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Millennium Post

More skeletons in UPA closet

There seems to be no end to the dark tunnel that the former UPA government had dug in its two-term tenure at the centre. Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), a man with impeccable reputation and searing honesty, whose reports on 2G telecom and coal scams, were instrumental in pushing the Manmohan Singh-led UPA to a corner, and allowed the Modi bandwagon to ride the wheels of extreme disenchantment with institutional corruption, has revealed that we still might have seen just the tip of the iceberg.

Rai’s interview to a newschannel, while discussing his soon-to-be released book Not Just An Accountant: the Diary of the Nation’s Conscience-keeper, has expressed further discontent, this time extending the allegations at former civil aviation minister Praful Patel. Rai’s contention, also agreed upon by lot of industry observers, is Patel had forced the Air India board in August 2004 to buy 40 extra planes at the cost of over Rs 38,000 crore, even though it had an annual budget of only Rs 7,000 crore, thereby sending the flagship airline into a debt abyss from which it could never recover.

Aviation industry experts have also criticised Patel’s decision to merge Air India with the then number one domestic carrier Indian Airlines, killing the latter’s brand value and pushing them towards a far bigger revenue gulf. Why no proper investigation into the biggest commercial debacle in the history of India’s aviation sector was ever carried out, even though Air India became a financially unhealthy, decrepit PSU under Patel’s ludicrous stewardship, is a question that should have been asked long before Rai made us rethink.

Moreover, Rai’s stinging criticism of former PM Manmohan Singh, and his declaration that ‘integrity is not just financial; it is intellectual and professional integrity too’ is the fulcrum of the charges that should be leveled against the latter. Why, sitting at the helm, did Singh allow scams worth Rs 1.76 lakh (telecom) and Rs 1.86 lakh (Coalgate) to take place, is a question that has been asked umpteen number of times, but no answer has been provided. Like Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi too has elected to hide behind a smokescreen of personal honesty, while presiding over one of the most corrupt party, whose members ran the central administration for a decade.

That Rai’s allegations must be looked into and debated is needless to say. But what is of paramount importance is why, despite so many clues to the compromised nature of the top brass of UPA regime, has no probe been ordered against the leaders themselves? Why should their constitutional immorality go unchallenged? This is not about throwing stones at a bird whose wings have been clipped. It is about accountability and transparency within the state apparatus. If we need to leave behind the ruinous culture of administrative corruption, we have to start from the top, really.            

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