Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The desperate farmer of Medak district who burnt away the paddy crop in his three-acre farm because of his inability to get the crop harvested has made his children drop out from educational institutions and work as daily wage earners.
The heart-rending story of the marginal farmer Kankara Mallesam of Nawabpet village in Hutnur mandal of Medak district came to light following a visit to the village by State Lok Satta Party leaders Bandaru Rammohana Rao and G. Raja Reddy today.
Mallesam had spent Rs.60000 on raising paddy in his three-acre farm. When it was ripe for harvest, he could not access agricultural workers to reap it.
Farmers in the village import agricultural workers from the neighboring Nalgonda district and Karnataka State. AS of today, there are 300 agricultural workers drawn from outside the village with a population of 2000. Implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has witnessed the number of workers opting for agricultural work dwindling all over rural Andhra Pradesh.
The migrant laborers were not prepared to work on his farm located about three km from the village, although he offered to share 50 percent of the produce with them. Even if he wanted to, he could not hire a harvester, as it cannot negotiate the slushy track to the farm.
Neither the sarpanch of the village nor the local legislator visited the farmer in distress. The sarpanch, a Dalit, had migrated to another village to work as a mason. The local legislator and former Minister was engrossed in Ministry-making politics in Hyderabad. Agriculture Department officials, who had failed to get the crop insured, now tell the farmer they can do little since he has burnt away his crop.
The Lok Satta Party leaders accompanied by Tummanapalli Srinivas and Sudheer Reddy, who visited the farm after trekking two km and called on the farmer tried to console him. Mallesam, aged about 55, is a widower. Having married off a son and a daughter, he is taking care of the other two children – a 17-year-old boy doing Intermediate and a 13-year-old girl in her eighth class. Now he has made them give up education and work as daily coolies to help him make both ends meet.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The power struggle within the Congress is aggravating people’s miseries in Andhra Pradesh, commented the Lok Satta Party here today.
Talking to the media, Lok Satta Party leaders V. Laxman Balaji, P. Bhaskara Rao and Ravi Maruth pointed out that a paralyzed administration had failed to address the two burning problems – the agrarian crisis and widespread corruption.
The Lok Satta leaders at the outset pointed out that the resignation of Mr. Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy and his mother Mrs. Vijayalakshmi from the Congress, and the Lok Sabha and the Assembly respectively, is an internal matter of their party on the surface. The 14-month-old power struggle within the ruling party, however, has been playing havoc with people’s lives.
They referred to reports of small and marginal farmers burning away the paddy crop ripe for harvest, unable to pay daily wages ranging from Rs.300 to Rs.400 to agricultural laborers. The Government had abdicated its responsibility of ensuring fair and remunerative prices for paddy. It remained a silent spectator as rice millers exploited the hapless farmers. It has not bothered to announce the State advisory price for sugarcane even on the eve of the harvest whereas the U. P. Government fixed it as Rs.250 a quintal.
They reiterated the party stand that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme be extended to cover agriculture so that farmers did not face shortage of labor even as workers found gainful employment.
The Lok Satta Party leaders said that corruption had become rampant as a weak Government would not initiate any measures to combat it. They referred to the Supreme Court observation that something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court and said the same could be said of every sphere in Andhra Pradesh.
They disclosed that Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan would be leaving for New Delhi on a three-day visit to discuss the agrarian crisis with the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council Chairman Dr. C. Rangarajan, Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India Kaushik Basu, and Planning Commission members. He will discuss electoral reforms as one of the means to combat corruption with members of the Election Commission of India. The Lok Satta has already taken some initiatives for the formation of a National Judicial Commission to pre-empt and punish corruption in the judiciary.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Quality education alone and not sops will help people conquer discrimination based on caste and realize their full potential for growth, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.
Addressing a gathering after garlanding the statue of Mahatma Jyotiba Govindarao Phule at Moosaram Bagh Crossroads, on his 120th death anniversary, Dr. JP recalled Phule was the first to fight for social equality and education of the girl child. His spouse Savitribai stood by him in his mission. Raja Ramamohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati fought for social reforms but did not focus on girls’ education. Phule’s fight for a casteless society inspired leaders like Narayana Guru, Babasaheb Ambedkar, E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker, and Mahatma Gandhi. Phule did not link God with castes and religions.
Dr. JP said that if people could not ensure quality education for their children, the blame lay squarely with the Government. Even much poorer countries like Tanzania and Ruanda were far ahead of India in providing education to children. A system, in which rulers gobble up 90 percent of revenue and spent the remainder on sops would not help eradicate poverty. Provision of quality education to all and making it the center-point of politics will be the real tribute to Mahatma Phule, Dr. JP said.
Sarva Jana Satta, Yuva Satta and Lok Satta leaders and activists like Eda Chennaiah, Vinod Yadav, Mangala, Naveen, Ramu, Vijaya Kiran, Hemant, K. Gita Murthy, Y. Ramadevi and Jagan took part in the program.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Mr. Sambaraju Balakishen Rao has been appointed President of the State Upadhyaya Satta, a Lok Satta affiliate. He is the headmaster a school teacher in Shadnagar mandal of Mahbubnagar district.
The State Working Committee of the Upadhyaya Satta, which met here today, effected the change following the appointment of the incumbent, Prof. Vijayakumar, as Mahbubnagar District Education Officer.
Mr. M. Sattibabu, General Secretary, presided over the meeting.
Addressing the Working Committee, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said the Upadhyaya Satta should distinguish itself from other teachers’ organizations which hit the roads frequently on sectional demands. It should take up a program to strengthen education in the Government sector to earn respect for the teacher and ensure a bright future for students and the country. He wanted teachers to make the Right to Education Act, Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan and Rajiv Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan a success. He instanced how the American society revolves round education by pointing out that people mention the local school as a reference point for their address.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Saying sorry for the inconvenience he was causing, to the postal employees, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today remitted one rupee by money order to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh marking the launch of a National Campaign against Corruption.
A number of students and youth followed Dr. JP by either sending money orders or mailing postcards to the Prime Minister demanding that the Government cancel 2-G spectrum licenses, recover the Rs.1,76,000 crore the nation has lost and constitute an Independent Anti Corruption Commission.
Dr. JP told the staff of Parishram Bhavan Post Office as also the media that the Lok Satta had fallen back on money orders and post cards to enable even the poor to pour out their anguish and indignation over the worst instance of corruption in world history indulged in by the Telecom Ministry, and seek recovery of the money lost and punishment of the guilty.
Dr. JP charged that the mainstream political parties were indulging in shadow-boxing on the scam with some demanding a JPC inquiry into the scam and some others opposing it. The Congress and the BJP as also the UPA and the NDA were finger-pointing at each other and in the process sweeping under the carpet the crucial issue of recouping the stupendous loss the nation has suffered. The telecom scam was not a private dispute between two political parties. It involved the loot of a precious and finite resource like spectrum for the aggrandizement of corporate houses, bureaucrats and politicians. The nation could not be a silent spectator.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi blaming BJP for retaining Mr. Yediyurappa as Karnataka CM, and the opposition blaming UPA for retaining Mr. Raja as Telecom Minister in 2009 do not solve the problem. Two wrong will not make a thing right. We need to aggressively pursue a creative, effective anti-corruption strategy to safeguard the future of millions of young people.
Dr. JP said that everyone irrespective of party affiliation should fight the corruption menace, which endangered the future of the youth and the country. The Rs.1,76,000 crore the nation lost would have been enough to provide all amenities ranging from roads and drainage to parks and public transport in all cities and 2000 municipalities in the country. It could have been utilized to build 10,000 hospitals at the rate of one for every one lakh of people, (Rs.30,000 crore), build two million class-rooms (Rs.60,000 crore) and develop all universities to world-class standards and provide skill-enhancement and job-oriented training to 50 million youth (Rs.90,000 crore). Two crore houses could have been built to provide shelter to 10 crore homeless people with this money.
Dr. JP said that the need of the hour was an all-powerful, independent anti corruption commission that will ensure swift and sure punishment of the guilty including their imprisonment and attachment of illegally gained properties.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Conveying its greetings to Mr. N. Kiran Kumar Reddy on his assumption of office as Chief Minister, the Lok Satta Party wanted him to find an amicable settlement to issues raised by Government employees, beedi workers, auto rickshaw operators and others. With the administration coming to a standstill, all of them had hit the roads.
Lok Satta Party Working President D. V. V. S. Varma and party leaders Bhisetty Babji and P. Bhaskara Rao in a media statement also requested the Chief Minister to ensure payment of a bonus of Rs.200 a quintal to paddy growers and facilitate free movement of rice. They wanted him to handle corruption with an iron hand.
The Chief Minister should transcend party and regional differences and demonstrate he is heading a Government that immediately responds to people’s problems.
The Lok Satta Party would support every effort the Chief Minister makes in this direction, said the statement.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Q. What is the 2G Spectrum Scam?
Ans. In 2008, the union government awarded pan India licenses and second generation telecom spectrum to 9 companies in 122 circles for offering mobile telephony services. These licenses were awarded in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner for a paltry sum of Rs.1658 crores, which was the price discovered in 2001, when the teledensity was very low. This abnormally low price was fixed without taking into account the remarkable increase in teledensity in the country, and the precious and the finite spectrum was allocated on a first-come, first-served basis without calling for competitive bids and without regard to experience in telecom sector. The government has also failed to lay down eligibility criteria for applicants and arbitrarily advanced the cut-off date for considering applications. The subsequent sale of spectrum so cornered by fly-by-night operators for many times the fee they paid had caused enormous loss running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees to the public exchequer.
Based on the subsequent auction of airwaves for third generation (3G) services, which fetched nearly Rs.63000 crores, and that for broadband access, which fetched over Rs.35700 crores, the notional loss to the exchequer due to under pricing of 2G spectrum was estimated by the CAG to be a whopping Rs.160,000 crores !!
Q. Can the 2G licenses be cancelled?
Ans. Yes. Under Section 23 and 24 of the Indian Contracts Act 1872, a contract becomes void if it is tainted with corruption. The Government can cancel the licenses and take back the 2G spectrum thus allotted, and return the license fee to the licensees after deducting fee for the period they used it. Revoking the allocation in public interest is necessary, fully
justified, and legally tenable.
Q. How do we recover the lost money?
Ans. The government can recover the lost money by fresh allocation of 2G spectrum through international competitive bidding after laying down transparent eligibility criteria in consultation with TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Also, the government can recover the excess profits obtained by the licensees, through imposition of a ‘windfall profit tax’.
Q. What can be done to punish the guilty and prevent such scams from recurring in the future?
Ans. The government can immediately take up the following measures to prevent recurrence of such scams and frauds:
Enact a law under which any license/lease of natural resources by the Government shall become void if there is evidence of corruption/fraud/collusion/loss to the Government. The fear of losing licenses/leases obtained with illegal money will deter corporates from indulging in corruption.
Enact a Windfall Profits Tax law (on the lines of the UK law 1997), which will provide for stiff taxation of windfall profits earned by corporates in the exploitation of natural resources either because of monopoly or a change in the global economic environment. The companies that cornered the 2G spectrum licenses through questionable means and sold them within weeks for astronomical sums should be subjected to the proposed windfall profits tax. Such a law will also help tax the abnormal profits made in the mining and other sectors.
Enact a False Claims Act (on the lines of the U.S. law). If the exchequer incurs any loss because of fraud or misrepresentation or violation of the due process as determined by an independent, competent authority, the guilty will have to pay a civil penalty equivalent to three to five times the loss sustained. The U.S. Government has collected over $24 billion from corporates under this Act.
Enact a comprehensive anti-corruption law and create an Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC). IACC set up in Hong Kong in 1974 reduced corruption within a few years. There is evidence that significant reduction in corruption alone will enhance economic growth rate by 1.5 to 2 percent per annum. Recent estimates indicate that nearly Rs.9.7 lakh crores of tax evaded money earned through corruption and dishonest business practices is stashed away outside India debt. Honesty is not merely a moral imperative; it is an economic necessity to accelerate and sustain high growth rates and eliminate poverty.
The CAG’s report on the 2G spectrum has proven beyond reasonable doubt that this is a scam of massive proportions involving corruption, arbitrariness, loss to the public exchequer, and abuse of authority at the highest levels of the government involving politicians, civil servants and even corporate houses. The CAG’s estimate (which was based on the prices paid by bidders in the auction of 3G spectrum) indicate that the Indian exchequer was defrauded to the extent of a staggering 1,52,000 crores!
In the recent past, we have also witnessed the ugly and shameful corruption surrounding the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai. These are only a few scams that have seen the light of the day. Not a single day goes without some scam taking place somewhere in the country, and in a growing economy like India, in the absence of adequate safeguards, we can be certain of continued corruption.
Yet, the public debate seems to be focused on superficial measures such as removal of a minister/chief minister, and constituting a parliamentary committee for investigation. While they may be necessary measures in the short run, there is nothing on the anvil to either punish the guilty parties, take corrective measures to make good the loss to the exchequer, and prevent corruption from taking place in the future.
The need of the hour is tangible, decisive action for combating corruption. We took the initiative to create a common platform – “National Campaign against Corruption” to bring together eminent Indians from various walks of life, and like minded civil society organizations from across the country. We aim to channelize the public outrage constructively, and put pressure on the government and political parties to achieve tangible institutional changes for effectively combating corruption.
As part of this effort, from now and up to 9th December (International Anti-Corruption day), we encourage you to write to the Prime Minister (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) and demand concrete steps to punish the guilty parties and affect institutional changes as outlined below:
Wherever possible, please encourage young people, college students, and enlightened citizens to send the same message by post cards addressed to the Prime Minister by name at: Dr. Manmohan Singh, R.No.148 B, South Block, New Delhi 110001. Also Re.1 money order can be sent to the Prime Minister with the same message. The Money Order will cost Rs.2.25 (Re.1 + Re.1 as MO fee and Rs.0.25 for the MO form), and has the added advantage of someone in PMO having to acknowledge it.
Please ensure that your name, address and email or phone number is listed on your email or post card to lend authenticity to your message.
We will keep you posted on our future plan of action and other developments from time to time.
National Campaign against Corruption
Demanding immediate cancellation of the 2-G spectrum allocations, recovery of the Himalayan loss the exchequer has suffered and institution of a strong anti corruption commission, students and youth will be flooding the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with post cards, e-mails, faxes and one-rupee money orders beginning November 26.
Announcing the action plan at a media conference here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan called upon the youth and students to transcend party affiliations and raise their voice against corruption, which undermined their hopes for a better future.
Dr. JP said India has earned the dubious distinction of recording the biggest scam in world history in one Government wing in one year. Going by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, the loss sustained by the exchequer could be as large as Rs. 1,76,000 crore. Had the Government earned such colossal revenue, it would have been sufficient to build 5 million classrooms or 20 million homes or add 8 million hospital beds.
Dr. JP regretted that all mainstream political parties focused on peripheral issues like appointment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee instead of pondering how the loss caused by collusive corruption could be recouped. They were guilty of obfuscating the issue by pitting tainted Telecommunications Minister Mr. A. Raja against scam-ridden Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yedyurappa, and indulging in mutual mud-slinging.
Dr. JP pointed out that the Indian exchequer had been robbed in broad daylight with politicians and bureaucrats resorting to dubious, opaque and illegal means to reward a select band of rapacious operators. By canceling the tainted licenses and disgorging the beneficiaries of their windfall gains, the Government should send a strong message that those who cheat the Government would not merely lose their social standing but also go bankrupt.
Dr. JP announced that Lok Satta, along with a number of highly credible individuals would be filing a petition in the Supreme Court on November 29 seeking cancellation of 2-G spectrum licenses. He released a poster titled National Camapgtin against Corruption as also a pamphlet on the 2-G spectrum scam.
Party General Secretary Katari Srinivasa Rao announced the campagin would be continued until December 9, World Anti Corruption Day. Dr. JP himself would send a money order to the Prime Minister listing the three demands on the scam on November 26. A public walk and a meeting would be organized at Visakhapatnam as a culmination.
Replying to questions, Dr. JP said that the Bihar verdict, as the earlier ones in Gujarat, Delhi, MP and Chattisgarh, demonstrates that people would vote back a party to power if it provides relatively better governance. He appealed to the State Government and the agitating employees to enter into a dialogue and sort out their problems. He condemned attacks on ‘Sakshi’ offices as unwarranted in a democracy.
Mr. D. V. V. S. Varma, Working President and Yuva Satta and Vidyarthi Satta leaders D. Ramu, P. Sivaji, Naveen Kumar Sarma and Mangala took part in the media meet.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Andhra Pradesh is fast hurtling into anarchy because of the acts of commission and omission by a pusillanimous Government and interested pressure groups, charged Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.
Addressing a media meet on the agitations and counter-agitations on the sub-inspector recruitment written examination, Dr. JP said the Government could have pre-empted law and order problems had it persuaded the Union Government to delete the controversial Clause 14 F from the Presidential Order. The agitated people should have explored ways and means of getting their grievances redressed through legitimate and legal channels instead of enforcing shutdowns and threatening self-immolation.
Dr. JP recalled that the Lok Satta Party was the first to suggest deletion of the clause 14 F of the Presidential Order relating to recruitment of police in Hyderabad city. The State legislature unanimously adopted a resolution seeking deletion as early as in March 2010.
Without following up the Assembly resolution, the Government decided to recruit police personnel. As trouble erupted over treating Hyderabad as a ‘free zone’, the Government initially decided to put on hold the examination in Hyderabad but go ahead with it in other parts of the State. As the Telangana agitators would not relent, the Government has now deferred the examination all over the State and triggered a counter agitation in the rest of Andhra Pradesh.
Dr. JP said that the alien, undemocratic British rulers were much more balanced, mature, reliable, and consistent than the present Andhra Pradesh rulers. State Government actions have become irrational and unpredictable.
Dr. JP said that sections of people and political parties were equally to blame for the present chaotic conditions. They seem to forget that rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. One could legitimately agitate for a cause but one should not inconvenience others in the process. Rasta rokos, hartals, and bandhs would hurt millions of people who lead a hand-to-mouth existence and deprive critical patients of prompt medical assistance.
He told sub-inspector aspirants in the Andhra region they need not fear any disqualification because of deferment of the examination by a few months. They will all be eligible for selection irrespective of some delay, as long as they were eligible at the time of application. Lok Satta party urges Government of India and Andhra Pradesh government to shed the passive, somnolent approach, and take energic steps to repeal Section 14 F of the Presidential Order, and conduct examinations for the police recruitment within two months. Meanwhile, Lok Satta Party appeals to unemployed youth of all regions not to resort to rasta rokos and bandhs, and not to hurt themselves. "They have to act with restraint and dignity, and they must not become victims of hatred and parochialism", appealed Dr JP.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today urged Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to enact a comprehensive anti-corruption law and create an independent anti-corruption commission (IACC) as in Hong Kong. The IACC, formed in in Hong Kong in 1974, reduced corruption within a few years.
In a letter to the Prime Minister which he shared with members of Parliament, Dr. JP pointed that since there is palpable support among the public and political parties for rooting out corruption, he should create mechanisms to enforce public integrity and end corruption.
“Honesty is not merely a moral imperative; it is an economic necessity to accelerate and sustain high growth rates and eliminate poverty.”
On the colossal corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum, Dr. JP said that apart from punishing culprits, the Government should undo the damage caused to the public exchequer and prevent future acts of such corruption.
He wanted the Prime Minister to revoke the tainted 2G spectrum allocations under Section 23 and 24 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 so that corporates which colluded with bribe takers and caused a colossal loss to the exchequer do not benefit from corruption. He drew the Prime Minister’s attention to the Government of India canceling purchase of 197 helicopters worth $600 million from Eurocopter following a Central Vigilance Commission report in 1997.
Dr. JP suggested imposition of a Windfall Profit Tax on all licensees who sold the spectrum or equity to ensure that the public exchequer retains abnormal profits made out of a vital public resource. He proposed enactment of a law to make all contracts involving corruption, or loss to the exchequer void and unenforceable and another to impose a civil penalty of five times the loss sustained by the exchequer in any public procurement or transfer of natural resource.
18th November 2010
Dr Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
Room No. 148 B, South Block
New Delhi – 110 001
Esteemed Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh ji,
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the Issue of Licenses and Allocation of 2G Spectrum covering the period from 2003-04 to 2009-10 is a severe indictment of the monumental corruption in the issue of licenses. The CAG documented the arbitrary, unfair and inequitable manner in which these licenses were issued, and estimated a presumptive loss to the exchequer of the order of 58,000 crore to 152,000 crore.
The 2G spectrum allocation episode is only the latest in a series of revelations of corruption and abuse of authority that have been agitating public minds. The recent revelation of Mr Ratan Tata, the Chairman of the highly reputed Tata Group, only confirms how corporates are made to pay a dear price if they refuse to comply with demands for bribes.
Understandably, the Government, Parliament, political parties and media are exercised about the political fall out of the issue, the mode of enquiry and the fixing of responsibility on errant individuals or institutions. However, it is important to realise that this terrible scandal offers a priceless opportunity to cleanse the political system of corruption.
Allocation of precious and finite spectrum on a first-come, first-served basis without calling for competitive bids, arbitrary advancement of the cut-off date for considering applications, fixing of an abnormally low price for the spectrum based on 2001 price discovery disregarding the remarkable increase in telephone density in the country, failure to lay down and enforce eligibility criteria for applicants, abrupt changing of criteria with clear inside information to a few favaoured applicants to give them the benefit of first right to allocation of spectrum, and sale of spectrum by fly-by-night operators for many times the fee they paid the Government – all these are now established.
Clearly any action now should aim at punishing the culprits, undoing the damage done by ensuring that the exchequer receives the full market value of the spectrum, and preventing future acts of such gross corruption in economic decision making, particularly in relation to transfer of precious natural resources and critical infrastructure.
Therefore, in addition to whatever is being done or contemplated by the investigative agencies, Courts, the Constitutional authorities and the Government, we urge you to take the following tangible steps.
1. The licenses allocating 2G spectrum should be revoked forthwith, so that the corporates which colluded with bribe takers and caused a colossal loss to the exchequer do not benefit from corruption. A contract tainted by corruption, ineligibility of licensees and arbitrariness, and has caused injury to public property is void, because the consideration or object of the agreements is unlawful as per Section 23 and 24 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. The Parliament and Government have sovereign powers to undo the wrong. When legitimate private assets could be nationalized as a matter of public policy, it would be perfectly legitimate and necessary to revoke licenses obtained in a corrupt manner, causing loss to the exchequer.
There are precedents of scrapping contracts when corruption and irregularities surfaced. In 2007, the defense deal involving purchase of 197 helicopters from Eurocopter worth $600 million was scrapped following the report of the Central Vigilance Commission.
However, the licensees could be refunded the proportionate license fee collected (duly deducting the portion of the fee for the period so far). Equally important, a mechanism could be evolved to protect the legitimate interests of honest buyers of the spectrum from the licensees, and of legitimate service-providers, even as public interest is protected.
2. A Windfall Profit Tax should be imposed on all licensees who sold the spectrum or equity whose sole / substantial value is based on the 2G spectrum license. This will ensure that abnormal profits made out of a vital public resource are retained with the public exchequer, and are not appropriated by private interests. This is particularly important when irreplaceable natural resources are involved, and the profits are obtained not by value addition but by mere control of public resources and monopoly. Such a Windfall Profit Tax was imposed in the UK in 1997 in respect of North Sea Oil and the monopolies in Electricity, Telecom, airports, gas, water and railways sectors.
3. A law should be enacted by Parliament making all contracts involving corruption, or loss to the exchequer void and unenforceable. This will remove all incentive for corporates to bribe any public official to get a favour. A company that will lose the bribe amount as well as the business or benefit or favaour obtained through corruption is unlikely to resort to bribery. Only then can we demand corporate integrity and create a level playing field.
4. A law should be enacted imposing a civil penalty of five times the loss sustained by the exchequer in any public procurement or transfer of natural resource, if a product is overpriced relative to the best customer of the company, or there is compromise in quality or environmental damage, or exchequer has lost money by any fraud, bribery or wrong doing. An independent competent authority can be entrusted with the responsibility to impose the penalty in all such cases.
The False Claims Act in the US has similar provisions and has worked well. An amount of over $24 billion has been recovered from corporates under this law over the past 23 years in 10,650 cases.
5. Finally, the Parliament should enact a comprehensive anti-corruption law incorporating the recommendations of the Fourth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. In particular, creation of an empowered, independent anti-corruption commission (IACC) is of vital importance. In Hong Kong creation of an effective IACC in 1974 reduced corruption within a few years.
There is evidence that significant reduction in corruption alone will enhance our economic growth rate by 1.5 to 2 percent per annum. Honesty is not merely a moral imperative; it is an economic necessacity to accelerate and sustain high growth rates and eliminate poverty.
There is a palpable public support for rooting out corruption from our public life, and all political parties are unanimous in recognizing the need to take firm and tangible steps to combat corruption.
We therefore urge you to convert the present crisis into an opportunity, and institutionalize effective mechanisms to enforce public integrity and the scourge of corruption.
In view of the importance and urgency of the issue, I have taken the liberty of circulating this letter to all Members of Parliament and the media.
With warm personal regards,
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As part of its multi-pronged fight against ubiquitous and monumental corruption, the Lok Satta Party will be approaching the Supreme Court to get the corruption-tainted 2-G spectrum licenses cancelled and licenses issued afresh on competitive bidding.
The Lok Satta will implead itself as a party in the case filed by the Center for Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court or a file fresh petition if necessary on the 2-G spectrum scam, said party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan in a media statement here today.
He said that the revelation of Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata that the Tatas kept away from aviation business as it was not prepared to oblige a Minister with a Rs.15-crore bribe once again underlined the need for institutional mechanisms to prevent corruption.
Dr. JP said that most of the debates in the media and political circles missed the forest by focusing on trees like the future of Mr. A. Raja, the guilty Minister, the alliance between the Congress and the DMK and the nature of the inquiry that should be instituted.
The terrible scandal offers a priceless opportunity to cleanse the political system of corruption, said Dr. JP and outlined the ways and means of going about it.
There can be no two opinions on the fact of massive corruption in the 2-G spectrum allocation as the Telecom Minister and some bureaucrats have been caught with the smoking gun. Allocation of precious and finite spectrum on a first-come, first-served basis without calling for competitive bids, arbitrary advancement of the cut-off date for considering applications, fixing an abnormally low price for the spectrum disregarding the remarkable increase in telephone density in the country, failure to lay down eligibility criteria for applicants and sale of cornered spectrum by fly-by-night operators for many times the fee they paid the Government had caused enormous loss running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees to the public exchequer.
Dr. JP demanded that the 2-G licenses granted by Mr. Raja be straightway annulled under Section 23 of the Indian Contracts Act. A contract as per the Act becomes void if it is tainted with corruption. The Government could return the license fee to the spectrum licenses after deducting fee for the period they used it. The Government should then call for international competitive bidding after laying down transparent eligibility criteria in consultation with TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).
To prevent recurrence of such scams in future, the Government should enact a law under which any license for or lease of natural resources by the Government to corporates shall become void if there is evidence of corruption/fraud/collusion/loss to the Government. The fear of losing licenses/leases obtained with illegal money will deter corporates from indulging in corruption.
Dr. JP said that a second law be enacted immediately providing for stiff taxation of windfall profits earned by corporates because of the monopoly enjoyed by them in the exploitation of natural resources the Government allocated them either because of monopoly or a change in the global economic environment. The British Government enacted such a law in 1997, when some British companies earned abnormal profits by striking oil in the North Sea and the oil price skyrocketed. The companies that cornered the 2-G spectrum licenses through questionable means and sold them within weeks for astronomical sums should be subjected to the proposed windfall profits tax.
Dr. JP suggested enactment of another law on the lines of the False Claims Act in the U. S. If the exchequer incurs any loss because of fraud or misrepresentation or violation of the due process as determined by an independent, competent authority, the guilty had to pay a civil penalty equivalent to three to five times the loss sustained. The U. S. Government had collected USD10 billion under the Act.
Dr. JP appealed to all political parties to utilize the opportunity provided by Mr. Raja to devise institutional mechanisms for mitigating, if not eliminating corruption. India’s GDP (gross domestic product) would go up by about two percent straightway, if only corruption could be curbed, he added.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today complimented the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission for ruling that assets of IAS and other officials furnished to the Government from time to time should be revealed under the Right to Information Act.
He added that the asset details of not merely IAS officials but all officials, elected people’s representatives and members of the judiciary should be available for public scrutiny. The media also should subject these asset statements to critical scrutiny, based on the reputation of the official, the manner of obtaining the asset, the concealment of assets through benami transactions, the life-style of the official and other relevant factors. What is not disclosed is often far more significant than the disclosures themselves.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Retired APSEB engineer P. Madanmohan (75), who demonstrated that electricity distribution losses could be brought down from 27 percent to 9, percent passed away at his village Pupala in Ranga Reddy district today.
The Lok Satta activist and convener of CORE (Convener of Consumer Organization for Regulation of Electricity), took up a pilot project on behalf of the Foundation for Democratic Reforms and demonstrated the effectiveness of decentralized power distribution in Kallacheruvu in West Godavari district.
Recalling his services, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that Mr. Madanmohan established that decentralized power distribution would eliminate corruption, minimize down-time and ensure quality supply.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said today that the country and the Lok Satta movement had suffered a great loss in the demise of Mr. L. C. Jain. “Personally, I have lost a formidable colleague, great friend, and mentor.”
Conveying his deep condolences to Mrs. Devaki Jain, Dr. JP said in a media statement that Mr. L. C. Jain was reputed for his uncompromising idealism, indomitable will, unflinching courage, and eloquent expression. Under the tutelage of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Mr. L. C. Jain fought for preserving and promoting the Indian handicrafts industry and millions of artisans dependent on it.
Mr. L. C. Jain, Dr. JP recalled, was an ardent champion of decentralization of power. He was with the Lok Satta when it mobilized one crore signatures seeking empowerment of local Governments.
He campaigned for liberating cooperative societies from the corrupt and exploitative Government machinery. At the request of the Lok Satta, Mr. L. C. Jain appeared before the State Assembly committee and tendered advice when the TDP proposed an unconstitutional law on cooperatives. The TDP Government dropped the proposal and enacted a liberal law later on.
Mr. L. C. Jain, who stood for liberty and democracy, fought against the Emergency in 1975. A Gandhian, all through his life, Mr. L. C. Jain mounted a sustained and passionate struggle for a just and humane society for two generations after Independence.
Nearly 40 p.c. of the rice procured being recycled to PDS through traders and FCI
80 p.c. of country's requirement of oilseeds being imported without any cess or curbs
KADAPA: Bifurcation of the State is neither a boon nor bane and not a panacea for the problems plaguing a State, Lok Satta State President Jayaprakash Narayan remarked here on Saturday.
It's a myth that formation of a State would end problems like unemployment, irrigation etc., Dr. Narayan commented at a news conference here. The agriculture sector was in a crisis leaving 1.20 crore families dependent on agriculture in the State in disarray due to lack of remunerative prices and the government's lopsided policy of negative subsidy, while governments abroad boosted agriculture by giving subsidies, Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said.
Calling for pro-agriculture policies, he demanded withdrawal of rural development cess ranging from five to 10 per cent, value-added tax of four per cent and market cess of one per cent on agriculture in AP, he said
Ban on export
Karnataka levied only a market cess of 1.50 per cent and permitted sale of agriculture produce anywhere in the country. In contrast, the AP government banned exports even to other States. The per capita income of farmers were Rs.15,000 a year, i.e. Rs.40 a day, seven times lower than Rs.4 lakh per annum in industrial and service sector, the Lok Satta president said.
Calling for a concerted movement by farmers to safeguard the agriculture sector and achieve remunerative prices, he said farmers could call Lok Satta Call Centre on phone No. 40405050.
While the country needed 1.62 crore tonnes of rice and wheat for public distribution system, he said the Centre had a buffer stock of 4.60 crore tonnes. Nearly 40 per cent of the rice procured was being recycled to PDS through traders and Food Corporation of India, he alleged.
On the other hand, 80 per cent of the country's requirement of oilseeds were being imported without any cess or curbs. Import duty on oilseeds would fetch revenue of Rs.25,000 crore, Dr. Narayan said.
Courtesy: The Hindu
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The direct and grave indictment of the present Union Telecommunications Minister A. Raja by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) points to a staggeringly-high loss of Rs. 1.7 lakh crores to the public exchequer. This revelation comes in the wake of two other shameful scams: the gross irregularities in the Rs. 70,000 crore - Commonwealth Games (CWG) and the shameful Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai, the latter being carried out invoking the sacred memory of Kargil martyrs.
This is a serious warning sign on two counts:
1. the sheer scale, scope and magnitude of corruption and the consequent loss of massive amounts to the public exchequer and
2. the involvement of politicians at the country’s highest levels.
Essentially, the CAG concluded that the Union Cabinet Minister for IT and Communications ignored advice from the PM and ministries of law and finance, the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) and allocated 2G spectrum to a select group of other-wise ineligible companies at throwaway prices. The CAG also faulted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for its acts of omission and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for its gross violations of norms.
Distorted public debate:
Unfortunately, the public debate is at present entirely centered on whether the Union Minister A.Raja has to be sacked or retained, whether such a sacking would change the ruling coalition’s arithmetic or not and likewise. Given India’s track record, the persons involved would likely consider such a ritual ‘political sacrifice’ at the altar of media-driven and coalition-governed politics to satisfy the effervescent public attention, which would then move on to other issues.
While the immediate removal of the tainted minister is a necessary and obvious first step, we should not mistake the trees for the forest. It is imperative that all concerned and guilty persons should be suitably punished through a fast-tracked legal process, given the overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of gross irregularities, likely involving massive bribery and corruption facilitated by blatant misuse of office and abuse of authority.
Real issues must be examined:
Even more important is that we should take a step back and examine the deeper issues impacting the overall welfare of the nation and its citizens. This exercise is absolutely necessary so that not only are the guilty suitably punished, but also the losses to the public exchequer are recouped, punitive damages imposed on the guilty parties and a suitable anti-corruption mechanism is put in place to ensure that no such gross instances of gross corruption take place in the future. The root causes of political corruption must be addressed or else such incidences are bound to recur with greater severity and wreck the Indian economic growth miracle. In this context, we should examine the following hierarchy of issues, principles and priorities:
Tainted Contracts: The 2G-spectrum telecom licenses granted to a select group of favoured companies, which otherwise were totally ineligible for providing telecom services, are quite obviously ‘tainted contracts’. Media reports indicate that CAG pointed out that 12 such ineligible companies secured 85 out of 122 licenses across various jurisdictions in India, for the 2G spectrum.
Corruption, bribery and abuse of authority must be established immediately: While the irregularities in the entire process of granting licenses have been established by the CAG, an independent investigation must be carried out immediately to ensure that the corresponding corruption, bribery, abuse of office and misuse of authority too are established. This body of evidence must form the foundation for a fast-tracked criminal prosecution and punishment of all concerned persons, in both government and outside. At present, India does not have such a fast-responding and effective investigative, prosecution and judicial redressal system to fight serious corruption (see below).
Tainted contracts should be scrapped immediately: Parallel to the above investigation, the Union government should immediately undertake a comprehensive, unbiased and transparent review of the entire 2G spectrum licensing policy and process, based on the CAG’s report. Any 2G spectrum licensing contract that is established to be obtained on the basis of corruption and bribery or abuse of office and authority and in violation to the government’s norms should be declared as null-and-void; they were obtained illegally and therefore are unenforceable. Hence they should be scrapped.
Internationally, in most legal systems, transactions tainted by bribery or corruption are considered illegal and unenforceable. Even in India, in 2007, the Indian Army did not hesitate to scrap a $600 million-worth deal for 197 helicopters with Eurocopter, the world’s largest maker of civil and military helicopters (and a subsidiary of EADS, the European defence and aerospace group), following the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)’s criticism of the bidding process and illegal use of middlemen, violative of the existing policy of prohibiting middlemen in military deals. The Army subsequently went in for a fresh and open bidding process.
Spectrum, a scarce and precious national resource, belongs to us Indians: It should not be forgotten that the 2G spectrum ultimately is a scarce and precious national resource. The granting of licenses to cellular operators is merely a privilege granted by the sovereign Indian government, entirely on a discretionary and temporary basis.
Now that several ineligible companies were granted these licenses through acts of bribery, corruption, abuse of authority and office, the corresponding 2G spectrum has to be taken back by the government. It can be handed over in the interim to the BSNL, a hugely credible and successful public sector telecom company, for ensuring the smooth continuation of cellular/mobile phone operations. This top-tier redressal arrangement would guarantee that, we, the ordinary consumers are not inconvenienced and do not lose out on the present and easily-accessible cellular phone services. This spectrum can be subsequently allotted to various operators, de-novo, through a transparent, proper licensing process that benefits the consumers as well as the public exchequer.
Recovery of loss to the public exchequer: Simultaneously, punitive damages must be imposed on the guilty parties and the monies should be recovered from them. Towards this, all ill-gotten wealth earned through illegal means should be seized and confiscated by the government and deployed for public good.
The present law against corruption and its application suffer from several lacunae including absence of effective provisions for forfeiture of property of corrupt public servants, dilatory processes because of overload of criminal cases in courts, political control of investigative agencies, weak prosecution, and legal requirements of prior sanction of prosecution of public servants accused of corruption.
The various Committees and Commissions constituted by the State and Union Governments have reiterated the need to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988. The 166th Law Commission Report, the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s 4th Report amongst others have made key recommendations in this context. A suitable law is urgently required to amend the PCA in order to make it more effective in fighting the menace of corruption.
In addition, a legislation is needed to eliminate multiplicity of agencies dealing with wrong doing of public servants, to strengthen the institution of Lok Ayukta and sharpen its jurisdiction, and make elected and appointed public servants more accountable.
Towards this, the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill (2009) has already been prepared and submitted to the AP Legislative Assembly by Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (AP MLA). The traditional parties must act now to enact this law.
Strong anti-corruption mechanisms and institutions need of the hour: Plundering the public exchequer for private gain has been the favourite pastime of unscrupulous crooks, often in collusion with politicians and officials entrusted with the responsibility of protecting public good. This corruption disease has reached epidemic proportions in India. Our existing and regular statutory, investigative, prosecution and judicial systems are able to cope with this tidal wave of corruption.
Time for a False Claims Act in India: The False Claims Act in the US is an excellent example of innovation to prevent and detect fraud and corruption. Under this law, any person can unearth fraud or false claims (such as the ones made for organizing the Commonwealth Games), and file suit on behalf of the US against those who have falsely claimed federal funds for any procurement of goods, works or services. Such a whistleblower who files successful suits (called ‘Qai tam’ suits) can recover 15 - 25% of any settlement or judgment reached in a case if the government intervenes in the action, or up to 30% if they pursue it on their own. Private citizens thus have an enormous incentive to detect false claims and corruption and file suits. Consequently, a huge industry of unearthing false claims has sprung up, and hundreds of false claim suits are filed every year. Since then, 4000 such suits have been filed, resulting in $6 billion recovered. In addition, $4 billion was recovered in government-initiated claims. In all such cases, a person making false claim is liable to 3 times the amount of damages sustained by the government, plus a civil penalty.
It is high time we enacted similar laws providing incentive to citizens to unearth fraud and corruption. There are practical, simple, effective methods to set things right. Sensible laws and effective legal system to enforce them are crucial to prevent public fraud.
Independent and empowered Anti-corruption mechanism for India.
We need to create a strong, independent, empowered Lok Pal with adequate resources. The CVC and CBI should function within the purview of Lok Pal. The anti-corruption wing at national and local levels should be completely independent of political and partisan control. They should be under Lok Pal / Lok Ayuktas, similar to the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC) created in Hong Kong in 1974. The Anti-corruption law should be tightened as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. There should be independent prosecutors drawn from judiciary to prosecute corruption cases. Special Courts, confiscation of property and swift justice should be the essential ingredients of our anti-corruption strategy.
The recent scams and the resultant public outrage should lead to tangible institutional and legal outcomes as suggested above. Only then can India move forward, and build a strong economy and mature democracy of which we can be justly proud.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Welcoming the release of Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan hoped the world community would persuade the military junta to restore her liberties in full.
In a media statement, Dr. JP said that like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi has displayed indomitable courage and boundless compassion, although most of the world had forsaken her.
She refused to yield to bitterness and hatred although she had to spend 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest because of her fight for democracy.
Mr. P. Sivaji Raju (27), a graduate from Wesley College, has been appointed President of Vidyarthi Satta, the Lok Satta Party’s student wing, by the party’s Working President D. V. V. S. Varma.
In a media statement, Mr. Raju said the Vidyarthi Satta would strive to motivate students to enter politics and help build a corruption-free political system.
Friday, November 12, 2010
A United Forum of Women has come into existence to fight for women’s causes.
At a meeting attended by representatives of different political parties, women’s and civil society organizations and social activists at the Lok Satta Party headquarters here on November 11, the forum decided to mobilize women from the village level and fight against domestic violence and other atrocities, the liquor menace and exploitation by microfinance institutions.
Constitution of committees at the village level, institution of help lines, and production of short films and documentaries on women’s problems will be taken up, according to a media statement issued by Mrs. Tripurana Venkataratnam and Mrs. K. Gita Murthy, President and Coordinator of the United Women’s Forum.
The following are the other office-bearers of the forum: S. Manorama, Kalpavalli and Subhashini – Vice Presidents, Ogeti Sridevi, Shaheeda Begum and Paduri Karuna – General Secretaries, Keerthi – Treasurer and Aruna – Media Coordinator.
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today demanded that the Government of India cancel all the 2-G spectrum licenses Telecom Minister A. M. Raja capriciously granted, and their reallocation through international competitive bidding or allocation to the public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam.
Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP said that resignation by Mr. Raja or his removal from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister alone would not be enough to meet the ends of justice.
Dr. JP said that there was more than adequate circumstantial evidence to nail Mr. Raja of indulging in corrupt practices. Mr. Raja arbitrarily changed the due date for submission of applications for licenses, followed a first-come first served policy, ignored the phenomenal spurt in mobile telephony in sticking to the old rates, and ignored the advice tendered by TRAI, the Law Ministry and the Prime Minister. The fact that companies with no track record in telecom sprang up overnight, cornered the licenses and minted tons of money without any value addition by selling them to others within a few weeks fortified the case against Mr. Raja.
Dr. JP suggested that the Government of India enact a law to prevent such instances of collusive corruption in future. The law should stipulate that a contract with any entity stands annulled automatically if any evidence of collusion between Government functionaries and beneficiaries comes to the fore. Such a law would inhibit corporate firms from indulging in collusion since they faced the prospect of losing all the benefits they would have cornered.
Dr. JP said that courts should be enabled to punish the guilty with exemplary penalties if the Government is made to incur unwarranted expenditure, or forgo legitimate revenue or if the environment suffers any damage because of corporate firms’ acts of commission and omission. The penalty could be three to five times the loss incurred.
Dr. JP said that corruption had become so ubiquitous in the grant of licenses and contracts, and lease of precious and finite resources like spectrum and minerals that the private sector was flourishing at the cost of the public exchequer and the people at large.
Dr. JP reiterated his party’s demand for the constitution of institutions at the national and State levels to go into cases of corruption against elected representatives and officials, constitution of an independent anti corruption commission and prosecution, of cases by members drawn from the judiciary. Swift and sure punishment of the guilty and confiscation of their ill-gotten wealth alone would help mitigate, if not eradicate, corruption, he added.
Replying to a question, Dr. JP said Chief Minister K. Rosaiah had set a bad precedent by taking part in a sit-in demonstration against RSS leader Sudarshen’s comments against Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Mr. Sudarshan was no longer the RSS head and the RSS itself was distancing itself from the remarks.
When informed that Mr. Rosaiah took part in the sit-in in an area covered by prohibitory orders, Dr. JP said that by not arresting the Chief Minister and others for violating law, the police lost a golden opportunity to demonstrate that all are equal in the eyes of law.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The Lok Satta Party today demanded that the Andhra Pradesh Government to release immediately its share of Rs.268.42 crore towards 2009 kharif crop insurance payments to farmers. The Government of India has released its share of the total Rs.699.48 crore.
In a media statement, party Working President D. V. V. S. Varma pointed out crop insurance would not serve its purpose if the Government could not ensure prompt compensation for crop losses. The State Government’s delay in submitting crop insurance claims to the Government of India and in releasing its share of funds was unwarranted.
Mr. Varma suggested that crop insurance be not limited merely to bank loans but also cover cultivation costs. Many farmers could not avail themselves of crop insurance because of the haphazard manner in which banks sanctioned loans.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today demanded that the State Government constitute an independent and impartial authority to go into allegations of corruption leveled against each other by Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, and Leader of the Opposition and TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu.
In a media statement, Dr. JP welcomed the willingness of the two leaders to face an inquiry and said that a former judge could head the authority. The Anti Corruption Bureau should function under the jurisdiction of the authority and an independent prosecutor drawn from the judiciary should assist it.
Dr. JP said people were losing faith in political parties, leaders and institutions as unbridled corruption involving thousands of crores of rupees had reached monumental proportions. At the national level, corruption charges relating to the 2-G Spectrum allocation, organization of Commonwealth Games, and the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai in the recent past had tarnished the nation’s reputation. At the State level, corruption charges relating to land allotment for SEZs, mining leases and Jalayagnam, to name a few instances, have become the order of the day.
Dr. JP said that using corruption as a political weapon against rivals served no purpose. People would not regain their faith in institutions unless the corrupt are swiftly jailed and their properties promptly confiscated through powerful, independent, and effective mechanisms.
The Union Government, he said, should take steps to constitute a powerful Lok Pal at the national level to go into allegations of corruption against members of Parliament, Chief Ministers, and civil servants whether in office or out of it. A similar institution should come up at the State level.
He called upon the youth especially to rebel against the corrupt system, which undermined their future.