a post-occurrence investigator to a concurrent auditor empowered to oversee whether policies are being implemented in letter and spirit. The political class and the bureaucracy, by their recent acts of omission and commission, have forfeited public trust in respect of the management of national assets.

                It is worth mentioning that FDI has declined by more than 30 per cent even as within Asia it has grown. Experts attribute this phenomenon to three reasons, namely, very high inflation, high level of corruption and poor governance. It is a no brainer that corruption in India is at its rampant best. There is not one section of the society that is spared from it. Corruption in the form of bribery takes the cake and given that it begins at the grassroots level makes it even more difficult to monitor and control. No wonder, it has taken the shape of a behemoth, as according to an estimate, the cost of corruption to the country might as well exceed Rs 450,000 crore. The worst repercussion of corruption is that it negates meritocracy altogether. It is a matter of great concern that politicians, particularly under the UPA regime, have created a breeding ground for corruption, which is taking our country further down. No wonder, there are very few people in India who believe that the UPA government, as it is presently organised, is either capable or willing to go the whole distance to bring to book those who are suspected of having committed irregularities in handling state funds. This has particular reference to the scams related to the S-band spectrum, the 2G spectrum, the conduct of the Commonwealth Game, etc. The much-talked-about action plan to tackle corruption on a war footing appears to be a non-starter, going by the fact that there has not been even a whisper about it over the last several months. Even if such a plan is to be grudgingly unveiled soon, it could at best be old wine in a new bottle. For, under the UPA government, the politician-official-middleman-don nexus, squarely responsible for corruption, exists and thrives at all levels. The giver is happy that he or she can get things done, never mind the violation of law, and the receiver is happy that he or she can make easy money. Any number of laws and agencies will not help in checking corruption because those who are responsible for enforcing the law are themselves corrupt. What saddens me is that only a few regard corruption as a serious issue to be dealt with. For others, revelations of corruption and corrupt leaders by media and government agencies like CAG are just sensational news and part of daily life, over which they have no say. Unfortunately, even in the general elections, corruption is not an issue. It is, therfore, people’s indifference that is exploited to the hilt by politicians. But the only way to arrest corruption is for people to act. We should resolve not to submit to the pressure of those who demand illegal gratification, and not to vote for corrupt leaders. This may appear to be a tall order. But it is the electorate alone that can weed out the undesirable elements who are eating into the vitals of the country.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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