For the last few days, we have been deluged with details of the 2G spectrum scam. Every channel worth its salt has aired innumerable talk shows and discussions on this mother of all scams. On the one hand Subramanyam Swamy is accusing Dr. Manmohan Singh of refusing to act on his petition to prosecute Andimuthu Raja, and on the other we have the congress spokespersons eulogizing the Government’s morality sacking in Raja. All this reminds of a Vikramaditya and the vetal story I read years ago.
Once there lived an old and pious man, renowned for his honesty. One day his neighbor, a rich merchant comes to him with a request. The merchant was leaving on a voyage and wants the old man to safeguard his wealth, until his return. The old man agrees and with God as witness promises to protect and safeguard the merchant’s wealth.
The old man then entrusts the safe keep of the merchant’s wealth to his son, from whom he takes an oath of propriety and honesty. Slowly the son starts dipping into the merchants wealth, people notice this and warn the old man of the son’s misdeeds. The old man calls his son asks him to explain, he also reminds him of his oath on following the right path. The son rubbishes the accusations as rumors and the idle gossip of jealous people, who could bear to see his prosperity. The old man accepts the son’s explanation and things go on as before.
The merchant returns and demands his wealth. The old man calls his son, who hands over a quarter of the merchant’s wealth saying that is all there was. The merchant realizing that he has been cheated approaches the King. The King listens to the merchant’s complaint and summons the old man. The old man comes to the court with his son and handing him over to the King says “your majesty, the merchant is right. My son has confessed to the crime. Please punish him.”
The king has the son flogged and imprisoned. He then praises the old mans honesty and dismisses the case. But the merchant demands punishment for the old man saying, “I have still not received justice. I had entrusted my wealth to the old man which he swore by God to safeguard. The old man’s integrity is intact, but what of me, I have been robbed of my life’s savings, and made a pauper. It was the old man’s decision to entrust my wealth the son for safe keeping. As far as I am concerned the old man is the culprit, and should be punished.
The king is astounded by this demand. The old man, was neither a party to the theft nor did he benefit from it. In fact, he had sent his son to jail. Yet, the merchant was asking for the old man’s punishment.
The vetal asks Vikramaditya, “What should be the Kings decision.”
Vikramaditya’s replies, “Though the old man is innocent of the actual theft, he is guilty of dereliction of duty. The son’s crime was a straight forward one, the old man’s was a graver crime. He did nothing to protect the merchant’s wealth. Far from being vigilant he failed to take action even when he was warned of his son’s misdeeds. Because of his laxity the merchant is condemned to a life of penury. He should be punished.”
India 2010, Dr. Manmohan Singh, esteemed economist, former Governor of RBI, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, former Finance Minister, a man whose personal ethics and integrity are unblemished, takes oath to protect and safeguard the Nation and its assets. He appoints Raja, as his Cabinet Minister for IT & Telecom.
Raja the Telecom Minister has with him keys to the 2G spectrum a finite and precious National asset. Raja flouts all rules of propriety and transparency in Government, and in violation of his oath of office, sells the spectrum at a throw away price of Rs.1651 crore.
1. DoT with Raja at its helm issues an astounding 120 UAS licenses in a single day, January 10, 2008. A feat unsurpassed in the history of Government anywhere in the world. Suspiciously 85 of these licenses are issued to companies which suppressed facts, disclosed incomplete information and submitted fictitious documents.
2. In issuing these licenses neither the High Powered Telecom Commission, which was expressly set up for this nor the Finance Ministry or the Ministry of Law and Justice are consulted. Vital decisions are taken without being deliberated and discussed at inter ministerial forums.
3. In sharp deviation of business practice, the cut off date for receiving applications gets advanced from Oct 1, 2007 to Sept 25, 2007, violating all canons of fair play and ethics.
4. Real estate companies which till date of application had no interest in Telecom are allotted Licenses and spectrum ahead of genuine applicants. These then go on to reap windfalls from foreign players by selling equity.
Unlike the story, this heist of a precious national asset is carried out in full view of Dr. Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues. Newspapers across the country cry out at this outrage in front page headlines.
The Indian Constitution grants the Prime Minister absolute power in running the country. He is the head of the Government and the Union Cabinet functions at his pleasure. As per the Transaction of Business Rules the Prime Minister has the unrestricted right to demand and get any file, any record from any Ministry. Dr. Man Mohan Singh could have at any time stopped this heist of a National asset, yet he chose to remain silent. The Minister’s failure to exercise his constitutional rights has caused irreparable loss to the Nation.
Dr. Singh did not profit personally from Raja’s shenigans, but his failure to act, to honor the oath of office, to protect and safeguard the nation and its wealth is unforgivable. Like the old man, he has sacked Raja from his ministerial berth, but does his culpability end there.
The people of India had entrusted their faith and the future of the Nation in Dr. Manmohan Singh, believing him to be a man of integrity and honesty, and not to Raja. Does dismissing Raja absolve Dr. Singh or like the old man is he guilty of dereliction of duty and failure to safeguard the Nation and its citizens. Does he deserve punishment?
It is for the Indian citizen to decide, whether or not Dr. Singh is guilty.