Corruption is cancer alright, but is the Modi government serious about it?

The removal of Sanjeev Chaturvedi the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS a day after Modi’s observation that corruption was a bigger disease than cancer has set tongues wagging within the ruling party too.

Chandrakant Naidu August 22, 2014 20:25:30 IST
Corruption is cancer alright, but is the Modi government serious about it?

Bhopal: Is the Narendra Modi government as earnest about eliminating corruption as it claims? Actions over the past few days have only added to the persisting doubts about its intents.

The removal of Sanjeev Chaturvedi the chief vigilance officer of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) a day after Modi’s observation that corruption was a bigger disease than cancer has set tongues wagging within the ruling party too. Chaturvedi had unearthed many cases of corruption in the premier institution. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan who enjoys a good reputation for his integrity did not have any convincing reason to offer for the CVO’s removal.

Corruption is cancer alright but is the Modi government serious about it

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Of greater concern is the government’s refusal to have a leader of the opposition. The position is important as the committee that selects the Lokpal members must include the Leader of the Opposition along with the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. The Lokpal's nine members are meant to include four former or serving judges. It took the Chief Justice of India to remind the government about it. Political expediency could drive the government to amend laws either to dilute the selection norms for the leader of the opposition or for the formation of the committee. The other option is to leave it to the opposition to choose its leader.

Around this time three years ago, on one man’s bidding, nearly 800 members of the nation’s Parliament held a special session and by one voice promised strong measures to bridle corruption by appointing an all-powerful Lokpal. Anna Hazare’s 288-hour fast went down as a watershed moment in the nation’s history. The Congress-led UPA government which needlessly prolonged the stalemate on the issue showed some grace to accept its discomfiture and create a win-win situation for both the government and the civil society. Corruption was bound to sink the Congress, and sink it did. But, how earnest is the successor regime over the need for such institution?

The omnipotent Lokpal as visualised then is consigned to history too. Now the decision on the appointment of the ombudsman rests with the man whose contempt for the institutions is well known. The new prime minister not only avoided the appointment of an ombudsman for best part of his 14 long years as Gujarat chief minister but made a governor pay for her audacity to impose one on the state. With its selective memory the BJP can remember to act only on the non-BJP governments. While it was quick to demand a CBI inquiry into the alleged corruption in the examination scam in Uttar Pradesh it has staved off all efforts to get the CBI to look into a gigantic scandal In the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh.

The Lokayukta commanded considerable respect in the 1980s in Madhya Pradesh. It is now a butt of jokes for its inefficiency in dealing with high-level corruption. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has been accused of abusing the institution to steamroll the opposition. At the last count the state Lokayukta had handed clean chits to eight of the 11 ministers accused of corruption. The other cases are pending. The government recently sought to extend the tenure of the Lokayukta from five to seven years. The current incumbent, PP Naolekar, got a conditional extension. For now it would be for one year or till his successor takes charge. Ignoring the rules the Chouhan cabinet decided to amend section 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta Act 1981 allowing up to seven years term to the Lokayukta. In effect, however, Naolekar stays on probation now onward.

The government did not consult the collegium that appoints the Lokayukta. The collegium comprises the chief minister, the leader of Opposition and the chief justice of the Jabalpur High Court. The Lokayukta thus gets an extension from the very government whose corruption he is to investigate.

The development in MP is just an example and it reflects a pattern in the BJP’s approach to corruption. Modi needs to prove he is serious and he must go beyond mere lip service.

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