The sooner the ruling UPA and opposition parties seek a vote from the people the better. But both sides may not be prepared to face the wrath of the aam aadmi yet
Over six and a half decades after attaining independence and later declaring ourselves a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic, we are living in a state of uncontrolled, dysfunctional anarchy today.
In our own amchi Mumbai, a veteran journalist is shot on a busy road in broad daylight, a woman is raped and the body dumped in a suburban train, kids are kidnapped with demands for ransom, newly-constructed flyovers are cracking up, the list of scamsters whether in the Adarsh or the 2G scandal is unending, now corporate bosses, even some Members of Parliament and a union minister are cooling their heels in jail for the first time, as some others still roam free.
The stark reality is that we citizens are mute witnesses to a circus, with clowns like the Digvijayas and Ramdevs raving and ranting, without an effective ringmaster. So who is calling the shots?
The last parliamentary election in 2009 which put UPA-II in the driver's seat was a fractured mandate, in the first-past-the-winning-post electoral system. The Congress and its allies netted less than a third of the popular vote. The combined opposition agrees to disagree, as is evident with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties.
In Mumbai, less than 42%-well below even half the city's eligible population-cared to exercise their franchise. Among those who did cast their vote, many were transported to the poll booth and even paid in cash or kind (liquor continues to be an effective bait). Many voted in place of the absentee middle and upper class people who chose to go out of town with the family for an outing on voting day.
No government can claim to speak for the entire people, even though the writ of a government applies also to those who have voted against it and to those that did not vote at all. It is only systemic convenience that allows a government, with a wafer-thin majority, to speak, act and arrogate unto itself the right to steamroll over the people.
The government's apathy, gross misgovernance, maladministration, non-responsiveness to serious matters, coupled with all-pervading corruption perpetrated by the babu-neta-goonda raj has resulted in a massive confidence and trust deficit in the elected representatives, who have been found to be busy lining their pockets, by dipping their fingers into the MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) funds, coming together to hike their own remuneration and allowances, and enjoying heavily subsidised sumptuous biryani without observing the Q in parliament or assembly canteens. All this raises a big question mark about the sincerity of the elected representatives to represent the people and requires civil society to step in to stop the rot being perpetrated by them.
At no time, since independence, have we witnessed an attempt to listen in to conversations in the offices of the union finance minister, the de facto number two in the government, by planting bugs, while the union home minister terms it as a "non-event".
It has been revealed in response to RTI queries that former ministers for railways and fertilizers attended only 15% of the cabinet meetings.
Article 370 of the Constitution on Kashmir has not been abrogated yet, although the then prime minister had promised that it was to be only a temporary provision.
The prime minister publicly pats the disgraced communications minister even after the CBI finds a prima facie case. The minister for human resources development (HRD) is saddled with the responsibility of the communications ministry, and immediately on taking over challenges the numbers in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
This minister, along with three senior cabinet colleagues goes to Delhi airport and then to a five-star hotel to negotiate with Ramdev Baba, nicknamed by some as sarkari sadhu, and then bad mouth the yoga guru.
In the middle of the night, Delhi police lathicharge and teargas men, women and children on a silent protest at Ramlila grounds, a la Jallianwalla Bagh.
The fine on the union rural development minister, enhanced by the Supreme Court, is paid by the state of Maharashtra and a judge of the Supreme Court wonders how the minister continues in office.
While the HRD minister also holds charge of the communications ministry; the finance minister presides over not less than 35 committees of groups of ministers. When do they get the time to discharge their duties?
A tainted secretary is appointed chief vigilance commissioner; a former chief justice of India under the scanner is appointed as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; a corrupt Karnataka chief justice is transferred to Sikkim where the legal community launches a protest. There are scams and scams-the shame of the Commonwealth Games, the 2G licence scandal, Adarsh, and perhaps more that will pop up.
The government has yet to get the Direct Taxes Code and an amendment to the Companies Act passed in parliament, and it is not making much effort to fast-track the Satyam multi-crore fraud prosecution, even though the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States has heavily penalised the auditors.
Right to Information (RTI) activists along with the media, have played a key role in exposing the wrong-doings, with the CAG providing the numbers like in the 2G and Reliance K-G Basin matters, and the judiciary is monitoring the action being taken.
The so-called civil society will have to broaden its base, by getting many more non-political professionals and individuals on board, to propel action. The war of words (as the joke goes in Delhi) between 'Sibal Society' and Civil Society must stop. People have taken it on themselves by coming out, because the neta-babu-goonda nexus has virtually hijacked the legislative process; rushing through with some measures, but holding back on others, even getting some matters passed through the backdoor and planting cronies at sensitive positions. Their argument that only they, as the elected representatives, can decide on matters, does not pass the muster. And for the simple reason that they have not been elected by a sizeable majority.
We have seen our so-called netas on the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha channels misbehaving and throwing agenda papers and currency notes on the floor of the House, also abusing and assaulting their opponents in full public view. The Representation of People's Act needs to be amended to incorporate the "Right to Recall" those representatives who have failed in the performance of their elected duties.
The Lokpal Bill, drafted jointly, is the need of the hour. It should cover all, right from the top-be it the president, the prime minister, ministers at the Centre or in the states, the superior judiciary, the armed forces, all constitutional authorities including the CAG, CBI, CVC, CIC, CEC, civil society, heads of corporate India, the regulators and professionals, need to be brought under the purview of not a bulky 11-member group, but a manageable three-member Lokpal team, set up along the lines of the Election Commission.
The appointment and termination of these members must be decided by parliament, and not the executive or Cabinet. The other persons to be covered down the hierarchy must be left to local functionaries.
The earlier the Congress Party and the opposition parties seek a vote of confidence, the better. As a result of what is happening all around, both sides are unprepared to face the wrath of the aam Bharatiya aadmi yet!
(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)
The automaker approached the apex court as the Calcutta High Court had on Monday refused to pass an interim stay order observing that the Tata Motors petition had no specific statement as to when the process of land distribution would start
New Delhi: Tata Motors today approached the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High Court order refusing its plea to restrain West Bengal government from distributing land to farmers in Singur, reports PTI.
The petition was mentioned before a vacation bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and AK Patnaik which posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday. The bench accepted the plea of Tata’s counsel to file the petition later in the day.
The counsel submitted that the company is seeking a direction for the state government not to create third party interest in the land.
The Calcutta High Court had yesterday refused to pass an interim stay order observing that the Tata Motors petition had no specific statement as to when the process of land distribution would start.
The high court had noted the petitioner had submitted that if the prayer was not allowed and land distributed, the original petition challenging the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 would become infructuous.
Tata Motors had moved an ex-parte petition seeking stay on distribution of land expressing apprehension that it would be given back to ‘unwilling’ farmers within a day or two.
Cairn Energy will sell its 40% stake in its Indian arm to Vedanta at Rs355 per share instead of Rs405 a share agreed in August last year. It will now get gross proceeds of Rs27,007 crore (about $6.02 billion) instead of Rs30,811 crore ($6.84 billion) it was initially expecting
New Delhi: In the first indication of Cairn Energy Plc’s willingness to accept government’s conditions for selling its Indian unit to Vedanta Resources, the Edinburgh- based firm yesterday agreed to lower the sale price by over Rs3,800 crore, reports PTI.
Cairn Energy will sell its 40% stake in Cairn India to Vedanta at Rs355 per share instead of Rs405 a share agreed in August last year. It will now get gross proceeds of Rs27,007 crore (about $6.02 billion) instead of Rs30,811 crore ($6.84 billion) it was initially expecting.
“Cairn and Vedanta have agreed to certain adjustments to the transaction sale and purchase agreement for the sale of part of Cairn Energy Plc’s shareholding in Cairn India, involving the removal of the non-compete arrangements and associated fee,” the two firms said in separate statements.
The Scottish explorer has for the past 10 months denied need for government approval to what it called a corporate transaction. It also rejected both the requirement of nod and pre-emption of partner Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which holds stake in 8 out of 10 properties of Cairn India including the crown-jewel Rajasthan block.
The government has refused to give its approval to the deal which was initially valued at $9.6 billion (including the mandatory open offer Vedanta Group had to make to minority shareholders of Cairn India) unless Cairn agreed to the requirement of partner consent.
Cairn and its successor have to agree to making royalty ONGC pays on entire crude output from Rajasthan despite owning only 30%, as recoverable from sale of oil. ONGC had cited provisions of the contract months before the deal was announced, to demand that royalty be made cost recoverable.
A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee last month decided to make cost recovery of royalty and Cairn India agreeing to pay Rs2,500 per ton cess on its 70% share in Rajasthan as preconditions for the government consent for the deal.
Both the conditions had material impact on the deal and Cairn Energy on Monday announcing that it is willing to forego Rs50 per share non-compete fee it was charging Vedanta, indicated its willingness to accept these conditions for the sake of the deal.
The GoM’s recommendations are to go to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for approval later this week.
Cairn said the transaction will now take place in two tranches: Cairn Energy will sell 10% out of its 62.2% stake in Cairn India by 11th July and another 30% upon receipt of the government approval.
But will selling a 10% stake without government permission not violate production sharing contract (PSC) is to be seen.