Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Games over, punish those who looted India
The knives are out in Congress
Within days of the Commonwealth Games getting over, the Prime Minister’s Office ordered a full-fledged inquiry into the ‘conduct’ of the sporting event which has cost the country’s taxpayers anything between Rs 70,000 crore and Rs 1,00,000 crore. The official estimate of Rs 27,000 crore is misleading since it does not take into account ‘miscellaneous’ expenditure: For instance, perfectly good pavements were torn up and relaid, and relaid yet again; plants that cost Rs 50 at nurseries in upmarket areas are believed to have been purchased at Rs 1,000 each; and, money meant for Dalit welfare has been diverted for building flyovers. Examples abound of the effort that has gone into making Delhi shine. The inquiry ordered by the PMO will be conducted by a committee headed by former CVC VK Shungloo, an officer known for his impeccable integrity.
With the CAG, the CVC, the CBI, the ED and now the PMO gunning for those who looted the nation in the name of the Commonwealth Games and used ‘national pride’ as a cloak to cover their misdeeds, the knives are out. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has pointed a not-so-dainty finger at Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, suggesting that he is to blame for the loot.
Mr Kalmadi has not wasted time in hitting back. He has pointed out that Ms Dikshit was in charge of all construction-related work and her budget was a whopping Rs 16,000 crore while his was a measly Rs 1,600 crore. It is indisputable that much of the loot happened under Ms Dikshit’s watch. The other agency involved in the preparations for the Games was the Union Urban Development Ministry. It has a lot to answer for, too.
The Congress, alarmed by the prospects of a free-for-all, has promptly issued gag orders. That has not prevented Mr Kalmadi, who, as photographs published in Mail Today point out, has a new swagger to his walk while Ms Dikshit looks distinctly worried, from reiterating his charges and asserting that the Delhi Chief Minister can’t escape responsibility.
Meanwhile, the CAG and the CVC have reopened investigations into projects undertaken by the Delhi Government. The CBI has taken files from the OC office into its custody. The ED has launched proceedings against the OC for inexplicably inflated payments. The Income Tax Department has raided the premises of firms that were given contracts for infrastructure-related work. Among the offices that were raided on Tuesday are those of Sudhansu Mittal, known for his proximity to certain senior BJP leaders, at least one of them a member of Delhi4.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari has called for a JPC inquiry. Although a joint parliamentary committee weighed heavily in favour of the Congress is unlikely to do more than a cover-up job (recall the JPC’s report on the Bofors scandal), it’s an idea worth pursuing. At least a lot of details will become public and those who have had their snouts in the trough will be outed.
In mid-August Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised that those guilty of wrongdoing would be handed out “severe and exemplary punishment”. The nation expects him to keep his promise.
India deserves far better than a tacky closing ceremony that reminded me of Sports Minister MS Gill telling mediapersons not to worry about the poor and tarred preparations, assuring them the Games would be like a “big fat Punjabi wedding”.