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File approved as minister has accepted bribe!

   By Vijay Darda | 31-05-2022

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann has added a page of honesty to politics by sacking minister Singla

When Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann sacked and handed over his health minister Vijay Singla to police on corruption charges, it reminded me of an interesting 55-year-old incident of corruption. No doubt Bhagwant Mann has added a page of honesty to politics by his prompt action. However, before that, let me tell you the old story first.

When Govind Narayan Singh was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, the state was being ruled by a coalition called Sanyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD). There were many allegations of corruption against the ministers and Govind Narayan Singh was not able to control them. Meanwhile, his irrigation minister Brijlal Verma proposed to buy pump sets for lift irrigation. The then chief secretary S P Noronha and the irrigation secretary S B Lal were against it. Meanwhile, the chief minister had received information that the irrigation minister Verma had taken a bribe of Rs 20,000 from the contractor in this case and that too by cheque! When the file pertaining to the proposed purchase of the pump sets reached the chief minister, he wrote a remark on it that the chief secretary and the irrigation secretary were right in opposing the proposal. This proposal is immoral. It cannot be approved. But as the minister has taken a bribe of Rs 20,000 and that too by cheque, displaying his foolishness, it is necessary to approve the proposal.

The chief minister’s remark on the file created a ruckus. The chief secretary immediately approached Govind Narayan Singh and requested him to reject the proposal by putting a new note. After much persuasion, the chief minister agreed. He rejected the proposal by putting a fresh note, but refused to remove the earlier bribe remark against the minister. That shocking remark of Govind Narayan Singh is still there in the records of the Madhya Pradesh government. There is no other example like this in the history of Indian politics.

The way Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann has taken immediate and stern action against Dr Vijay Singla, there is no other example that equals this in Indian politics. Many allegations of corruption have been levelled against ministers and several of them have had to quit their posts, but I don’t remember any case in which the chief minister himself has carried out the investigation and after collecting the evidence, dismissed the minister from his Cabinet and then handed him over to the police. There is no harm in saying that he has added a new page of honesty to Indian politics. He has restored the common man’s faith in the political system and given a new hope.

Interestingly, after becoming the health minister of Punjab, on March 28, Dr Vijay Singla had said that he would not tolerate corruption in any form. Exactly 57 days after the claim of zero tolerance against corruption, he was not only dismissed in the corruption case but also landed in jail. He had demanded one per cent commission for every work in his department. When this information reached chief minister Bhagwant Mann, he took the concerned officer into confidence. The conversation with Singla was recorded secretly. When Singla was confronted with all the evidence, he accepted his guilt that he demanded the bribe.

Had Bhagwant Mann wanted, he would have put the matter under wraps because no one had any knowledge about it. Neither the media nor the other ministers of the government knew about it. But Mann was determined to set a new example. People voted for the Aam Aadmi Party only because of the promise of a corruption-free administration. Not only did he sack Singla immediately, he also reported the matter to the police. Naturally, the national convener of the Aam Aadmi Party Arvind Kejriwal had tears of joy in his eyes. With his action, Mann has justified the confidence which Kejriwal put in him. The whole country looks at this move of Mann with great hope. It shows that if probity and strictness prevailed at the highest level, the virtue of honesty will naturally percolate to the lower level. In this respect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also set a wonderful example of discipline. He has completed eight years of his tenure. In all these years, neither minister nor any officer has dared to indulge in corruption! It is certain that unless we are able to stop the scourge of corruption, we will not be able to make hospitals and schools of as high a standard as in Delhi.

The scourge of corruption is very unfortunate and agonising. How ironic is it that the politicians whom we send to the Parliament with great trust start caring for their own prosperity at the cost of the people’s welfare. Those who should understand the pain of the common man and spend every penny of the government for the public good, themselves start asking for commission. Officers join the government service with a resolve to serve the country, but after some time greed overpowers their resolve and making money becomes their sole motive. Sometimes, so much cash is discovered that a machine has to be installed to count it! The case of IAS officer Pooja Singhal is fresh in mind. A cash of Rs 19 crore has been recovered from the residence of Pooja who was posted in Jharkhand. This is the first case of such a big corruption by a woman officer. The case of Chitra Ramakrishna, former MD of National Stock Exchange, too came to the fore recently. She has been saying that she had appointed Anand Subramaniam as group operating officer at the behest of a yogi from the Himalayas. Indeed, corruption has hollowed out the entire system. According to Transparency International data, India is ranked 85th out of 180 countries in the world in terms of corruption.

There is no doubt that corruption can be controlled if our politicians make their mind to eliminate it. It takes political will and determination to crack down on corrupt officers like Pooja. The situation is changing, but what is the answer to the question of the people as to how does a person become rich as soon as he becomes a leader? Under the circumstances, what is wrong if people look upon politicians with suspicion? How promoters of private limited political companies rake in moolah worth thousands of crores? This question is related to the economic health of India. The country needs an answer!

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