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Whodunit?

Whodunit?

For those still searching for reasons as to why the Bharatiya Janata Party won an overwhelming majority in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, here are some ‘new findings’. The findings may also explain why the ‘people preferred’ a BJP Government even in Goa despite reduction in the party’s strength from 21 to 13 in a 40-member House.

On March 29, the Central Government listed eight anti-graft measures that have been put in place to implement the ‘zero tolerance against corruption’ policy promised by Narendra Modi during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.

Unlike claims made during elections, this was in the form of a written reply in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Jitendra Singh and has to be true.

Jitendra’s Truth

“The Central Government is fully alive and committed to implement its policy of 'zero tolerance against corruption' and has taken several measures to combat corruption and improve functioning of the Government,” Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha.

Now, what are these measures? The most important is the Right to Information Act. Then there is the Integrity Pact that is mandatorily included in any major purchase the government makes. The Central Government has also endorsed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Also, Government officials have to declare assets which are placed in the public domain. The officials have to declare their assets afresh at the beginning of each year too.

The Central Government has also set up additional special courts for trying cases that the CBI investigates. It has also simplified administrative procedure by introducing e-governance. The Government has been able to target beneficial schemes on those who deserve them by introducing the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme.

The TRUTH

So why are some people still attacking the Modi Government? Why do they still doubt the sincerity of the Modi Government? There is only one reason: All these steps that Modi’s minister Jitendra Singh has enlisted were initiated and implemented by the Manmohan Singh Government between 2004 and 2014. If the minister has no other measure to add to this list, it simply means, Modi and his men are just basking in someone else’s borrowed glory.

If a minister can get away by such an act in the Lok Sabha, it is necessary to set it right: So here’s the checklist: The Right to Information Act was enacted in 2005. It allowed people to get information on the payment of Rs 10 without giving any reason.

It was this that enabled the RSS and its supporters to unearth corruption which would have otherwise remained hidden. By permitting RTI, Manmohan Singh can be said to have scripted the downfall of his own Government. But surely that can’t be a reason to call him the PM who presided over the ‘most-corrupt government’.

And what has happened to RTI now? It is being stalled. RTI applicants are unable to get any information that can be used against the Modi Government. After stalling RTI, Modi is getting ready to celebrate the third anniversary of the ‘cleanest government in India’s history.’

Integrity Pact

The Central Vigilance Commission recommended the organisations to adopt integrity pact in major procurement activities in 2007. The ‘lion of Gujarat’ had not even won his re-election then.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption was ratified in 2011. The details of immovable assets of Group A officers were uploaded in public domain on April 11, 2011. Who had time to follow these things then? People were flocking at Jantar Mantar and Ram Lila Maidan to be part of an anti-corruption circus.

CBI Courts

The UPA Government decided to set up 71 Additional Special Courts for hearing cases investigated by CBI in 2009. By 2011, 54 of them were functional.

The process for simplifying government working and systems was initiated as per National e-Governance Action Plan that was kick-started in 2006. They have a new name for it today though: Digital India. Without doubt, renaming and name-calling are definitely areas of excellence for Modi Sarkar.

Unlike the other measures mentioned, most people may easily remember that the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme was initiated by the Manmohan Singh Government because it credited the subsidy for LPG to their bank accounts. This started in January 2013. 

Where’s Lokpal?

However, despite all these, Modi and Arvind Kejriwal competed in saying that the Manmohan Singh Government was ‘soft on corruption’. And what was their one panacea to end corruption? Passage of the Lokpal Bill and institution of a Lokpal to check corruption in high places.

On March 28, the Modi Government asked the Supreme Court not to interfere in the process of appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman because the process was pending in Parliament.

What is pending in Parliament? The Lokpal Act was passed in 2013 and it received Presidential assent in January 2014. The appointment of the ombudsman was left to the new government for ethical reasons as the process for electing a new government had almost started by then.

Stalling

However, even three years later, the Modi Government has not appointed a Lokpal. Why? Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi says that the existing law has to be changed to substitute ‘Leader of Opposition’ in the Lok Sabha with the ‘leader of the single largest opposition party’ in the Lok Sabha, as there is no Leader of Opposition in the LS. But such changes have been made in the CBI Act and for selection of the Central Vigilance Commissioner. So what’s the big deal in getting Parliament to pass this legislation?

Technically Rohatgi is right. There are a few more changes that were suggested by a Parliamentary Standing Committee but it is clear that a Government which has shown the urge to pass several laws from land acquisition (later withdrawn) to GST is in no hurry to have the law to install an anti-corruption ombudsman passed. Why that’s so is anybody’s guess.

Celebrate!

‘Honey-eating fasting icon’ Anna Hazare has now warned that he would start another ‘mass agitation’ to protest against the Narendra Modi Government’s apathy in appointing a Lokpal. But Hazare, made into Mahatma Gandhi II by the media and history-ignorant commentators, does not have the support of the RSS, which was the backbone of India Against Corruption nor the backing of fund-raising NGOs and activists who joined the RSS bandwagon in 2010-11.

So his threat is unlikely to be real. But I suggest all those who eulogised the India Against Corruption movement, and shared the stage without realising what they were getting into, should now join Narendra Modi and his supporters in celebrating three years of ‘corruption-free India’.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 03rd April 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 14)#