Sunday, January 16, 2011

That's all, Your Honour! : Jan.9-15

1. One of the most critical decisions the Congress party had to take, after Sonia Gandhi "renounced" her claim to the post of Prime Minister, was this - how to credit her for flagship schemes of UPA? And from that critical thinking was born the National Advisory Council. The NAC apparently has been set up as an "interface for civil society". If you are wondering why the government, elected by the people ("civil society"), needs another institution for interfacing with the very same people that elected it - please stop thinking logically ! And then members of this NAC are "distinguished professionals" drawn from the civil society only.

This council has "advised" the government on NREGA, RTI and the Forest Rights Act; so now you see how this works - it was Sonia Gandhi who is responsible for all the flagship schemes (ofcourse if implementation is screwed up, the government is always ready to take the blame!). And then the "Office of profit" controversy happened, and Sonia Gandhi again "renounced" power - she resigned to all her posts (including to that of MP and was re-elected). And then this post was bought under those offices that are exempt from "Office of Profit". And after UPA's victory in 2009, she was re-appointed (by herself) as the chairperson of NAC - this time to take credit for the "National Food Security Bill".

Now, one such distinguished member of NAC, Jean Dreze has written a detailed article in The Hindu, complaining about the lack of co-operation from the government! He details how NAC works so hard on doling out free stuff to maximum possible people of this country, and how the government is so much reluctant to even "lend an ear" to this esteemed council. Why would it? The NAC is recommending Rice@Rs.2 per kg and Wheat@Rs.3 per kg for people below poverty line. And then it wants people above poverty line also be partially covered. Overall - it wants 75% of the population to be covered under this law !! Yes people - 75% of the population will be getting 35kgs of Rice and Wheat @ Rs. 2 and Rs.3 per kg! The subsidy involved in this is HUGE. And "huge" is an understatement. And the money for this subsidy comes through taxes that you and I pay. And as the subsidy increases, taxes will increase. Essentially, you and I will pay more so that 75% of the population will get that subsidy. Rs.2 per kg in the 20th century is such a ridiculous idea. Ofcourse, NAC thinks otherwise. Thankfully the committee appointed by the government (yes believe it or not, there is a committee to study what the NAC "advised"!) rejected the proposal. Fellow blogger, KVSarmaJ has written a very nice piece on this whole proposal here.

And then if you think the suggestion ends here - you are mistaken. Look at this report. NAC has proposed a redress mechanism. It proposes a parallel authority to the District Collector, and "anyone" can approach this authority at district and block level. Isn't the District Collector supposed to be approachable to "anyone"? Why is the NAC hell bent on creating parallel structures just like itself? Who gave them the mandate to think of such ridiculous proposals and then go to town when they are rejected?

And then there is a BIG political story here. Sonia Gandhi led NAC is totally dis-satisfied with the government's response to their proposals. So much that a member writes an article in national newspapers. Did that article have Madam's approval? If so, is this her veiled attack at the Prime Minister? If not, how come a member can go so ballistic against the government - even accuse it of sabotaging its ideas and go scot-free? Is the stage being set for laying the blame solely at the PM's door, if this act fails? Are these not questions the media should ask? Wait a minute.... media asking questions did I say? Apologies.

2. "I am doing the Congress a favour" thundered Jaganmohan Reddy in New Delhi last week. He organised a one day "fasting", named it "Jal Deeksha" protesting against the weak arguments put forward by the state government in front of the Krishna Tribunal (never mind that it was his father who was at the helm when the arguments were put forward!). And with him were 24 MLA's from the Congress! It is in this context that he said that he was doing a favour to the Congress by not bringing the government down. And we were bombarded with more "analysis" by the telugu TV media on this subject. Their "analysis" aside, needless to say, there is lot of instability in the state right now. The twin challenges of Telangana and Jagan are paralysing the government and apparently the Congress has decided to "go slow" on these! Development has taken a back seat in the state - right now only status quo is happening. And the saddest part - there seems to be no end in sight for these disturbing problems the state is facing.

3. P.J.Thomas is one of the accused in a case that caused about Rs.23 crore loss to the exchequer in 1992. He was also the secretary to the telecom ministry when the 2G scam happened. Yet the central government went ahead and appointed him as Central Vigilance Commissioner - the watchdog for corruption in the country. And this week, the Supreme Court cleared the decks for this trial in the Rs. 23 crore case. Essentially the man who is supposed to be watching out for corrupt folks in the system is himself an accused! That's all, Your Honour!


CodeNameV said...

Great post sir. PJT issue has remained just that. PJ! Unlike in the movie, the slumdog will never become a millionaire after all.

The history of NAC itself is a testimony to the gross insult to the intelligence of common man. When there is an elected Govt representing people, why the hell do we need another interface!?

The tax part is a big worry. I think INC didnt learn from GoI's earlier mistakes. The whole PDS scheme is a farce, no less. PDS has no merit. Now NAC says, they will have to computerize the whole process! Who the eff is going to pay for the infrastructure required for such an upgrade? Moreover, given that who PDS rots of corruption, how are they going to block illegal trade of computer parts?! NAC's proposals speak of only loosely made coffee table suggestions.

NAC has no grip of
1) implementation of the proposals
2) maintainance after implementation
3) accountability of people involved

This calls for a clear cut public debate before NAC's proposals are implemented. Given that NREGA was a failure of epic proportions, a public debate must be initiated.

All these points finally question the credibility of NAC and there of UPA and thus finally of Sonia Gandhi. Will the media ask these questions. Of course not!

Indian Girl said...

quite informative . public memory really is short . had myself forgotten abt office of profit controversy

Vishal said...

I haven't read this blog. What I want to ask is why I am not able to follow this blog on my blogger dashboard? There is no short-cut key on which to click. All I can do is bookmark this page which is not a cool thing. So, how to follow this blog? No, subscribing by email is not an option. I want to follow through Google Blogger. Isn't this a Google Blogger account? That is it.

Vishal said...

Now I read the blog and whoa! I am actually numb-struck reading all this.

Sudhir said...

Sorry for the late response folks...somehow missed replying :(

@CodenameV Very apt points you make, sadly no one will pose these Qs to the government. There are public debates for every proposal (remember the public meetings for re-writing constitution, RTE, RTI etc?). Somehow for this bill, there is not one meeting of any stake holder called. "Food Security" is what the media heard and went gaga - and we lost the plot even before it began!

@IndianGirl - thank you :)

@Vishal - No idea about how the google blogger thing works :(


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