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Congress comfortable despite corruption charges

By Ron Duarah

DIBRUGARH, March 30 � There was a time when a case of corruption would involve a lakh or two lakh rupees. But this is all history now, with the country�s media screaming of Rs 1,70,000 crore spectrum corruption case taking the cake. Assam too has not lagged behind, with the Rs 1,000 crore North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) scam being one of the many scandals that have plagued the Tarun Gogoi-led government in the State.

As the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh is not directly implicated in any of the mega scams that have scarred the image of the nation, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi too is not yet directly implicated in any of the mind-boggling scandals in the State. But this has not helped in portraying a clean image of his government, especially in its second term from 2006 to 2011.

Two major political parties, apart from the Leftists, the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, are making a big noise on the issue of corruption. And from the non-political organisations, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has already launched a massive, statewide crusade against corruption.

Says Akhil Gogoi, secretary of KMSS: �We have been on this journey to cleanse the society of the evil of corruption to the best of our abilities. Whoever is corrupt shall not be spared from our scanner. Our only regret is that our campaign against the malaise needs to be even more effective, so that the perpetrators of this social evil cannot go scot free. Our added concern is that highly corrupt politicians are in the fray in the State this time too, and are shamelessly seeking votes to continue in power.�

The poll campaigns of BJP and Trinamool are highlighting corruption as the single reason to seek a political change in the State. While Mamata Banerjee is yet to actively campaign in Assam, almost all the top brass of the BJP are hovering over the State. Their main poll plank, corruption, has become so overbearing that the voter should reject the Congress without a second thought.

Corruption per se is a difficult issue to be proved in a court of law, says Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, the BJP�s energetic and youthful candidate for the Margherita constituency.

�Nobody gives you a receipt for graft, be the recipient a government official or a political leader, but the grief with which the giver has to part with money needs to be understood,� he says. He also points out in the same breath that in the case of business related corruption, the giver recovers the money through short supply or deficiency of service. None else but the civil society suffers.

Defining corruption as the issue that has crippled the State, Trinamool Assam unit general secretary Shyamal Baruah says radical steps would have to be taken to weed out corruption from society. �We can begin with weeding out the Congress,� he said. Corruption, he says, has become a Congress culture.

There have been thousands of incidents where political leaders have taken recourse to corruption. These relate to shortlisting government scheme beneficiaries, and then demanding a share of the largesse. For example, it is an open secret that district-level politicians demand a 10 per cent cut from beneficiaries of schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, old-age pension, and sundry fancifully named public welfare schemes. Even to get a leased government accommodation in Guwahati, beneficiaries have complained that they had to part with Rs 1 lakh or more. The money had to be paid to a well-oiled machinery, comprising middlemen (generally the trusted aides of Housefed chairmen). One such person, who had to part with Rs 1.4 lakh of his family�s hard-earned money to get a Housefed house in Guwahati three-and-a-half years ago, has neither got a refund of the bribe nor got house allocation. This person, a government employee in upper Assam, is on the verge of retirement.

There are allegations that beneficiaries had to pay some money even to get a medicated mosquito net. Then there is the �profit sharing� scandal in works relating to MLA local area development funds, involving elected representatives or their agents with the contractors. In this scandal, this newspaper knows about elected representatives demanding and getting their cuts. These representatives are from all across the political spectrum, the BJP included.

That unprecedented corruption takes place in the Govt departments like Water Resources, PWD, Industries, PHE etc and that the quantum of graft has gone up many times over is now a non-issue. Contractors have begun keeping sums aside to satisfy the lust of elected representatives, engineers and clerks, so that the well-oiled system rolls on.

The AGP has maintained a studied silence on the issue of corruption. The reason is not too far to seek. During the party�s two terms at Dispur, cases of corruption abounded, involving almost all the then ruling party leaders. From the LoC (letter of credit) to veterinary to teacher appointment scandals, the AGP too has not come clean. The then Home Minister�s public declaration that even �ten rupees� corruption would not be tolerated� became the greatest joke of that era.

Such an issue that cripples normal civic life being largely ignored by leading parties like Congress and AGP, sends out an eerie signal. Fortunately for them, the voters remain confused, and in this confusion there is a likelihood that the corrupt may still have their way.

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Congress comfortable despite corruption charges

DIBRUGARH, March 30 � There was a time when a case of corruption would involve a lakh or two lakh rupees. But this is all history now, with the country�s media screaming of Rs 1,70,000 crore spectrum corruption case taking the cake. Assam too has not lagged behind, with the Rs 1,000 crore North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) scam being one of the many scandals that have plagued the Tarun Gogoi-led government in the State.

As the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh is not directly implicated in any of the mega scams that have scarred the image of the nation, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi too is not yet directly implicated in any of the mind-boggling scandals in the State. But this has not helped in portraying a clean image of his government, especially in its second term from 2006 to 2011.

Two major political parties, apart from the Leftists, the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, are making a big noise on the issue of corruption. And from the non-political organisations, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has already launched a massive, statewide crusade against corruption.

Says Akhil Gogoi, secretary of KMSS: �We have been on this journey to cleanse the society of the evil of corruption to the best of our abilities. Whoever is corrupt shall not be spared from our scanner. Our only regret is that our campaign against the malaise needs to be even more effective, so that the perpetrators of this social evil cannot go scot free. Our added concern is that highly corrupt politicians are in the fray in the State this time too, and are shamelessly seeking votes to continue in power.�

The poll campaigns of BJP and Trinamool are highlighting corruption as the single reason to seek a political change in the State. While Mamata Banerjee is yet to actively campaign in Assam, almost all the top brass of the BJP are hovering over the State. Their main poll plank, corruption, has become so overbearing that the voter should reject the Congress without a second thought.

Corruption per se is a difficult issue to be proved in a court of law, says Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, the BJP�s energetic and youthful candidate for the Margherita constituency.

�Nobody gives you a receipt for graft, be the recipient a government official or a political leader, but the grief with which the giver has to part with money needs to be understood,� he says. He also points out in the same breath that in the case of business related corruption, the giver recovers the money through short supply or deficiency of service. None else but the civil society suffers.

Defining corruption as the issue that has crippled the State, Trinamool Assam unit general secretary Shyamal Baruah says radical steps would have to be taken to weed out corruption from society. �We can begin with weeding out the Congress,� he said. Corruption, he says, has become a Congress culture.

There have been thousands of incidents where political leaders have taken recourse to corruption. These relate to shortlisting government scheme beneficiaries, and then demanding a share of the largesse. For example, it is an open secret that district-level politicians demand a 10 per cent cut from beneficiaries of schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, old-age pension, and sundry fancifully named public welfare schemes. Even to get a leased government accommodation in Guwahati, beneficiaries have complained that they had to part with Rs 1 lakh or more. The money had to be paid to a well-oiled machinery, comprising middlemen (generally the trusted aides of Housefed chairmen). One such person, who had to part with Rs 1.4 lakh of his family�s hard-earned money to get a Housefed house in Guwahati three-and-a-half years ago, has neither got a refund of the bribe nor got house allocation. This person, a government employee in upper Assam, is on the verge of retirement.

There are allegations that beneficiaries had to pay some money even to get a medicated mosquito net. Then there is the �profit sharing� scandal in works relating to MLA local area development funds, involving elected representatives or their agents with the contractors. In this scandal, this newspaper knows about elected representatives demanding and getting their cuts. These representatives are from all across the political spectrum, the BJP included.

That unprecedented corruption takes place in the Govt departments like Water Resources, PWD, Industries, PHE etc and that the quantum of graft has gone up many times over is now a non-issue. Contractors have begun keeping sums aside to satisfy the lust of elected representatives, engineers and clerks, so that the well-oiled system rolls on.

The AGP has maintained a studied silence on the issue of corruption. The reason is not too far to seek. During the party�s two terms at Dispur, cases of corruption abounded, involving almost all the then ruling party leaders. From the LoC (letter of credit) to veterinary to teacher appointment scandals, the AGP too has not come clean. The then Home Minister�s public declaration that even �ten rupees� corruption would not be tolerated� became the greatest joke of that era.

Such an issue that cripples normal civic life being largely ignored by leading parties like Congress and AGP, sends out an eerie signal. Fortunately for them, the voters remain confused, and in this confusion there is a likelihood that the corrupt may still have their way.