Somebody’s got to bite the bullet for India story

We have made a mess of telecom; more than that, we have made a mess of decision-making at all levels. When the CCPA and CCEA exist, what is the need for a GoM?

Published: 08th July 2012 12:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th July 2012 12:25 AM   |  A+A-

The Indian Presidential election based on the strength of numbers was a straightforward affair. The controversy on the ‘signature’ issue as seen on TV wasn’t. It cannot be wished away. There is no point in blaming political opponents for something that visually creates confusion in the public mind. Pranab Mukherjee’s two signatures differ. The hunt is on to locate documents with his signatures to ascertain which of the two are genuine. Or whether Mukherjee has different signatures for different situations. The matter needs to be clarified. I do hope that there will be no need for the issue to reach the Supreme Court. I am well aware that the returning officer will have the final say on the matter, but we live in the age of 24x7 TV—an age in which the public looks at the evidence and does not need speeches and sermons to take a view. In this case, the problem needs instant clarification.

Last week, the police raided former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office and residence, looking for evidence on illegal election campaign donations. I suppose this is something that will never happen in India. If it did, the majority of controversies regarding scams and the jail-and-bail syndrome will cease to exist. Political funding involves the upper echelon leaders of political parties. Funds are given and received at the top, not at the middle or the bottom level. I am being repetitive, but almost all our problems are because of the lack of transparency in political donations. Scams are not restricted to India alone. Last week, the chairman and the CEO of Barclays Bank resigned and a fine of £500 million was imposed on the bank. Other large banks are being investigated for what clearly is a criminal conspiracy to take the public for a financial ride. The Serious Frauds Office is considering criminal action against Barclays.

You only have to google to discover hundreds of scams under investigation in the US, UK and Europe—Indian is not alone in this. The important thing is how these issues are dealt with, taking into account the time taken for resolution and the credibility of the political system. We have had scams like 2G, CWG, the Adarsh Housing Society and Tatra trucks. Several old scams continue to linger for well over a decade. This timeline affects the entire system, and governance comes to a halt. We should have applied closure to 2G after A Raja was chargesheeted. Was it necessary to put the entire system dating back over two decades in the witness box? Is the delay going to help UPA II or the DMK? Should we be surprised that Sharad Pawar declined to head the GoM on telecom? We have made a mess of telecom; more than that, we have made a mess of decision-making at all levels. The prime minister should take charge and take quick decisions. When the CCPA and CCEA exist, what is the need for a GoM?

Economic crisis plagues Europe and the UK. Their combined GDP is equal to, if not more than, America’s GDP of $13 trillion. I think we are all in agreement that the only way out of the fiscal mess is economic growth. With the prevailing negative mood based on poor economic indicators of the past decade, this is not an easy task. Growth is slow and can become slower; we have only reached midway on our march to become an economic superpower.

We also face an energy crisis. Power generation is the key to success, and any form of power—nuclear, thermal, hydel, wind or solar—is required on an urgent basis. We must invest heavily in the infrastructure of distribution and transmission of power for the future. The costs of energy is being depressed at the cost of our future growth for reasons of political expediency; unless we learn to live with pain now and take corrective action, India will slip into an economically negative situation. The signs are ominous. In two years, we have slipped from a GDP growth rate of 9 per cent to 6 per cent. Things can get worse in 2013 unless any corrective action taking place now is sustained.

We are told to bite the bullet. Our choices are limited. But it would be nice if those in governance, both at the Centre and in the states, set an example by biting the bullet first. The aam aadmi would certainly welcome it.

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Nehru is a former Union minister

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