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Going bananas for peanuts

columns Updated: Jun 30, 2015 22:58 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra

I must confess that I’m disappointed. I am by no yardstick a fan of the BJP, but I was willing to set my cynicism aside when Narendra Modi stormed to power on the promise of rooting out corruption. Sadly, it took barely a year for scams to come exploding out of his government. My greater disenchantment, though, is with the Maharashtra government — not only has more than one minister in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet been exposed for, literally, peanuts (the chikki scam), but the government is also bent upon institutionalising corruption.

When the fresh-faced Fadnavis burst upon the scene as the CM, I was charmed by his promise to root out corruption and, if need be, bring in a special law to prevent graft in government. But, nine months later, not only are ministers going for peanuts (a scam of `204 crore by Pankaja Munde and a `191 crore scam by Vinod Tawde for supply of fire extinguishers to schools), the Cabinet has also decided to make it easy for government officials to enjoy the perks of power. Last month, the Cabinet gave its nod to amendment of Sections 156(3) and 190 of the CrPC, which makes it difficult for a magistrate to take cognisance of a citizen’s complaint against officials without a green signal from the government.

The justification was that often complaints are motivated — but, then, what are the courts and investigating agencies there for if not to arrive at the truth? I suspect those amendments have come at the behest of Fadnavis’ masters for it has shades of the Gujarat model of governance, where there was no lokayukta and police officers were endlessly protected even if they turned out to be killers.

No wonder that the otherwise well-meaning Fadnavis was compelled to defend Munde when it was revealed that she arbitrarily awarded contracts for supply of food to children in anganwadis. Look at the double jeopardy here — whether or not she gained anything from those contracts might still be in doubt but those indulging in graft were not satisfied with just the inflated prices; they had no qualms in supplying chikkis contaminated with clay, sand and pieces of iron to tribal children.

And look at the duplicity — when the Congress-NCP government had given out a similar contract, the BJP had objected to it. According to Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, Munde awarded the contract to the same persons the previous government had and held a press conference on Saturday to show that while their contract was only for `37 crore, Munde had far exceeded their levels of corruption. That tickled me pink — the Congress exposing its own misdeed to prove the BJP was greedier and grander in its own ambitions.

Sawant was angry that he should be threatened by the BJP for approaching the anti-corruption bureau but he might as well not have bothered — the amendments to the CrPC will not allow the ACB to proceed independently against any official responsible for that scam. Permission, thus, will not be forthcoming - or will soon be stalled

Add to this the massive number of witnesses in the Vyapam scam and Asaram Bapu’s case dying of unnatural causes (“Those who are born, will die," says MP’s home minister Babulal Gaur without a shred of conscience), and one wonders where this country is headed.

I, then, tend to agree with former CM Prithviraj Chavan who told me last week, “From Jayalalithaa (the farce of her acquittal) and Vasundhara Raje (the ongoing Lalit Modi scam), to Tawde and Smriti Irani (fake degrees), I think we are now truly a banana republic.”