Coalgate, the mother of all scams
Though we have just commemorated 66 years of India’s independence, we find that, in a nation comprising of 1,200 million Indians, more than 60 per cent still struggle for food. Despite rapid industrialisation, and India assuming a leadership role in the fields of information technology and telecom, a large section of our people still remain marginalised. As a nation, we have a long way to go before we achieve universal education, quality healthcare and a place in the national main stream for the underprivileged and the downtrodden.
In the land of the Mahatma and the Buddha, where renunciation and selfless service has been taught for ages, corruption reigns and India ranks among the most corrupt nations in the world. Never in the history of India’s polity since Independence has any government been so mired in corruption as the present one. The second term of United Progressive Alliance [UPA], with Manmohan Singh heading the government, is once again marred with scandals which are more frequent than ever before. Needless to mention, hardly before the government could recover from the 2G scam, it found itself involved in the coal mining scam.
Coal Mining scam, or Coalgate, is allegedly the mother of all scams. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India [CAG] has accused the government of providing the nation’s coal deposits to private and state-run entities in an irregular and arbitrary manner instead of publicly auctioning them off to the highest bidder, resulting in a loss of approximately 1,86,000 crore [$33.67 billion] to the exchequer during the period 2004-2009.
The credibility of the present Singh’s government is its the lowest in last eight years. At a time when the nation is facing drought in many parts of the country and inflation and rising commodity and food prices have broken the back of common man on the street, the complete insensitivity and apathy of the government is totally without explanation.There has been practically non-governance at the centre and the prime minister has been seen defending his acts rather than demonstrating the leadership required from him during difficult times.
In the past, while addressing the media, the prime minister has explained his compulsion of running a coalition government and been seen putting the entire blame for corruption on the coalition partners, as far as the 2G scam was concerned. However, the opposition was quick to respond that in coalgate most of the allocation made in the coal mining scam was done during the period when the coal ministry was headed by the prime minister himself. The opposition has demanded the resignation of Singh and has disrupted the proceedings of both houses of parliament.
This time around UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi came out openly defending the prime minister and made her intentions clear by instructing the party MP’s and functionary’s to be more aggressive in defending the party both within and outside the parliament on corruption matters. Taking a leaf from Gandhi, Congress party general secretary Digvijay Singh hit out at team Anna and the opposition for suspecting the prime minister in the coal mining scam.
Whether the prime minister is involved in the coal mining scam or not is not important today and only time will decide.What is important today is how the present government is perceived both within and outside India. A nation which till yesterday was a hot destination for both investors and entrepreneurs has suddenly become the opposite. The outside world today fears India as a potential investment destination. The GDP, which was growing at a great pace has been hit by scams. Along with the price rise, investors’ confidence is at an all-time low as a direct result of a government marred with corruption charges.
What should the government do at this point of time? Gandhi, being the Congress president the single largest party in the parliament and also the chairperson of the UPA, must make a honest statement in both houses of parliament as well as to the people of this nation who reposed faith in them and gave them the mandate for the running the government for the second time in succession. She, along with Rahul Gandhi and Singh must speak their heart to the nation and own up their responsibility as leaders of the party and, while admitting their mistake, seek an apology from the people of India.
The common man on the Indian streets has suffered a lot. There is scarcity of food, clothes, shelter, education and health care in our country.
It is time politicians addressed these problems and harnessed the energy of its people to channelise real growth. India is at a defining moment in history, where its citizens and the outside world perceive and believe that all politicians, without exceptions, are corrupt and all of them have joined hands in this loot party. It is up to the leadership of all parties, at the highest level, to come out openly on the corruption issue and join hands in nation-building in a bipartisan manner.
Vikas Gupta is an advocate