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BJP government wrecking vital institutions: P Chidambaram

Posted March 12th, 2018, 12:33 PM IST

BJP government wrecking vital institutions: P Chidambaram

Bengaluru: Holding the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre responsible for the ‘socio-economic and political mess’ in the country, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the government had adopted insidious ways to damage institutions considered sacrosanct only to ensure that the executive gets stronger.

Participating in a debate after launching his book, Speaking Truth to Power: My Alternate View, here on Sunday, Mr Chidambaram said liberties in the country are in danger and there was a need to ask questions loudly. At the moment, 40% of posts in the Supreme Court and High Courts are vacant and there is no one to hear petitions. In the Central University, 5,500 teaching posts are vacant. The government has failed to appoint the RBI Deputy Governor for the last eight months. Though Justice KM Joseph is the seniormost high court judge in the country, a recommendation by the SC colleagium for his elevation to the Supreme Court is pending for the last eight months, he charged.





These are attempts to capture institutions either by appointing those aligned with the ruling coalition or by leaving them vacant. When such nodal institutions do not function, the executive or government becomes stronger and there will be no checks and balances for those in power, he remarked.

Charging that the NDA was giving a political and legal twist to every issue, leading to collapse of the system, Mr Chidambaram said India had faced worse NPA(non-performing assets) problems twice earlier-once when Yashwant Sinha was finance minister and when he himself was the finance minister.

“What we did was simple. Since the banks had lent the money, we asked them to recover it and they did it. Of course there were some write-offs, but still things worked our way,'' he said reminding those present that in May 2014 (just before the Congress gave up power), the country’s NPAs were around Rs 2 lakh crore and now, it had gone up to Rs 8 lakh crore.

The economic situation has not improved, exports are languishing and new jobs are not being created as no new investments are coming into the small and medium industries (SME) sector with the worst hit being the telecom and power sectors. The former FM also dismissed a suggestion that the banking sector should be totally privatised. “It makes a lot of economic sense. However, nationalised banks provide a lot of educational loans as well as loans to small businessmen, creating over four lakh jobs. This is not done by private banks,'' he explained.

As a matter of fact, more than 90% jobs are created by the SME sector and only 10% jobs are created in the formal sectors. Demonetisation has forced these SMEs to shut shop, leaving people jobless. Over and above this, statements like ‘frying pakodas is also a job’(by the PM) is like adding insult to injury, he said, adding that he did not expect to see the benefits of liberalisation in his lifetime.

When asked about the PNB scam involving diamantaire Nirav Modi, which went unnoticed for so many years, Mr Chidambaram said the proof would come out one day. “I don't have the proof. However, it pertains to one sector and there are two players. Both are from the same state and how he (Nirav Modi) escaped is still a puzzling question,'' he remarked. He declined to answer questions on the controversy involving his son Karti, who is now in CBI custody for questioning in the INX-Media ‘deal.’

‘Political discourse has become very coarse’

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram released his book Speaking Truth to Power: My Alternate View in the city on Sunday.

“Over the years, discourse has become very coarse in our country. Within varsities, legislatures and even the parliament not seeing much of any discourse now finding an alternate to engage with people has always been important,” he said adding that the only place to do so was through the print medium, in his case.

“While these written pieces (columns) are printed and then put online, thousands read it thus paving way for more discourse,” he said.

For Chidambaram, writing the weekly column in a newspaper is like writing a letter to a son or a daughter living in another city. “Remember Jawaharlal Nehru writing to Indira Gandhi from the prison which was later published as ‘Letters from a Father to His Daughter,” he said urging the audience to write letters at least on a weekly basis.

In a discussion held at the sidelines of the launch, Chidambaram touched upon various instances mentioned in the book and connected it to various contemporary developments across sector. The in-conversation session was handled jointly by MP Rajeev Gowda and Nitin Pai, founder of the Takshashila Institution, a think-tank.Elaborating on the power of social media, Chidambaram remarked that using the native language rather than English would help bringing more people onto the platform for discussions.

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