Sunday, 8 February 2015

Jayanthi Natarajan’s choice: Truth or punishment (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

To those familiar with the ways of Lutyens' Delhi, there was little surprise in the revelation made by former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan that Rahul Gandhi's office gave directives to her, of course couched in the noncommittal tones of "advice". The Congress vice-president has disclosed that all he was doing was helping poor tribals, when ensuring that mega projects that would have generated tens of thousands of jobs and thousands of crores of tax revenue, got throttled, to the joy of international competitors. Rahul Gandhi's protestations of love for tribals would have had a smidgen extra of credibility, were he to have ensured that the wretched conditions they live in were improved from 2004 onwards. Tavleen Singh pointed out elsewhere how certain giant commodity producers benefit from a throttling of aluminium production in India. This is presumably why some NGOs with dodgy finances have been active to ensure that India remain dependent on Canada or Australia for coal, uranium, iron ore and other minerals in abundant supply domestically, if only it were possible to exploit them. Of course, those NGOs targeting India do not appear to be bothered about the way in which Canada or Australia are digging away with abandon at the same natural resources, which these entities feel should remain deep underground in India.
If this country had a halfway effective security system, it would have its own clutch of captive NGOs busily exposing those in foreign countries seen as an obstacle to this country's goals, but it does not. Instead, the spouses and children of top policymakers find (extremely remunerative) work in the same foreign-based NGOs, which are active in subverting the fields where decisions get taken by those whose loved ones have been accommodated by them and their corporate sponsors. If one were to believe the parents, almost all the children of top officials, who are educating their offspring in pricey universities abroad, have won scholarships on a refreshingly generous scale, thereby allowing an official or a politician with a few thousand dollars as income to educate a ward at a hundred times that amount, and for years. It would be an easy matter for the Ministry of Home Affairs to compile a list of government officials and politicians, who have sent their offspring abroad to study, but for reasons not difficult to guess, this is never done.
There should be no Muddle Way, in matters of high-level corruption.There are not tens but hundreds of Anil Goswamis in key slots, and they each need to be made to face the same choice, which should be given to Jayanthi Natarajan: tell all or face punishment.
Every now and again, an Anil Goswami is gently prised loose, to keep the public happy in the age of Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal. However, such baby steps are not enough. What is needed is a comprehensive housecleaning, and a good way to start would be to institute a public enquiry into both the clearances given, as well as their denial by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), followed by a similar exercise in the Coal and Civil Aviation ministries. There must be a reason why this country is having to import quantities of coal from Indonesia and Australia, sometimes by those who have themselves been allocated coal mines in India that are kept idle while they spend foreign exchange on imports.
Unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes down the culture of mutual protection and complicity in corruption that pervades Lutyens' Delhi, he will find that his political capital has melted away long before this year's Bihar Assembly elections take place. On 16 May 2014, it was expected that key decision makers during the Manmohan decade would be held to account for the way in which they have replaced a climate of hope with that of despair. Thus far, not enough progress has been registered on this front. Jayanthi Natarajan needs to be given a choice. Either she strikes a significant blow for a better India by exposing those who skewed the decisions made by her ministry, or she follows Andimuthu Raja in his path from ministership to incarceration. There can be no Middle Way, and there should be no Muddle Way, in matters of high-level corruption. Otherwise, the BJP faces the prospect of the AAP spreading across the country during the year, replacing the Congress party as the primary opposition force and in 2019, displacing the BJP at the national level. There are not tens but hundreds of Anil Goswamis in key slots, and they each need to be made to face the same choice, which should be given to Jayanthi Natarajan: tell all or face punishment.
By not punishing the few higher-ups who are corrupt, it is the 1.26 billion people of India who are punished by what has been judged to be the worst bureaucracy in Asia. The people of this country expect Prime Minister Modi to change that, the way he so eloquently promised he would once given a majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. 2015 will either be his year or (if Modi does not deliver on the hopes he has generated) Arvind Kejriwal's.

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