Monday, December 1, 2008

Money power in politics is more dangerous than terrorism

PAC manipulated to bury Yellampalli corruption
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today charged the ruling Congress with brazenly manipulating PAC proceedings to sweep an instance of monumental corruption in the Yellampalli project under the carpet. In the process, the ruling party has made a mockery of the Legislature and the Comptroller and Auditor General, both of which are supposed to act as custodians of public money.

Addressing the media, Dr. JP recalled that Mr. N. Sanjeeva Reddy resigned as Chief Minister in the late 1960s when the High Court merely observed that his decision to nationalize certain bus routes was arbitrary. There was no allegation of corruption. “These days we have to live with Governments which ignore allegations of even blatant corruption pointed out by investigative agencies, the media and the Opposition.”

The Parliamentary system provided for the formation of a Public Accounts Committee to oversee the spending of public money by the Government. By tradition dating back to decades, a member of the Opposition always headed the PAC to ensure that a Government enjoying brute majority in the legislature does not ride roughshod over it,

The CAG, an independent constitutional authority, had pointed out certain irregularities in the execution of the Yellamappli project on River Godavari ranging from upward revision of estimates to quality of materials used. As per the CAG, the Government has incurred a loss of Rs. 349.85 crores due to excess payment to the contractor. The PAC was expected to debate the report and arrive at a conclusion.

Dr. JP said that the PAC meeting was convened in the absence of the Chairman belonging to the main opposition party. Contrary to all traditions, it chose a member of the ruling party, that too of the Lower House, to preside over its proceedings and declared the Yellampalli project matter as closed.

“The indecent haste with which a serious matter involving abuse of public money is disposed of by a committee which gave a goby to all norms and traditions undermines people’s faith in the democratic process. Legislators seem to think they are not accountable to the public as they bought their way into the House with money and liquor.”

Dr. JP said that PAC members brazened out the Yellampalli controversy believing that might is right on a day brave Indian military and police personnel were shedding blood to save the nation from the all-out terrorist assault on the financial capital of India. “Such crassness merely accentuates the disenchantment of the youth and middle classes from politics.”

Dr. JP said Yellamapalli constituted merely the tip of the iceberg of corruption. “It is common knowledge that estimates are inflated to astronomical proportions so that the booty can be shared by politicians and officials. There are many instances of a contract changing hands five or six times before the final sub-contractor executes a project at 1/6th of the original cost. In one instance, a contractor who won the bid for a Rs.1500-crore project could clear his loans to financial institutions overnight by entrusting the execution of works to sub-contractors for huge commissions.

Dr. JP said that “so long as politics is practiced as a business proposition, it does not matter which party comes to power. The need of the hour is an all-out assault on money power in politics which is more dangerous than terrorists and RDX.”

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