Wednesday, February 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Why no audit of CM’s relief fund?

A corruption case was registered against a former Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, for her alleged involvement in bungling in the Chief Minister's Relief Fund long ago. This was done on the basis of a complaint of Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon, President of the Bathinda Amateur Boxing Association.

I hold no brief for Ms Bhattal and would like that the law takes its own course. At the same time, I would like to draw the attention of the readers to some interesting and intriguing aspects of the matter. For instance.

1. The Tribune has been reporting the proceedings of the case without fail, and at length often repeating the entire background which usually is not done by the media. Some who claim to have knowledge of behind-the-scenes goings-on allege that this entire matter has something to do with the ongoing war within the Congress for the Chief Minister's gaddi.

2. Some go to the extent of alleging that even the judiciary has been involved in this fight. For instance, they ask: "what was the justification for the Additional Sessions Judge, Bathinda, to make her wait for long and then for not accepting her bail bonds". It may be mentioned that the Special Judge was on leave on that day. Ms Bhattal's advocate brought to the notice to the court that she was contesting the Assembly elections and was a serious candidate for the Chief Ministership. Obviously the advocate was pleading that her campaign should not suffer. She was granted bail only on 8.2.2002 when she appeared before the Special Judge.


3. In 1997, two CPI MLAs — Mrs Vimla Dang and Com. Hardev Arshi — had given notices of two Assembly questions seeking information as to how the Chief Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Flood Relief Fund had been used over specified periods. Information given revealed gross and prolonged misuse of these funds by three former Chief Ministers. The media gave it very wide publicity.

4. I filed a PIL writ petition in the high court. Three former Chief Ministers were made defendants. Relief prayed for was: (i) prosecution of the three Chief Ministers for misusing the funds i.e. for purposes other than for what they were meant; and (ii) direction by the court that henceforth those funds should be subject to audit by the CAG. The petition had also mentioned that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was also misusing these funds in the like manner.

The court in its wisdom dismissed the petition without any speaking order and as far as I remember without assigning any reasons after having kept it pending for about a year and a half. We could not afford to go to the Supreme Court.

I hope that the new legislators whom the sealed electronic voting machines my favour will press the demand at least for audit by the CAG of the Chief Minister's Relief Fund and other similar funds.




Of refusing to vote

I did not vote for anyone this time. Many people did not, including half the voters in my own town. Like them, I also thought it was not worthwhile.

I do feel guilty, but I also feel justified.

I did not find a single candidate worthy of election. Not that I had unrealistic expectations. I know a politician cannot be a saint. But I also know what to look for in a person who wants to legislate on our behalf.

For instance, he should not think that people are idiots. For instance, he should be able to apply his mind to the problems the current situation is throwing up. For instance, he should appreciate the obligations of his office. And he should have vision, and the readiness to enlarge it.

The truth is I knew some of the candidates personally. And I had watched the others keenly. I wish I could have happily walked up to the polling booth and honestly cast my vote for one of them. But in the given circumstances I would have been dishonest with myself. The right to vote is a sacred right, no doubt. But should we exercise it to profane our conscience, to commit sacrilege upon our deepest convictions?

The pressure to conform is hard to resist. As a “good” citizen of the Indian republic I should have performed this first duty of mine. Yet I chose to be a bad citizen for once.

I am in good and large company, though. When I consider the distribution of votes polled by various candidates respectively and the votes abstained, I find the majority is of the silent whom no one represents. Should not they, too, get the right to indicate their will? I mean should not the voters be empowered to reject all candidates if they regard none as capable of representing them?

Dr RAJESH K. SHARMA, Hoshiarpur



Strange practice

Some reputed companies are indulging in a strange practice — giving shaving cream free with some of their products, notwithstanding that it is of no use to Sikhs. Certainly, Sikhs are at a loss since no rebate is given to them on their refusal to get the free offer.

One wonders why these companies do not think of giving free other items as incentives.

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar


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