Category Archives: Corruption & Accountability

NRIs’ Date with Indian Politics

Over the years, a trend has emerged that shows that overseas Indians like to contribute to India by participating in politics. Similarly, Indian political parties see them as an asset and have redoubled their efforts by reaching out to them on foreign shores. This is the theme of my weekly column this time published every Monday in Delhi-based The Political & Business Daily newspaper.

PBD Nov 24 2014 NRIs Indian Politics

 

दास्तान-ए- सड़क: अमरीका व भारत

विकास का स्वपन बिना अच्छी सड़कों के अस्म्भव है। नवम्बर 10, 2014 को “दैनिक अजीत” समाचार पत्र में प्रकाशित मेरा आलेख: http://www.ajitsamachar.com/edition/20141110/3.cms

Published Ajit Raod network Nov 10 2014

Indians in USA: Which party they support?

Indian- Americans constitute more than a million registered voters in USA. Why majority of Indians in the U.S. continue to support Democratic party? And why Republican party has not been able to draw them into its fold to that extent?

Here is my write-up published in The Times of India on November 10, 2014: http://goo.gl/62ciO1

Austerity Drive is like a make-up

Recently, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi announced that his government will bring in austerity measures for his Ministers and bureaucrats. This is a right step by the Prime Minister and I welcome the decision. But the real economic growth will happen if the Modi govt. focuses on curbing the mammoth corruption that is eating the very foundation of Indian democracy, nabbing black marketeers (they run a parallel economy in India) and by bringing reforms that lead to better governance with more transparency. Create a pro- business environment that stimulates economy. By austerity measures, no doubt, the nation will save some money, but this is peanuts compared to the crooks and criminals milking the system under political patronage. Austerity to me looks like a facial make up! The real glow on face would come only if the circulation of the body increases so that it vitalizes the whole body. In other words, treat the root cause and not merely symptoms!

Ram, Teri Ganga maili! (राम, तेरी गंगा मैली!)

This issue reverberated in news-papers today. Shocking revelations in an RTI query!

As Narendra Modi Govt took over the reins of free India a few months back, Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called ‘Namami Gange’ was announced by the BJP-led government with much fan fare with an initial sum of Rs 2,037 crore allocated in the Union Budget for 2014-15. Let us be aware, the issue of purification of Ganga Maa is very close to the heart of Shri Narendra Modi and I truly appreciate it.
An RTI query has some shocking revelations about a meeting held by National Mission for Clean Ganga at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi. Whopping sum of Rs 43.85 Lacs has been spent on just the aforesaid meeting!
The money spent on the meetings and accommodation of guests coming for the meeting was approximately Rs 26.7 Lacs, and on publicity it was Rs 5.1 Lacs.
The biggest shocker is the amount spent by the government on floral decorations equaling Rs 75000! Rs 2.3 Lacs were spent on miscellaneous expenses.
Is this not a DISGRACEFUL waste of tax-payer’s money and a déjà-vu of UPA’s austerity drive?

RTI: Need to implement more honestly

RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and National Campaign For People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) have conducted a study on Right to Information (RTI) act. The study revealed that the Information Commissions are going easy on RTI complaints and almost 96% of the cases where there has been a delay or denial on information on RTI query have not been penalized.

On studying RTI responses from 21 information commissions, the study has found that 2.21 lac cases had been disposed of between January 2012 and November 2013. It was observed that penalty should have been imposed on 1.04 lakh cases (between January 2012 and December 2013) but only 3870 cases were penalized. Rs 5.03 crore should have been recovered from 22 states BUT only Rs 85.57 lac was recovered by 18 states.
Information commissions also have the power to award compensation to a complainant for the loss suffered. Although the number of complaints of delay or denial of information equaled to 3.89 lac, the compensation was awarded only in just 1339 cases. The amount of compensation imposed was Rs 29.68 lac but only Rs 4.07 lac was recovered.
A strong RTI act is crucial for strengthening democracy. It makes the Government more accountable and transparent and is the biggest weapon against corruption. The soft approach of information commissions will only weaken its power and defeat the very purpose of RTI act.

Does Black Money lie in “Black Hole”?

Well, Black money does not lie holed up in the ‘Black Hole’ that it can not be recouped! I hope we Indians -irrespective of our political affiliations and beliefs- understand this simple fact!

It is clear that the Modi Government is  trying to save its face on non compliance of Black Money promise.
Per media reports, BJP will be disclosing a few SELECTED names of black money holders to the Supreme Court (SC). A very obvious question arises: Why only selected, around 136 names and why not all?
Is this not just a diversionary tactic to buy time to save rest of the influential tainted people?
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)has been insisting that all the names should be revealed.. AAP has published a detailed document on this issue on its website too. The reality is that there is not any law in India or treaty with any country due to which the government cannot take action against the black- money holders.
Simple! Where there is a will, there is a way! Always! 

Two main reasons that raise doubts about Mr. Modi government’s intentions are:
1) Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty: Is it a mere shield to escape from reality or the issue? The way, Modi government has been squirming, it raises doubts.
On the double Tax Avoidance Agreement between India and Germany, the Supreme Court observed that there was no provision in the agreement that limits the disclosure of information. It also stated that the plea is unsustainable as neither an agreement can limit nor violate the principles laid down in our constitution.
An extract from the judgment: “The above clause in the relevant agreement with Germany would indicate that, contrary to the assertions of Union of India, there is no absolute bar of secrecy.Comity of nations cannot be predicated upon clauses of secrecy that could hinder constitutional proceedings such as these or criminal proceedings”.
2) The provisions of the 
United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) are being ignored by BJP.
India, Germany and Switzerland are signatories to the UNCAC. Therefore:
• India is authorized to make requisite changes in the laws of our country to deal with black money issues.
• UNCAC overrides ‘bank secrecy laws’.
• UNCAC permits us to freeze, seize and confiscate illegal money.
So, BJP should utilize powers given under UNCAC to get back the black money rather than using it as an excuse to protect the black money holders!
Mr. Modi, do not genuflect! As Swami Vivekand said: Be up and doing!

Britain goes for Right to Recall: what about India!

Citizens of Britain are all set to get the RIGHT TO RECALL which will allow voters to demand a by-election to seek an opportunity to replace a sitting Member of Parliament. The voters would be required to get the signatures of at least 10% of registered voters of that constituency in an eight-week period. This procedure will only be initiated if MPs are given jail sentences or if the House of Commons agree that they have engaged in serious wrongdoing (in my opinion, this right should not be left to the House. If voters want to RECALL, let them gather up to reach 10 % number of signatures. In USA, this number is 25 %).
Right to Recall can be a cumbersome process and is rarely used as a weapon by the citizens because of its complex applicability. Nevertheless, the existence of this provision exerts a pressure on the elected representatives to be more accountable towards the public. It also gives a chance to the public to keep a more effective tab on its elected representatives.
Many countries including USA have empowered their voters with the tool of Right to Recall. Britain will soon get it. India should also move in this direction. We in India do not have it! Aam Aadmi Party is the only political party that has been vociferously demanding the two tools that will change the political landscape forever: Right to Reject and Right to Recall.

Will Indian law-makers take a cue from Britain and go for it since it is never too late to deliver something good!

Yeddyurappa: an enfant terrible for Modi

Here we go again! BS Yeddyurappa – the enfant terrible of BJP- brings fresh episode of migraine for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Will Mr. Modi take a remedial action to get rid of this problem?

B Vinod, a Shimoga-based advocate, had filed a complaint against BJP National Vice President Mr. BS Yeddyurappa and his son and M.L.A. Mr. B Y Raghavendra accusing them of purchasing land through illegal means. These complaints were dismissed by the Shimoga Lokayukta Court on the grounds that a sanction from the Governor for prosecution prior to filing the complaint was not taken by the complainant. A criminal revision petition, challenging the court order was filed by Vinod in the High Court.
The charges made are as follows: Dhavalagiri Properties, owned by family members of Yeddyurappa, had purchased 69 acres near Hunasekatte village in Bhadravati taluk through benamidars and various provisions of Karnataka Land Reforms Act have been violated in purchasing the land. Yeddyurappa had also misused power in getting the land transferred to the name of the firm owned by his family members.
Today, Justice Anand Byrareddy has dismissed the Shimoga Lokayukta Court order which had dismissed complaints against Yeddyurappa and his son B Y Raghavendra accusing them of purchasing the land through illegal means. The Karnatka High court has ordered Lokayukta Police to initiate an inquiry into the matter.
Although corruption charges against Yeddyuruppa do not come as a surprise as he has a tainted history behind him. BUT now PM Modi‘s allegiance towards anti-corruption stand is at test. Will BJP choose the rhetorical reason that as the matter is sub judice,  nothing can be explained? Or, Will the Prime Minister Mr. Modi sack Yedyurappa as BJP’s Vice President? Time will tell. But, sure enough, on the eve of Deepawali, Mr. Modi has a new set of dilemma (dharam-sankat): To act tough on corruption or let it be (once again)!

Will Modi take up the fight to de-criminalize Indian politics?

Last week, the Election Commission of India made a few proposals for electoral reforms to the Law Ministry, which have further been referred to the Law Commission.

Two important issues that Election Commission has raised are:
1. The EC proposes that if a person is accused in a criminal case where the (minimum) punishment is imprisonment of five years and charges have been framed by the competent magistrate at least six months before the scheduled date of election, then in that case he should be DISQUALIFIED from contesting elections.
I personally welcome the Election Commission’s proposal. If implemented, it will effectively help in decriminalizing politics in India.
2. Another proposal made by the Election Commission addresses the malpractice of filing of false affidavits by the candidates before elections.
As per the proposal: A person who files false affidavit will not only be given some punishment but also would be disqualified from contesting elections.
The aforesaid disqualification clause can prove to be a major deterrent to the candidates from telling lies.
The task of nation building can not be accomplished without taking some tough decisions. Electoral reforms that help cleanse the system of goons and criminals should be a priority for the Modi government. I hope Prime Minister Mr. Modi implements these proposals without any delay.