(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 20, 2011
Sense of Drift Grips UPA Govt
THERE was great expectation that the prime minister’s interaction with the senior journalists of the electronic media would shed some new light and dynamism regarding the government’s efforts to tackle the two most important issues confronting the country and our people – relentless price rise and mega corruption. Far from doing so, this interaction confirmed that this UPA-II government is gripped by a sense of drift.
On the issue of the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum scam, the prime minister said: “There is entirely a wrong impression that I was blocking the JPC. I am not afraid of facing any committee….I have always said my conduct should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion”. Pray, then tell us why the winter session of the parliament was wasted? Though he repeated earlier assurances that those guilty of corruption would be brought to book, this failed to carry conviction when it was pointed out that he had given a commitment that those involved in corruption relating to Commonwealth games would be brought to book within ninety days and that time limit had long expired. However for the sake of record, he once again, repeated that the guilty will not be spared.
There were repeated references to the fact that the UPA-II was a coalition government and the prime minister was compelled to follow a `coalition dharma’. By implication, this conveys that in order to keep the government in office, mega corruption at high levels must be tolerated. This is simply unacceptable to India and its people. It is specious to suggest that corruption not only occurs but becomes an accepted element of coalition governments. The Congress party alone had a three-fourths majority in the parliament when the Bofors scam took place.
Further, such references to `compulsions of a coalition’ suggest a sense of helplessness of the prime minister. He is either being prevented from doing what he wants, or, he has to digest what he may otherwise be disagreeing with. This sounds, to put it mildly, strange given the experience of the UPA-I coalition led by this very prime minister. UPA-I had a common minimum programme (CMP) which served as the agenda for the government. The Left parties that supported the UPA-I government from the outside publicly declared such support on the basis of this CMP. There was no reference to promoting a `strategic relationship’ with the USA, or, to the Indo-US nuclear deal. On the contrary, the CMP talked of “independent foreign policy”, “promote multipolarity in world relations and oppose all attempts at unilateralism”. This very prime minister and UPA-I ruptured the `coalition dharma’ and went ahead with the nuclear deal breaking with the Left parties and engineering a majority in the Lok Sabha through an obnoxious display of monetary horse trading. Having done this, now to bemoan the `compulsions of coalition’ to justify its drift sounds hollow. It also reflects the class character of the UPA government which earlier risked the violation of `coalition dharma’ to cement India as a junior subordinate ally of US imperialism, to now take refuge behind this very coalition dharma and plead helplessness. Such sanction to justify lack of governance or, the naked loot of our country and people is simply unacceptable.
With regard to the amount of money lost in this 2G scam, the prime minister appeared to agree with the present telecom minister in saying that the CAG estimate of the loss was notional. The government had chosen not to collect these revenues in order to provide the licenses cheaply to the telecom operators which would vastly enlarge teledensity and provide services at lower costs. This is a deliberately misleading line of argument as some of those providing the services today had bought them from entities like Swam and Unitech at six times the price the latter had paid the government to acquire the license.
Worse, the PM likened this 2G spectrum allocation to food and fertiliser subsidies being provided saying that by not collecting the due price from the consumer, can the government be said to incur revenue losses. Such a comparison clearly brings out the class character of this government. The prime minister, in as many words, said that this 2G spectrum allocation was actually a subsidy being provided to the big corporate houses in the telecom sector.
This raises the much larger question of whom should the government subsidise – the poor and the marginalised who are struggling to make both ends meet, or, the super rich, so that they may enter the world’s list of billionaires? Even if the government’s argument that it had chosen not to collect this Rs 1.76 lakh crores is accepted for a moment, consider what such an amount of money could have done to improve the quality of life of our people. If this revenue was collected, then it could have been possible to provide 35 kg of foodgrain at Rs 2 a kg to every single family (including APL) for two full years. This possibility of providing food security to our people has been forsaken. Look at it in a different way. This amount of money would have enabled the country to translate the constitutional right of education into a reality. With the construction of new school buildings, appointment of teachers, creating facilities for mid-day meal and providing uniforms and textbooks to students over five years, every single child in the age group of 6 to 14 years would have been in school.
This UPA-II government has chosen to not provide food security or education for all, instead it has chosen to provide super profits to the rich with its own share of the kitty. This is both material and moral corruption. Concessions to the needy are called `subsidies’ which are described as `bad’ for the economy, while concessions to the rich are called `incentives’ that are `necessary’ for the health of the economy!
Strangely, the prime minister had said that at the time of the cabinet formation of the UPA-II government, Mr Raja was reappointed as the telecom minister because none of these facts relating to the 2G scam were known. These columns had reported that since the allocation of 2G licenses the concerned issues were brought into public domain. The CPI(M) parliament leaders had written to the prime minister pointing out these very irregularities as early as in February 2008. These have now been officially corroborated. However, at the time of the government formation of UPA-II, these issues were in public domain. Yet Mr Raja was sworn in.
It can only be hoped, now that the PM has compared himself with Ceasar’s wife, the JPC would be constituted and the parliament allowed to function smoothly in the forthcoming budget session.
On the price front, the PM took refuge behind the fact that since the budget is due soon, he cannot make any policy pronouncements. Worse, he said that since India is now an open economy, there is little scope for the government to take effective measures. He, therefore, refused to give any assurance on prohibiting speculative trading in essential commodities or universalising the public distribution system. Neither of these are connected with the budgetary exercise. Yet, the PM chose not to make any reference to these issues.
Clearly, on both the issues of corruption and price rise, the prime minister has failed to give any confidence or assurance to the vast mass of the aam admi.
The prime minister, however, gave an indication that major economic reforms are round the corner, in response to a question that pointed out that the flow of foreign capital sharply declined by 31 per cent during the course of last year. This means that the reforms of financial liberalisation which the Left parties had prevented during UPA-I, like increasing the FDI cap in the insurance sector, banking reforms for further privatisation, full convertibility of the rupee and the privatisation of pension funds are in the pipeline. Thus, the strength of the Indian economy that helped us in resisting the disastrous impact of the global recession will now be weakened. This will spell doom to crores of Indian people while providing larger access to super profits to foreign and domestic capital.
(February 16, 2011)