By Pradyut Hande:Â
The incumbent UPA – II Government finds itself sinking deeper into the proverbial quagmire of controversy and disgrace with each passing day. It appears to be courting allegations, reprobation and ignominy with increasing vigour; much to its embarrassment. The recent CAG reports on the allocation of coal blocks, mega power projects and the development of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi have left the Centre gasping for breath. With a cumulative revenue loss accruing from these projects touted to be an astounding Rs. 3.78 lakh crore; the UPA – II is running dangerously low on “credibility fuel“; further jeopardising its rapidly dwindling chances of survival. The sheer magnitude of the monetary loss coupled with adverse ramifications on its already tarnished image; is most appalling.
To put things into perspective, let us view the “holistic scam” through a more discerning lens. According to the CAG, the losses through the improper allocation of the coal blocks amount to Rs. 1.86 lakh crore. This was a result of the questionable allocation of 57 valuable coal blocks to private companies at hugely subsidised prices. While for the power projects and the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi it amounts to Rs. 0.29 lakh crore and Rs. 24,000 crore respectively. These alarming figures pale in comparison to the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore 2G Spectrum Scam. The cumulative loss to the exchequer has certainly not gone unnoticed and additionally has adversely impacted the economy that continues to grapple with high inflationary pressures, interest rates, sluggish growth, policy stasis and an ever burgeoning fiscal deficit. One can shake his head in disbelief at the level of gross mis-governance, abject mismanagement and blatant abuse of electoral power; but the clarion call for accountability and transparency has never been louder.
These latest revelations are guaranteed to further undermine the Centre’s already precarious position from the public’s perspective. With “corruption” writ large on the wall, it would be interesting to watch how the Government attempts to extricate itself from this humungous controversy. Any attempts at surreptitiously sweeping it under the carpet would further antagonise an already irate populace. Furthermore, the Government ought to brace itself for the torrents of vitriol and tides of acidulous criticism that promise to rain down upon them, courtesy a sabre toothed Opposition that now has more fodder to launch a savage assault on it. What makes this situation even worse for the UPA – II Government is the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was responsible for the coal portfolio when the blocks were wrongly allocated. This certainly does not augur well for his position and calls for his voluntary resignation are liable to gain greater intensity in the days to come. For someone associated with the tenet of integrity, only time will tell how Manmohan Singh negotiates these choppy waters of controversy. It is also worthy of noting that had the exchequer not incurred such mammoth losses, we would have been able to address our growing fiscal deficit and ease inflationary pressures to a certain extent.
However, fretting over what could have been at this juncture of time is counterproductive. The key perpetrators behind these despicable scams ought to be identified and persecuted with alacrity. One must realise that these incidences are a body blow to the haloed institution of democracy and further undermine the electoral process. When public confidence is repeatedly shaken, a deep seated collective negative sentiment is bound to take root. The Centre thus, needs to engage in confidence building measures. For starters, shedding the garb of hesitancy and adopting a more proactive approach to address policy stasis would go some way in assuaging the people; or for that matter altering its generic perception as a corruption riddled, internalised, fiefdom oriented, reform averse entity. Additionally, stipulated guidelines germane to the competitive bidding of such properties and contracts in question ought to be followed rigorously under the watchful scrutiny of the concerned authorities. “Transparency” and “Accountability” must become integral watchwords for the Government moving forward.
Suffice to say, this latest controversy has caused irreparable damage to the UPA – II Government’s decadent hull. It remains to be seen how in the absence of any inspirational leadership at present, it endeavours to tide over these multiple scams in the face of mounting pressure and widespread negative public sentiment.