MonitorsPublished on Jan 07, 2011
Allegations of financial scams have continued to trouble the UPA-2 Government as the Opposition has scented its path to power by keeping them in public domain. The proceedings of Parliament during the winter session were stalled as the Government declined
India: Corruption, the Pathway to power?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Allegations of financial scams have continued to trouble the UPA-2 Government as the Opposition has scented its path to power by keeping them in public domain. The proceedings of Parliament during the winter session were stalled as the Government declined to accept the Opposition's demand for a probe into the alleged scam in the allocation of 2-G spectrum by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).

The blame game between the ruling UPA and the divided Opposition continued with the two accusing each other for the parliamentary impasse. Undoubtedly, it is the duty of the opposition in the parliamentary form of democracy to remain on vigil and bring misdeeds and wrongdoings of the government but can this role be fulfilled by blocking the parliamentary business and debate is the relevant question here.

Whether the ruling combine agrees to the opposition's demand for a JPC probe into the alleged scam of 2-G spectrum allocation or not, only time will, tell but one thing can be said with certainty that corruption will continue unabated in the system because none of the political actors are really keen to address the problem which is eating away the very vitals of the edifice on which the democracy stands.

BJP Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament, Sushma Swaraj said that a JPC probe in to the 2-G scam could be a route to "systemic correction". She said in an interview that "We need JPC for remedial measures".

The Leader of the Opposition needs to be reminded that a JPC is not meant for "systemic correction" but its purpose is to investigate and probe. If her contention had any substance, then in the past, JPCs should have performed that role. But the past does not evoke any confidence in her assertion. She may be trying to score a point over the ruling combine in the ongoing public debate on the JPC issue but her intervention lacks credibility and conviction.

So many JPCs and equally more commissions of inquiry have failed to make a dent on prevailing corruption, which only continues to grow as the political parties are really not serious about tackling the meance. A classic example is of the JPC which was constituted to probe the 'Bofors gun scam'. The JPC failed to serve any useful purpose barring that it helped the Opposition to come to power in 1989. The Opposition had used the JPC for keeping the issue alive in the public domain. A Janata Dal Government led by former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh was formed, sowing the seeds of coalition politics at the national-level, after the ilure of the Janata Party experiment followed by the expectedly aborted attempt of Prime Minister Charan Singh a decade or so earlier.

Though V P Singh Government was short-lived, yet it showed the contradictions in coalition politics. It also marked the end of the era of strong prime minister which had been the hallmark of the years of premiership of Indira Gandhi. During her years in power, the Prime Minister's Office, better known by its abbreviation PMO, became one of the most important tools of executive action. Despite its own failure, the fall of the Janata Dal Government did usher in the era of coalition politics. By definition, the party leading the coalition has to be accommodative rather be submissive to the wishes, desires and whims of the coalition partners. All the coalition governments bear enough testimony to the above phenomenon.

BJP Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, or the Upper House, Arun Jaitley, who has now again demanded the reopening of criminal investigations into the 25-year-old 'Bofors case' in the wake of the order of the Income-Tax authorities who have merely given all ready existing details of the money trail of alleged kickbacks and commissions paid to Win Chadha and Ottavio Quattrocchi ? two middle men, the latter an Italian then based in New Delhi, appears to be confident that the issue can be exploited to the advantage of the BJP.

Surprisingly, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government of Prime Minister Vajapyee, did not enact a single piece of legislation to prevent corruption. Nor did it strengthen existing legislation where lacunae were found. Despite claiming to be leading a "party with difference", neither former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani nor Jaitley, who was the Minister for Law and Justice at one stage and who also had the solid support of the Sangh Parivar parent of the BJP, did seek to influence the Government to undertake reforms which could hit at the very root of the corruption.

Even the issue of bringing back the black money stashed away in the Swiss banks was not tackled while the BJP was leading the Government but once the party was forced into the Opposition by the voters in 2004, and five years later in 2009, corruption has become the leading theme of the party which firmly believes in the politics of emotions than of substance.

Various Congress-led Governments, including the present one led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have undoubtedly been guilty of various acts of commission and omissions which have resulted in scams but then the UPA-I should also be credited with enacting the Right to Information Act, which is an important tool to expose corruption.

The way to eliminate corruption from the political and financial system is to have a systemic approach by enacting laws which come down hard on corrupt political leaders, bureaucrats and financial leaders. And to achieve this, there is a need for a political consensus among the major political parties which remains elusive as the political parties are more interested in capturing power rather tackling the issue of corruption. A JPC probe into the 2-G scam may help the Opposition to win an electoral battle or two, but the war against corruption cannot be won through such an approach.

Dr Satish Misra is a Senior Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI against rupee payment for Iranian oil

Iran is reportedly willing to accept payments in rupee for the $ 12-billion worth of crude it sells to India but the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) is opposing the idea. This is surprising as it comes at a time when State-run refineries face the risk of running low on their stock of oil next month if a solution to the current imbroglio involving Iranian oil is not found quickly.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, January 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Krishna Committee on Telengana comes out with six options

The Justice Sri Krishna Committee, which was set up to examine the demand for a separate State of Telengana out of the existing State of Andhra Pradesh, has offered a half-a-dozen options on which the Government may take a call in about six weeks.

The report takes into account the prevailing sentiments and has also suggested the possibility of having to convert Hyderabad, the capital city of the present State, as a Union Territory, if the demand for a separate Telangana is to be granted.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 4, 5, 6, 7, 2011, The Economic Times, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM cautions against illiberal use of science's products

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the 98th Indian Science Congress at Katankulathur, 40 km from Chennai on Monday, January 3, 2011. The Prime Minister cautioned the nation against tendencies of putting the products of science to illiberal uses.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 4, 5, 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian firms bid for Afghan iron ore jointly

For the first time rivals in the domestic market, steel giants SAIL, Tata, Essar, RINL and Jindal Group, are coming together to jointly bid for iron ore assets and to explore building a steel plant in war torn Afghanistan.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India-China direct service from FedEx

FedEx Express, a subsidiary of world's largest express cargo company FedEx Corp has announced the launch of its direct service from India to China, giving a further boost to trade ties between the two countries. The new flight will offer Indian businesses the benefit of additional outbound capacity to Asia.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 6, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BDR mutiny case trial

The trial of the accused in the case relating to the mutiny in Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), staged on February 2009 in the BDR head quarter had begun this week. The trail is the country's biggest ever criminal case, and around 800 accused have been hauled before the court.

In February 2009, thousands of BDR soldiers revolted against their senior officers during a meeting at the BDR headquarters, and killed many Army officers, including the BDR chief. When the case came up, hundreds of lawyers were present at the court to defend rebel BDR soldiers.

The authorities concerned had to make about 1.6 crore copies of the case documents for being given to the accused in the court. Keeping in view of the huge number of accused, special dock has been constructed, instead of traditional wooden one, to facilitate prosecution. The judge, however, claimed that the proceedings will be hundred per cent neutral.

It needs to be recalled, after the mutiny the BDR has been renamed as Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB), with a new insignia and logo and stricter rules.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, January 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM asks people to be patient

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged her countrymen to have patience for a while to enjoy the benefits of all the initiatives that her Government has taken and will be taking in future. In her address to the nation on the occasion of completion of her second year in office, Sheikh Hasina also reassured people of fulfilling all the electoral pledges.

During the speech, she also made an assessment of the functioning of the Government, and claimed that her party intended to ensure optimum development of the country through the promotion of ordinary people. The Prime Minister claimed that the income of the people had increased by 50 per cent to 150 per cent. The Awami League Government had already added 1000 MW to the national wer-grid and hopes to add another 2361 MW grid within next year, she said.

The Prime Minister however expressed apprehension that some quarters had amassed wealth looting people's money and siphoned off huge sums overseas. They were now trying to obstruct the progress of the country, she claimed.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FTA guidelines

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has approved a draft guideline for the signing free trade agreements (FTA) with other countries. These guidelines will enable the country to move faster in signing bilateral FTAs with foreign countries.

There are around 15 countries that have expressed desire for FTA with Bangladesh. According to the guidelines, the country will give priority to emerging trade powers and will avoid developed countries in this regard.

The guidelines prescribe separate strategies for FTAs with different countries, including developed ones, with increasing demand for foreign manpower, Asian countries, South American and African nations. The guideline hspecially recommended signing of FTAs with Asian powers that are on the path of becoming economic powers. Analysts opine that this policy document will help to smooth the process of Bangladesh signing an FTA with India.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Financial Express, January 3, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arrest of JMB IT experts

Four cadres of banned militant outfit, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), were arrested by the security forces. Surprisingly, all the four arrested are information technology experts, with some of them educated in private universities. These arrests have given a new dimension to the fight against militancy and have falsified the myth that madrasas were only cradle of militancy in the country.

The JMB has since threatened to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unless its cadres are released from the jail. The group claimed that the Prime Minister had survived "this year's Aug 15, but she will not be alive in future as she will also be blown to smithereens". They have also threatened to blow up the Chittagong Jail, where 27 associates have been lodged.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Government has vowed to eradicate militancy from the country and has been acting strongly against militant groups, including the JMB.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, January 4, 2010//, January 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over acquittal of ULFA men in India

Bhutan has expressed serious concern over the release of ULFA leaders, particularly "deputy commander in chief" Raju Baruah, on bail as Thimphu is convinced that the insurgent group will retaliate against it for helping New Delhi wipe out its bases in 'Operation All Clear' along the the India-Bhutan border in 2003. The ULFA leaders are being released on bail to facilitate a peace dialogue on the eve of the Assam Assembly elections in April 2011.

Bhutan has since taken up the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. Thimphu has conveyed its unhappiness over the release of ULFA leaders, particularly those handed over by Bhutan to India, through official as well as diplomatic channels. It is alleged that the ULFA tacitly helped the ruling Congress Party win the Assembly elections in Assam at the time, and according to some, a repeat is being played out now.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express, January 3, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh to provide transit access

Bangladesh has reiterated its intention to sign a fresh agreement with Bhutan this month to allow the land-locked South Asian country to use the Mongla port. The deal is in its final stages and may be inked during the January 10 visit of Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Yoser Thinley or any time this year. Thinley is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on January 10 on a four-day visit.

Bangladesh and Bhutan had earlier signed a transit agreement in 1980, but it did not come into effect, as Bangladesh and India had failed to reach an agreement on providing a corridor to Bhutan to use a strip of the Indian territory for the purpose. Bhutan has long been asking for access to Chittagong port, but Bangladesh prefers offering Mongla port to increase its use.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Civil servants' salaries restored

The civil servants' sacrifice by accepting the pay-cut was instrumental in getting the Maldives economy back on track during the economic downturn last year, President Mohamed Nasheed has said. Speaking in his weekly radio address, the President expressed happiness over the Government being able to restore their salaries from the New Year, as proposed in Budget-2011.

President Nasheed said the whole nation would appreciate the civil servants' sacrifice in accepting a pay-cut during the economic downturn, noting that it was because they accepted the pay-cut that the Government was able to get economy back on track. "All of us thank the civil servants," he said.

The President also underscored Maldives' graduation from the United Nations' list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Despite the country's graduation to the middle-income category, one-third of the population still lived below the poverty line, he said adding that the Government was providing assistance to BPL people through its social security programme.

Welcoming the Government's decision on restoration of old pay and perks to Government servants, Opposition DRP leader Thasmeen Ali said that coming as it did ahead of the municipal elections, it has caused apprehension if they would be withdrawn, post-poll. He also questioned the figures saying the budgetary provisions for pay restoration was lower than what was spent last year.

For their part, hospital employees are upset over the reduction of risk-allowance, working out to a minimum of Rf 2,500 per month per person, without notice. Indians and other South Asians man many positions in the Maldivian hospitals, and they would be the worst-hit, it is apprehended.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News Service, January 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gayoom says DRP members obliged to display unity

All the members of opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) are obliged to show the nation that the party is determined to work towards a common goal in shared spirit, the party's Supreme Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said.

Quoting verses from the Holy Koran, the former President said that the party needed to display unity ahead of the municipal polls. "I am saying this in my capacity as the Supreme Leader of DRP, as a father of you all members and as an elderly person."

Gayoom highlighted the importance of DRP winning the election in order to maintain the Maldives as a Muslim nation, to preserve the Holy Koran and Arab-Islamic education, and to protect the land plots and other assets of the Maldivian people.

Gayoom further said the Maldives achieved the current economic development not by selling its assets. "We should utilise the resources bestowed on us by God Almighty. The rich natural resources we have are for our children, the future generations and for us. That should not be given to foreigners," he said.

Gayoom's re-entry into poll campaign comes in the midst of speculation that he may enlist for the presidential polls of 2013, to try and capitalise on the purported loss of popular ground by the ruling MDP and infighting within his DRP.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News Service, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Furore over UNMIN exit intensifies

The proposed exit of United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) on January 15 has created furore in Nepalese political circles, especially among the Maoists. The government has asked UNMIN to hand over arms containers, details of arms and armies, documents retained by JMCC and bar code readable software for combatants' ID cards and weapons, among others.

Maoists' chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda has accused the other political parties for taking the decision to send the UNMIN back unilaterally without putting in place any suitable alternative. The UCPN-M, which had earlier agreed with the Government to extend UNMIN's term for the last time in September, now strongly believes that the UN body must stay till May 28 ? the deadline for the promulgation of the new Constitution ? for the successful completion of the peace process.

"The Government is taking unlawful steps while seeking the custody of weapons," commented Barsa Man Pun 'Ananta' of Unified Maoists' Party. Pun is also a member of the Special Committee on Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoists' combatants. With the government asking UNMIN to hand over weapons, says Pun, it has become clear why the Government wanted the UNMIN to go without completing its assigned duties.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Telegraph Nepal, January 7, 2011, Himalayan Times, January 1, 2011, December 31, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhattarai admits to differences within the Maoist party

Maoist Vice-Chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai has reiterated his differences over the plan to stage 'people's revolt', as proposed by party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Commenting on the integrated political paper presented by Dahal on the second day of the central committee (CC) meeting of the party at Paris Danda, Koteshwor, Bhattarai is known to have said that writing a pro-people Constitution for the country and concluding the peace process should be the primary aim of the party at present and that the revolt plan was untimely given the current political dynamics.

Dahal's proposal, which is a combination of his and Senior Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya's paper tabled in the Palungtar plenum, calls for a revolt if 'reactionaries' tried to obstruct Constitution-drafting and peace process. During his three-day stay in New Delhi to attend a seminar on Nepal's current political situation, Bhattarai admitted to having differences within the Maoist party UCPN-M but also said that there was no question of leaving the party over the differences as dissent can be managed.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Nepalnews, January 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition to training Foreign Service recruits in India

The International Relations and Human Rights Committee of the Legislature-Parliament has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to desist from sending 28 newly-recruited foreign ministry officers to India for training. Most of the law-makers in the parliamentary panel expressed serious reservations to MoFA's decision to train Nepali diplomats in New Delhi based Foreign Service Institute, the place where Indian Foreign Service officers are trained, and asked it not to go ahead with the plan.

The advice of the parliamentary panel comes amidst serious concern raised by the UCPN (Maoist) on the MoFA's move, arguing that the new officers could be trained in Nepal itself where there would be no fear of them getting undue foreign influence. The MoFA had asked India's Ministry of External Affairs some time ago to help train its new batch of officers half of whom are women, a request that was immediately accepted.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Nepalnews, January 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests over Taseer's assassination

Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab for the past two years, was brutally assassinated by his security guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri on Tuesday this past week. Qadri confessed to the killing as a response to Taseer's opposition to the blasphemy law.

Taseer, who was a prominent member of the ruling PPP and a close aide of slain party leader Benazir Bhutto, was known to have openly criticised the blasphemy law and saw it as a means to strike fear and oppression among the minority of the country. Despite threats from some clerics that whoever grieved for Taseer or attended his funeral would meet with a similar fate, people crowded his gubernatorial residence in Lahore to pay their respects.

The assassination has created an uproar as PPP supporters came down to the streets mourning the loss of an important leader. Qadri was brought to appear before the Anti-Terrorist Court in Rawalpindi on Thursday, but authorities faced chaos as a crowd of extremist lawyers and madrassa students surrounded the building in protest.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 6th, 7th, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Price hike of petroleum products withdrawn

Under pressure and protest from political parties, civil society organisations and people across the country, Prime Minister Gillani has withdrawn the recent increase in prices of petroleum products. He noted it as a tough decision keeping in view the economic situation as the Government brought back the prices to the level of October 31, 2010, the date of the last hike before the December 31 decision. Gillani proposed to set up a committee which would devise a mechanism so that fluctuation of the international oil market could not directly affect the common man.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has dubbed the price-reversal a 'mistake' as it severely undermined efforts to revive the flailing economy of the nation. The IMF also criticised the reversal and spokeswoman Caroline Atkinson noted, "They're inefficient and untargeted so that the bulk of the benefit from the energy subsidy goes to higher income individuals and large companies."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 7th, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ferry service MOU signed

The ferry service between Sri Lanka and India will be revived soon after the gap caused by the 'ethnic war' and the MoU in this regard was signed between the two countries at the 'Temple Trees' residence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

According an official of the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs, the Ceylon Shipping Corporation will be operating three passenger ships from the Colombo harbour to the Tuticorin in India, which will in turn operate three ships as well. "There will be six ships travelling between the two countries three days a week," the official said.

The ferries can transport 300-500 passengers and would cost less than 30 per cent of what one would spend on a plane ticket. The official said that each passenger would be allowed to carry baggage of 100 kg and trip takes about hours. It would be a boon to the unorganised trading sector, as they can now carry only 20 kg by air without extra payment, and also pay more for ticket.

"The ferry service is to cater to the needs of Sri Lankan and Indian businessmen, tourists, and for those who travel between the two countries regularly. Furthermore it will further enhance the ties that Sri Lanka shares with India," the official said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army sells vegetables

The Army, in an attempt to cut down the cost of living, has overnight implemented a programme to sell vegetables at concessional prices. As an initiative, a stock of 25,000 kg of vegetables was transported to Colombo from Anuradhapura. Based on the reaction of the traders, who are now expected to bring down the prices, the Army would extend the programme across the country, officials have said.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake has spoken about providing three-week leadership training to students passing out of the universities, to inculcate discipline to them before they join the mainstream. The Minister said the idea flowed from the current incidents of renewed unrest on the campuses in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 6 & 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP united for LG elections

The United National Party (UNP) hopes to work in a united manner for the Local Government Elections. "We hope to work together as one team and support all our leaders in order to make the Local Government Elections victory for the UNP," party MP Thalatha Athukorala has said.

The UNP adopted a new party constitution on December 12, where the directives for the appointment of a new leader were laid out.

The Government dissolved all local government bodies on Thursday. The elections to some 330 local bodies including Municipal Councils, Town Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas are to be held on March 12. The Elections Department will ac
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, January 7, 2011

< class="brown12verdana"> Contributors:

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal & Bhutan: Anjali Sharma;
Pakistan: Anjana Verma;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.