Friday, August 3, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Motion on UTI defeated
Pandemonium during voting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
In an unprecedented move, an adjournment motion to censure the government for the UTI crisis was put to vote and defeated by a voice vote without the government giving a reply to the debate or the sponsor of the motion exercising his right to reply.

The National Democratic Alliance, which was in full strength, however, could not relish an emphatic victory over the Opposition as the adjournment motion was put to vote amidst pandemonium and slogan shouting and was virtually bulldozed through by the Presiding Officer.

The members of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal were in the well of the House pressing for the resignation of the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, and for the institution of a joint parliamentary committee into the UTI crisis and the role of the PMO when the motion was put to vote.

A thunderous “noes” from the treasury benches countered an equally loud “ayes” from the Opposition Benches to allow Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed to announce that the motion had been defeated.

The debate over the motion went on almost smoothly and orderly till the Finance Minister, Mr Sinha, got up to reply to the interventions made by 19 members from various parties during the day.

The speech was grounded within minutes after he began when he said that he would not respond to the charges levelled by the RJD leader, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, as he did not think it worthwhile to reply.

Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh during his intervention had launched a scathing attack against the government and had pointed out that while his leader, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, was sent to jail over an alleged scam Mr Sinha continued to be the Finance Minister.

At one point of time the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, was on his feet to calm down the agitated Opposition but the efforts proved futile as the Congress was in no mood to relent.

It was a sudden end to the nearly six-hour debate during which the entire Opposition criticised the government for the UTI crisis and demanded the setting up of a JPC or an expansion of the existing JPC to cover the UTI happenings.

Initiating the discussion, Mr Dasmunshi criticised the Finance Minister for denying any responsibility for the muddle and charged Mr Sinha with sitting idle till the UTI announced a freeze on sale and repurchase of US-64 on July 2.

He demanded that the government should ensure adequate security to UTI officials, including its former Chairman, Mr P.S. Subramaniam, who have been arrested following the scam.

The CPM leader, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, said the Finance Minister could not abdicate responsibility by saying that he did not know what was happening in the UTI.

He pointed out that the UTI was constituted under statute and its trustees were the chairmen of IDBI, LIC, Syndicate Bank and State Bank of India and the Executive Director of Reserve Bank of India. All these officials were under the control of the Finance Ministry and they could not overrule what was dictated to them.

He said if the CBI would find out within 15 days of inquiry the irregularities in the UTI, then it should have been possible for the Finance Minister too.

He said the ministry was sleeping over the happenings in the UTI and demanded that Mr Sinha resign on moral and ethical grounds.

Union Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley and the former Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, came to the rescue of the Finance Minister and blamed the changing portfolio of the US-64 — from a debt-based one to equity — for the erosion of value.

Mr Fernandes said stock market was nothing but gambling and the phenomenon was prevalent worldwide. The UTI crisis had occurred because India was linked to this global phenomenon, he added.

Mr Jaitley said the Board of US-64 was autonomous and the government did not have powers to issue directions.

Several speakers referred to the increasing hold of corporates on government financial institutions and in this regard singled out the Reliance group for exploiting the UTI.

They said the UTI actions in the past had favoured Reliance and the private group had made huge profits at the cost of small investors. This was not possible without a nexus between the corporates and the insiders in UTI, a member said.

Mr Roopchand Pal of the CPI referred to the “RH” factor which he said was the influence of Reliance and Hindujas in the government institutions.

While the members of the BJP sought to blame the previous Congress regime for the ills of the UTI, Congress member Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer said what stopped the government from taking corrective measures.

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