The Center to the rescue

Just how insane is this?

A post yesterday spoke of how public sector banks, alarmed over the misuse of loans to the Punjab government, has put a stopper on further loans. Inter alia, I’d pointed at the Rs 10,000 crore scam, spread over three states, that has to do with food procurement.

So what does the Central government do? It will give the Punjab government a Rs 20,000 crore line of credit to perpetuate the scam. Because see, Punjab is doing what it is doing “in the national interest”.

Who was it who said we get the government we deserve?



Death of a thousand cuts

Public sector banks will stop lending money to the Punjab government, says this report.

More than 30 bankers, led by State Bank of India, also decided to ask the central government to make good any losses the lenders may suffer because of the mismatch between the value of foodgrain in Punjab granaries and the loans provided to buy them.

This action relates to the uncovering of a rice procurement scam involving Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, that ET had reported earlier.
To my considerable surprise — yeah, colour me naive — there wasn’t a yip out of the mainstream press when this story first appeared; not even those sections of the press that gets its kicks out of ranting about corruption. Nor has there been any response — not even the mandatory sound bytes — from the government, either at the Center or in the concerned states.
When I made a tangential mention of this scam in a post a few days ago, a friend who leans right wrote in to say that my ‘insinuation’ was unfair. Turned out that what he had taken away from this post was my “sly finger-pointing” at the prime minister. “Can you reasonably expect that the PM is responsible for every scam in every state?”, he chastised me then.

I am damned if I can make out how he deduced that from my post. The thing is, like large sections of the country, I too had momentarily yielded to hope. The hope that “na khaoonga, na khaane doonga” was more than an empty slogan. That a government elected by a populace fed up with the corruption of the previous regime would move heaven and earth to root it out, wherever it was found. That after UPA 2, we had finally gotten a government that would take responsibility, rather than pass the buck.

Like I said, naivete is my besetting sin.

The only official response thus far has been Sir Humphrey Appleby-level obfuscation from MoS for Finance Jayant Sinha. I defy you to parse this sentence and tell me what it means:

“That is precisely why we need a systemic solution to ensure whatever needs to be resolved across the various agencies can be done in a structured and systemic way.”

Meanwhile, the ET report says that the banks’ move could throw Punjab’s economy into a spin. And that, therefore, the chief minister met the prime minister to “discuss the issue”.

Which issue would that be? The issue of his own large-scale corruption, and that of his cohorts? Or the issue that banks, aware of the corruption, are now refusing to play ball and allow the malfeasance to continue?

The French have a way of putting these things perfectly.

In passing, and since the subject came up, find the time to go through this in-depth series by M Rajshekhar for Scroll — excellent feet on the ground reportage.

From the dept of ‘Hamam mein sab…’

The story, in brief: In 2014 the Delhi High Court ruled that both the BJP and the Congress were in violation of the FCRA when the parties accepted contributions from Vedanta, the London-based MNC.

The government appealed; the case is now in the Supreme Court. And meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slipped a clause into the latest Finance Bill by which he — with retrospective effect — changed the definition of ‘foreign companies’, so that Vedanta is now an ‘Indian company’. In other words, he changed legal definitions in order to make kosher what the court said is a criminal act.

The full details here, as reported in The Wire.

Keep this story and the implications in mind when you next wonder why the BJP, having made the many scams of the Congress its main election issue, is now dragging its collective feet on every single one of them.

Number of employees in Kingfisher Airlines: two

This story:

Unbelievable as that may be, that’s the number of employees for whom Kingfisher Airlines Ltd made remittances to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), according to a statement issued by the labour ministry on Tuesday.

Between January 2013 and September 2015, the airline paid EPF for just two employees.

Mallya, redux

All that talk of how Vijay Mallya, that modern day Scarlet Pimpernell, cleverly evaded the long arm of the law?

The Central Bureau of Investigation had prior knowledge that businessman Vijay Mallya, who is facing charges of defaulting on a Rs.900-crore loan from IDBI Bank, was to board a London-bound flight at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here on March 2.

Airport sources said the Immigration department had on the afternoon of March 2 intimated the CBI that Mr. Mallya was to board the flight. It is learnt that he arrived at the airport around 1 p.m. for the flight that was scheduled to take off at 1.45 p.m.

Even now, there is no restriction on Mr. Mallya’s foreign visits. Therefore, legally, he is allowed to go abroad. He is a non-resident Indian and has to remain abroad for at least 183 days every year to retain the status. He has a 10-year British business visa.

Hey, we didn’t catch him because no one — in government, in opposition, in law enforcement — wanted to catch him. So enough with the pretense already.

The great escape that isn’t

Oh for heaven’s sake, can we stop pretending that Vijay Mallya skipped the country one step ahead of the police? The CBI charge-sheet against him was filed in the last week of July 2015.

We are like that only

The news in brief: Pathankot is attacked. The central government sends troops. And shortly after, sends Punjab a bill. No chance, says Punjab, we are not paying this, it’s your problem.

The BJP shares power in Punjab and rules the Center — so this unseemly squabble over who foots the bill for “our brave soldiers” battling terrorism is strictly a domestic matter, and no concern of ours. Or is it?