Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Corruption and Public Loot under UPA Government

The neo-liberal growth trajectory in India has meant very little for the common people. This is evident from the following facts—India is ranked 119 (out of 169 countries) in the recent Human Development Report, 77% of the population earn less than Rs 20 per day, around 50% of India’s children and women are malnourished with India ranked 67 among 84 countries in terms of Hunger. At a time when people in this country are demanding a life free from such acute hunger, unemployment and deprivation, they are witness to the sordid scandals of large amounts of public money being looted. The sheer amount of money and the involvement of top level ministers and other functionaries in these scams are simply unprecedented.

2G spectrum scam:

This scam has cost the public exchequer Rs 1,76,000 crore. To put it into perspective, this amount would have been enough to provide the extra funds needed for a universal public distribution providing 35 kgs of rice at two rupees a kilo for the entire remaining term of the UPA Government. This amount is also eight times more than the entire Central budget for health and at least three times more than that for education. Yet the Government led by the Prime Minister says it has not enough funds to provide universal food security. This colossal loot of the public money was done under the tutelage of the Telecom Minister who followed an utterly dubious policy of spectrum allocation, presumably, to please certain corporate interests. What is all the more shocking is the complete silence and inaction of the Prime Minister on this faulty policy-making by a Cabinet Minister. The CPI(M) raised questions about both policy matters as well as procedural issues and asked the Prime Minister to intervene. But he chose to ignore those questions. Even now, when the entire country is asking for answers, the PM is completely silent while the Government is denying the legitimate demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe into this huge scam.

Commonwealth Games Scam: 

The cost of Commonwealth Games (CWG) at the time of bidding in 2003 was estimated at Rs 1899 crores. By 2010 the total expenditure on the CWG rose to Rs 70,000 crore when the Games were eventually held. This expenditure is around 14 times the expenditure incurred during the CWG held in Melbourne in 2006. Even funds worth Rs 700 crore earmarked for the development of the deprived sections were channelized towards expenditure on the CWG. This colossal expenditure on the CWG is a direct result of the humongous corruption indulged in not only by the Games Organizing Committee but also by various functionaries of the Central and Delhi Government. The UPA Government has constituted an enquiry committee into this scam headed by a former CAG. The committee is basically powerless and its role has been proscribed to look into the irregularities of the Organizing Committee only while many branches of Central and Delhi Government were also involved in this scam.

Adarsh Society Scam: 

After the Kargil war, the Adarsh Housing Society was set up in 1999. It stated in official letters to the state government that it was meant for housing the widows of the martyrs in the Kargil war and for the families of war veterans. It has now transpired that among the 103 apartments that were sold to members of the Adarsh Society, not a single flat was given to either the widows of the Kargil martyrs or to the war veterans. All these flats were cornered by top politicians, bureaucrats and even by top ranking officers of the armed forces. What is more, while the market price of each flat was around eight to ten crore rupees, they were sold to these people at just 60 to 80 lakh rupees each! With the exposure of this scam, the CM of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, had to resign. However, this scam has shown glaringly how all rules are flouted and bent to ensure that politicians and higher ranking bureaucrats grab whatever public property is available, even if it belongs to the widows of the soldiers who died fighting for the country.

Scams under BJP Rule in Karnataka

Land Scam: 

In one of the most brazen misuse of power, Mr. Yeddyurappa de-notified around 500 acres of prime land in and around Bangalore worth Rs. 5000 crores. The main beneficiaries of this decision have been his children and other relatives who have acquired these plots of land at abysmally low prices. The CM has not denied the charges but has shamefully defended his actions on the grounds that others have done it before him. The BJP in the most shameful and hypocritical manner has also decided that Mr. Yeddyurappa will remain the CM of the state.

Mining Scam: 

Even this nepotism and corruption pales in comparison to the huge amounts of money being made by the mining mafia in mainly the Bellary district of Karnataka led by the Reddy brothers, who are Ministers in the Yeddyurappa Government. According to the office of the Lokayukta of Karnataka, a large number of mining leases are taken over on contract by a powerful lobby. This lobby takes over the leases, mines the iron ore and pockets 80 per cent of the profits. The earnings from a single day has been assessed at Rs. 39 crores. In the State Assembly, opposition MLAs have said that the entire illegal mining and the contract system is worth over 25,000 to 30,000 crores.

Neo-liberalism and Corruption

What these scams highlight is the malignant nexus of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and big business operating at the centers of power. Many of the big names and the doyens of corporate India are involved in these corporate crimes. The nexus poses a serious threat to the system of parliamentary democracy itself. These powerful lobbies transform the instruments of Governance to suit the interests of corporates and scamsters and shape public policy to advance private interests. In the current era the nature of corruption is one where it is not the earlier method of giving bribes to get some contract from the government or the license to open a factory. Now, the policy itself can be bought or sold with money with the big businesses deciding what a particular policy will be. It is therefore not surprising that both the Congress as well as the BJP are actively involved in various corruption cases since both the parties cater to the interests of the big business and corporates.

What we are witnessing in India is a primitive accumulation of capital, whereby the corporates are feeding on resources of the state or the people for personal aggrandizement. This loot of the state resources are not only done through corruption. It is also the case that the state itselt provides huge tax concessions to the rich to fill private coffers. In the year 2005-06, the amount of tax concessions provided to the corporate sector was Rs 34,618 crore. Within four years this figure more than doubled to reach Rs 79,554 crores in the year 2009-10. Additionally, the government has provided tax concessions to the income tax payer (a miniscule proportion of the population) to the tune of Rs13550 crore in 2005-06, which increased to Rs40,929 crores in 2009-10. In other words, the increase in the wealth of the corporate sector in India has been both through scams like the 2G spectrum or through state policy. While there is lot of hue and cry about the scams, all major political parties including the BJP are completely silent on the question of sops provided to the rich.

In other words, neo-liberalism entails increasing private wealth (of the rich and corporates) either through scams or through active state policy. In the current era, therefore, the struggle against scams is intrinsically linked with the struggle against neo-liberalism.

Pragoti subhanil

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