Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It was the PM who brought in coal auctions….why should he resign???

As expected, the BJP has made yet another demand for the PM’s resignation. It’s worth looking at what the BJP is charging the PM with in making this demand and how justified it is in this demand.

For one, it is not like the PM started the policy of giving away coal blocks through a screening committee. This was the system prevailing since times immemorial – including right through the NDA period – and the UPA government was merely continuing with that policy. Nothing happened in 2004 or 2005 that made it think of switching to coal auctions. It was a policy initiative, not necessitated by any terrifying developments. It was progressive thinking. In fact, it was the PM who first thought of coal block auctions as a way to bring in transparency and augment government revenues. So he’s the one who should be credited with the shift from random allocations to auctions. That process may have taken time – 7 years in this case – but at least it happened. In the previous 6 years of NDA rule, no one even thought about the idea. How can a person be asked to resign for something he sought to improve???

Change in policies is continuous. So there may be another policy tomorrow on another subject. Take the example of the CAG report today on the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board). The report says that the penalty for a nuclear disaster was just Rs 500. But the government has already changed the policy in 2010 by introducing the Nuclear Liability Law which takes the penalty up to Rs 1500 crores on the facility operator. This is a progression from the past; this doesn’t make the past a scam or a case of corruption. Take the new land acquisition bill which is in Parliament and could get passed in a few months (assuming it is allowed to function at all by the BJP!). And then suppose a few years later, the CAG or the opposition alleges that all the land deals of the past were cases of corruption! This would be bizarre. By that logic, there is an solid incentive for politicians never to change policies. Because any change for the better would make all prior actions look like corruption!

What should the CAG really have said (rather than what it actually did with all its political motivations)? It should have opined that the policy of random allocations, had cost the nation Rs xyz. It could have said that the policy was flawed. That would have been fine. But what did it actually say? That it was corruption! How did it make the leap from flawed policy to corruption? If it is corruption, someone who took the decision should have benefited financially or otherwise. Has the CAG done that? Is it the CAG’s case that the PM took money? Well if that is the case, I would be the first one to demand the PM’s resignation. But that is not what the CAG has said. In fact, the CAG has not made any allegations of corruption against any politician. The CAG has – bizarrely – alleged that there were corporates that benefitted, but has failed to point out who in the government was corrupt. Amazing!

Besides, should the CAG not have commented that the policy was flawed right from the time the Coal Mines Nationalization Act (CMNA) was formulated? Since the deviations were made which allowed for captive mining? No. The CAG failed to even point out that the policy was decades old. A creaky old policy was attempted to be changed by the PM. The CAG preferred to ignore the past….and accuse the one who had the audacity to change! In the same way, had the 3G auctions never taken place, the 2G scam wouldn’t exist! It’s bizarre. Tomorrow, if a new policy is attempted for 4G, then even the 3G may be declared as being a case corruption! Why, if the Institute of Chartered Accounts of India (ICAI) changed the rules of audit, should we also declare the past CAGs to be corrupt, no less?! Should we so dumb as not to realize the difference a changing policy and an act of corruption?!

And what about the BJP habit of disrupting Parliament? When you have an opposition that says “We are the opposition….so we will oppose” (Yashwant Sinha), then what better can we expect? Even when they are not completely shutting down Parliament, the BJP is opposing everything it can, irrespective of what its own beliefs are. It has no justification to oppose FDI in anything, considering it’s own past penchant for FDI. It has no reason to oppose the Lok Ayukta clause in the Lokpal Bill considering its promise to Anna. But then, the BJP is the opposition, and poor souls….they are duty bound to oppose!

One last point. The BJP talked so much about the federal structure and the need for the Center to consult the states. I guess, by “consult”, they didn’t merely mean someone from the Center making a courtesy phone call to a state official and then ignoring the state’s views? That’s what I gathered from the entire storm around NCTC. Even there, the Center had called up the states, but it had gone ahead apparently ignoring the views of the states. So when it came to the NCTC, the Center should have followed the advice of the states; but when it came to coal, the Center should have merely considered the advice of Rajasthan, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Bihar…..? So maybe in future, in addition to taking the advice of the states, the Center should also ask them: Should we ignore you or follow your advice? Please document this for posterity!

We need to use the system of Marshals that the rules of Parliament allow (like done in the RS when the Women’s Reservations Bill was passed). Obstructionists have no place in Parliament and should be forcefully evicted. The rules of democracy should be followed….else democracy itself will be crushed. If there is so much policy paralysis, the opposition has at least half the blame to take. Such powers as given by democracy to our MPs are unsustainable if they are not matched by similar duties. It is the duty of every MP to let Parliament function. To let every Parliamentary institution (JPC, PAC etc) function. If someone blocks the working of these institutions, they should be forcefully evicted. The BJP is the master of drama….but it doesn’t help anybody…..least of all, itself.

The real truth is that the BJP is letting its hunger for power be abundantly publicized. Some days back, the BJP claimed that its states had done better on GDP growth. That would be the right argument for it to carry to the people. That would be a constructive agenda. Everything else it has been doing is just obstructionist and destructive….

No comments:

Post a Comment