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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Monsoon of scams?

It's raining scams: Chopper controversy's yet another proof of political foot-dragging on corruption
It's politics as usual. Facing graft charges in a Rs 3,546-crore chopper deal inked in 2010, the Congress says spadework for the transaction began under NDA rule. The BJP exhumes the Bofors ghost, playing up the Italian origin of the scandal-hit defence firm, Finmeccanica, whose CEO was arrested in a graft-related probe in Italy. Instead of mudslinging, both sides should focus on the problem at hand. The corruption issue that led to widespread protests in 2011 hasn't gone away. The question is, what's been done about it?

It's not enough to say India won't lose money courtesy the deal's 'integrity clause'. What about powerful people and middlemen alleged to have illegally profited? We need a thorough probe to book those found guilty, no matter how influential they may be. Sadly, foot-dragging is evident across the political board on institutional clean-ups.

Not a single systemic reform is fully up and running yet, whether to promote transparent public procurement, non-discretionary resource allocation, strict social spending audits, targeted services delivery or revamp of land acquisition norms. The CBI's autonomy remains an issue. Judicial and police reforms are pending. And UPA-II seems to think knee-jerk moratoriums on defence purchases ”in lieu of effective monitoring” suffices to bury scandal, even if the price paid is delayed modernisation of India's military.

Whether it's the prime minister or defence minister, government representatives can no longer make personal probity an alibi against failure to stem all-pervasive corruption.

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