Monday, August 8, 2011

If CAG reports were believed, all Chief Ministers would have to be sacked…..

The BJP has been demanding the resignation of the Delhi CM on the grounds that a recent CAG report on CWG has “indicted” her. I have for long been uncomfortable with CAG reports being used with such end-objectives. I have never considered CAG observations to be “indictments” at all. They are serious observations that need to be investigated further by other bodies. In the case of the Delhi CAG report, the BJP is also happy to violate all protocol and wants the report discussed in Parliament even before the PAC has seen it. The CAG itself has broken protocol by holding a press conference. This must be a new high for the CAG!

But a closer analysis of the CAG reveals that if their reports were followed uniformly across all states, then there would hardly be any CM left to rule in the country. Of course, there would be no one left at the Centre either! Maybe the Supreme Court could run the country. They are probably the only ones on whom the CAG has no reports. Thankfully, the judiciary is constitutionally kept out of the purview of politics!

Let me prove my point that there would be no CMs left. Since the BJP wants to use the CAG report as grounds for demanding Sheila Dixit’s resignation, let me only mention states ruled either by the BJP or its allies.

Gujarat: The showpiece of the BJP. Narendra Modi is the tallest leader of the BJP nationally (just check out the CNN-IBN poll yesterday. It says that people would prefer Modi over Advani and Sushma Swaraj to be the next PM – of course, the top three choices for PM still remain with UPA – Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi). Well, the CAG has been very critical of the Gujarat government alleging mis-governance and worse in its recent report. As per its report, the GSPC (Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation) suffered a loss of Rs 106 crores by short recovery from Essar Oil Limited. Another agency GSEC passed undue benefits of Rs 37 crors to contractors because of improper fixation of monthly average coal per wagon. Then the massive loss caused by the Sujalam Sufalam scheme…..allegedly amounting to Rs 500 crores. Narendra Modi hasn’t resigned till date. Of course, as everyone knows, there is no Lok Ayukta in Gujarat – a state ruled by the BJP continuously for the last 12-13 years.

Uttarakhand: There are similar “indictments” against the Uttarakhand government having caused a loss of Rs 44 crores in organizing the Kumbh Mela. But the BJP has ruled out the resignation of its CM, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

Orissa: The Biju Janata Dal was an alliance partner of the NDA during its rule at the center as well as in the state until 2009 (wonder why allies break away from the BJP during elections!). As per the CAG reports on Orissa, most irrigation projects have been inordinately delayed in implementation, leading to cost overruns of Rs 3537 crores. This is as per the report submitted in July last year. Further, a minister in the Naveen Patnaik government is charged with having prevailed upon the management of a PSU, Orissa State Road Transport Corporation, to favor a lessee resulting in a loss of Rs 31 lacs. Small change, one would say! But has Naveen Patnaik resigned? Not to the best of my knowledge.

Bihar: Another strong ally of the BJP, who preferred not to be seen alongside the BJP during the recent elections. As per the CAG report submitted in June last year, financial irregularities of Rs 11,412 crores were found in development schemes in Bihar (Nitish Kumar has been ruling since 2005). This was dubbed by the opposition as the treasury scam. Apparently, something called “detailed contingency (DC)” bills worth this amount had not been submitted for several years. A huge chunk of them are still to be submitted by the state government. Further, in the report submitted in July this year, the CAG report charges the Bihar government with a gamut of financial irregularities in the implementation of the government funded schemes adding up to Rs 1784 crores. Yet (fortunately for Bihar’s sake), Nitish Kumar continues as CM and is hailed as one of the best CMs in India. The CAG report was duly presented in the Assembly where it was discussed as per protocol.

Madhya Pradesh: The CAG “indicted” the MP government stating that the return on investment made by the state government was as low as 0.6% last year (year ended March 2010) as against the rate of 7.3% that the government pays on its borrowings. So this is either a case of severe misgovernance or worse, corruption. Has Shivraj Singh Chouhan resigned? No!

Chhatisgarh: Government was able to provide average employment of only 35 days per household under the NREGA scheme in 2007-8 as per the CAG report for that year. Yet, interestingly, in a display of nonpartisan leadership, the UPA government at the center awarded the Chhatisgarh government for excellence in implementation of this scheme. So the CAG indicated a fault….yet the government was acknowledged and awarded. Of course, the CAG also “indicted” the state government’s police department for being totally inadequate in its response to the Naxal problem. Further, it was alleged by the CAG that an improper tendering process executed by the PSU Chhatisgarh Beej Evam Krishi Vikas Nigam Limited, resulted in an “additional funding burden” of Rs 94 lacs on purchase of ginger and potato seeds in 2005-6. Of course, Raman Singh has not resigned!

I have taken examples of BJP ruled states only because it is the BJP that is demanding Sheila Dixit’s resignation in Delhi. There are similar CAG reports for all Congress ruled states as well. As is seen, the BJP in all its states has chosen to ignore the CAG reports. But when it comes to the CAG report on Delhi, it wants the scalp of Sheila Dixit.

Of course, none of the media outlets in the country have deemed it necessary to bring out this part. This is plain double-speak by the BJP and yet the media is happy not to bring it out. Of course, its not as if the Congress can claim very high standards either. In each of the examples mentioned above states, the Congress has demanded the exact same as the BJP is demanding in Delhi – the resignation of the Chief Minister! So let’s be candid here – it’s not as if one party is better than the other. Both are abusing CAG reports when convenient to them.

There is so much politics in our country that every single institution is infected with it. The media is considered the fourth estate and has an extremely important role to play in a democracy. Ideally, the media should not take sides between two political parties. Yet, in India, media is totally aligned with one or the other. Take this small example. The leading newspaper in Mumbai has been raising a big storm recently about the condition of roads here. There are allegations of huge corruption in the allotment of road contracts. Contractors have been raising prices after winning the contracts. In one particular case, there has apparently been a cost escalation of 627%. Of course, the newspaper also gets its maths wrong. If an 11 crore rupee project finally becomes Rs 91 crores, then the escalation should be 727%, not 627%! But leave the maths aside. The newspaper has been reporting that the potholes are causing back problems to many people; many others are dying by falling off motor-cycles etc. The newspaper has raised the subject to the top of everyone’s mind. Finally, some action is likely to happen. What am I complaining about? All this is good right? It isn’t. Because this paper has forgotten – or maybe it finds it inconvenient – to mention that the BMC which is responsible for the mess has been under the Shivsena-BJP coalition for nearly 20 years now. For a newspaper so acutely smart on political stories, how did it forgot to mention the name of Shivsena? Is this not a case of favoring one party over the other?

It’s time we cut the politics in this country. Let’s focus on the economy instead. There are serious global problems which can cause grievous hurt to the Indian economy. If ever there was any reminder needed of this, there was a strong one provided yesterday. Stock markets around the world were pushed down by the weight of the US sovereign downgrade. It’s implications on India – at least in the immediate context – look gloomy. If the stock markets underperform, capital raising gets affected. This affects long term growth. But here’s the opportunity: In the long run, India could actually stand to gain from the problems that the rest of the world is facing – provided it can get its act together and move ahead forcefully. That’s what we should be focused on. How do we take advantage of the global scenario? We should be pushing the government for more reforms. Demanding why it is not moving ahead rapidly. But does anyone bother about the economy???

The real truth unfortunately is we all love politics. We love the tamasha that accompanies politics. There is so much intrigue in politics. In comparison, most people don’t understand economics. That’s why it never gets discussed. But we need to realize the dangers of all this. If we miss the opportunities available, all of us will suffer. It’s a wake up call. Lets heed it….

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