by Rajesh Pant
Brothers and Sisters of India:
For the last eight years I have addressed you on this day and have lied a lot. I have said a lot of feel good stuff. Today I stand here to say a few words of full truth.
Let me start by promising I will not spend the next year trying to prolong the tenure of the UPA.
In 1992 when I was the Finance Minister, the then PM, Narasimha Rao gave me the opportunity to address and resolve the financial crisis and problems we had (as usual) run into. I think I did a creditable job because I was focused and had a reasonably free hand.
I now propose to give myself a free hand and do something for our great nation.
Brothers and Sisters:
Just like this August day – I will first make myself independent.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi who has been elected Head of the Congress Party should administer the party. I have been elected Prime Minister and Head of Government — s0 I will administer the government and the country. Unfortunately she is trying to do my job and not doing well. And I am taking the blame. This has to change.
I know that ‘corruption is a cancer and is to be rooted out’ is made in every speech but precious little is done.
So let me first address the issue of ‘small corruption’. I wish to inform all working for the Government of India it is neither a birthright nor a constitutional right. They are simply occupying positions temporarily and are paid to do their jobs. They are misusing and abusing their office for personal gain — because you are also abetting them. You want to ‘move on’ or ‘get ahead of the system’ and they manipulate you. So I really have to be pragmatic and do what has been suggested by an eminent economist — the Economic Advisor — to legitimise all speed money up to Rs 500. Provided a receipt is obtained. At least these petty bureaucrats will pay taxes; and the government will not have to create a pay commission and waste time.
Now ‘big corruption’. Corruption unfortunately is part of our DNA. It is not a foreign virus. It is intrinsic in our nature to try and find a short cut across the system. Our Nation is fast degenerating into a lawless cauldron. There are too many laws and too many lawmakers. Above all there is no respect for the law; because it cannot be enforced. I believe the only way to be bought back in line is to massively strengthen our Judicial system. I will request the President to appoint more and more judges; enhance the power of the judiciary and encourage them to dispense quick, meaningful and harsh justice. The only way we will learn is if we are punished quickly and painfully. I see all these fat cats who have thugged the nation for thousands of crores of rupees smiling slyly and rubbing their hands in glee while awaiting a ‘date of hearing’. I am sick and tired of this; as much as you are. So a tougher and bigger justice system will be my weapon against big corruption. If I can lock these malefactors for about 20 years; it will send a strong message to others.
Unfortunately, many of my colleagues believe that power is best expressed by tearing down independent institutions because they come in the way of questioning their omnipotence. So I will turn my office — the PMO — to shield our great and independent institutions which are currently being bled and castrated by my fellow politicians. If we are to join the league of great nations we must protect, preserve and grow our institutions — the Judiciary, the Election Commission, CAG, RBI and all the others. A great nation overcomes strong challenges because it has strong challengers!
Let me bring to light another great truth. We have not developed much. Maybe a couple of years the growth rate had soared helped by cheap money being made available and by the euphoria of Indians that they were ‘free’ to pursue growth. But there is this large group of people who want to keep everything in their manipulative hands. I will recommend dissolution and/or scaling down ministries except in the area of Defence, Foreign Policy, Economic affairs, Home, Law and Order, Food, Education and few others essential for government. For the rest they will be channelled slowly, but surely into hands and heads who are capable of running them outside the government. This will mean fewer people in government, less corrupt and paid better.
Ours is a poor nation and I do not say it with pride. Too many of my colleagues step out of their helicopters and say we are poor as if it were something to be proud of. It makes me enraged to just think of those who profit from a leaky pipeline sucking away money meant for the poor. But I insist we continue to subsidise the food and other essential items for them but in a meaningful manner. So I will encourage technology development in this area and move fast to provide each Indian, below the poverty line, wherever it is — with a unique identification — most importantly for the reason that money meant for them reaches them.
This will mean I can stop the most wasteful of all public expenditure — subsidies — which are all stolen in any case. Less or no subsidies will mean another stroke against corruption.