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CAG And TV

Pramod Kumar for  BeyondHeadlines

The pervasive cynicism, despondency and disenchantment  amongst the people already existed  in some measure on account of general corruption but these have now been amplified manifold by the way the CAG report on 2G spectrum allotment has put the loss at an unimaginably high figure. CAG Vinod Rai has qualified the loss with the word “presumptive” but it did not affect the opposition or the media. They simply dismissed the qualification. It is perhaps one of the reasons for the traction Team Anna got in its agitation against corruption.

The CAG report on 2G spectrum allotment has come under scrutiny after Siddharth Zorabi of CNBC/TV18 channel revealed, through RTI, intriguing and surprisingly huge variations in the estimated losses. The Director General of Audit R.P. Singh, who actually conducted the audit, put the loss as Rs. 2645 crores whereas CAG Vinod Rai in his final report put the “presumptive” loss as 176000 crores, a figure shockingly enormous. It was further implied but never claimed at high profile press conferences held by the CAG that someone has derived huge pecuniary benefits from this loss to the exchequer. This perverted the whole discussion about the 2G spectrum allotment and for the media it was manna from the heaven. But this shook the nation and all but paralyzed the government.

The subject of discussion held on 4.10.11 in the programme INDIA TONIGHT at CNBC/TV18 was these, yet to be fully explained, revelations. The participants were Sidharth Zorabi, a spokesperson each from BJP and Congress and the ubiquitous in studios, the retired Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam. The spokespersons stuck to their brief and did not deviate from their set pieces. However, Subramanian was more than his usual strident self and did surprise by his vigorous defense of CAG by claiming that being a Constitutional Authority, he is beyond scrutiny just like a Supreme Court Judge.  He even called for, with raised decibels, that the report is akin to a Supreme Court verdict, and should be respected thus.  He even demanded that CAG should be given the powers of holding people to contempt, if necessary. If so, then what is the role of PAC or even a JPC? The former Cabinet Secretary making such a demand is indeed disturbing.

Zorabi further revealed during the discussion some as yet unexplained notings on the file. These related to the apparent dissatisfaction and regret about Singh having approached Department of Telecommunications about some matters. Rai`s noting “I wish we had not written to the Dot” and Rekha Gupta`s (the Deputy CAG) noting “please convey CAG`s observations to DG (Singh). Also please reiterate that he is not to write to Secretary, Dot, on this or any other matter”.   The real ramifications of these notings are yet to emerge but Subramaniam had nothing to say about these. Yet he berated the present bureaucracy as bootlickers which kowtow to the political bosses for personal advancement. He claimed that the bureaucrats now reach the top not by being upright or moved by public service but by being on the right side of the powers that be. It is however moot as to how the lot now rubbishing the present bureaucracy reached the top in their era?

Subramanian also referred to the good that former Chief Election Commissioner, T.N.Seshan had done to the electoral process by his upright/authoritarian methods. Such results always earn plaudits but these are short-lived because of the means adopted to achieve the objective. Remember, during the Emergency in mid- seventies, people were very happy with trains being on time and the govt. offices working to the satisfaction of the people. But how long did that admiration last. Similarly in case of Seshan too, his powers had to be curbed by raising the number of Election Commissioners to three.

The other astounding observation Subramaniam made was that the revelation through RTI are only to besmirch the reputation of CAG just like the government has attempted to do in case of Baba Ram Dev and Anna Hazare. He forgot that the government has had no role to play in this matter and the person who exposed these things was sitting beside him in the studio. Astonishingly, Karan Thapar did not challenge Subramanian`s observation.  The channel cannot be in cahoots with the executive.  Perhaps, the channels allow the retired bureaucrats to have their say since the agenda is common? Have these worthies become complicit in the channels` pursuit of their venal or other interests?

It is pertinent to mention here that there are bureaucrats and bureaucrats. Earlier also there have been CAGs like T.C. Chaturvedi,  (remember BOFORs controversy) who was first made a member of the Rajya Sabha and then elevated to the post of Governor of Karnataka by NDA Government. Strange things keep happening in the polity and frustrated bureaucrats have found a haven in the studios where they fume, fret and ridicule the government of the day and perhaps get paid for their performance. The channels, epitomes of negativity, welcome them with open arms. Yet there are persons like Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Jai Prakash Narain (and many more who believe in making their contribution to the well-being of the people quietly) who resigned from the IAS for they found it difficult to compromise their ideas of social commitment and public service. They too criticize the government of the day and even suggest ways to solve the myriad problems India faces. Yet their tone is never denunciatory nor do they seek prime time sensationalism.

(Pramod Kumar retired from Glaxo and now lives in Goa from where he keeps an eagle eye on Media and can be reached at kumar.pramod1939@rediffmail.com)

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