Lust of Power Holds Governance to Ransom as Lawmakers Make Merry at Taxpayers’ Cost
One can only wish that the daylight murder of governance in Rajasthan could be dismissed as a bad dream.
 
The fight between the chief minister Ashok Gehlot camp and the Sachin Pilot camp has reached the High Court, which is expected to announce its verdict on Friday. An appeal by the losing camp to the Supreme Court is a foregone conclusion. Irrespective of which camp finally wins, the biggest loser is the general public which elected them in the first place. 
 
The purpose of this article is not to judge who is right or to predict the political future of the various players involved. The attempt is to focus on the biggest casualty in this fight:  good governance and the larger implications for a healthy and vibrant democracy. Governance is clearly not in the minds of the warring factions.
 
Public duty be damned. So what, if the entire world is busy fighting coronavirus. Self-interest comes first. That Rajasthan is still surviving only proves God exists somewhere. 
 
Mr Pilot with his men has been camping in Haryana for the past few days. Loyalists of Mr Gehlot are comfortably ensconced in the comfort of a luxury hotel in Jaipur watching old films, singing antakshari and generally having a whale of time at the expense of the taxpayers.
 
Is this gross mis-governance in Rajasthan only a recent development?  The track record of the past two years doesn’t suggest so. 
 
Lust for Power
 
Less than two years ago, on 17 December 2018 to be precise, the old war horse Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as the chief minister of Rajasthan for the third time. Rajasthan state Congress president, Sachin Pilot was sworn as the deputy chief minister.
 
Since the beginning, it was evident that this boat will not reach the shores. 
 
The fissures had surfaced within a week of swearing in. The main bone of contention were portfolios of home and finance.  Despite intervention by Rahul Gandhi, the party president at that time, all that Mr Pilot could muster were five relatively less powerful portfolios of public works, rural development, panchayti raj, science and technology and statistics.
 
On the other hand, Gehlot walked away with nine key departments including home, finance, excise, planning, department of personnel and others. 
 
What Made Sachin Pilot Revolt?
 
The power tussle did not end with the allocation of portfolios. Since the beginning, Mr Pilot was not invited for key meetings. Things reportedly came to a boil last year when six Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) joined the Congress. Despite being the PCC president, Mr Pilot was allegedly not kept in the loop.
 
Adding fuel to the fire, Mr Pilot was reportedly completely isolated from the celebrations to mark the one year completion of the government. Not a single photo or poster of him was put up anywhere. Key achievements of his ministries, especially in the area of MNREGA and sanitation drive in the rural areas, did not even find a mention in the booklet issued on the occasion. 
 
The most recent incident of sidelining of Mr Pilot was evident during the State’s fight with COVID-19. Mr Pilot was not part of the core team constituted to fight it. 
 
The final nail in the coffin came after the Rajya Sabha polls. A special operations group (SOG) of the Rajasthan police was formed to investigate the conspiracy to destabilise the government served a notice of inquiry on Mr Pilot. 
 
Soon thereafter, Mr Pilot allegedly went incommunicado. His team claimed that it had the support of 30 MLAs to topple the government. 
 
Gloves Off
 
14th July, saw the sacking of Mr Pilot; both as deputy CM as well as state party chief. He was alleged to be acting in concert with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to topple a democratically elected government. 
 
On 15th July, speaker CP Joshi sent a notice to Mr Pilot and 18 other MLAs supporting him for defying the party whip and not attending two meetings of the Congress legislature party. If proved guilty, they could be sacked from Congress.
 
Sachin Pilot and his supporting MLAs promptly moved the Rajasthan High Court challenging the disqualification notice served by the Speaker.
 
Not to be outdone, the speaker has now moved the Supreme Court challenging the illegal and perverse order of the HC of 21st July restraining him from even calling and conducting the disqualification proceedings pending against the respondents till 24 July 2020 when the HC is expected to announce its verdict. 
 
Saas-bahu Saga
 
The Gehlot-Pilot saga seems to be straight out of the saas-bahu serials. Mr Gehlot has recently stated on record that he has not been on talking terms with his deputy for the past 18 months. He has also claimed that Mr Pilot has been plotting to topple his government from day one. 
 
Unsatiated, Mr Gehlot then went on to fire another salvo at Mr Pilot calling him as “Nikamma, Nakara, worthless person. Mr Gehlot claims he was silent all along in the interest of the party.
 
Complete Break-down of Governance
 
But what about the interest of the people who elected them in the first instance, CM sahab?  
 
Hundreds of crore of rupees are spent in each election at the cost of the honest taxpayers. All that they expect in return is a stable government which will take care of their basic needs: security, employment, food, education, healthcare, welfare and justice.
 
With the infighting raging for 18 of the 20 months since the formation of the government, and the legislators enjoying paid vacations that too when the entire world is focused on fighting COVID-19, can anything be expected on the developmental front in the state?  
 
Other Implications
 
Around 35 million cases are pending in the judiciary at different levels. A common man has to wait for decades to get justice.  Is it time to rethink if urgent hearings should be granted to those who fail in their public duties, waste tax payers’ money and make a mockery of the system.  
 
Mr Gehlot by his own admission was well aware of the alleged incompetencies of Mr Pilot since the beginning but did nothing till it threatened his throne. Is this acceptable from a leader duty bound to the public?
 
Remedy
 
In my earlier article, I had made a suggestion to address the root problem, i.e., party hopping by the legislators for their personal gains. How rampant is the problem in India can be gauged from the fact that since 1994 to 2019, there have only been 89 instances of Republicans moving to Democrats and vice versa. An average of just 3.5 moves per year!! 
 
My suggestion that no elected representative should be allowed to jump ship more than once in two years now appears to be benign.  Eminent lawyer and Congress leader, Kapil Sibal, has suggested a stiffer anti defection law.
 
Mr Sibal has suggested amending the 10th Schedule to the Constitution such that defectors are banned from holding public office for five years and from contesting polls. Given how deep and widespread the malaise is, a middle ground should be eminently acceptable. 
 
Hopefully then, at least some improvement can be expected in the level of governance by the public servants. 
 
(Sarvesh Mathur is a senior financial professional, who has earlier worked as CFO of Tata Telecom Ltd and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)
 
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    COMMENTS

    nmrshreedhar

    2 weeks ago

    is it so difficult to develop a matrix/scorecard to assess the performance of the elected representative on a regular basis, say every 6 months? after all, if they enjoy all the perks of a corporate honcho, should they not be held accountable too ? This scoreboard would prove invaluable for the public to judge whether to re-vote them into power at the end of 5 years also. perhaps it can be started off for Union Ministers/MP's/CM's and then extended to state ministers/MLA's and so forth, right upto corporation level.

    Amit Sawhney

    2 weeks ago

    Really sad to see all this drama. We talk of brain drain and we call people who settle abroad as traitors. These politicians are the real traitors who force Indians to run out to other countries for in look out for better governance

    Chinese Company Sold KN95 Masks to 2 State Govts Instead of N95, Alleges A Whistle-blower
    The Indian subsidiary of a Chinese company had sold almost 10 lakh untested and uncertified masks at a high price of Rs147 per mask, alleges a whistleblower, who has written to Moneylife. 
     
    According to the whistleblower, during March this year, state governments of Tamil Nadu (TN) and Karnataka placed orders to buy 5 lakh N95 masks each with BYD India Pvt Ltd. BYD India is a subsidiary of Chinese multinational BYD Co Ltd.
     
    "BYD was only manufacturing KN95 masks when they took the order from the (two) state governments for the supply of N95 masks. The first approval BYD got for manufacturing N95 masks duly approved from National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) US is on 10 June 2020.
     
    Yet they had connived with local authorities or intimated them to accept the KN95 masks instead of ordered N95 masks," the whistleblower alleges.
     
     
    As per information shared by the whistleblower, on 21 March 2020, Karnataka State Drugs Logistics & Warehousing Society placed an order (No.KDL.PUR/204/2019-20) for 5,00,000 N95 masks with BYD India Pvt Ltd, SIPCOT Industrial Park, Irugattukottai, TN at a rate of Rs147 per mask. 
     
     
    During the same month, the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation also placed a purchase order (PO No. T1907950001) for 5,00,000 N95 masks with BYD India at the same rate. 
     
     
    However, the whistleblower says, in March this year, BYD India did not have NIOSH (US) certification to manufacture or sell N95 masks and so it appears to have sold KN95 masks instead of N95 masks to these two state governments. The distinction is important, because, while N95 respirators are for use in healthcare environments, the KN95 masks are used for protection from pollution.
     
    Most Chinese manufacturers use the KN95 nomenclature for their masks and these are often sold as an alternative to N95 masks. 
     
    On 3 April 2020, the US FDA issued an umbrella emergency use authorisation (EUA) for certain filtering face-piece respirators (FFRs) that are manufactured in China and are not approved by the NIOSH. 
     
    A list published on 17 July 2020 of non-NIOSH respirators authorised by the umbrella EUA for emergency use during the COVID-19 public health emergency mentions name of BYD Precision Manufacture Co Ltd. It shows BYD KN95 particulate respirator (model numbers DG3101, and DN1102) are approved for imports in the US.
     
    The whistleblower says both the state medical authorities from TN and Karnataka have bought these masks at highly inflated prices compared to prevailing KN95 prices during that time. "Most of these masks had been distributed to front line workers and doctors, which do not provide any protection from COVID-19."
     
    A product catalogue of BYD shared by the whistleblower shows that KN95 is non-medical mask and not suitable for healthcare workers. For healthcare workers, the company's catalogue suggests KN95 respirator instead of KN95 (mask). 
     
     
    (Source: The Whistleblower)
     
    The whistleblower alleges, "The tenders (from both state governments) were for N95 masks and the order released is for N95 masks but BYD had supplied the cheap and non-medical KN95 masks instead of N95 masks for crores of rupees."
     
    "If the masks are not approved by NIOSH, then its valued at just Rs20 whereas the price is higher only if the masks are NIOSH approved and as per specifications," the whistleblower says.    
     
    Meanwhile, Karnataka Rashtra Samithi, has requested prime minister's office (PMO) for an investigation in this matter. In a tweet, Ravi Kishen Reddy, president of the Samiti, says, "This Chinese company supplied tens of crores of rupees worth N-95 masks to governments of Karnataka and TN, when it did not have the necessary certification to manufacture the same. This a a serious scandal & part of massive corruption." 
     
    A copy of his letter has also been tweeted, which seems to make the same allegations as our whistleblower. 
     
     
    Moneylife sent emails to concerned secretaries of both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. While we have not received any reply from both of them, Jawaid Akhtar, (IAS), who is additional chief secretary in the Health and Family Welfare Department in Karnataka had forwarded our mail to the Karnataka State Drugs Logistics & Warehousing Society for necessary action. We have to yet hear from them.
     
    We will update this article as and when we receive any reply from the two state governments.
     
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    COMMENTS

    danny23

    2 weeks ago

    Do check this out:
    https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/whats-the-difference-between-n95-and-kn95-masks/
    "According to mask manufacturer 3M, “it is reasonable to consider” China’s KN95s “equivalent” to US N95s. Mask standards for Europe (FFP2), Australia (P2), Korea (KMOEL), and Japan (DS) are also highly similar."

    REPLY

    MDT

    In Reply to danny23 2 weeks ago

    Thanks for your comment. What we had quoted in the article is information from US FDA, CDC and NIOSH as well as from the company's own catalogue. 3M, quoted by you in your comment, is a manufacture of masks and not an authority for certifying N95, which NIOSH, under CDC, does.

    No ground water extraction without impact assessment: NGT
    The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed that no general permission should be given for withdrawal of ground water, particularly to a commercial entity, without an environmental impact assessment.
     
    A bench, headed by Chairperson, Justice A.K. Goel, issued a slew of directions, one of them being: "There must be no general permission for withdrawal of groundwater, particularly to any commercial entity, without environment impact assessment of such activity on individual assessment units in cumulative terms covering carrying capacity aspects by an expert committee."
     
    The order came on a plea seeking direction to check depleting groundwater level in the country. The bench listed the matter for February 11, 2021.
     
    The green tribunal stated that permission for extraction should be for specified times and for specified quantities of water and not in perpetuity. Such permission should as per Water Management Plans to be prepared, based on mapping of individual assessment units, it added.
     
    The bench, also comprising Justice S.P. Wangdi, Expert Members Dr. Satyawan Singh Garbyal, and Dr. Nagin Nanda further directed: "An annual review by independent and expert evaluation must audit and record ground water levels as well as compliance with the conditions of the permission."
     
    Such audits must be published online for transparency and to track compliance and year-on-year change in ground water levels, the NGT said, adding that swift action will be taken against those who fail the audit, including withdrawal of permission, blacklisting, initiation of prosecution and recovery of deterrent compensation.
     
    The Ministry of Jal Shakti has also been directed to ensure requisite manning and effective functioning of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) so as to ensure sustainable groundwater management in terms of the Supreme Court mandate by which the CGWA was created.
     
    The ministry and the CGWA have also been asked to comply with the directions of Tribunal to have a meaningful regulatory regime and institutional mechanisms for ensuring prevention of depletion and unauthorized extraction of ground water and sustainable management of groundwater in over-exploited, critical and semi-critical (OCS) areas.
     
    "Regard must be had to water availability and safe levels to which its withdrawal can be allowed, especially for commercial purposes. Procedures for assessment of individual applications and institutional mechanisms may be clearly laid down," the green tribunal added.
     
    "As per orders dated 3.1.2019, undertake an impact study in light of projected data for the next 50 years (in phased manner with action plan decade-wise)."
     
    The bench gave directions to do water mapping of all OCS assessment units. "Water Management Plans need to be prepared for all OCS assessment units in the country based on the mapping data, starting with overexploited blocks."
     
    The Water Management Plans, data on water availability or scarcity and policy of the CGWA must be uploaded on its website for transparency and public involvement in next three months, it said.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    COMMENTS

    sactel

    2 weeks ago

    does it apply to water tanker business in mumbai that extract water from borewell?

    Aar Aar

    2 weeks ago

    I see the word especially for Commercial units, dues that mean it would be applicable to residential units also?

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