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The lawless ministers - The Daily

M V Kamath ()
August 4, 1998

Title: The lawless ministers
Author: M V Kamath
Publication: The Daily
Date: August 4, 1998

There is a saying in the Bible that sums up the situation in the
country. If the salt loses its savour, it says, where with shall
it be salted? Translated into simple language it means; if out
leading political parties and out important leaders have no sense
of value, how can we expect them to prove leadership? Consider
these facts; For five long years the Congress Party in Delhi did
not pay its telephone bills amounting to about a crore of rupees!

According to Rakshat Puri, writing in The Hindustan Times, under
threat of having the telephone lines disconnected, the party
finally paid Rs. 30 lakhs and Rs. 70 lakhs remain to be made
good. Year after year the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam kept pressing
the party to pay up. It wouldn. According to one account the
deputy General Manager of the MTNL in Delhi ordered the
disconnection of several telephones of the All India Congress
Committee's office. One official has been quoted as saying: he
MTNL bills have never been treated as ones that need to be
settled. When the party was in power no officer had the courage
to initiate recovery procedure.

Early in June, one officer, Ashish Joshi ordered that 13
telephone lines be disconnected, including two at the homes of
AICC office-bearers. What was the end result? The Congress party
sought Union Communication Minister Sushma Swaraj's assistance
and she is reported to have ordered restoration of the telephone
lines on the grounds that the BJP government should not be
considered to be revengeful! It now seems that for his troubles,
Joshi has been transferred to the Directorate of Telecom as
Director (Training).

A large number of political leaders of every kind are said to be
in arrears to different bodies. According to a Statesman report,
Chandra Shekhar owes the New Delhi Municipality some Rs. 10 lakh
for electricity. Kalpanath Rai and Madhavrao Scindia owe Rs. 6
lakh each. The names of several political leaders are mentioned
and they make shameful reading. The excuse given by the leaders
is that they were ministers and should not be expected to pay the
bills incurred when they were in office. For years, some of these
former ministers have been occupying the bungalows previously
allotted to them to which they are no longer entitled.

And yet they stay put where they are even when minister for Urban
Affairs, Ram Jethmalani has publicised their names. In such
circumstances, why should the ordinary citizen obey the law? And
what sort of leadership can we expect from the Congress party
which does not pay bills for as long as five years?

Public memory is short. The non-payment of bills by the Congress
party will soon be forgotten, just as the Lakhobhai Pathak
cheating case, the St Kitts forgery case, the JMM bribery case,
the out-of-turn petrol pump allotment case- all against PV
Narasimha Rao- have been forgotten.

On December 9, 1996, eighteen months ago, the Delhi- based The
Pioneer published a story that said that various public sector
banks and financial institutions have filed recovery suits
against nearly 1,600 companies across the country for recovery of
an astounding Rs. 6,000 crore of dues, Just one man, Harshad
Mehta had Rs, 812 crore outstanding against his name. The Pioneer
named names. To this day nobody knows what happened to all those
cases.

Does anybody remember that the former Union Health Minister, B
Shankaranand was reportedly directly involved in the Rs. 5,000
crore medical equipment import scam? People charged with all
manner of crimes remain scot-free.

Compared to the crime committed by several top politicians, the
Bofors scandal for which Rajiv Gandhi Paid dearly was for the
paltry sum of Rs. 64 crore! On January 4, 1997 The Pioneer
reported that the amount of bank loans unrecovered for more than
five years up to that time was a cool Rs. 40,583 crore! The sums
are mindboggling. The tragedy is that there is no follow-up.
Former ministers who lived at public expense in government owned
bungalows in Delhi continue to live there, refusing to vacate,
piling up huge amounts of bills for electricity and telephones.

The richer one is, the more the tendency to break laws. On
February 11, 10998 The Times of India revealed that between 1995
and 1998 the Enforcement Directorate filed cases against 10,000
odd people for violation of FERA rules but succeeded in getting
convictions for a mere 30 in 1995, 14 in 1996 and 28 in 1997.
What is the public to make out of this? Efforts are constantly
made to influence judges. A year ago, the then Chief Justice of
India felt compelled to disclose that the judges hearing the
multi-crore Jain havala case had come under ersistent pressure
to withdraw form the proceedings.

According to a report in The Hindu (July 18,1997): one unnamed
gentleman tried to reach the Chief justice and Justice Bharucha
and managed to meet Justice Sen to influence the judges to
withdraw form the case. The name of the entleman has not been
revealed. It may be presumed that he must be some one quite high
up to dare to reach no less than the chief Justice of India.

Commenting on this, PP Rao, Former president of the supreme
Court Bar Association was to say: he members of the Bar have
every right to know the identity of not only the `gentleman
concerned... but also of the people connected with his
activities... hat name has not been revealed.

Six former prime ministers including the late Rajiv Gandhi
undertook unofficial journeys using IAF aircraft but to date have
not paid for them, according to a list submitted to the Lok
Sabha. Pending dues form two of the six former prime ministers
pertained to periods after they had relinquished office! Chandra
Shekhar, who wants to topple the BJP coalition government owes Rs
5.91 crore -- the largest amount due. This amount pertains to a
three month period covering July to September 1991 after he had
laid down office.

Deve Gowda owes Rs. 26.48 lakh for availing aircraft services of
the IAF for the month of December 1996. As many as ten ministers
apparently availed themselves of IAF services without paying for
them when the rules clearly lay down that xcept the prime
minister. no other dignitary is authorised to use VIP flights of
the IAF for non- official journeys.

Rules are laid down and are routinely broken by ministers.
Questions are asked in Lok Sabha and are truth fully answered--
and then forgotten! What is the public to do in such cases? If
ministers break rules with impunity how can one complain about
the break - down of law and order in the country? Justice must
not only be done but must be seen to have been done.

For that defaulting ministers and politicians must first be
brought to book, quickly, expeditiously and justly. It is then
and then only that faith in government will be restored. There
cannot be one law for the rich and the powerful, and another for
the poor and powerless.


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