The number in the headline is the amount of money looted by the UPA government from taxpayers and investors since 2004. And all this is from just one sector: petroleum.
The only difference between a Ramalinga Raju, who raided Satyam’s cash chest to bankroll his infrastructure dreams, and the government, which dipped into public sector assets to finance its re-election, is this: Raju cannot legislate away his crimes. Government can.
Let’s go back to the first number: Rs2,80,795 crore. I owe this piece of info to my colleague Mayank Aggarwal, who had put in an RTI query to the ministry of petroleum and natural gas asking them how much money was transferred from profit-making oil companies to loss-making ones to fund the subsidisation of kerosene, cooking gas and diesel (among other things).
The answer he got was frightening. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the three most profitable oil and gas companies (ONGC, GAIL and Oil India) were summarily asked to hand over Rs1,12,592 crore to three loss-making oil marketing companies.
That’s nearly three times the current year’s central outlay for NREGA, the flagship social security scheme of the UPA. But even Rs1,12,592 crore wasn’t enough to staunch the bleeding of Indian Oil, BPCL and HPCL. Over and above the robbery of three profit-making oil companies, the government had to raid the taxpayer’s chest for another Rs1,68,203 crore over 2005-10 (paid through oil bonds) to ensure the marketing companies stayed afloat.
Now, let’s restate the full extent of the skullduggery. To ensure that oil prices did not rock its electoral boat, it transferred Rs1,12,592 crore from publicly-listed profit-makers to the loss-makers, but there’s a procedural complication here.
The government itself owns majority stakes in these profit-makers, so the real extent of money transferred from private investors is equal only to the level of public shareholding in these companies.
Since the public shareholding is 25.86% in ONGC, 21.57% in Oil India and 42.18% in GAIL, private investors were cheated of Rs29,991 crore in the process. That’s their share of profits in ONGC, Oil India and GAIL that got transferred to the marketing companies. Investors in these three companies can approach Sebi and ask it to take action against the promoter (the government) for corporate misgovernance and misappropriation of shareholders funds.
To be sure, this is not a point that has not been made before. What we are now clear about is the exact extent of the government’s bad politico-economic decisions that investors and taxpayers finally ended up paying for.
Misgovernance and fraud is built into the public sector primarily because politicians use public assets for private ends, including financing their own re-election.
Let’s also remember, the Rs2,80,795 crore scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. If we add up the subsidies handed over to fertiliser companies, farmers and the Food Corporation of India (a substantial part of the grain mountain that is now being fed to rats), the losses will be truly stupendous.
The best thing the UPA did recently was thus to move towards oil price deregulation, but we are going to continue to pay for past follies. A case in point is the Direct Tax Code (DTC) that was recently cleared by the Union cabinet. Originally touted as a big deal for taxpayers, it has been reduced to a minor concession, thanks to past overspending.
The original idea behind the DTC was to move to a tax system that was transparent and easy to administer, but the UPA cannot afford it anymore. A mountain of work has, thus, yielded a mouse. After producing two draft codes for public discussion, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has more or less opted for incrementalism rather than radical change.
The initial proposal was simple enough: give taxpayers a large dose of tax relief, lump all exemptions into one package, and make the tax system less complicated. If Mukherjee had stuck to that goal, taxpayers would have surrendered small reliefs here and there and gained big on tax slabs and choice of tax-free investment avenues. But now Mukherjee’s DTC is a pale shadow of its former self.
Under the original draft proposal, taxpayers in the higher brackets would have saved more, as the idea was that the lowest rate of 10% would cover incomes upto Rs10 lakh. The middle rate of 20% would apply to incomes in the Rs10-25 lakh bracket, and the top rate of 30% to incomes above Rs25 lakh. As things stand now, the tax-free bracket merely moves up from Rs1.6 lakh to Rs2 lakh.
The 10%, 20% and 30% brackets also shrink to Rs 2-5lakh, Rs5-10-lakh and Rs10 lakh plus. This is incrementalism at its worst, and Pranab-da has missed a golden opportunity to empower taxpayers. Having robbed them in the past, he cannot play Robin Hood now.
September 6, 2010
The number in the headline is the amount of money looted by the UPA government from taxpayers and investors since 2004. And all this is from just one sector: petroleum.
May 29, 2009
This article by Appu Soman in ‘The Daily Star’ reveals many things about recent elections and our current system and its impact on India’s growth.Excerpts of the same with my emphasis below.
The new government will be far more stable than many of its predecessors, so the election results have elicited profound relief.
But the fact remains that, like previous governments, the new administration will consist mostly of politicians unfit to hold ministerial office. While several provincial satraps have been cut down to size, new, aspiring ones have garnered significant support. Despite the manifest success of Indian democracy, its parliamentary system is not succeeding in giving India good governance.Very true.Though it seems that India has got a stable government for another 5 years,still the present UPA has to go thru lot of ugly,dirty deals with its coalition partners.
India is hardly a failed state. Lant Pritchett of the Harvard Kennedy School has coined a new name for India: a “flailing state” – a state where the government’s extremely competent upper echelons are unable to control its inefficient lower levels, resulting in poor performance.
But this analysis gives credit where none is due: India’s problem is its top political leadership’s lack of competence. The inability of India’s current political system to provide effective government places the country in a different category: a non-performing state.This is right.We cannot say that the present UPA goverment’s top people are competent enough to handle the problems, India is facing today.India has to offer so many bright,extremely competent people than these average folks.
The idealism of India’s freedom movement quickly evaporated after independence in the face of the opportunities for patronage that came with power. The way India’s political system evolved has made politics the surest path to wealth. The money spent to win elections (often including the purchase of a party’s nomination) is recouped many times over once the winner is in office. Half of India’s legislators who stood for re-election this time around had tripled their assets in the last five years.Our babus now will be more happier and much relieved than ever as Swiss banks and black money issue has been thrown into ocean and efforts to bring back it would be a futile exercise.
Increasing corruption within governments run by the Congress party, which led India to independence and monopolized political power for decades, showed what a lucrative career politics had become. Given India’s religious, caste, and linguistic divides, politicians saw how easily they could leverage even a small following into votes.I can say that India has been monopolised after seeing the results.
Soon, Indian political parties began to break up, giving rise to a large number of regional and caste-based parties. Most of these parties are led by political dynasties that prize loyalty over merit.
The opportunity for personal gains through public office has made electoral politics an automatic career choice for Indian politicians’ progeny. Record numbers of sons and daughters of political leaders and millionaires (and people with criminal backgrounds) contested this election. We are seeing the formation of a new Indian caste – a caste of rulers different from India’s traditional Kshatriya caste – before our very eyes.
Like existing castes, the new caste specializes in one occupation: political office. Just as someone became a carpenter or a trader in an earlier era merely through birth, members of India’s ruling caste now become leaders of parties, members of legislatures, and cabinet ministers solely because of their parentage.
And, as with the older castes, there is no need for any qualification for the vocation; birth alone is sufficient. Lack of vocational competence never barred Indians from remaining in their caste, and how well one performs in political office is, likewise, not a criterion for politicians to continue in positions of power.
India’s parliamentary system requires ministers to be members of the legislature. Party leaders select family members and other loyal followers as candidates for elections, with absolutely no consideration of their abilities to fulfill ministerial responsibilities, resulting in cabinets that are simply not capable of managing the problems confronting the country’s national and state governments.Much touted Rahul Gandhi has said recently that terrorism can be won in 15 minutes.Check here. May be he can clarify when this 15 mins will come?It’s been more than 10k mins since your Lion,Manmohan Singh was sworn-in as primeminister. As per your statement you have missed more than 600 chances to win over the terrorism.
Even with the best political leadership, governing India is no easy task. Successive governments staffed with unqualified politicians have failed dismally to carry out the core governmental functions of maintaining law and order, providing the basic services expected of modern societies, and promoting economic growth. India’s high-performing private sector has so far masked the failure of the Indian state.
In its current form, India’s parliamentary system can produce only non-performing, corrupt governments. It rewards ambition, promotes office-at-any-cost politics, and devalues merit.
Taking away the prize of ministerial office from elected representatives might discourage wealth-maximizing politicians from entering politics. It is time, therefore, for India to consider introducing a presidential system of government, which would reduce the scope for “horse trading” and allow the country’s leader to select competent people for cabinet positions.
May 28, 2009
The AIADMK in TamilNadu has passed a resolution recently that the Election Commission should revert to voting through ballot boxes.Excerpts on the same with my emphasis.
Accusing the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam of using money power and malpractices to win the Lok Sabha polls, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam said the Election Commission should revert to voting through ballot boxes.
Taking stock of the Lok Sabha election results, the party’s executive council meeting in Chennai, presided over by AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, passed a resolution, stating that some developed countries reverted to ballot system of voting due to irregularities in the Electronic Voting Machines.
While there are some incidents in which the EVMs malfunctioned and changed the results of the election in that consituency,still they are considered fool proof by many people.These EVMs are manufactured by Bharat Elecronics,Bangalore and Electronic conrporation of India, Hyderabad.Election Commisson of India says there are a number of benifits using Electrnic machines instead using old ballot boxes and measures are taken to avoid possible malfunctioning.But still, some questions naturally arise regarding the EVMs.They are:
1) Some of the EVMs are malfunctioning even though it is manufactured by Navaratna status company BEL. What is the quality control being followed for these machines in these companies?Are these measures stringent enough to avoid malfunctioning of the machines?
2) Are the EVMs used in India sufficiently shielded against Van Eck Phreaking?
3) I believe calibration is done properly for these machines.Are recalibration facilities/methods easily and quickly available in the event of malfunctioning?There are repeated incidents of EVMs switching votes in India similar to the one happened in West Virginia in 2008. In Tamilnadu, the switching happened in favour of DMK led alliance in number of places.Why did this not happen for AIADMK led alliance?
4) What are the information exchange protocals/standards being followed for the EVMs used in India?Whether EVMs are using the standards such as Election Markup Language(EML)?
5) I don’t think that the voting machine software has been made available for the people to analyse and improve as it is done in Australia under free software license.
May 18, 2009
The Wall Street Journal has run this article on India Election results 2009 and independent reform candidates.The same has been reproduced here.
Hopes for a new batch of independent, reform-minded politicians who would break the status quo in New Delhi have largely been dashed, in part because India’s middle class has yet to find its political voice.
With widespread disgust with political establishment’s failure to protect Mumbai from November’s terrorist attacks as well as a burgeoning youth vote, the national elections were touted by some analysts as the year when reform candidates might start to clean up a system often tainted by bribery and often characterized by caste-based voting. Instead, the ruling Congress party scored a decisive victory and its United Progressive Alliance is set to return to power.
The reform candidates, usually running as independents, tried to appeal to India’s rising middle class, which dominates the business world but has never voted in large numbers. But Saturday’s results showed that other than those backed by big political parties, reform candidates performed poorly, suggesting that the middle class remains a relatively weak force in Indian politics. In part it is because they are massively outnumbered by poor, rural voters but also because they continue to stay away from the polls.
Around 46% of the candidates that ran this year were independents. That is the highest percentage in 13 years. Of the 3,150 independent candidates that ran in the national election, early election results suggest less than 10 have won.
“We did not expect to do very well,” said Mona Shah a surgeon who lost running for the Professionals Party of India a party that was created to represent India’s middle class. “What we have achieved is visibility”.
The number of independents running climbed 32% from the previous election in 2004 — spurred by concerns about governance and corruption and frustration that India’s government is not keeping up with the evolution of the private sector.
While they earned a lot of attention from the English language media, most of the independent reform candidates failed to get many votes. Among losing reform candidates were: G. R. Gopinath, managing director of Deccan Aviation, who founded India’s largest low-cost airline, running for Parliament from Bangalore; Meera Sanyal, country executive of ABN Amro Bank, running in Mumbai South; and businessman Ajay Goyal, running in Chandigarh.
After being terrorized during the Mumbai attacks down the street from her home, middle-class voter Ila Rallan registered to vote for the first time in the more than 10 years she has been eligible.
She was tempted by the candidate Ms. Sanyal because of her business background and an understanding of middle-class voters. But in the end Ms. Rallan went with the candidate from the ruling Congress party, figuring he had a better chance of bringing about change from within the system.
“The blasts showed us how inefficient government has been and that there are issues that have not been dealt with,” says Ms. Rallan, who helps manage her family business. “But I think having a party behind somebody is more important if you need a voice in Parliament and want to pass bills.
The problem, analysts say, is that the middle class is still a minority and most don’t vote. In swanky South Mumbai, where the late November attacks killed more than 160, only 40% of eligible voters voted, down from 44% in the last election in 2004. The turnout also dipped nation wide. 56.7% of eligible voters voted compared to 57.6% last election.
Mumbai voters weren’t scared of more attacks — they were indifferent. As they were given a day off for polls, many just used it to stretch a long weekend and left town.
“The typical middle class attitude is that politics is a very dirty activity and people with education and values don’t go into politics,” said Shashi Tharoor, a former Under Secretary General of the United Nations who stood for a parliamentary seat in the southern state of Kerala with the ruling Congress party. “The educated middle class is the engine of democracy in the U.S. where in India it is exactly the opposite. They cannot be bothered to stand in the sun to vote.”
Even his mother and grandmother didn’t want him to get involved politics. Still, Mr. Tharoor is considered one of the potential new political voices of the middle class. He chose to run with the Congress party for a better chance of winning.
Though Mr. Tharoor was a first time voter and first-time candidate this election, he won the contest for a seat in Parliament in the southern state of Kerala. He said he did it by reaching out to the rural and poor voters as urban voters make up less than 40% of his constituency.
Corporate and professional candidates, campaigning without parties to promote reform on their own, however, did not fare as well.
“Professional independent candidates cannot be taken seriously,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a history professor at Delhi University. “Excellence in arts, science or business does not qualify you for excellence in politics or give you the ability to communicate, comprehend or solve people’s problems.”
Money is also important to run a campaign. Most independent candidates do not have access to the kind of money that political parties have unless they are wealthy enough to fund themselves.
And often voters won’t give them the thumbs up because they have not put in the kind of time required in the electoral process, says Mr. Rangarajan. Voters want to know what their candidates have done for them and not just what they plan to do. Most independents do not have a track record in public service to point to.
Despite the defeats, reform candidates say this is just the beginning. Most plan to continue to be involved in politics and come back next elections with more support, more money and their own parties.
“We didn’t win those 100,000 votes but we did win in raising issues for the city,” said Manjeet Kripalani, spokeswoman for the campaign for banker candidate, Ms. Sanyal. “She has done a monumental job of raising issues and putting issues on the table. It is the first step in a long journey.”
May 17, 2009
Now that election results have been announced and clearly Indian National Congress have done well over BJP.Here are the list of winning candidates. Once again people have favoured the congress party and placed their faith on it. They have been given another chance to correct their mistakes in the past.This victory for congress would not have come easily without the support of English media.Even though the election manifesto of BJP promised so many things like good governance, security,employment etc.., it seems people are not ready to buy those things.There could be number of reasons for BJP losing the battle this time.Some of them,I can think of are:
1.Voter turnout of this election is not so great this time.Many parts of the country only saw around 30 -40 % of turnout .Many educated, working people have not felt the importance of casting their votes.Many people are staying away from home for work and thus felt hesitant to shell out few thousands/hundreds of rupees in travelling to cast their votes.
2.BJP does not have any place in media virtually.They need to fight not only congress but also the so called secular media.People who see something in the newspaper/TV tend to believe the same whether it is correct or not.The subtle/direct anti BJP compaign has won once again.BJP reigns supreme only in the internet and blogosphere.90% of the population rely on News Channels for information and not the internet.
3.Money played a major role in this election.Certainly in TN.Voters in Madurai were given Rs.5000/vote in the last election by DMK.This time the people are not happy because they are given only Rs.200/vote by Congress-DMK alliance.It is a very sad situation.People are happy in receiving freebies such as color TVs,Gas stoves and they are not ready vote for long term plans.
4.Many people in rural India still believe Congress party is of Mahatma Gandhiji/Nehru/Indira Gandhi.’Gandhi’ name has reached far-flung areas of India and people need to be educated on the evils of dynastic politics.BJP or any party who wants to win the elections needs to reach out people in each village/city/town and create a base of supporters.
5.Unless or until a large section of people are made aware of the truth about Congress party and its misdeeds/misgovernance in the past they keep winning.People have to be given a strong, compelling alternative to congress party.
In the latest news, BJP has promised to play constructive role as opposition in nation building.
May 10, 2009
- So many times, fundamentalists from other religions have taken advantage of drawbacks of Hinduism like caste system, to criticize, malign it, and encourage conversion activities.
- It was further exploited by leaders advocating so called lower castes for their personal benefits, by making it a controversial issue, instead of giving solutions.
- Further, the pseudo secular vote bank politicians enforced the issue and dug it into the psyche that if you get minority or lower caste status, you will harvest maximum benefits by means of reservation. They not only did not give any solutions, but stopped the people from so called lower castes from getting empowered. In America, the blacks were minority, they were in fact treated as slaves, but the government never gave them reservations or other appeasement. Through their own efforts, the blacks empowered themselves, and now they have a Black President.
- Through its appeasement and reservation policies, the governments of India have further divided its people, and created permanent stratification in the society. Outgrowth of this policy is seen in Gujjar agitation, demanding SC status, and even then politicians like Mayawati continue to encourage such decline by promising SC status to 16 more categories of people as an election agenda.
- Reservation and encouraging scholarships are alright on economy basis, but not on caste basis, this is absolute violation of the fundamental rights of equality irrespective of religion, gender, caste. This is certainly not secular. Dr. Ambedkar had proposed the reservation system only for ten years after the independence, but power greedy politicians and their vote bank politics continued the reservation system on and on.
- The result is atrocities on so called upper castes also, and continued fights between lower and upper castes.
- Here is an important message in this regard, to understand that there has been lot of work by many saints in India, for upliftment of lower castes, and bringing harmony in all.
- Do reservations really help? Now they have started giving reservations in IIT and public government job sectors also. Imagine someone coming to IIT without clearing the fierce competition of best of the brains in the country. Obviously he/she didn’t have the required education and training. Now he/she will face problems in clearing the subjects. Will other students help, because you get help mainly if you can give help also. And these kids won’t have anything to look back in their families also, because they are an IITian now, and they will have high expectations. More and more failures and suicides are likely in such scenario.
April 19, 2009
It is national shame that EC which is supposed to be unbiased and neutral in its stand,has blocked this attempt to create awareness among people.Thus EC is attempting to keep people of India ignorant.Not many people realise the necessity to bring back the black money if it is not shown in TV.The impact is less when compared with newspapers.By doing so, the EC has violated the freedom of expression.Here is news excerpts.Source : TOI.
BJP on Saturday looked all set to raise its ante higher on its theme for bringing back the black money stashed by Indians abroad after BJP leader L K Advani addresses a media gathering. The Election Commission restrained it from showing a 15-second audio visual spot that was produced to be part of the party’s campaign.
Party sources said that the EC declined the party the permission to run the clip on television and on other visual media, on the ground that the shot of a “foreigner” receiving a briefcase from supposedly a corrupt Indian was not in good taste. But that is what the truth is.When did Switzerland and India become one?FYI..People in Swiss & Liechestein are white in color.This commercial is about Indian Money in the hands of Swiss bank authorities.Isn’t it?Oh..Are you coming to say that the receiver also has to be an Indian.May be Sonia can do that role?She has become an Indian now.What do you say?
Those involved in making the film, however, alleged a hidden agenda, saying that the `foreigner’ was integral to the theme of money being spirited away by the corrupt in the country. Source said that the party was completely baffled by the decision and was planning to take up the issue. Eversince the black money issue has been raised in the G20, the congress honchos have been suffering nervous breakdown.It is no wonder, Naveen Chawla being a sycophant of congress, has objected to this.But the treatment for his nervous breakdown is, he has to sever ties with congress honchos.Is it too much to ask, Chawla?
The film on black money was one of the five 15-second spots that had been submitted to the EC for approval as campaign material to be launched by the party in the second phase of elections. As P Chidambaram has done U turn on Kandahar issue, the EC has done the same thing.Are you guys compaigning for congress under the garb of EC?Can you be more sane?
BJP has been raising the issue of repatriation of black money stacked away abroad in Swiss banks and other tax havens, at a time when an international consensus has emerged favouring disclosure of identity of those having secret accounts with Swiss banks and in tax havens, and for repatriating the money back to the countries hard hit by the economic slump. When other countries are looking out for ways to get their people’s money back, here in India, our EC is objecting to create awareness among masses.Sonia and Congress will be very happy to keep the people of India in perpetual poverty.
BJP’s campaign plank has attracted an angry response from Congress which has tried to mock the party by referring to the allegations of corruption against party leaders. Congress has accused the party of indulging in gimmickry, and said that bringing money back would not be possible except in specific cases where the request was backed by specific evidence.
That has, however, not deterred the BJP, particularly L K Advani who on Friday substantiated his case by releasing documents. While BJP’s prime ministerial candidate led the campaign on black money repatriation, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi kept up the momentum by holding a opinion poll on the issue in every Lok Sabha constituency in the state last week. Has any other congress neta done this?Will Karunanidhi,Lalu,Mulayam,Mayawati,Arjun Singh dare to do this?
Advani has been speaking about the issue at each one of about 70 campaign rallies he has addressed so far, to ensure the issue does not die out.
Meanwhile, the CPM on Saturday questioned Advani’s promise to bring back black money from foreign banks, charging the erstwhile NDA government with diluting relevant laws and making way for money being illegally transferred out of India to tax havens. Is CPM not aware that Congress has ruined (Misnomer:ruled) this country for 60 years and the most of the money was stashed away before the NDA period?Are you guys real communists?