My Country, My Money

By Sunil Dang

That Mr. Modi would not mind spending a whopping ₹6607 Crores of the public money on his foreign tours & advertisements during his Prime ministership is highly bewildering. 84 foreign trips in 4 ½ years must be a record in itself. Could some of these insignificant explorations have been avoided saving India some precious resource for the national exchequer? The very fact that Mr. Modi has so much appropriated a common man’s image & promoted himself as a self styled custodian, watchman of our nation & its resources, such news about his dreadful expenditure is disheartening to say the least.

This amount includes ₹4607 crores on promotional gimmicks alone that include print, electronic media & outdoor publicity. Not that the former incumbents haven’t spent money travelling abroad for important inter-governmental engagements or for trips involving deliberations & deals for country’s economic & security objectives. However people genuinely had different expectations of Modi, who hasn’t missed any opportunity or platform for citing his Chai-wala (Tea Vendor) credentials & therefore his promise of absolute protectionism towards country’s resources.

Could this be the reason why we see & hear the clone acts of Doordarshan replicated by Prime time TV? So much so that there is unfathomable clutter cacophony & jingoism on full display at some of these swanky looking news stations which air everything but news. Is it that they find themselves exceptionally obligated towards the government, having been at the receiving end of a largesse that others could not afford?  Regardless, it is indeed disheartening to see some of the old guard having ceded lock, stock & barrel their editorial primacy & control on most of what is being aired from their citadels. Whatever has happened to mainstream news?

I suspect if there ever would dawn a day when reporting expenditure on travel by PM & his cabinet colleagues was made public. Shouldn’t this be made compulsory disclosure more so when it involves copious amounts of public money? This may well serve the nation & its citizens better than the empty rhetorical flourish devoid of any moral & material strength. It is here that the institutions like CAG & their autonomy is so vital for correct reportage of events. In the interest of public probity & transparency, no one should have any problem coming clean on such extravagance. Only then, we could well have ushered in a system that accords public money the respect, fair treatment & sanctity it so deserves.

We the people should know how much money has been spent from the treasury on non-critical expenditure by the government. Perceived or otherwise; for the highest public office, enjoying a high moral ground cannot be by way of utterances alone. This has to come good & withstand scrutiny by public, who are the ultimate stakeholders in a nation’s treasury, it being their creation & reservoir of economic safety.

Hence the early appointment of Lokpal assumes much greater significance under the circumstances. Although we don’t know if any pronounced criterion exists for filling such a post; But shouldn’t it be someone who has a proven track record on matters of legal, social, economic & executive jurisprudence. A person of unimpeachable integrity & acumen; A retired Judge or a celebrated bureaucrat, an immensely respected public figure, a doyen of social service & champion of human rights. These must be some of the hallmarks of someone applying for the position. I am afraid we do not see anything of this sort in the present context.  

Had the Lokpal been in place, we may well have had to write on something else today.  Mind you India is looking forward to this high office with bated breath & the greatest of curiosity. The, need of the hour is to course correct & cleanse the governing system of its malaise & make top officials running the government including the PM accountable & answerable.