Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: fight against corruption

Sonia Gandhi travel expenses

How much money has been spent on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign tours? Narendra Modi quoted a figure of 1,880 crore rupees from Gujarati newspaper Jaihind dt. 12/7/2012. RTI activist Ramesh Verma had filed an application in 2010 and there was no reply. Congress has attacked Modi but no reply on how much was spent and why the delay in reply.

Someone said the figure of 1,880 crore rupees is absurd, it is several times the figure of space travel of Virgin Atlantic. Absurd things happen in India. Commonwealth Games were supposed to cost few hundred crores rupees. It went up to 1,02,000 crores.

Sonia Gandhi’s travel includes people who accompany her; her son, daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and security guards. Sometimes she has led delegations to other countries. Once she went to Russia. If the planes were chartered, expenses would have been more. In what capacity did Sonia Gandhi spend public money? As an MP? As chairperson of UPA? As chairperson of NAC? When public money is spent people have a right to know how it is spent.

There may be something embarrassing about expenses. Questions may be raised about expenses on family members. That may be the reason why government does not want to reply to RTI question and Congress is unwilling to face the question.

CIC said government did not spend money on Sonia Gandhi’s medical expenses in August-September 2011. Nothing was said about travel expenses.

Fight against corruption must continue

India Against Corruption seems to have lost direction and momentum in fight against corruption. IAC wanted a Lokpal Bill. That did not happen. They wanted right to reject and right to recall. Both are unlikely to happen soon. Anna Hazare seems unable or unwilling to lead the agitation. Other members should resume the fight against corruption.

IAC members need not go on indefinite fast. They can go on chain hunger strike. Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan can fast for some hours every day. Then Shazia Ilmi, Gaurav Bakshi and Manish Sisodia can take their turn. Then some other people fast. Every day the cycle is repeated. The fight for Lokpal should be separate from fight for Lokayuktas.

Elections are said to be major reason for corruption. That is partly true. Many people who don’t fight elections are also corrupt. In India elections take place throughout the year in some part or other. IAC must fight for a single election day once in five years. Elections to all Lok Sabha, Legislative Assembly, Zilla Parishad, municipality, panchayat and other local body constituencies should be held on a single day. That will reduce corruption. A candidate should be allowed to contest from one constituency only.

IAC should fight for presidential system. Parliamentary democracy has failed. Coalition compulsions result in wrong people being ministers. Even when there is single party government in states there is dissidence. Someone who is not chief minister tries to become chief minister. President should be elected by MPs and MLAs. Vice President should be elected by MPs. Governors should be elected by MLAs. Direct election to President, Vice President and Governors are expensive.

IAC should fight for an easy process to remove corrupt judges, bureaucrats and other officials.

IAC should fight against corporate debt restructuring. Corporates who have borrowed must pay the debt as per the conditions on which they borrowed. Properties of defaulters should be attached. List of borrowers and defaulters should be public.

IAC should fight for abolition of Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils. Parties sell Rajya Sabha seats.

IAC should not worry about not being representative of OBCs, Muslims, SCs, STs and so on. Those who talk of such things have lost elections.

Fight against corruption demands fight for a new constitution. IAC should draft a new constitution. Supreme Court judges should be appointed by President after approval by Parliament. High Court judges should be appointed by Governor after approval by Legislative Assembly. Let not IAC worry about self-styled followers of Ambedkar protesting against new constitution. Those followers do not have much following. Ambedkar did not write the constitution. He was the chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution. The followers of Ambedkar have not protested when the constitution has been amended around hundred times.

No Lokpal

On 29/12/2011 Rajya Sabha was to vote on the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. It was adjourned sine die without vote. Parliament was called to sit on 27, 28 and 29 of December 2011 to pass Lokpal Bill. Lok Sabha passed it. Rajya Sabha did not.

Winter session was supposed to end on 22/12/2011. Anna Hazare had announced his three days fast beginning on 27/12/2011 if the bill had not been passed by then and thereafter three days of jail bharo andolan. If the Parliament passed Lokpal Bill by 22/12/2011 India Against Corruption would have observed gratitude day and held thanksgiving party on 27/12/2011. Winter session saw many disruptions and waste of many days. Many parties changed their positions on Lokpal Bill. There were 17 dissent notes in the standing committee report. There was all party meeting.

Anna Hazare’s fast was supposed to take place at Azad Maidan. It was shifted to MMRDA Grounds. Three government agencies had objected to fast at Azad Maidan. Anna Hazare’s health was not good. He had fever. India Against Corruption expected large crowds on 27/12/2011. That did not take place and many people called it flop show. Azad Maidan would have been a better place. Being close to Churchgate station many people would have come there during the day.

Lok Sabha passed Lokpal Bill as the government wanted and not as Anna Hazare Group wanted. Lok Sabha did not pass constitution amendment bill giving constitutional status to Lokpal as the votes in favour of amendment did not reach the half way mark. Congress blamed BJP. BJP said Congress should look within itself and 16 Congress MPs were absent. Sushma Swaraj said it was not for BJP to fulfil Rahul Gandhi’s dream of constitutional status to Lokpal.

On 28/12/2012 at 6 p.m. Anna Hazare called off his fast and jail bharo andolan. Around two lakh people had registered to go to jail. The MPs were jubilant. They were under no pressure.

Now TMC changed course. It had voted for the bill in Lok Sabha. It now wanted amendments to the bill. It wanted references to Lokayuktas deleted. It claimed it did not know about Lokayuktas. The bill was the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. TMC had a member in the standing committee. It had a cabinet minister and the bill was discussed in cabinet. The bill was given to MPs on 22/12/2011. It was discussed in all party meeting. To say TMC members did not know about references to Lokayuktas in the bill is not credible. TMC moved amendments in Rajya Sabha.

As per one report there were 203 amendments, another report said 187. Suddenly there was lot of talk of federalism. There was not much talk of ending corruption. The government did not have the numbers to pass the bill in Rajya Sabha. It did not agree to extend the session beyond midnight. The house adjourned. The purpose of extension of winter session was not served.

Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government wanted time to go through 187 amendments. That was misleading as some amendments were counted multiple times as for example “Delete clauses 66-97” was considered 32 amendments. Congress should have put the bill to vote. It did not have the numbers and it would not have been blamed for failure. The government would not have fallen if the bill was defeated.

Hamid Ansari was guilty of allowing the debate to drag on. He did not answer when Sitaram Yechury asked when the voting would take place. He should have stopped discussion at 11 p.m. and put the bill to vote.

Fight against corruption is tough and long. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. There are many vested interests, some of them journalists, who do not want corruption to end. MPs behave the way the nobles behaved in France before French Revolution.

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